By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor

Category — k. Special Circumstances at Walt Disney World

Disney’s Armed Forces Salute Deal for 2017 Released

As Steve is reporting on the Facebook page, the 2017 Disney Armed Forces Salute became available today.

disney-armed-forces-salute-for-2017-released-from-yourfirstvisit-netSteve has the details on both the 2016 and 2017 Armed Forces Salutes here, but here’s the basics:

  • The salute is valid from January 1, 2017 through December 19, 2017, but excludes April 9-23.
  • For 2017 it includes not just deeply discounted 4 day tickets, as it has the past few years, but also deeply discounted 5 day tickets. Unless your kids are younger than 5, the 5 day option is the one to choose, as it permits two days in the Magic Kingdom and a day each in the other three parks.
  • Also available again as part of the 2017 salute are room discounts—30% off value resorts, 35% off moderates, and 40% off deluxes.
  • Note that the two deals are not linked–you can get the ticket deal, the room rate deal, or both

Some of the most popular room types (e.g. Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation) are excluded, and availability elsewhere is very limited (more rooms may be added).

S0 those aiming to use the room rate deal for a visit before May (remembering the excluded April dates!) should book right away.

The ticket deal is available only directly from various base sources. But Kelly can book the room rate deal for eligible military families.
Contact her at or 980-429-4499.

The 2017 easy Guide

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

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September 28, 2016   No Comments

Disney Armed Forces Salute Released For 2016

Disney's Military Salute Extended Into 2016 from yourfirstvisit.netDISNEY’S ARMED FORCES SALUTE IN 2016

Miltiary families and their friends will be delighted to know that my friend Steve Bell has broken the news at Military Disney Tips that today Disney’s Armed Forces Salute has been extended into late December 2016.

There’s two parts to the Armed Forces salute

  • A steep discount on Disney World park tickets, and
  • Discounts on eligible Disney World resort hotel rooms.

Eligible military families can select one or both, but can’t combine them with any other deal. You can also use the Military Salute tickets and stay at Shades of Green.

My friend Kelly B can book the room-rate part of this deal for you. Contact her at 980-429-4499 or

(The image, by the way, is of General Colin Powell, USA (Ret.) saluting Captain America at Disney’s Contemporary Resort!)


Eligibility for these and other Disney military deals has always been complicated, and the process for getting and using some of them even more so.

Steve’s Military Disney Tips has always been the go-to site for military families looking to make the most out of their Disney World vacations.

But like every other website (especially mine), finding exactly what you need to know, in the right order, sometimes isn’t as easy as you’d like it to be.

Walt Disney World for Military Families

So the great news is that Steve has just published a Disney World guidebook for military families.

With entire chapters devoted to the 2016 salute, to Shades of Green, and to other deals and perks available to military families, I can’t recommend it enough!!

It’s available as a PDF–probably the most convenient format–here, and on here.

This book will be a great help to military families contemplating a Disney World visit in 2016!!


As noted above, Kelly B can book the room-rate part of this deal for you–but not the discounted tickets.

Contact her at 980-429-4499 or

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September 25, 2015   No Comments

Breaking: Armed Forces Salute Extended Into December

Steve Bell is breaking the news that the Armed Forces Salute has been extended “to 20 December 2015 for Disney Armed Forces Salute Tickets and 23 December 2015 for Room Discounts.”

See Steve’s material here for important details!

Friend of the site Kelly B can book Armed Forces Salute room discounts. Contact her  at 980-429-4499 or

Kelly not only will book your trip, but also help you (for free) with

  • Itinerary planning, including advising on and booking your FastPass+
  • Dining suggestions and reservation planning
  • Future discount searches – Ongoing searching for future discounts to apply to your vacation
  • Free “Mouse Perks” – tips, updates, and fun freebies

And, for qualifying trips Kelly and her agency, Destinations in Florida, will get you a free copy of The easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook in history, after it comes out later this year!

Kelly cannot book Armed Forces Salute tickets–just the room deals.

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June 26, 2015   No Comments

Steve Bell On Using Amenities at Shades of Green Even If You Aren’t Staying There

(For the first page of this review of Shades of Green, see this.)

If you are military folk and don’t know Steve Bell, you should.

Amenities at Shades of Green Available to Those Not Staying There from yourfirstvisit.netHe writes Military Disney Tips and its blog, is the author of an ebook on Shades of Green, and is an expert on and advocate for military families making the best of their Disney and Orlando trips.

Steve is also the military moderator for this site.

