Every year since 2009, Disney has thanked Armed Forces members and their loved ones by offering park tickets at a discounted rate. Along with the excitement and thankfulness most of these members feel comes an abundance of questions about qualifications and how to go about using these discounted tickets.
Every day on social media I see countless service members and spouses asking the same questions about acquiring tickets and/or how to use them. As a military spouse and a person who has personally taken advantage of the salute to service program, I am here to help you understand the 10 things you need to know about salute to service park tickets!
1. Where do I purchase my tickets?
Getting your hands on tickets is actually the easy part! Regardless of whether you chose to go through a travel agent or not (though ya’ll know I highly recommend it), only YOU can purchase these tickets. The MWR or Travel/Leisure building on your closest military base will be able to handle this transaction for you. They are extremely knowledgeable of this offer and can help answer any questions you have while you’re there.
2. Who can purchase the tickets?
As stated in #1, only YOU, the military service member or the spouse can purchase these tickets. For example, my husband is the service member but I was the one who actually purchased the tickets at the MWR on post with a valid military ID that is. Want to know who qualifies if you’re not active duty? Head over to Salute to Service: The Military & Disney for more detailed information on that.
3. What if I’m not near a military base?
If you are national guard or reserve or in a situation where you qualify but are not near a participating military instillation in order to do the transaction in person there is another option! This happened to my sister, who is in the national guard and living in central Pennsylvania. There are no participating military bases in Pennsylvania so she had to find another option. Camp Pendalton in Oceanside, California will handle the transaction over the phone and Fed Ex the tickets to you. There is a small shipping charge of $10 and you should allow a few weeks before your trip for the tickets to get to you.
Camp Pendelton: 760-725-5863
4. How many do I get?
Each qualifying service member AND their spouse (i.e. my husband and myself) together can only purchase 6 tickets PER calendar year (January to January) PER park. So this means that if we purchase tickets for Walt Disney World in January of 2017 we cannot purchase tickets for WDW until January of 2018. However, given the same example, if we chose to also go to Disneyland in the same calendar year that is a completely separate transaction and thus we would still qualify for the salute to service discount.
This can be a hiccup for some families, especially if grandparents or other relatives are joining. We are a family of 5 already (going on 6) and we had another party of 4 joining us and we would only have been able to get 1 more ticket to equal our families total of 6.
5. What if I need more?
In the event that your IMMEDIATE family size is greater than 6 Disney is allowed to make exceptions and issue the appropriate number needed. Example: The service member + spouse + 6 kids = a total number of 8 tickets needed. This is allowed. *Note: this does not mean you can buy above the allotted 6 for your cousin or nephew, etc.
6. Do I have to use them consecutively?
If you purchase a 3-Day park hopper pass do you have to use them in consecutive days? (I.E. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) but you’re staying Monday through Friday? Absolutely not! Some families choose to take a break in between their park days and this is completely acceptable.
7. I got a voucher, now what?
When you purchase your “tickets” with the MWR or travel/leisure you will not walk out with your actual “tickets”. You will get a voucher for each ticket you will need (see picture above). Do NOT lose these vouchers. They are your receipt and proof of purchase that you will need at the gate to gain entry into the park.
What will happen is on the first day of your trip or whenever you choose to convert these (night before, afternoon of,etc…) go to the gate like you would normally to gain entry into the park (do not go to the ticket counter, they do not do these there) and at the turnstile you will hand these over WITH THE ID of the person who purchased them (remember it was me before?) they will then convert these into tickets (see below pic) and take each ticket holders picture.
Yes, you’ll probably hold up the line behind you but don’t worry because you’re not the only one doing this, I promise! You will then be issued your physical paper ticket (do NOT lose this either) that will gain you access into the parks for however many days you chose. From that point you do not need your ID, though they always have the right to ask for it, they will simply scan your card with a little handheld gun and verify your picture and voila! You’re in.
8. I won’t be on the trip but I purchased the tickets, how does that work?
First and foremost I will state this: you physically cannot do this. When you purchase the tickets at the MWR you will have to show ID and they will ensure that the person purchasing the tickets is one of the ticket holders. In fact your vouchers (see picture above in #7) will state: John Smith party.
Let’s pretend that somehow you actually were able to purchase tickets for someone else, once they get to the perspective park and approach the gate they will not be able to activate their tickets because they WILL ask for the ID of the person whom purchased them. There is no way around this, unless something tragic happens in which case I’m sure management would get involved or your trusted travel agent (another reason I highly recommend them) could take care of this situation prior to the day of.
So if you’re going with a large party and you’re arriving on separate days, the rest of the party cannot activate their tickets (i.e. cannot get into the parks) until you arrive to show your ID. See #7 for specific steps.
9. Can I purchase tickets for my family or friends?
I think this is outlined pretty well in steps #7 and #8. But yes, as long as you are one of the people in the party going as well.
10. Ugh oh, my leave dates got changed. Now what?
I’m going to risk sounding like a broken record but this is a perfect example of why having a travel agent is even more beneficial! As military families we know all too well how often our plans get thrown a curve ball and the travel agents, like Jen Novak with Ears of Experience, are trained to deal with these situations and work tirelessly to make sure we can still get our much needed vacation in, stress free!
Should this situation happen to your family, hopefully you got insurance, but Disney does make an excellent effort to switch dates around for you! Note: There is the potential that they will charge you $50 to do this. If you chose to only book a room and did not do a package (i.e. a dining package with room) then you can cancel 5 days out for a full refund. However, if you did a package deal then you would have to cancel within 30 days for a full refund.
I truly hope this helps ease any of your worries or stress about your upcoming trip. This blog doesn’t even begin to cover the extent to which Jen and I have gone to get you the most detailed information so if you need more detailed information about the program slide on over to my category Salute to Service: The Military & Disney.
What other questions do you have about traveling to Disney?