Last Updated on August 25, 2023 by Happily Ever Park Hoppers
Before any trip, most people start planning and budgeting several months, maybe even years in advance. Planning a trip to Disney is very exciting and no doubt, very expensive, but how far in advance should you start planning a Disney trip?
How far in advance should you plan your Military Disney Vacation
So you’ve decided to plan a Disney vacation for you and your Military family. For Service Members, there are several key points that you should know before jumping into full Disney planning mode, especially if you plan to take advantage of any Military discounts, purchase Military discounted tickets, or stay at Shades of Green.
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Booking your Stay
Booking your stay is always my first suggestion on where to start when planning a Disney vacation. Depending on your preferred travel dates, hotels can and will book up. So I always tell first-time guests to book their hotel reservations ASAP. However, if your plan was to take advantage of the Military Disney Resort discount that Disney offers, that discount does come with some fine print.
The Military Disney Resort discount is announced annually and only is valid through specific dates. Typically the upcoming year’s discounts are announced in October/November timeframe. And to be able to book your Disney Resort reservation, the discount has to be announced.
For 2022, the Walt Disney World Military Disney Resort discount wasn’t announced until November 2021, and the Disneyland Military Resort discount was announced earlier (which isn’t the norm) in the year because of covid closures. Both park discounts are valid for travel dates between January 1,2022 to December 16, 2022. But this brings me to my point, which is, any Military family looking to take advantage of the discount really only has 1-12 months to plan for their trip.
*Some will tell you to book your room for the dates anyway and have the promotion applied to your reservation when the discount is announced. But as a lot of very upset Military Members found this year, that the resort they had booked was NOT available for the dates they had booked. Forcing those families to decide if they wanted to change their dates, hotel or not get a discount at all. Know that the Military Resort discount is “subject to availability” and there are resort and room type exclusions.
Booking Shades of Green
Similar to the Disney Resort discount, booking Shades of Green has a limitation on how early you can make your hotel reservation. The earliest you can book Shades of Green is exactly One Year to the check-in date, online at Midnight EST (the telephone reservation line doesn’t open until 8am EST 365 days to check0-in). The availability at Shades of Green varies and always changes; but holidays, 3-day weekends, and during the months of January and September you can expect Shades of Green to sell out of rooms.
And alternatively, if you are attempting to book Shades of Green less than a year in advance and you find that your travel dates are sold out, KEEP CHECKING BACK. We all know how quickly plans can change in the Military. Short notice deployments, TDYs, TADs, etc. have all been the cause for cancelled plans a time or two. Also, sometimes real life happens. Someone needs a new washing machine, sports equipment, vehicle repairs. So don’t think all is lost if your dates are booked. My family has pieced together several trips by constantly checking the Shades of Green website and snagging a night here and there until we got all the dates we wanted.
**PRO TIP: If there is a gap between a night you already have a reservation for and another night you are attempting to reserve, book it online and then immediately call the Shades of Green reservation line. A representative can link your reservations so you don’t actually get charged the deposit fee again (unless you want to and that way you owe less when you check-in).
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Purchasing Military Discounted Disney Tickets
If you hadn’t guessed it already, Disney Military discounted ticket prices are announced annually. Prices in the past have been announced later in the year for the upcoming year. Historically Military discounted tickets have been announced in late September, October, and more recently not until the first of November.
Ticket prices are only valid for the specified dates. This applies to discounted tickets for both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. For the Military Salute tickets, those tickets are ONLY good for one year during those dates. You cannot purchase tickets for one year but use them in another year. You CAN transfer the value of the ticket you purchased to then purchase a ticket for the following year (if for some reason your plans changed and you didn’t use them). Magic Your Way and Stars & Stripes tickets have specific dates they are valid for but sometimes are good for a little longer than one calendar year, it really all depends. So be sure you check the dates on the tickets you’re buying.
Like most people, sticking to a vacation budget is something I know all about. And I understand that in order to budget, you need to know how much something costs. If you are trying to plan out your Disney vacation more than a year in advance or before the new discounts have been announced, you can still pre-plan and come up with a vacation budget.
Have an idea of where you want to stay
Knowing where you want to stay will help you a lot when it comes to budgeting, and make sure you have a couple back-up options. The prices of the Disney Resort Hotels can be very different, and very different from Shades of Green. Get a general idea of how much all the hotels cost AT FULL PRICE. As I’ve explained before about using the Military Disney Resort discount, it is not always a given that you can get a discount on a room at any one specific Disney Resort Hotel. DO NOT get your heart set on a specific hotel unless you are willing to pay full price.
If it’s too early for you to book anything or the discounts haven’t been announced, use the current prices as a guide. Do not expect the prices to be the exact same. The cost of nearly everything is on the rise (not just at Disney) so remember to boost whatever the current prices are by 10-15%. This should give you a good cushion and a general idea of how much you should start saving. Shades of Green room rates generally only go up once a year and in the past when the rates increased they only went up about $10-20 more than the previous year.
So when pre-planning your Military Disney vacation, a year out is the furthest you can actually book your vacation. You can certainly look, get an idea of where you want to stay, and when you want to travel. It doesn’t hurt to have an idea and start saving well ahead of time. But just know that if you plan to take advantage of any discounts or purchase Military discounted tickets, you’re definitely going to have to wait on Disney.
Spreading magic one post at timeKristin