We are heading back to Walt Disney World in a few weeks (YAAAAAY!!!) and, once again, I am so thankful that Disney offers so many discounts for active duty and retired military.
Honestly, without them – we wouldn't be able to go to the parks multiple times a year. Hell, we probably wouldn't even be able to go ONCE a year, much less multiple times.
I belong to several Disney groups on Facebook and it always surprises me how many people in them with a military affiliation don't take advantage of the multiple discounts and opportunities that Disney offers our military and it's veterans.
Walt Disney World Tips and Tricks If You Are Active Duty or Retired Military
Shades of Green
Disney has a plethora of on-site resorts to stay during your stay but the military also has a Walt Disney World specific resort of their own. Shades of Green is located on Disney property. Only military affiliated people can stay there but it has nearly all the perks associated with a Disney resort.
Transportation and Parking:
For example, the transportation buses to and from the parks do go to and from Shades of Green. As an added perk, Shades of Green is only a two minute walk from the Polynesian Resort so, if you are so inclined, you could hoof it over there and then take their buses or boats to the parks.
Shades of Green is not included as an eligible resort for Disney's free Magic Express transportation to and from the airport.
For those driving your own vehicle, Shades of Green has a large parking garage. It is $7.00 per day to use. And a head's up, while parking at the theme parks is free for Disney resort guests, guests of Shades of Green are ineligible for this perk and will be charged $25 per day to park a vehicle at any of the Disney parks.
Also, as of January 2018, guests staying at Shades of Green are able to book their fast passes 60 days out – just like Disney resort guests. In order to book your fast passes, you will need to have your tickets already purchased (more information about that later) and connected to your My Disney Experience account.
Shades of Green is a gorgeous, newly-remodeled resort that features rooms and suites (which are slightly larger than Disney's standard rooms and suites. Room rates are based on a sliding scale depending on your rank. Every room includes a sleeper sofa and a mini fridge while the suites all have separate bedroom(s) and a microwave. They've also included nightlights in the all the bathrooms (awesome for little ones).
Something to keep in mind – Shades of Green is a 100% smoke-free resort. NO smoking is allowed in the rooms/suites, balconies, or in any of the common areas. That includes e-cigarettes.
Shades of Green has it's own mini AAFES with staples and fun Disney items (like costumes) – all tax-free. They are also two pools: the Magnolia Pool is zero-entry and has an adults-only hot tub while the Mill Pond Pool is a three-level water slide and a cushioned splash pad area. The resort also features a play area and an arcade.
There are two self-service laundry areas. You will need a credit card to operate them (or use cash at the front desk to buy a $5.00 laundry card). The washers are $2.00 a load, the dryers are $2.00, and soap $1.00. If you bring your own soap, only High Efficiency (HE).
The resort is also near both of Disney's PGA courses, Disney’s Palm Golf Course and Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course. There is also Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course – 9-hole walking course. There is transportation available at no charge (via taxi) to and from select Walt Disney World Resort hotels for guests playing at one of the Disney courses.
Military and their sponsored guests can get discounts on equipment rentals, instruction, and tee times. Rates vary by course, time, and military rates may be made 1 month out from your desired date either online or by calling 407-939-4653. Heads up, these discounts are the absolute lowest rates available to anyone.
One last fun feature at Shades of Green is the Magnolia Spa. In addition to the traditional spa packages and services, your kids can get a Princess or Pirate makeover, too. Very cute updos with tiaras or a pirate beard and bandanna are an adorable way to do the parks (and handy if you we're able to get a Bibbiti Bobbiti Boutique or The Pirate's Lagoon appointment.
A final note about Magic Bands: As a Shades of Green guest, you are not able to get a free Magic Band from Disney (and as such, the resort does not use Magic Bands as room keys or for room charges). However, you are welcome to buy a Magic Band yourself and connect your park tickets and charges to it. Handy if you don't want to take your wallet/purse to the parks every day.
Armed Forces Salute Tickets
This is an AMAZING discount program the Disney offers for it's active duty and retired military guests. Straight up – without it we would not be able to go to any of the parks as often (hell, IF EVER) as we do.
So, here's the deal. Only certain people are eligible for the Armed Forces Salute discount. Here's a list (as decreed by Disney and DoD):
Current military members:
- National Guard
- Coast Guard
- Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service (PHS)
- Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Retired military members:
- National Guard
- Coast Guard
- Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service (PHS)
- Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
100% Service Connected Disabled:
- Must have the DAVPRM code on their military issued ID.
- This would be in place of the member (not Civil Service or Contractor) should they be unable to go (i.e. are deployed or TDY).
