San Juan, Puerto Rico. Image from Canva.
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What’s motivating your overseas travel this year? Epic holiday vacation? An overseas PCS move? Regardless of the reason for packing your bags, an adventure across the ocean is something to get excited about, especially since military families have so many affordable lodging and activity options across the globe.
We’ve rounded up some of the best OCONUS military resorts and recreation facilities that military families return to over and over again. The locations are phenomenal, and the prices are right, but the secret is definitely out! So if any of the facilities look appealing, go ahead and make reservations ASAP!
Armed Forces Recreation Centers
One of the best benefits of military travel is visiting one of the four Armed Forces Recreation Centers across the globe. Whether traveling for a true vacation, a PCS pit stop, or a deployment family meet-up, you can affordably visit Waikiki, Hawaii, Garmisch, Germany, Seoul, South Korea, and Orlando, Florida. But you have to plan well in advance in most cases, especially for holidays (usually six months out).
Your fees slide based on several categories, including active duty and retiree status and many other eligibility brackets, like former and/or surviving spouses, POWs, and Purple Heart recipients.
There are plenty of compelling reasons these resorts stay at full capacity, so here’s what you need to know about the OCONUS locations.
The Hale Koa sits on prime real estate on Waikiki Beach. The resort sprawls over acres and acres of manicured Hawaiian gardens. The main pool entertains families for hours, while the adult pool is a treasured getaway. Everyone should take advantage of the tour and activities options, including a trip to Pearl Harbor, scheduled luaus, and all of the water sports you can handle, but especially snorkeling to view the underwater Hawaiian paradise.
- Reservations are accepted up to 365 days before your arrival date.
- There is an Exchange and laundry on site.
- If you can’t reserve a room, you’re still eligible to take advantage of hotel amenities such as restaurants, shows, tours, and events.
If a quintessential Bavarian mountain getaway is your dream destination, the Edelweiss is your must-stop location. First, choose between a traditional room and a quaint, cozy log cabin with views of the Alps, including the breathtaking Zugspitze (the highest mountain in Germany). And then, anguish over the time of year to visit —your mountain vacation will be perfect regardless of the month you travel. Try all of the snow sports during the fall, winter, and spring, or hike, ride, swim, and camp during the summer. Between the scheduled tours and activities and exploring on your own, you’ll have to make time to relax and enjoy the lobby’s fireside lounge area.
- A tourist favorite, Neuschwanstein Castle, is nearby. You can walk the steep hill or hire a horse-drawn carriage.
- Come during the Christmas season and enjoy German town squares filled with Christmas markets selling festive food and gifts.
- Dogs are welcome in specific cabins and rooms.
Seoul, South Korea
If Asia is your dream destination, the Dragon Hill Lodge in Seoul, South Korea, is the perfect starting point. Located in the heart of Seoul, you can explore the rich and diverse culture right outside the resort and beyond. The hotel provides travel concierge services to help plan trips to the museums, art exhibits, teahouses, and even a tour to the DMZ. The Dragon Hill has American-style rooms and offers access to The Point Health health club, pool, dining, and lounges.
- Dragon Hill Lodge is part of the Yongsan Army Installation.
- Tour nearby Lotte World. It’s the world’s largest indoor theme park.
- There are 18 newly furnished pet rooms.
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Garmisch-Paternkirchen in Germany. Image from Canva.
U.S. OCONUS Locations
You might initially think OCONUS only refers to foreign countries, but it includes states and territories outside the continental U.S. as well.
4) Seward, Alaska
A couple of hours south of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula, you’ll find the Seward Military Resort in Seward, Alaska. If this is your first time to the Last Frontier, it's an ideal way to try the Alaskan lifestyle. You can find something to do year-round—fishing tours, snow sports, hiking, ziplining, and glacier-gazing. Choose from a motel, townhouse, log cabin, or RV and camping sites.
