Will there be a Disney Military Discount next year? Is a question that I begin getting in increasing numbers starting every June.
The military community starts asking then because Disney always releases their general public resort rates for the upcoming year in late June.
However this is not the case for Disney’s military discounts: the Disney Armed Forces Salute Room and Ticket discounts.
(Updated 31 August 2019)
When We Could Hear
Based upon the last 3 annual Salute announcements, Disney could release information about a 2020 Armed Forces Salute in Late September 2019.
The uncertainty in using the word “could” does not have to do so much with the timing, rather it has to do with whether they will offer a new Military Salute at all.
Something that those who are relatively new to the military discounts for Disney vacations are often unaware of, is that the Disney’s Armed Forces Salutes are temporary offers and that they are a relatively new occurrence.
This string of mostly back-to-back temporary offers began in 2009 and have been offered or renewed for partial years, full years, and multiple years since then. The Salutes even ended for a short period of time before being started again.
Another thing that’s not known, is that what our community call the Disney Armed Forces Salute is actually a collection of offers. A Walt Disney World room offer, a WDW ticket offer, a Disneyland Resort room offer, and a DLR ticket offer. They are all independent and executed differently. The ticket discounts are a negotiated deal with the DoD executed by the 2 different Disney theme park companies. The room discounts are offered direct from Disney at each location. During the time the Disney Armed Forces Salute ended with no follow-on (Sept 2012) The room discounts started back up first as they required no signed contract with DoD. The ticket discount came back a week or 2 later.
Why Disney Might Not Renew
Fact: Prior to the current run of Salutes, Disney instituted one in 2002 during the Post 9/11 travel downturn. As soon as people started traveling again (mid-year) Disney ended it.
Fact: Disney and most other companies offer discounts, military or otherwise, as loss leaders. This is industry lingo for getting you in the door with an attractive offer or discount banking that once in you will buy other things. Or in Disney’s case offering an attractive discount to attract bodies that would not have otherwise come.
Interesting side note/example: Gasoline is a loss leader. Quick stops ( 7/11, Speedway, etc.) make almost nothing on gas, it’s when you go in the store and make purchases that they make their profit!
As mentioned just above Disney started the first Armed Forces Salute in 2002 when people stopped traveling (due to fear) and once they started to travel again the Salute ended. The current string of Salutes started because of the economic downturn in 2009 after the “Housing Crisis.”
Fact: Disney’s CEO Bob Iger has stated to shareholders that Disney’s goal is to end all discounts!
Fact: Disney instituted seasonal pricing on their multi-day theme park tickets in late 2018, something they did a while back on single-day tickets. The purpose of this is to de-incentivize going during high attendance periods; they already do this by not offering resort hotel discounts during the busiest times.
Fact: At WDW huge crowds are expected for fall 2019 through 2021 for the opening of the Star Wars Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and WDW’s 50th anniversary (2021). And at Disneyland Star Wars Land opens in May 31st 2019.
Disney is furiously expanding resort hotel capacity and transportation infrastructure in order to try to handle this surge. But they are going to have more bodies than they need for much of this timeframe.
UPDATE: The expected surge at Disneyland was way underwhelming! Today (31 August) is the third day of operation for Galaxy’s Edge in Florida, the wait time of Millennium Falcon is only 75 minutes at 7:45 am (way down from 300 minutes on the 29th). We’ll see if this is the same lower than expected interest as in California or due to those not traveling due to Hurricane Dorian.
Fact: Since the start of the current Salutes, there have been dates during each offer period that the military discounts have not been available. Disney blocks the discount from use during these dates because they already have too many bodies there without the discount.
These blockout dates are during the busiest times of the year: Spring Break and Christmas/New Years (some years there have been additional dates).
Fact: When Universal Studios Orlando opened their Harry Potter attractions, they dropped their Special Military Discount due to the volume of bodies attracted by the new land(s).
Universal did not begin offering significant Military Discounts again until a couple of years ago (after the surge).
Why Disney Might Renew
Dropping the Salute discounts wouldn’t look that good for Disney (for a news cycle or two).
Fact: The military community is a smidgen of Disney’s Resort Destinations business.
