Travel Savings Guide and Planning for Military & Veteran Families
Travel Savings Guide for Military Families: Save Every Step of the Way
If you are planning a vacation this year be sure to review myMilitaryBenefits’s articles covering many discounts offered by companies to military members and their families. If you know where to look there are discounts to be had during all legs of your trip including specific destinations, hotels, rental cars, and events.
First, you need to choose where to go. Here is a list of great vacations for military families in the United States.
The National Park Service offers free annual passes ($80 value) for active duty service members and their families as well as U.S. veterans and Gold Star Families. This includes access to over 2,000 sites and will cover entrance and amenity fees.
Other military discounts for camping include 10%-20% off at Jellystone Park & Resorts (except at the Iowa location which provides a 100% discount for active duty). KOA campgrounds do not have a corporate policy regarding military discounts, but calling your desired location will net you a discount if available. Many other state park systems offer discounts for active duty and veterans, so be sure to check your state park’s website.
Great Wolf Lodge, a chain of indoor waterparks, offers their Howling Heroes special. Active Duty and Retired military members will save up to 25% on their lodging through December 2023.
Busch Gardens allows for one complimentary entrance to their SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, or Sesame Place parks for active duty military and up to three dependents. You will need to verify your status at ID.me
There are plenty of hotel chains offering military discounts as listed here. Some of the better deals include a 20% discount at Wyndham Hotels and 10% off at Red Roof Inn for official or leisure orders plus 10% off for friends and family visiting a service member.
If you are flexible, look into the Armed Forces Vacation Club (AFVC) or In Honor of Our Troops (IHOOT). The AFVC is a free service offering active duty families, Gold Star families, retirees, veterans, and DoD employees, discounted lodging at various resorts, hotels, condominiums, apartments, and timeshares. Their “R&R” choices start at $279 a week (around $40 per night) for low-demand, high-supply locations. They also offer traditional bookings accompanied with modest savings, but the real value is in the R&R bookings.
You can upgrade your free membership to a premium membership for $119 a year which will unlock more discounts, provide exclusive access to Last Minute Vacations, and allow you early access to sales among other benefits.
IHOOT’s program Vacations for Vets offers free stays at various locations throughout the US and Canada, but hopeful vacationers must apply via their website. A $100, $125, or $150 fee applies to active duty, veterans, and DoD employees respectively. Applicants can expect to wait over a month to hear if they have been selected or not, so be sure to have a back up plan.
Getting There. Flights, Car Rental, and Rail Travel
Airlines have become notorious for tacking on extra fees for bags and services. Check out our article here to learn how military families can save on baggage fees and more.
At a minimum, you should get one to three bags checked for free on almost all airlines. Few offer actual discounts on ticketing, but Delta offers a military rate (call 1-800-325-1771), as well as JetBlue, United, and Southwest.
Pro tip: If any of the airports you will be traveling through have an accessible USO lounge, go! Most offer snacks, toiletries, and respite from the hustle and bustle of airports. Some (like Philadelphia and Charlotte) are superior experiences to any other lounge or restaurant in the airport.
If your vacation needs include a rental car, look no further than here.
The two big names, Hertz and Budget, offer discounted rates to military members. Hertz provides a discount upon checkout as well as enrollment into their rewards program, Hertz Gold Plus. Budget works with USAA and offers discounts through the bank and maintains a presence on military installations. Depending on your needs either company should offer great service to their military customers.
AMTRAK advertises a 10% discount for that active-duty personnel who prefer a more leisurely pace to their travel.
Things to Do
If you need to fill some gaps in your itinerary consider attending a special event.
The Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix) is a website that offers free tickets to sporting events, concerts and performing arts acts throughout the country. Simply pay a small delivery fee and get access to a wide variety of events. For more popular events they hold lotteries in which you bid digital coins, but they offer many tickets on a first-come, first-serve basis. Be sure to verify your military status via ID.me.
Fans of golf who cannot make it to the sold-out PGA tour events should check out the LPGA tour schedule. These events are cheaper and less congested than their male counterparts’ tournaments and many provide a free or discounted entrance for military personnel. The LPGA holds tournaments around the world, but below are a few near popular tourist destinations offering free admission.
Finally, if your vacation takes you close to a military base, be sure to look into that installation’s Morale, Welfare, and Recreation office. There may be a great tour or event you can check out, or, if it rains on one of your vacation days, you can simply get out and watch a movie.
- Best Military Discounts for Summer Travel
- Best Vacations for Military Families Overseas
- The Best Military Discounts on Cruise Lines
- Military Discounts on Golfing and Golf Gear