Last Updated on August 25, 2023 by Happily Ever Park Hoppers
Disney vacations are expensive, I know. And like most of us, planning a trip generally means sticking to some sort of budget. Before you jump to any conclusions and cross a Walt Disney World vacation off your bucket list, let me help you make that wish come true.
How can staying at Shades of Green save me money on my Walt Disney World vacation?
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If this is your first time on my page, this will be news to you, but those who have read my other posts know that I often talk about Shades of Green. Why? Because staying at Shades of Green is one of the reasons my family is able to visit Walt Disney World multiple times a year. And why is that? Because Shades of Green is an incredible value that honestly can’t be beaten. By staying at Shades of Green and utilizing all it has to offer, can and will save you THOUSANDS. And this post is all about how you can plan your Disney trip within your budget.
First things first,
Resort Price Difference
The cost of staying at a Disney Resort Hotel can be well over several hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars depending on what type of resort you are looking at and for how long you are planning to stay. Even though Disney does offer a Military Room Discount, (and assuming a discount was available for your travel dates) the vast majority of the resorts are still going to be significantly more than staying at Shades of Green.
I used the word “assuming” because Disney recently changed their Military Room Discount from a predetermined percentage to an undisclosed discount. We can only assume that the discount given could be “up to” the previous discount which was 40% for Deluxe, 35% for Moderate, and 30% for Value Resorts. For Example, I called and reserved a room at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and was only able to get a 25% discount and not the potential 40%.
It also has been reported that fewer resorts are available for this discount for any given travel dates. This means that you can’t rely on staying at a Disney Resort hotel with that Military discount to stay within your budget. Or that you can rely on the fact that the discount is available for a specific resort for your travel dates. Remember the Military Room Discount is “subject to availability” and there are exclusions so make sure you read the fine print before calling. You can, however, rely on the prices at Shades of Green because the room rates are based on your rank or eligibility category and generally only increase annually.
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For arguments sake, I’m going to assume that the Military Room Discount is factored into these prices and all examples are based on a 7 day/6 night vacation.
So, going off of the prices and resorts above, you can see the total cost of each resort and the price difference between a Disney Resort Hotel and Shades of Green. The room rate I used for Shades of Green is Category I and may or may not be what category you fall in, but you get the point. For a week’s long stay at Shades of Green, it will cost you just a little over $800. Now, assuming you were able to get the Military Room Discount at the full percentage, you can see that the Value Resort is slightly cheaper than Shades of Green. But when you compare Shades of Green to the Moderate & Deluxe resort prices you can see that there is a difference of several hundred to over $1,2000!
And just as a reminder, the discount may not be that high. If you were only able to get a 25% discount on all three rooms, the cost would be $793 for All-Star Resorts, $1,417 for Port Orleans Resorts, and $2,106 for BoardWalk Inn – that’s a savings of almost $1800!!
Again, just by staying at Shades of Green versus a Disney Resort Hotel can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Shades of Green gives you Deluxe Resort amenities at Value Resort prices. Also! When comparing Shades of Green to Disney Resort Hotels, make sure you check out Shades of Green’s Monthly Specials to see if you can save even more!
If you want more of my reasons WHY you should stay at Shades of Green, be sure to read my Why Stay at Shades of Green post.
Another way of saving money by staying at Shades of Green is the dining options. For my family, eating at Shades of Green is a HUGE way for us to stick to our vacation budget. Why is that? Because the prices at Shades of Green are much cheaper than at Disney Resorts or in the parks. Shades of Green is “technically” considered a Military installation so everything is tax-free! So if you are considering staying at a Value Resort because it might save you a little on the resort cost, this part is definitely for you; and obviously everyone else that needs more reasons on how Shades of Green will save you money.
A couple of the popular dining options at Shades of Green are the Java Café and Garden Gallery Buffet. At the Java Café, you can get your morning Starbucks coffee and a pastry on your way to the parks, and in the evening you can even stop and get a scoop of ice cream or glass of wine. At the Garden Gallery Buffet, you can get your grub on in the morning and fuel up at a fraction of what the buffets cost at the Disney Resorts or parks. For kids 2-4 it’s only $3.50 and kids 5-11 are only $9.50! Adults are $16.50. And in case you’re wondering, they do have Mickey waffles! Compare that to the $42 & $27 you would spend at a Disney buffet you are saving well over $80 (for a family of 4) by eating at Shades of Green.
Another great money-saving option is the Express Café. Located downstairs just before the bus stop, is this quick grab ‘n go counter service spot. This is a great option if you’re not interested in the breakfast buffet but want more than just a muffin. All of the hot breakfast sandwiches are $7 and can easily be shared between two adults or multiple kids if they’re not that hungry. Counter service breakfast options at the Disney Resorts and in the parks can have a variety of options and price ranges from $7 all the way to $15 depending on where you’re at.
The Express Café is also a great option for lunch. All their sandwiches are $11 and include a bag of chips. Compare that to the Disney options and you could be paying upwards of $14 and $11 for kids lunches; versus $8 at the Express Café.
Probably my favorite dining option at Shades of Green is Evergreens Sports Bar. We utilize this spot so much while on vacation. It’s a mix between a counter service and table service restaurant but with counter service prices.
Instead of paying $25-$30 a plate for an adult meal and well over $10 for beer & wine at a Disney restaurant, you can get adult meals for $11 and adult beverages for at least half of the price at a Disney Resort. It’s also a great spot to grab food-to-go and hang out by the pool or take it back to your room.