The number of extra resort rooms used by the military and the extra bodies in the theme parks per day do not cost Disney that much in extra labor. It really costs them almost nothing comparatively.
A few extra rooms to clean are spread across multiple resorts and maids at each. And no extra theme park or restaurant staff would be required.
Fact: They haven’t ended yet.
The summer of 2016 saw a downturn in attendance, which surely helped in the decision to continue for 2017. Then spring 2017 saw projected attendance so low that Disney World cancelled their blockout dates for the Salute tickets during Spring Break. And the 2018 Offer has no blockout dates for tickets (though it does for rooms).
But this could all change in the coming year.
No one knows what Disney will do. They play their cards very close to the chest.
Past history will not be a big part of Disney’s decision I feel, rather what will is how they project attendance will be in 2020.
The could possibly wait longer than late September.
Disney has until October to evaluate how attendance is going and if they will offer a Disney Armed Forces Salute at all, offer one with increased restrictions, or continue as they have in the past for 2020.They really could wait later if they are willing to keep military guests from using FastPass+ in early 2020 (tickets need to be in hand 2 November for 1 January Fastpasses).
Because all the room and ticket offers are different offers, there could be wide variation in the offers. Disneyland due to logistics could be harder hit by attendance than Disney World and the Salute offers could reflect this.
Here are my thoughts. I see 5 scenarios for a renewal:
- Disney renews the Armed Forces Salute in the same form that they have the last 4 years with minimal changes
- Disney renews the Armed Forces Salute with blockout dates increased to some extent. Slightly or greatly increased and variable by WDW vs DLR or even by individual theme park, e.g.more blockouts dates at Disney Hollywood Studios and the Disneyland Park.
- Disney Releases a partial year Salute. Essentially the same effect as #2, but perhaps with beginning or end dates that reduce the length of the offer. For instance they could wait until the second half of 2020 to offer a Military Salute (this would greatly delay any announcement).
- A combo of #2 and #3.
- No Salute at all. I really think this is the least likely.
I don’t know which way it will go. If I had to bet I’d say #2 is the most likely. Things could be greatly different at WDW than DLR. There could be ticket discounts and no room discounts. Room discounts have been on a sliding scale the last 2 years and at many times not available. I’ve used non-military discounts more in 2019 than I have the Salute!
But due to the temporary nature of these Salutes, my advice has always been, now is the time for military families to take a Disney vacation. Because prices (even discounted ones) always go up and the Salutes could always end.
What to do?
First be prepared! See this post on what to expect if there is an announcement: What to Expect on the Day Disney Announces the Disney Armed Forces Salute
My recommended Disney Travel Agent, Ears of Experience advises for those those who aren’t comfortable waiting on the release of a 2020 Military Salute toe just going ahead and book at the general public rates.
This also leaves them open try to convert to any military discount offered later or for other general public promos that can come in pretty darn close to the Military Salute a lot of times anyway.
Want to go this route? contact Ears of Experience.
If there is no military room discount for 2020 you could use other military discounts.
If there is no Salute Ticket Discount offered for 2020 or for your dates in 2020 you will need to revert to what the military community used prior to the current string of Armed Forces Salutes. These are the Regular Military Discounted Disney Tickets for Walt Disney World and Disneyland and the Shades of Green Stars and Stripes Passes for Disney World.
Over to you, what are your thoughts on the chances for renewal? Are you going to book when general public rates com out for 2020 or wait? Tell us in the comments section below!
Planning a Disney Trip? Want to get the best military discounts that are available? Feeling a little confused? See our:
- Disney Veteran Discount and Disney Military Discount Eligibility Guide
Learn about the Disney Armed Forces Salute the best military discount that there is for Disney. For where to stay see our Resorts/Hotel Overview Page. Disney doesn’t discount dining for the military, but there are a few places on property that do, see the Dining Overview Page to learn where plus more dining info. You can also learn about Transportation Options. Be sure to check out our Technology Overview to learn about Magic Bands and My Disney Experience to see how they work with military tickets. Walt Disney World visitors might be interested in staying at Shades of Green, WDW’s Military Only Resort.