Orlando Vacation on a Military Family Budget

If you’re a military family with Orlando on your vacation agenda, make sure you take advantage of a true gem while you’re there: Shades of Green Resort at Walt Disney World, one of its best-kept secrets.

Money isn’t the only concern for many military families; deployment schedules, for example, throw a monkey wrench into even the most organized plans. Families want to have fun, but often need a quiet place to relax and reconnect. It’s a complex formula. Here’s how to make the most of the time you have together in Orlando, Florida, with the least hassle.

Make hotel reservations at Shades of Green, even if you aren’t planning to visit Walt Disney World or one of the other Disney properties. Shades of Green, the only Armed Forces Recreational Center in the continental United States, is an official Disney Resort, and is located right across from the beautiful Polynesian Resort. Surrounded by golf courses, conservation areas, pools and waterfalls, consider it your first and best choice for lodging in Orlando for cost, convenience, and calm.

Because their clientele is comprised of service members and limited qualifying eligible guests, they have a flexible reservation policy. The truth is that it’s hard to plan a vacation if you’re a military family, but it’s important to spend quality time together, especially after a long deployment. Another truth is that deployment dates change, and every single member of staff at Shades of Green knows the drill.

The Shades of Green specials make their rates some of the best in the area, and the most wonderful thing about it all is that, as a Disney Resort guest, you have access to all of the same amenities as the folks who stay at the pricey Disney Resorts – even Extra Magic Hours access, nearby monorail service, and free bus transportation to the major parks all day long. This saves on gas and parking, too: depending on where you’re headed during your Orlando stay, once you park your car in the resort lot, you may not need it again until you check out.

Don’t leave home without your military identification or Department of Defense ID card. The Shades of Green resort offers a ticket office comparable to the MWR office on your local base. Instead of standing in line to buy full-price tickets at the local parks and attractions, get your discounted tickets to Walt Disney World (such as The Armed Forces Salute), Sea World (Here’s to the Heroes), Universal Studios, Kennedy Space Center and local dinner shows right on the S.O.G. property and you’ll have access to the best deals. Purchased here, they’re all tax-free.

Remember that all tickets are non-refundable and non-exchangeable. Additionally, many restaurants in town offer military discounts (usually 5%-10%) if you ask and present your ID.

Missing your Mickey Mouse? Save on your Disney Swag at the AAFES. Instead of spending a bundle on memorabilia, toys and t-shirts on Main Street, pick them up at the small but very handy Armed Forces Exchange Service General Store (known to military families as the friendly neighborhood AAFES or Exchange) on Shades of Green property. Find Official Disney Merchandise here, all tax-free, and save a bundle. Selection is limited, but shop here and your’re bound to find great early holiday gifts at this little AAFES shop – minus the crowds.

Whether you’re interested in a relaxing visit to Orlando or an exciting romp through the many area theme parks, save money and time by taking advantage of the Shades of Green Resort and the amenities it provides. Make sure you get a photo of your family by the patriotic Mickey Mouse statue in the lobby – and bring some of the magic home.

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