For all these reasons, but especially his unmatched expertise on Shades of Green, I asked him to write about which Shades of Green amenities can be enjoyed by military families who aren’t even staying there.

Military folk aren’t staying at Shades for one of three reasons: they prefer an alternative; one of Disney’s deals is just too attractive; or they didn’t find out about Shades until it was too late.

But whatever the reason, there’s still much at Shades of Green open to them wherever they are staying!!


By Steve Bell

Photo: Steve Bell

Photo: Steve Bell

At Shades of Green you will find all of the amenities that you’d expect at the best Disney resorts such as a wide selection of restaurants, recreational options, valet parking, bellhop service, spa, fitness room, two pools, free Wi-Fi, and self-service laundry facilities, plus a military discounted ticket sales office and mini Exchange.

Did you know that you can use many of Shades of Green’s amenities even if you are not staying at Shades?

You may be a WDW day guest, staying at a Disney owned resort as recommends for first time Walt Disney World visitors who may never return, or you may be doing a “split stay” between Shades and a Disney resort. In all cases as a Military/DoD member you are always welcome to stop by Shades of Green. At least one member of the party must have a military ID, CAC or DoD CAC to use its amenities.

Exactly which amenities are non-Shades guests allowed to use?

  • Shades of Green’s Ticket Sales Office
  • The AAFES Store
  • All of the restaurants at Shades
  • The Magnolia Spa

All of these cost less than the comparable services at the Disney resorts and there is no sales tax added!

Other amenities such as pool and fitness center use are reserved only for those actually staying at Shades.


With the introduction of WDW’s FastPass+ it has become best to purchase your Disney tickets well in advance. Those staying at Shades can do so ahead of time through its ticket office.

Those who do not care about FastPass+, and day guests, can stop by to buy their Disney World tickets here.

The ticket office doesn’t just offer Disney tickets–you can also find military discounted tickets for all of the major (and many minor) Central Florida attractions here. You’ll find tickets for:

  • Universal Orlando
  • SeaWorld Orlando
  • Legoland Florida
  • Busch Gardens
  • Kennedy Space Center
  • Wet n’ Wild
  • Gatorland
  • Many Orlando Dinner Shows
  • And Disney World’s minor parks: Disney Quest, WDW’s Water Parks, and WDW’s Mini Golf Locations

The line for service can be long in the morning, so drop by in the afternoon for a shorter wait.


The Army Air Force Exchange Service operates what is essentially a shoppette at Shades of Green. Here you will find all of the sundries that you might need during your vacation. Some of the offerings are: all kinds of snacks and quick food options, a wide range of beverages (general consumption and adult -beer, wine/liquor), toiletries and medicines, Disney, Orlando and the various services souvenir items.

A military ID is required for the sale of liquor and tobacco products. [Note from Dave: Liquor is MUCH cheaper here than at the Disney resorts.]

AAFES At Shades of Green from Steve Bell

Photo: Steve Bell

This is a great place to stock up on snacks and drinks for the room and theme parks at good prices.


You are always welcome at Shades of Green’s restaurants.

Dining at Shades of Green from Steve Bell

Photo: Steve Bell

Breakfast options are the Java Café and Express Café, both quick service (grab and go) locations, and the Garden Gallery buffet, which often has long lines for breakfast.

For lunch your options are the Java Café (Starbucks pastries), the Express Café which has great sandwiches, On the Greens Grill offering hot dogs and brats by the Magnolia Golf Course, Manginos Italian Restaurant (table service), and Evergreen Sports Bar on the weekend.

If you are around for dinner you can choose from the Garden Gallery which offers a regional/international buffet with daily rotating items, Manginos Italian Restaurant, the Java Café (Starbucks pastries), the Express Café, and Evergreen Sports Bar.

Shades of Green’s dining locations are cheaper to considerably cheaper that the corresponding Disney venues, so drop by here to get filled up.

Dining Options Shades of Green Resort from

Shades offers a handy chart indicating what is open when during your visit.


The Magnolia Spa is a full service spa operated by Niki Bryan Spa, which operates the WDW Spas.

Magnolia Spa Shades of Green Resort from

They offer a full range of services at prices 15-25% lower than the Disney Spas:

  • Massage
  • Facials
  • Manicures
  • Pedicures
  • Salon and Barber Services
  • Packages, and
  • Princess Makeovers

The full list of services and prices is here.


If you have your own car the easiest thing to do is drive yourself.

