If you’re active or retired military, here are a few sites you should definitely know about, which are specifically for military Armed Forces travel:
✦ Discount Airline Tickets
Most airlines offer a military discount, but you won’t find these offers listed on travel websites. You will need to visit the airline website or call their customer service department to get the discounts. Many airlines also waive the checked bag fees for military members, especially when they are traveling on orders.
One of the most important things you need to know about military discounts is that they are often only available for active duty or members of the Guard/Reserves, and are sometimes only available when the member is traveling on official orders. Many military discounts for airline travel are also given as a flat percentage off the full-price fare and may not be the best price available. In many cases, you can find a better deal through discount travel websites.
✦ Space-A Travel
Space available travel is great in theory, but may be limited in practice. As the government continues to downsize, the availability of Space-A travel becomes more and more limited. In general, Space-A travel is only open to active duty military, members of the Reserve Corps, retirees, and dependents of these groups.
There are some scheduled trips which happen like clockwork and can be easy to jump onto, but in general, it is hard to reliably plan on using Space-A travel unless you live close to a participating unit, you have a flexible travel schedule, and you have a solid backup plan (which may include buying a last minute ticket on the economy if your Space-A flight falls through).
Hotel Discounts: most hotel chains will offer military discounts, provided there isn’t a major event going on (for example, you will be hard pressed to get a military discount at a hotel chain in NYC over New Year’s Eve, or a similar time when most hotels are fully booked). Many hotel chains are also willing to cap their rates at the local per diem rate, which can equal substantial savings, depending on the hotel chain and location. Rates capped at the per diem rate may require official orders, and almost always require an active duty or Guard/Reserve ID card.
✦ Base Lodging
Most decent size bases have lodging available. It is generally available to active duty, retirees, members of the Guard/Reserves, and dependents of these groups. Base lodging is generally much cheaper than hotels on the economy and is usually very clean and well-maintained. Some bases may be off the beaten path in terms of where they are located, but depending on where you are traveling, the cost savings may be worth the small inconvenience.
✦ Military Resorts
The Armed Forces Recreation Centers offer exceptional discounts off comparable locations. Some popular resorts include the:
Hale Koa Resort (Hawaii)
Shades of Green Military Resort (Disney World)
Dragon Hill Lodge (Korea)
Edelweiss Lodge and Resort (Germany)
New Sanno Resort (Japan)
You can find more information at the Armed Forces Recreation Centers website.
Other options include Armed Forces Vacation Club and the Veterans Holidays website.
Some of these vacation plans offer exceptional value. Be sure to double check eligibility before making any reservations. In many cases, eligibility is limited to active duty, Guard/Reserve, retirees, and surviving spouses, and the families of those members.
✦ Rental Cars
Many rental car companies have negotiated rates with government agencies. If you are traveling on official orders, you should be able to get a great rate. You may also be able to get a similar rate if you are on personal business and have a military ID card or retiree. These rates aren’t usually available for those who are no longer serving and didn’t reach retirement.
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