By Lizann Lightfoot
Is your part of the country buried in snow? Or are you already enjoying flowers? Either way, it is time to think about spring break and summer vacation. Most military families don’t have a huge budget for vacations, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Whether you choose to do a “staycation” by exploring your local area or luxuriate in an extended visit to an all-inclusive resort, there is a deal here for everyone. Use our giant list to get great military discounts while planning your next vacation.
Entertainment discounts for military families
Information, Tickets, and Tours (ITT): Most military bases have an ITT office, which offers a huge variety of discounted tickets to anyone with a military ID (service members or dependents). Their tickets are for amusement parks, tourist attractions, sports events, cruises, and even group tours to Europe. Not only can ITT give you ideas for attractions around your base, but they also have discounted tickets for sites across the country. ITT should be your first stop if you are planning a road trip or a staycation.
Disney offers excellent military discounts at both Disney World (Florida) and Disneyland (California). Their 2017 offer includes a 4-day Park Hopper Pass for $209, or a 5-day pass for $224. There are also options for a one day pass to a single park. The military discount is about half the price of general tickets. It is available to active duty, retired, National Guard, and Reservist families. These tickets cannot be purchased at the Disney parks. Instead, contact your base ITT office to get tickets.
SeaWorld Parks: The Waves of Honor program provides military families four free tickets once per year to any of the SeaWorld parks, Busch Gardens, and Sesame Street Live. This discount is for active duty, Reservist, or National Guard families. You must purchase the tickets through their website and prove military service online because the discount is not available at the park.
Blue Star Museums and Theaters: The National Endowment for the Arts gives military families free admission to museums and theater shows across the country. On their website, you can search by state and city to find participating museums or theaters. The Blue Star program is officially active during the summer from Memorial Day until Labor Day. However, some locations offer free military admission year-round.
Recreational Checkout: Most bases have a Recreational check-out center that lets active duty families rent specialty equipment at low rates. You can rent an RV, camping supplies, large cooler, and any equipment needed for your family’s adventure. If you plan to host a party during vacation, Recreational Checkout has lawn and gardening tools, BBQ’s, smokers, folding tables and chairs, and bounce houses for rent.
Lodging discounts for military families
Base Campgrounds and Ocean Cottages: Many military bases have a camping area on base available to military families. Navy or Marine Corps bases near the beach sometimes offer affordable ocean-front cottages. Sites are very basic and must be reserved in advance using a military ID. Consider this affordable option if you want to visit military friends in a different part of the country.
Hotels: Many hotels offer military discounts, including Best Western, Comfort Inn, Embassy Suites, Hilton, La Quinta, Marriott, Motel 6, Red Roof Inn, or Sleep Inn. Other hotels may offer a discount on request, even if it isn’t listed on their website. It never hurts to ask.
A National Parks Passcovers entrance and vehicle fees to hundreds of National Parks for one year. The pass is free to active duty service members, Reservists, and National Guard. The annual pass is typically $80, but service member families get in for free! You may still pay a fee to reserve a campsite, and you should do that as far in advance as possible. The pass can be acquired at the gate of most National Parks by showing a military ID.
Armed Forces Recreation Centers: These military resorts are located around the world, and offer great vacation packages to service members. Shades of Green is near Disney World, Florida. Edelweiss, in Germany, is a gorgeous location for families stationed in Europe. Hale Koa is near Wakiki Beach in Hawaii, and the Dragon Hill Lodge is in Seoul, Korea.
The Armed Forces Vacation Club offers discounted resort reservations to military families. Reservations are available all over America and the world. Most start at $350/week for a unit that will sleep a large family. This is ideal for teaming up with friends or planning a family reunion.
Resorts: Resorts like Beaches and Sandals offer 10% military discounts to all promotions and packages. The discount is for active duty, retired, Reserves, National Guard, veterans, or Department of Defense employees. If you are looking for beautiful locations, constant entertainment, fancy beverages, and quality dining, then a resort vacation may be a good fit for your family.
Travel discounts for military families
Military Transport: Space-A Travel is a way for military service members and dependents to fly for free when there is space available on military flights. Space-A trips are only to and from military airports and availability is not announced until the day of departure. Planning a trip this way is risky since seats are not guaranteed. Some Space-A seats are in normal commercial-style aircraft, but others will be in the back of a giant C-130. There are many websites telling you how to prepare paperwork and supplies for a Space-A flight.
Military Cruise Deals: Military families qualify for discounts on a variety of cruise lines. This is particularly useful for service members stationed in Europe or Asia. This includes Disney Cruises, which are great for families. They also offer discounted cruises to Alaska and the Caribbean.
Rental Cars: Rental car companies offer military discounts, too. Check out Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Dollar rental cars. If you travel by plane or train, you will need a car to get to your final destination.
Amtrak tickets: If you are thinking of traveling by train, Amtrak offers a 10% military discount. This can be an affordable and efficient way to see the country.
Lizann Lightfoot is an associate editor at Military One Click and a Marine Corps spouse. She can be reached at email@example.com.