Try one of these amazing Hawaiian getaways instead if you’re having trouble booking Hale Koa Reservations—they’re not affiliated with AFRC.
6) Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
If you prefer tropical vacations, head down to Puerto Rico to the USCG’s Air Station Borinquen. Spend your days exploring Camuy Caves, a local coffee plantation, and Serralles Castle. Or, head into San Juan for the day and take in the sites of historical Puerto Rico while dining and shopping along the colorful city streets.
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Waikiki Beach in Oahu, Hawaii. Image from Canva.
OCONUS Military Recreation Locations
You’ll find these affordable destinations near military facilities in Europe and Japan. Usually they’re affiliated with the dominant military branch in the area.
7) Grafenwoehr, Germany
No room at the Edelweiss? Consider this German getaway instead. Wild B.O.A.R. Outdoor Recreation Cabins lets you pick between two cabin locations: the cabins at Vilseck (Rose Barracks) and the cabins at Grafenwoehr (Tower Barracks). Grafenwoehr and Wild B.O.A.R. Outdoor Recreation center sit on Dickhäuter Lake, where you’ll have access to plenty of fun, including a wall and ropes course and equipment rental for year-round outdoor activities, plus day trips and tours.
Tokyo: The New Sanno Hotel offers American-style amenities and rates based on the military member's rank, like AFRC, but the U.S. Naval Joint Services Activity operates it. If you want an authentic experience, check out the Japanese suites and spend the night on a traditional futon.
Okinawa: Okuma Beach military resort is a beachfront getaway that lets you immerse yourself in all kinds of vacation activities. If you plan your time well, over a couple of days, you can try jet skiing and go-karting or take a trip on a glass-bottom boat. Later, try to fit in a round of golf or a couple of tennis matches.
Carney Park isn’t just any old park; it's a recreation center set in the crater of an extinct volcano! You can golf, bike, camp, and rent outdoor sports equipment during your visit. If you’re looking for area tours, book them through the Navy Outdoor Recreation Center.
Souda Bay in Crete is a well-loved but less popular destination, and you’ll find affordable stays at the Navy Gateway Inn. The key to maximizing your time here is contacting the MWR office and scheduling activity rentals or planned day or overnight trips.
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Tokyo and view of Mount Fiji. Image from Canva.
Two OCONUS Travel Resources to Try
It never hurts to check one more resource. Try these outlets to maximize your location options and travel savings.
You’ve probably heard of this military vacation club, but didn’t realize there were OCONUS locations. Planning an affordable overseas vacation is always a challenge, but AFVC will inspire you to take a chance on a destination you’ve always considered too far out of reach.
In many cases, rooms are available for $379 per unit for the week. The properties are located across the globe, including popular resorts in Canada (skiing!), the Caribbean (sailing!), Europe (Paris in the Spring!), and Asia (Climb Mt. Fuji!).
Military families know that you need to research several options to get the best OCONUS travel deals, including one of the newest entries in the military discount game, Armed Forces Travel. About a year ago, the Department of Defense (MWR) and Priceline announced their partnership to bring military families to travel on most travel outlets, including flights, hotels, rental cars, cruises, event tickets, and planned packages. You’ll first need to verify your eligibility through the website to start booking.
Here’s part of the initial press release,
“The platform features privately negotiated deals on the world’s most popular hotel, flight, and car rental brands with over a million hotel deals in more than 71,000 destinations globally, providing fast, easy access to a broad selection of deeply discounted leisure travel for the military community and their families. Eligible users can save up to 40%-60% on leisure travel.”
You're not alone if you’re overwhelmed by the OCONUS recreation and resort possibilities and think there isn’t enough time to visit them all. Military families love these destinations, but it takes careful planning to check off all the options. So choose your favorites and set your sights on a couple to visit over the next year or two.
By Dawn M. Smith
Whether you're an experienced traveler or just starting out, you might not be aware of all the travel benefits related to your military service. Learn more with our free resource below!
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