10 Things to Know for Your Trip to Shades of Green

Things to Know for Your Trip to Shades of Green
A service member poses with her mother, Minnie and Mickey at an event in Orlando, Florida. (U.S. Coast Guard/Michael Hulme)

There are several Armed Forces Recreation Centers (AFRC) around the world, but only one in Orlando, Florida. The Shades of Green is a resort specifically for service members and their families, with the goal to assist and boost morale and welfare among these individuals. It is located within the Disney World resort in Orlando -- within walking distance to Disney transportation (read below) and with pricing and perks for service members and other government workers.

Who Can Make a Reservation at Shades of Green?

The Shades of Green hotel is a resort specifically for military and Department of Defense (DoD) employees. Eligible personnel include:

  • Armed Forces service members and their family members
  • Public Health Service members
  • NOAA Commissioned Corps, cadets of the armed forces academies
  • Armed Forces retirees and their families
  • Honorably discharged veterans with 100% disability and their families
  • Foreign military members attached to U.S. installations and their families
  • Surviving spouses of personnel who died while on active duty
  • Disabled veterans who are part of the Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act

Plan a Year in Advance

Shades of Green is a popular place, and because of this, it fills up quickly. The reservations are open 53 weeks in advance. If you are thinking about a trip to Shades, book it as soon as you can.

If you aren't certain of your dates, consider reserving a range and then changing as you get closer. The cancellation policy currently is 30 days prior to arrival. However, if the date change is required due to military obligation or medical reason, it can be canceled with proof, and the one-night deposit may be refunded.

Prices Are Scaled by Rank

The prices are scaled by categories for all room types, based on eligibility category, similar to how tickets to the ball often are. Pricing levels adjust annually, so for updated rates, check the Shades of Green website. These prices are historically lower than the military rates at the Disney properties.

  • Category 1: E1-E6 military sponsor
  • Category 2: E7-E9, O1-O3, WO1-CW3, Medal of Honor recipients, 100% Disabled Veterans and sponsored rooms by E1-E6
  • Category 3: O4-O10, DOD Civilian, CW4-CW5, Foreign Military, Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act
  • Veteran's Rate with DD214 (Honorable Discharge)

If you are planning a trip with non-military ID card-holding family or friends, and you want to sponsor them to stay with you on property, you can. Each eligible member can sponsor up to three rooms. Both the service member and the spouse can sponsor rooms, meaning that up to six rooms can be sponsored inclusive of the eligible person's room. The sponsored room category may be a different category level. For instance, E1-E6 sponsored rooms will be at the category 2 level. Make sure to confirm at the online checkout, or on the phone, what the pricing for each room is. A sponsored room is not the room the military ID card-holding member is occupying.

The Rooms Are Big

There are two wings of the hotel -- Magnolia and Palm. Standard rooms are spacious with two queen beds and a sleeper sofa. Every room has a coffee maker and a small refrigerator, and either a patio or private balcony. When you have small children, strollers, wheelchairs or teens, space is crucial. There are also Americans with Disabilities Act rooms with roll-in showers. If you are bringing more family members with you, there are also 11 family suites, five with the capacity for six guests and six that can sleep up to eight guests. The suites book quickly.

There Are Additional Promotions

Promotions for the following year are released about a year in advance, so keep looking for them. The promotions vary, based on the season. For instance, the fall promotion is typically a free breakfast for two people in a room. If you already have made a reservation without the promotion, call to have the promotion added once you see it. There are limits on the number of rooms that are offered promotions, just like military discounted rates at Disney rooms, so you will want to make sure you are included in the promotion.

It's Close to the Polynesian Resort

The Polynesian, which has access to the Disney monorail line to the Magic Kingdom and to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) that connects the monorail to Epcot, is an easy 10- to 15-minute walk from Shades of Green. This means less walking and direct access to the Disney parks. There are ramps and elevators at the Polynesian and TTC for wheelchair and stroller access.

The Hotel Includes an AAFES Exchange

If you forget something or want to shop for theme-park-themed souvenirs, snacks, juice, milk or even a bottle of wine tax free, you can do this at the in-house Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES). Stocked with theme-park stuffed animals, T-shirts, ponchos, umbrellas and more -- it's perfect for an end-of-the-trip, lower-cost purchase. You cannot buy in bulk here (no case of bottled water), but you can get individual juices, water or milk from the cooler.

They Have a Bus System

There is a separate Shades of Green bus system that goes directly from the hotel to local attractions and the TTC, which serves as a hub for buses throughout the Walt Disney World resort. Because it is a military resort property, only those who have reservations or are a sponsored guest will be given a resort ID, which is required to come onto the Shades of Green bus as a means of validation.

Additional Recreational Options

Shades of Green has things for you to do when not visiting Disney. There are two arcades and two pools -- one with a giant slide. There are also two PGA golf courses on the property. Guests can borrow tennis balls and rackets from the front desk for free and enjoy a tennis game on their two courts. They also have a large fitness center.

Get Tickets to Other Places

Shades of Green has a ticket center with military discounted tickets for a variety of Orlando area attractions, including Walt Disney World, Legoland and Universal Studios. With the need for tickets ahead of time to make reservations, you can even request tickets prior to your visit. Even if you aren't staying at Shades of Green, you request tickets through their ticket center.

-- Heather Walsh is a Marine spouse and mom of two who just completed a cross country PCS during a pandemic. She grew up a Navy brat and loves all things crafty and Disney. You can follow her adventures on MilMomAdventures.

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