Being a military spouse, much of my client base consists of military families, and the main question that I get from them as they are researching potential resorts is if they should book a room at Shades of Green (the MWR owned resort located on Disney property) or at a Walt Disney World owned resort. Today, I'm going to give an unbiased view on both options to help those of you who qualify to get a military discount decide which option is best. We'll begin with a quick history lesson.
Shades of Green is a military only resort that is located across the street from Disney's Polynesian Village Resort and near the Walt Disney World Transportation and Ticket Center. When it opened, it was called "The Golf Resort" and was later named "The Disney Inn." The location, though close to the Magic Kingdom, was not on the monorail line, which was a major drawback for guests who were wishing to stay on Disney property. As a result, occupancy was very low. Eventually, Disney decided to lease the property to the Army MWR, who was looking for a new resort property in Orlando, and by 1996, the resort was so successful, that the MWR purchased it for 43 million dollars. It's price point, location and spacious rooms have made it a very popular resort for military families to enjoy while on a Walt Disney World vacation.
Moving onto the Disney side of things- during the economic downturn of 2009, Walt Disney World decided to release a Military Salute discount that has proven quite successful. It offers 30-40% off of resort stays and substantially discounted 4 Day Park Hopper tickets. Because of these discounts, many military families found that a Walt Disney World vacation could be affordable and Disney has graciously continued to renew this discount each year since it began. With these discounts, Disney has been able to compete very well with Shades.
Regardless of resort tier, all Disney Owned Resort guests will get the same perks:
FREE parking at all Disney Theme Parks and in your resort
NO resort fees
FREE transportation to/from the airport, if flying
FREE reliable transportation to/from all Disney Parks
FREE Delivery of purchases to your resort so that you don’t have to carry them around all day.
Early access to FastPass+ reservations (60 Days before arrival, vs 30 days for off property guests)
Extra Magic Hours, which means access to the parks an hour before off property guests and up to three hours longer in the parks after the off property guests have left.
Complimentary MagicBands, which act as your room key/ticket/payment method during your stay.
Access to the Disney Dining plan.
While Shades guests will enjoy Extra Magic Hours and delivery of park purchases to their rooms, there are a few things that you should know prior to booking. Parking will cost $5.00 per day at the resort on top of parking fees at each of the Disney Parks which will cost $20.00 per day. You will also pay for the airport shuttle that picks you up if you do not rent a car, though it is discounted. If you want Magic Bands, you'll have to buy them separately and if you want to make FastPass+ reservations in advance, the earliest that you'll be able to do so is 30 days before arrival. Also, room costs are based on rank, so the higher up in rank you are, the more you will pay. It's always best to compare the costs of both options and weigh the value of choosing one over the other.
Today, both options are great for military families who are looking for the convenience of staying in the middle of the Magic. At Shades, you can enjoy spacious rooms with complimentary wifi, a spa, a gym, laundry, tax free shopping, bars, an arcade, several restaurants and quick service food options, swimming, golf, and tennis. At the Disney owned resorts, amenities vary, depending on resort category, but all have well appointed themed rooms with complimentary wifi, a quick service restaurant, arcade, swimming, playgrounds, pool bars, outdoor movies, a gift shop, laundry, airline check in, free transportation to/from parks and Disney Springs, free airport shuttle bus, free parking, and many, many other perks that set them apart from the competition.
Ultimately, where you decide to stay is purely up to you, and I'm happy to assist you in choosing the best fit for your family. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me!