By Lisa Mendillo, Communications Manager, Walt Disney World Resort
planDisney panelist, Robyn M., loves assisting guests with planning magical vacations to Walt Disney World Resort, but what she loves even more is assisting military families plan their next Disney vacation! Robyn’s husband is a reservist in the United States Navy and after many months away from home, he returned from service earlier this summer only to be surprised by his wife with a 10-day getaway to Walt Disney World Resort! What an incredible way to say “Welcome Home!” If you are a military family looking to create magical memories of your own, you may be wondering, “where do I begin?”
No worries, Robyn is here today to share many of her top tips and suggestions for other military families looking to plan a homecoming surprise or simply a Disney vacation for the family. From theme park ticket offers to information on resort discounts, Robyn has the intel! Take it away Robyn:
Theme Park Tickets
Military Promotional Theme Park Tickets can be purchased at your local base ticket office or via email from Shades of Green, an Armed Forces Recreation Center Resort located right on Walt Disney World. These tickets must be activated once you arrive at the Walt Disney World Resort, so be sure to stop by Guest Relations and show your military ID to activate each ticket.
If you won’t be going into a theme park on your arrival day, that’s a great time to activate the tickets – my family likes to go to Disney Springs and grab a meal, or treat, and activate our tickets at Guest Relations at Disney Springs. Otherwise, arrive early on your first theme park day, so you can take care of it and not cut into your precious park time!
planDisney Tip: Military-discounted theme park tickets come in many different media types. Check your ticket card or paper exchange certificate for the ticket ID and log in to the My Disney Experience mobile app to link a ticket to each guest. There’s a barcode scanner in the app to make it even easier! If you can’t get the system to recognize the number, call the My Disney Experience help desk and a friendly cast member will save the day.
Disney Resorts Collection
When you begin your search for a resort, you’ll need to call (407) 939-7830 to inquire about availability for military discounts on Disney Resorts Collection hotel rooms. To maximize availability, be flexible with your dates and resort hotel options. I also recommend having the Disney Resorts Collection webpage pulled up when you call, so you can look at dining and recreation options as well as photos of the available resorts. The planDisney panelists also have helpful tips for choosing the resort hotel that’s right for you.
For those unfamiliar with Shades of Green, it is actually a resort hotel dedicated for military members located on Walt Disney World Resort property, just a short walk from Magic Kingdom Park. With a valid military ID, guests can visit the resort, and I highly recommend stopping at their on-site AAFES for tax-free shopping. They have snacks and toiletries, but also Disney souvenirs like magnets and autograph books. I saw the cutest Military Mickey plush there!
As a military wife, I know we’re often planning at the last minute. If you know you’ll be visiting Walt Disney World, but don’t know your dates, I encourage you to pick up tickets on base or order them from Shades of Green. That way, when you identify your dates, you can have your tickets linked and make your Disney Park Pass reservations without delay.
planDisney Tip: A moving Flag Retreat ceremony happens daily in Magic Kingdom Park. The ceremony is a tribute—a thank you to veterans for their service, sacrifice and dedication to protecting our country. Magic Kingdom Park cast members select an active-duty military member or veteran from among that park’s daily visitors to participate in the honor and is not something one can apply for in advance. This Disney Parks Blog article shares more information about this patriotic tradition.
Did you know Memory Maker is currently available to military members at the discounted rate of $98? To add Memory Maker, visit Guest Relations and show your military ID. (I actually do this while activating our tickets.) For military families, the memories captured in these photos of loved ones are extra-special, so I consider this a must-do on my family’s visits.
If you’re celebrating a military milestone, like pre- or post-deployment, commissioning, or retirement, be sure to pick up celebration buttons at Guest Services or merchandise locations. My family appreciated being thanked for our service, and a PhotoPass photographer even gave us an impromptu family photo shoot after learning he had a U.S. Navy connection with my husband.”
For more helpful tips and heartfelt advice for planning your next Disney vacation stop by @planDisneyPanel on Instagram, @planDisney on twitter, or planDisney.com. We look forward to answering your planning questions.