Magic Kingdom Parking Kiosks from

Follow the signs to the Magic Kingdom. When you arrive at the parking toll booth get in the furthest right lane that you can [Dave: where the camping trailer with its subtle Hidden Mickey is in the photo]–the very far right lane is reserved for Disney buses). Then tell the parking cast member that you are heading to Shades of Green. They’ll let you pass without paying for parking.

Merge right then drive straight ahead following the single lane, rather than the multiple lanes curving to the left to parking. Get into the left lane and turn left at the first stop light. Follow this road past the Polynesian Village Resort on the right and then turn right at the “T.” Shades will be just ahead on your left.

At the guard shack just show your ID (military ID, CAC or DoD CAC) and tell the security host what you are there for i.e. “I’m going to the ticket office to buy tickets.” They’ll then direct you to parking.

If you are depending on Disney Transportation you have a couple of options.

You can take Disney transportation to the Polynesian Village Resort or Transportation and Ticket Center and walk to Shades. From the Poly, it takes about 10 to 15 minutes depending on your walking speed. Add another 5 to 10 minutes from the TTC.

Or, with a military/DoD ID for everyone in your party, you can use Shades of Green’s transportation.

You’ll first need to get to one of the Shades of Green drop off/pick up spots (at the TTC, Disney Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, both water parks, and Downtown Disney). The Shades bus will then take you right to the resort to run your errands. When finished just take the Shades bus to your desired destination, or walk to the Poly or TTC to use the transport options there.


Using these extra benefits available at Shades will help you save a little extra on your vacation.

You are eligible, so if you have the time to stop by, you should definitely use them. Drop by to pick up supplies, buy any tickets you still need, and grab lunch.

*  *  *  *  *

Thanks, Steve! This is great info for military folk not staying at Shades!


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May 3, 2015   10 Comments

Review: The Pools at Shades of Green Resort

(For the first page of this review of Shades of Green, see this.)


The Pools at Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.netThere are two pools at Shades of Green:

  • The Magnolia pool, closer to all Palm wing rooms and about half of Magnolia Wing rooms, and
  • The Mill Pond pool, closer to the other half of Magnolia wing rooms

Each has a few distinct features–including some added recently–but either is a great choice for most visitors.

The Magnolia pool is the only one with a hot tub; the Mill Pond pools the only with a pool slide and near a playground and arcade–and right next door to Evergreens!


Map Shades of Green Resort at Walt Disney World1

The Magnolia pool is to the right and down as you cross from the lobby to the Magnolia wing. On the map it’s near the top, just a little left of center.

Magnolia Pool Shades of Green Resort from (2)

This U-shaped pool was extensively redeveloped in 2013. It now features a zero-entry area (at the bottom of the image) and a hot tub (at the top).

Hot Tub Magnolia Pool Shades of Green Resort from

Here’s a closer view of the hot tub.

Although the Magnolia pool has a slight feel of “the pool for adults,” with its basketball hoop (on the right), pool volleyball net and other features, kids find it fun as well.

Night Magnolia Pool Shades of Green Resort from

The Magnolia pool at night.


Mill Pond Pool Shades of Green Resort from

The Mill Pond pool is at the far end of the Magnolia wing (it’s the Mickey-head-shaped pool at left on the map), right next to Evergreens.

Mill Pond Pool Shades of Green Resort from (2)

It has two pool slides…

Slide Mill Pond Pool Shades of Green Resort from

…one for bigger kids…

Junior Slide Mill Pond Pool Shades of Green Resort from

…and one for littler ones that also has a splash play area.

Play Area Mill Pond Pool Shades of Green Resort from

Just outside the pool fences you’ll find this playground…

Arcade Mill Pond Pool Shades of Green Resort from

…and inside the building that also contains Evergreens, this arcade.

Night Mill Pond Pool Shades of Green Resort from

The Mill Pond pool at night.

The arcade, playground, slides and water play area make the Mill Pond pool feel a little more like the family pool. But you will find many adults here as well.

My advice: try them both!


This review continues here

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March 31, 2015   No Comments

Amenities at Shades of Green Resort

(For the first page of this review of Shades of Green, see this.)


Amenities at Shades of Green Resort from yourfirstvisit.netThe scope of amenities at Shades of Green is comparable to what you’ll find at a Disney deluxe resort.

You won’t find fun transport, water sports or a beach–which you will find at all Disney deluxes except the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

And there’s no fine dining.

But you will find pretty much everything else you’d find at a deluxe, and much more than what most moderates except Coronado Springs offer.

Moreover, unlike any Disney resort except Old Key West and Saratoga Springs, you are in the middle of championship-quality golf opportunities, one course (the Magnolia) with its clubhouse just minutes away.