Evergreens is also a great place to sit and relax on your resort day. Or at the end of a long day in the parks and you just want some pizza and chicken wings while you watch a game.
Your last dining option at Shades of Green is Mangino’s. Mangio’s is a full-service restaurant that offers a nice sit-down meal at a much cheaper price than you would pay at a Disney table service restaurant. Table service restaurants are options you won’t find at a Value Resort (or a buffet like Garden Gallery). Disney Value Resorts only have quick service options so if you’re trying to save money but still enjoy a good meal that isn’t cafeteria-style, know that that’s all you’re going to get at a Value Resort.
The prices at Mangino’s are significantly less than any table service restaurants you will find at a Deluxe Resort or in the parks. At most Disney restaurants, if you’re looking for a steak you will pay anywhere from $29 for a sirloin all the way to $59 for a Filet Mignon. Mangino’s has an 8oz Filet Mignon at only $23, you really won’t find a better deal. You will pay much cheaper prices on really everything on the menu from appetizers, surf & turf, pasta, adult beverages, and kids meals. Your total savings by dining at Mangio’s versus a Disney table service restaurant will definitely vary but just know it will no doubt be much, much cheaper.
Save by shopping at the the Exchange
There is an AAFES Exchange in the hotel? YES!
The fact that there is an Exchange inside of Shades of Green is probably one of my top reasons for staying at Shades of Green. For anyone who has gone to Walt Disney World before and stayed at a Disney Resort Hotel can tell you how expensive the resort shops are. For basic sundry items like sunscreen, energy drinks, pop tarts you will easily pay 2-3x more than what you would at a grocery store or the Exchange. Having the Exchange in the hotel is so huge because you’re paying the regular, non-taxed prices as you would at your local Military installation.
Having the Exchange is a huge money-saving aspect even when you’re just comparing the prices of regular snack items to what you would pay in the parks. When a bottle of water will cost you $5 in the parks, you can bottle of water twice the size from the Exchange for less than $2. Same thing for soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, etc. I also stock up on snacks from the Exchange so when my kids get hungry, they can have a snack that I only paid $1 for a bag of chips when that same bag of chips would cost you almost $6 in the parks! It’s also the spot to buy your adult beverages. My family also gets grab ‘n go breakfast items like donuts and pop tarts from the Exchange since my kids don’t really eat “hot breakfast”. If I’m trying to really stick to a strict budget, I’ll buy bread and peanut butter & jelly to make PB&J sandwiches for when we come back to the resort for a break.
Again, the prices at the Exchange are the same as what you would pay at the Class Six on base. At a Disney Resort Hotel, what you would pay for a 24oz Bud Light would cost you the same price as a Six-Pack from the Exchange. And say you wanted to end the evening with a glass of wine, a half bottle will run you over $30 at a Disney Resort Hotel, in comparison to the same wine only a full bottle at maybe $12.
Shopping at the Exchange is also great when it comes to packing. If you forget to pack something or don’t want to weigh your checked luggage down with all those toiletries, you can get those items at the Exchange. They also sell ponchos for a fraction of the price of a Disney poncho and even luggage if you buy too many souvenirs and need an extra suitcase to take home.
Unwind at the Magnolia Spa
Getting a massage while you’re on a Disney vacation may not be at the top of your priority list, but in case you were considering one or I’ve piqued your curiosity; utilizing the Magnolia Spa at Shades of Green will definitely save you money!
As someone who has gotten many massages all over the world, I can tell you the prices at the Magnolia Spa are phenomenal! You honestly WILL NOT find a better price on Disney property. With a signature spa package only costing $125 for over 2 hours’ worth of services, this is a gigantic saving compared to any spa at Walt Disney World. Shades of Green is also one of the few resorts on Disney property that actually has a spa. When you compare the price of a standard 80-minute massage from Shades of Green ($105) to that of ones at a Disney Resort Spa ($175-$210) it is quite a savings! And let me tell you, after a couple of days walking all over the parks, you are going to want a massage!
One important note is that if you are a Veteran who honorably served and have your DD214, you can stay at Shades of Green in January and September. There are several other eligibility specifications where you might be able to stay all year round so read Shades of Green’s eligibility details.
So how much will I really save?
How much you will actually save will definitely vary depending on your family’s eating preferences and what your eligibility status is. For Veterans with a DD214, you will save so much more by staying at Shades of Green versus staying at a Disney Resort Hotel at “rack rate”. Whereas those who are on Active Duty and can apply the Military Room Discount, wont see as big of a discount on the resort cost. Maybe for your travel dates, Disney is offering a public promotion that is better than the Military Room Discount; that will also change the level of savings you will see. It also depends on if your family is the type to eat every single meal in the parks; either at table service or quick service locations.
But I am someone who likes to have it all laid out in front of me so I can visibly see the numbers. So let’s compare what the savings would be for an Active Duty Service Member with a 25% Military Room Discount to Shades of Green and then what it would be for a Veteran staying during their eligible months at Shades of Green.
So based off of 2 meals a day and some snacks/water bottles being bought at the Exchange or Disney Resort Giftshop, above you can see an idea of what a 5-night trip would look like and how much you could potentially save by staying at Shades of Green. These are just guesstimates on how much meals would cost but it at least gives you a general idea. And if you were considering staying at a more expensive resort or a resort you wanted to stay at wasn’t available for the Military Room Discount, you would obviously see a much larger savings.
Spreading magic one post at a timeKristin
If you’re wanting to use the calculator I made above you can download it below.