Please note: This Disney Armed Forces Salute benefit is for the member only. Spouses may use their member's benefit but they are not entitled to a benefit of their own. They only use the discounts in place of the member. Non-spouse dependents (i.e. kids) are not eligible to buy tickets.
- Entitled to their departed spouse’s discounts (not Civil Service or Contractor).
Foreign partners/Coalition partners:
- Stationed at a US base are eligible. They must have a permanent US Military issued ID (CAC card with blue stripe).
There's an excellent rundown of who is considered what here. Very handy of you're trying to figure out if you qualify or not.
Armed Forces Salute 2019 Ticket Prices
Okay, so you figured out that you qualify and you want some of those sweet, sweet Walt Disney World ticket discounts. Here's the rates for 2019 (plus a few restrictions):
- Four-Day Park Hopper Tickets for $241.00
- Four-Day Park Hopper Plus Tickets for $291.00
- Five-Day Park Hopper Tickets for $257.00
- Five-Day Park Hopper Plus Tickets for $307.00
A Park Hopper ticket allows guests to visit any of the four main Disney parks multiple times during the same day. The Park Hopper Plus ticket gives guests all the perks of the traditional Park Hopper ticket plus four visits total to select non-Disney theme park venues.
Heads up, these tickets can only be used January 1, 2019 through December 19, 2019 plus Disney generally has blackout dates during Spring Break (usually some time in April) though those have not been announced yet. The super cool thing is that you don't have to use all four or five days in one visit.
How to Buy and Activate the Armed Forces Salute Tickets:
Tickets can be purchased at Shades of Green, your local Base Ticket Office, or Disney Theme Park ticket booths (Heads up, standard Florida sales tax will be added at Disney World ticket booths). How to buy tickets at your local Base Ticket Office varies from location to location so find out beforehand what their procedure is.
For example, we have several bases near us and at one, they require 10 days notice and then you pay when the tickets arrive (plus, you have to buy the tickets you requested within 24 hours of them arriving at the office or they can sell them to anyone who shows up). At another office, we just buy them in person whenever we want.
Don't have a base near you? Here's some great information on how you can still buy your tickets.
How many tickets can we buy?
Up to six tickets can be purchased at a time (i.e. one eligible persona can purchase tickets for themselves and five others at a time). If you're family has more than six people, call your local Base Office or Walt Disney World directly and ask for help. They often make exceptions for large families.
Another option is just to have the military eligible person buy six tickets and then have their spouse or another eligible person purchase another (up to) six tickets. Just an idea – might be easier.
What if I want to upgrade later?
Also, just so you know – if you purchase the Park Hopper tickets then wish to upgrade later, you can just pay the difference + tax at any Disney Guest Relations or Ticket booth when you activate them. In addition, you can upgrade your Armed Forces Salute ticket to a season or annual pass at any time – just pay the difference + tax.
The Armed Forces Salute also has ticket deals for Disneyland. See those rates and restrictions here.
Activating Your Armed Forces Tickets:
After you buy your tickets from your local Base Office, you'll need to activate them before you can enter the parks. I'm going to say this again – you MUST activate your tickets before you can enter the parks.
Buying your tickets does not activate them. Linking your tickets to your My Disney Experience account does not activate your tickets. You MUST activate them at the parks before trying to go through the ticket entrances.
Go it? Yep? Okay. Now let's discuss how you can activate them.
How to activate your purchased tickets:
If you bought your tickets through your local Base Office then before your first visit to a park you and everyone in your party with those tickets needs to stop at one of the allocated activation spots first (before going through the ticket entrance.
Just a note: Activating your Walt Disney World tickets does not use up a park day. Only entering one of the parks through a ticketed entrance does.
In general, you can activate your tickets at the Transportation and Ticket Center Ticket or Guest Relations windows.
- Here's a rundown of exactly where you can activate tickets at each location:
- Magic Kingdom: Transportation and Ticket Center or Guest Relations windows
- EPCOT: Main Entrance or International Gateway Transportation and Ticket Center or Guest Relations windows
- Hollywood Studios: Transportation and Ticket Center or Guest Relations windows
- Animal Kingdom: Transportation and Ticket Center or Guest Relations windows
- Typhoon Lagoon
- Blizzard Beach
- Disney Springs: any Guest Relations location
To activate the tickets, you'll need everyone in your party to join you and your valid military ID. If you haven't linked your tickets to your My Disney Experience account the bring them with you. Personally, I bring mine anyway, even if they are linked, on that first day – just in case.
It's incredibly important to bring your military ID. It's proof that actual military affiliated people are using these special tickets and not just randos or scalpers.
If you have Magic Bands, the tickets will get linked to them so you can use the Bands to enter the parks and your original tickets will be kept by Disney.
