As popular as Walt Disney World is as a vacation destination for families or couples, it can sometimes add up to be a pretty expensive trip.
If you or your spouse are members of the military, the Florida getaway has a number of very special offers for you, your family, and your friends. We break down what's available and how to take advantage of the offers.
All active and retired members of all branches of the U.S. military qualify for the offers. That includes service members of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service (PHS), National Guard, Reservists, and the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
In order to purchase the offers, members must produce valid military IDs. Spouses, including widows who have not remarried, can qualify for the offers, but they must show the valid military IDs of their husbands or wives or have the necessary forms.
Theme Park Ticket Offers
Disney World has a few variations on military discounts for its theme park tickets. The most generous discount is for what the resort calls “Disney Military Promotional Tickets.” Through the years this offer has also been known as the “Armed Forces Salute.” The resort offers three heavily discounted multi-day passes for four, five, or six days of visits. All options automatically include the Park Hopper option, which means pass holders are free to visit any combination of Disney World’s four theme parks in any one day.
For 2020, the discounted cost for a 4-day pass is $265, a 5-day pass is $283, and a six-day pass is $301. The non-discounted price for these passes start at $496, $523, and $543, respectively. That’s a savings of at least 47%, which is significant. (The savings is higher during busier times of the year such as mid-summer when Disney World charges more for its multi-day passes. The resort charges one price for its Military Promotional Tickets regardless of the time of year.)
For an additional $50 per ticket, you could add the Park Hopper Plus option, which would allow you to also visit Disney World’s two (wonderful) water parks as well as Disney's Wide World of Sports, the NBA Experience at Disney Springs, and a round of golf at the resort’s Oak Trail Golf Course or its two miniature golf courses.
Some things to know about Disney Military Promotional Tickets:
- There are blackout dates, which are generally the last two weeks of the year during the busy holiday season.
- Eligible service members can purchase up to six discounted passes for family and friends. One of the six passes must be used by the service member or spouse of a service member.
- Multi-day passes do not need to be used on consecutive days. But, unlike past ticket Disney policies, unused tickets are not good indefinitely. Multi-day tickets expire 14 days after the first ticket is used.
- According to Disney, tickets purchased in advance must generally be validated and activated at Disney World’s ticket windows.
What if you want to visit Disney World during the blackout dates for the Disney Military Promotional Tickets? Or, what if you would like to purchase tickets other than the 4, 5, and 6-day passes? The resort also offers the rest of its tickets at a discount for military members. Unlike the Promotional Tickets, however, the savings is only about 5% off the regular price.
A third option for military discounted theme park tickets are Stars and Stripes passes, which are available though the ticket office at Disney World’s Shades of Green hotel (see below for info on the hotel). These multi-day passes are available for up to ten days and include Park Hopper as well as Park Hopper Plus benefits. The savings is about 3% to 12% off the regular price. Anyone who is eligible to stay at Shades of Green can purchase the Stars and Stripes passes.
How to Purchase Military Discount Theme Park Tickets
There are a number of ways to purchase the tickets. You could get them in person or via phone at a military base ticket office. If you visit a base in person, be aware that it might not have all tickets in stock, in which case it might need to ship you the tickets you want to purchase.
You could also get the tickets in person at all Disney World ticket windows. The downside to this is that Disney World now offers its advance trip planning program, My Disney Experience. Guests are able to make FastPass+ ride reservations up to 60 days in advance. If you waited until you were at the resort to purchase your tickets, you wouldn't be able to take advantage of the advance reservations and may be shut out of some of the preferred times for more popular attractions.
Another option to purchase tickets in advance (or in person) is through the Shades of Green ticket sales office. To begin the process of buying tickets in advance from Shades of Green, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staying at Shades of Green
One of the first on-property hotels at Disney World, Shades of Green was originally known as the Golf Resort and was open to the general public. It is located between two of the resort’s golf courses. The 600-room hotel is now owned and operated by the U.S. military, is open only to eligible service members, and offers discounted rates.
Shades of Green is comparable to Disney World’s Deluxe resorts such as Disney's Wilderness Lodge and Disney's Contemporary Resort. The rates, however, are less than what Disney charges at its hotels. Eligible service members can make reservations up to one year in advance. Since the hotel is very popular, reservations should be made as early as possible.
Active and retired military members (or their eligible spouses) can book up to three rooms at Shades of Green. The hotel’s suites and rooms can accommodate up to 10 guests. Whether or not you are staying at the hotel, eligible service members can visit its ticket office and dine in its restaurants.
Other Disney World Hotel Discounts
Disney World has a wide variety of on-property hotels, all of which come with benefits, such as extra theme park hours, an additional 30-day window to make FastPass+ attraction reservations, and complimentary ground transportation from Orlando International Airport to the resort. If Shades of Green is booked or you would prefer to stay at a different place, Disney World offers military discounts at select hotels.
The discounted rates vary from about 30% to 40% off of the hotel’s rack rates. As with Shades of Green, eligible service members can book up to three rooms at participating hotels. Be aware that Disney World regularly offers discounted hotel rates and hotel/tickets packages to the general public. You should check the offers for the time frame you would like to visit to determine whether they might be a better value.
Some things to know about Disney World’s military discounts for its hotels:
- There are blackout dates for the special rates, which are generally about two weeks around Easter and the last two weeks of the year during the holidays.
- Guests can add a Disney World dining plan to their discounted hotel rates reservation.
- The number of available rooms is limited, so reservations should be made as early as possible. (in fact, in order to take advantage of the discounts, reservations must be made in advance).
- There may be length-of-stay requirements.
Other Military Discounts at Disney World (and Universal Orlando!)
Along with Disney Military Promotional Tickets, eligible service members could purchase the photo and video service, Memory Maker, at a discount. Part of PhotoPass, visitors can get unlimited downloads of all of the photos and videos that Disney’s photographers take in the parks for the length of their visit. The program also includes discounts on photo prints. Regularly priced at $169, Disney World offers Memory Maker at $98 to eligible service members.
There are no military discounts at the restaurants operated by Disney World. But third-party restaurants, such as Raglan Road and House of Blues at Disney Springs, offer savings of 10% to 25%. The site, Military Disney Tips, has a list of participating restaurants. The military-only Shades of Green hotel has on-site restaurants, including the full-service Mangino’s.
You can book a tee time at one of Disney World’s four golf courses with a military discount.
Shades of Green offers discounted Military Promotional Tickets to Universal Orlando. The offers include specially-priced 4-day, park-to-park tickets at deep discounts as well as 1-day and other passes at more modest discounts. The hotel also offers discounted military tickets to SeaWorld Orlando, Legoland Florida, and other area parks and attractions.