Map Shades of Green Resort at Walt Disney World1

Shades of Green has two accommodation wings with a lobby in the middle. See the map–and as always on this site, click it to enlarge it.

Most amenities are near the lobby, and most of the rest are in the older Magnolia wing.

Check In  Shades of Green Resort from

In the center area you’ll find the check in location.  There’s also a cute little area to entertain the kids or your other brother Darryl while check-in is happening.

Lobby Shades of Green Resort from

The lobby decor otherwise has a nice woodsy feel…

Fireplace Shades of Green Resort from

…and the fireplace was a nice touch in our cooler January/February visit.

Java Cafe Shades of Green Resort from

At the Magnolia side of the lobby you’ll find the Java Cafe.

Java Cafe Menu Shades of Green Resort from

This combines former options for coffee, ice cream and drinks.

Garden Gallery Buffet Shade sof Green Resort from

Downstairs from here are two of the principal dining options at Shades, the Garden Gallery…

Manginos Shade sof Green Resort from

…and Mangino’s.

Fitness Center  Shades of Green Resort from

Go downstairs, outside and towards the Palm wing, and you’ll find the workout area.

Express Cafe Shades of Green Resort from

Also downstairs–but reached from outside the lobby entrance, near the valet parking drop off–is the bus stop. On the way to the bus stop is the Express Cafe.

Back upstairs in the lobby area, if you head towards the Magnolia wing you’ll find more services.

Exchange  Shades of Green Resort from (2)

This includes two shops.

Exchange  Shades of Green Resort from

One is an exchange with all kinds of stuff, from beer (alcohol can only be bought with a military ID) to souvenirs.

Made in the Shade  Shades of Green Resort from

The second, “Made in the Shade,” is a more of a resort-wear venue.

Attraction Ticket Sales  Shades of Green Resort from

Between the shops is a location where you can buy attraction tickets.

At minimum, you won’t have to pay taxes. Many tickets are heavily discounted beyond this–though typically not Disney World tickets. The best current deal for Disney tickets is the Armed Forces Salute for 4 day passes.

You never want to wait until arrival to buy Disney World tickets, anyway. FastPass+ opens for Shades guests 30 days before park use, and you want to book your FastPass+ as soon as you can, and well before arrival.

As Steve notes here, you can buy your tickets from Shades ahead of time and get the info needed to link your tix into your My Disney Experience account so you can book your FastPass+.

Raytheon Family Tech Center  Shades of Green Resort from

Also in this area is the Raytheon-sponsored Family Tech Center that lets you check your email, surf the web, etc.  We used this more than we expected as the Shades WIFI–at least in our area of the Palm wing–was terrible.

Magnolia Spa  Shades of Green Resort from

Further down the Palm wing you’ll find both pools (more on these later), the Magnolia spa…

Magnolia Yoga Studio Shades of Green Resort from

…and the Magnolia yoga center.

Evergreen  Shades of Green Resort from

Keep going and you’ll find the Evergreen sport bar…

Tennis Courts  Shades of Green Resort from

…and these tennis courts.


The good news about dining at Shades of Green is that there’s tons of options–everything that you will find at any Disney resort except fine dining–and all are at prices better–sometimes much better– than  you’ll find elsewhere at Disney World.

Dining Options  Shades of Green Resort from

There’s so many options that Shades provides a chart laying out what they are and their hours (specifics may be different on your visit).

Garden Gallery  Shades of Green Resort from (2)

The bad news is that nothing is particularly special or reliable except for the breakfast buffet at the Garden Gallery.

Some observations:

Room Service  Shades of Green Resort from

Room service is much less expensive than you’ll find in most hotels. You won’t find room service at all in Disney’s value resorts, and only at Coronado Springs among its moderates.

The three main dining venues are

  • Evergreens, back by the Mill Pond Pool, similar to a sports bar
  • Mangino’s, a classier restaurant, but not remotely on par with the fine dining you’ll find at most of Disney’s deluxe resorts like Jiko and the California Grill
  • The Garden Grill, serving a great breakfast buffet but a weaker dinner buffet–check what’s available in the dinner buffet before you decide to eat here.  In particular it had the weakest salad bar I’ve seen outside the dining hall at Boy Scout summer camp

Beyond these, the Java Cafe (lobby) and Express Cafe (near the bus stop) are worth noting as places to get grab-and-go stuff.

For more on dining at Shades of Green, see this.


This review continues here!

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March 30, 2015   2 Comments