If you do not have Magic Bands then, after activation, your original tickets will be kept by Disney and you'll be reissued new ones. Everyone in your party will need to sign the back of their ticket to prevent mix-ups.
Linking your tickets is not the same as activating your tickets:
Heads up, you can link your tickets to your My Disney Experience account at any time after you purchase them (yes, even before you activate them). That way, you can start making your fast pass selections as soon as your window opens.
Memory Maker Special Pricing
The Memory Maker is a photo package that Disney offers at Walt Disney World and it is BANK. All your photos (at character meet-n-greets, on rides, at with Disney photographers) are yours for a single flat fee.
You can read more about my love for the Memory Maker here but the even better news is that there's a special military rate for it. The rates for the 2019 Memory Maker is $169.00 but active duty and retired members of the military can get it for only $98.
Buy yours at any Disney park Guest Relations or Transportation and Ticket Center booth. It will be activated and added to the Magic Bands or tickets of everyone in your party.
Armed Forces Salute Resort Discounts
Yet another awesome Armed Forces Salute Disney offering is a solid discount at it's onsite resorts. This discount has several limitations so be sure to know and understand them before booking your stay.
Up until 2019, room discounts were a set percentage off (30% for a value, 35% for a moderate resort , and 40% for a deluxe resort) and each individual resort had a certain number of rooms each day at that special price. If you booked early enough, you could get one at the 30-40% off.
The process is different now. Currently, the Armed Forces Salute discount is “up to” those percentages off. That means that you are not guaranteed the set discount; instead you might get a lesser amount off.
In the past, if you didn't snag one of those set percentage off rooms for your stay – you were out of luck. But now, Disney is offering a sliding scale of sorts for discounts. You'll get the full discount when bookings are low (calculated by date, resort, and room category). As room availabilities decrease, so will the discount percentage offered until finally the cutoff is reached and the discount is no longer offered (again this varies by date, resort, and room category).
Which resorts are included?
The following resorts offer military discounts on certain rooms. Here's a rundown (and the rooms included or excluded):
Included Room Types:
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney's All-Star Music Resort
- Disney's All-Star Sports Resort
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Disney's Art of Animation Resort – Family Suites only
- Disney's Beach Club Resort
- Disney's Beach Club Villas
- Disney's BoardWalk Inn
- Disney's BoardWalk Villas
- Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney's Contemporary Resort
- Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney's Old Key West Resort
- Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
- Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows – Studios only
- Disney's Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s Port Orleans – French Quarter
- Disney's Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
- Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- Disney's Wilderness Lodge
- Disney's Yacht Club Resort
- Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground (Cabins only)
Excluded Room Types:
- 3-Bedroom Villas
- Copper Creek Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
Please note, these may not be all the restrictions. Disney often sets discount restrictions during peak park times (Spring Break and over Christmas) and can limit the discounts offered on specific rooms.
Flag Ceremony at Magic Kingdom
Every day at Magic Kingdom around 5PM-ish (this can vary 15-30 minutes either way depending on other events happening), there is a Flag Retreat Ceremony on Main Street. Every day, a single member of the military (active duty or veteran) is selected to participate.
Participants receive a certificate, a photo taken during the Flag Retreat Ceremony, and a pin.
You can no longer volunteer to be selected. Here's a post on how you can improve your chances of getting chosen.
Other Special Military Offerings and Discounts
Here's a few random special extras or discounts offered to active duty or retried military at Walt Disney World.
Up through 2018, Disney has offered discounted tickets on select dates for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. As of right now, any discounts for these celebrations in 2019 have not been announced. Click here to see last year's dates and discounts.
Meals and Souvenirs:
Disney does not offer military discounts on meals or other products purchased in the parks (i.e. souvenirs). However, many third party companies offer military discounts for commonly used items at the parks (like strollers, scooter rentals, and such) so be sure to ask!
However, as of December of 2018, several Disney Springs venues offered discounts. You can see a rundown of them here.
Trading Challenge Coins:
Know how people trade pins at Disney? Well, some people also trade challenge coins. Bring your command/boat/unit/battalion/squad/whatever's special coin (many first responders and security people have these, too) and look to trade them for ones from Disney employees.
Here's the deal, not all employees have them. Since this is a tradition started in the military, really the only Disney personnel with coins to trade will be the official Disney police or fire people. FYI, it is REALLY hard to find those specific officials so don't be afraid to ask for help finding them from Town Hall or the top security people.
The coins are super cool so it's worth it to try and do this as soon as you walk in the parks. And the Disney staff are thrilled to trade so don't think you're a dork for wanting to do it.
Just a note: Disney no longer offers special “Homecoming” buttons for military recently home from deployments. They just use the standard “Celebrations” buttons and write that information on it.