On Wednesday, August 8th, Disney released the details of the renewed Armed Forces Salute for 2012-2013. This “Salute” offers Military members and their families admission tickets and resort rooms at a discounted price. Due to the much appreciated discount, many Military members and their families are able to experience a special and memorable vacation that they otherwise may not be able to afford.
I’ve asked Steve Bell, creator and owner of the Military Disney Tips website, to share a little more about what the Disney Armed Forces Salute means to these Military members.
Q: Besides the discount that Military families receive, what is it that truly makes the Disney Armed Forces Salute so special? What does it mean to families that are able to utilize it?
Steve: The discounts extended to military families by Disney are indeed fantastic! Our military members lead very busy lives these days. Most deploy to combat zones multiple times over a several year period, spending six to 12 months away from their family. Being in a combat zone is stressful enough on it’s own, but the time away from the spouse and children adds even more for both the military member and their family.
Disney’s Armed Forces Salute allows for special vacations before, after, or on a mid year break in a deployment. Many military members, especially the lower ranking members, would never be able to afford to do this without these discounts.
Sometimes the parent at home will take the kids to Disney to in a way make up for the other parent being away during special events. I recently received this email from a reader just after Disney made the recent announcement.
“My husband is deployed right now. Our daughter’s third birthday is in December and he’s going to miss that as well as the Christmas holiday. We talked about it before he left, and it was important to him that she have a great birthday at Disney given that she doesn’t understand what’s going on right now and that the holiday season is going to be difficult for everyone. I had booked my trip well in advance, but was counting on that discount. I really wanted for us to be able to stay at the Art of Animation Resort, but that discount was necessary for me to be able to do that. My family appreciates Disney so very much!”
I get wonderful emails like that all the time!
Q: Is there anything different about this year’s Armed Forces Salute discounts compared to last year?
Steve: Yes there is. As I mentioned, the salute that is running right now, through 30 September, is an extension of the previous year’s salute. When Disney Extended the salute into an offer which encompassed two years they bumped up the number of discounted tickets from six to 12 and allowed multiple purchases during that timeframe.
We are now reverting back to the way things were before. Only six tickets and they must all be purchased and activated at the same time. People got a little spoiled with the 12 to work with and now will have to plan a little better.
Q: What little known treats or events are offered to Military families at WDW?
Steve: There are a couple of very special treats for military members at WDW. Every day at 5 PM Disney holds a retreat ceremony in the Main Street Square at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom. Retreat is when the American flag is lowered for the day and folded. Disney cast members pick a lucky military member or retiree to be the guest of honor and participate during the ceremony.
And a new treat that I just discovered last May in the Magic Kingdom is that a couple of restaurants will give military members who identify themselves when ordering a thank you card signed by the castmembers on shift.
Q: Does Disney offer any other deals or discounts to our military members?
Steve: They sure do. Besides the Armed Forces Salutes, which I consider temporary offers, as they are “fairly” recent and we never know if they will be continued, Disney has always offered discounted Magic Your Way Tickets to military members through military resellers. Sometimes members need more tickets than the Salute allows, or want ticket for a longer stay. In those cases these are the next best option. These tickets can be purchased at military base Travel and Ticket Offices and at Shades of Green on Walt Disney World property.
Speaking of Shades of Green, it is a military owned and operated resort located at WDW. It was once the Disney owned Golf Resort, but the military purchased it about 18 years ago to provide a place for military members to stay, enjoy WDW, and distress at reasonable rates.
Q: There’s always question on if the Disney Armed Forces Salute is going to return the following year – was this year a particularly longer wait to find out about the renewal?
Steve: Well, this year’s announcement timing was actually very typical. Disney has been offering the Armed Forces Salutes continuously (for the most part) since January 2009. There was a single year AFS in 2002 as well.
Typically Disney announces the replacement Salute very close to the end of the one that is ongoing. Usually it’s done two to four weeks out. But in October 2011 there was actually a lapse of four days without resort discounts and 24 days without a ticket discount.
We were spoiled when in April 2011 Disney announced that the Oct 2010- Sept 2011 salute would be extended through Sept 2012. That was an unexpected surprise.
Getting these offers in place is not as easy as Disney just deciding to do it and proceeding. Negotiations need to take place and contracts need to be signed with military Morale, Welfare, and Recreation and that was the hold up that caused the lapses back in 2010.
Q: Do you know if Disney took a look at the ‘Save the Armed Forces Salute’ facebook page?
Steve: I do know that Disney Executives did see the page. I communicate year round with the Disney office that oversees these Salute offers and had been “pestering” them since January about renewing. They were being noncommittal but I could tell they would be renewing. I kept trying to emphasize the need to do it early so folks could plan.
The ‘Save the Armed Forces Salute’ facebook page served two great purposes. First, I think when Disney saw all of the great interest and support they might have sped things up some to get the announcement out earlier. The page gained over 550 likes in the first 24 hours, and got to well over 1000 in the first week.
Second, but most important, it allowed the fantastic military community to come together and say a collective thanks to Disney by sharing photos and memories from Disney vacations that they were able to have because of the Armed Forces Salute.
The Disney Company has been a fantastic supporter of our military, not just with the Armed Forces Salute, but with other programs like Heroes Work Here, and VoulentEARS who send cards and letters to the deployed troops. This page allowed us a way to say, “thanks Disney!”
Special Thanks to Steve Bell, from Military Disney Tips, for taking the time to answer questions, and also for providing the pictures used in this article. More importantly, an even bigger ‘Thank You’ to Steve for serving our Country in the U.S. Air Force for 31 years! We are very grateful for everyone in the U.S. Military and their families for the sacrifices they make daily serving our Country. Thanks to you all ~ you are certainly deserving of such a ‘Salute’ from Disney!
- Shades of Green on Walt Disney World Resort (tipsfromthedisneydiva.com)
- Walt Disney World Celebrates America this 4th of July (chipandco.com)