Military travel is defined differently by each military family. For example, an impending PCS provides opportunities to add a vacation detour while shopping for a new house. Weekend trips exploring your newest duty station could be considered military travel, as would a school break or planned summer vacation if families take advantage of the many possibilities for discounted rates.
However you define military travel, there are many reasons to love seeing new places with a military affiliation.
If Space-A travel won’t satisfy a strict timeline requirement, most major airlines do reserve a limited amount of discounted military rates for each flight. These are not advertised and must be requested through a service agent on the phone. In my experience, Southwest Airlines handles this courtesy very well.
Airlines also offer various degrees of waived baggage fees for military. They are so varied in fact, it is necessary to review each company’s policies, perhaps with verbal confirmation from an agent. Typically, the active duty member’s luggage is the only bag that flies free. Added bonus— we’ve had ticket agents waive fees at the counter because we used our Military IDs, regardless of policy.
Amtrak extends a 10 percent savings for active duty military members and their dependents with IDs on the lowest price on most itineraries, but restrictions do apply, such as trips that are partnered with VIA Rail Canada. A useful perk that is also discounted is the option to use the Auto Train. Transporting a car via rail make a long-distance PCS a little easier. Amtrak also encourages military members to head to straight to the front of the ticket line.
Recreation Vehicles: Paths Across America is an Army outdoor recreation website and guide regarding information about vehicle parks and campgrounds on military installations across the country. The website describes each location and distinguishes levels of amenities from the availability of water and electricity to cable television. Some recreational sites promote access to staff members who can direct service members to MWR activities nearby, which may include admittance to base pools or information for scheduled tours in the area.
If your family has not taken advantage of one the Armed Forces Recreation Centers (AFRC) or the Armed Forces Vacation Club (AFVC), please do. The military rates are unmatched in the non-military world and really can deliver relief when traveling abroad. We have stayed at all but one AFRC, and they added comfort and affordability to experience the region further with planned tours and outings.
For AFVC planning, take some time and review the suggested resorts or hotels on a few other websites. The suggested destinations are not restricted to military members, and other tourists will post opinions and thoughts on websites such as TripAdvisor.
If you’re a loyal Delta Airlines flyer, and even if you are not, you might be interested in contacting their vacation planning offshoot, Delta Vacations. Delta Vacations will plan each component of the trip to include air, hotel, and car rentals. They apply a military discount that varies on each booking, but they also make the deal sweeter by adding bonus SkyMiles to your account.
Perennial military member favorite USAA has a substantial travel planning resource for its members. There are pre-vacation checklists, budget guides, and much more advice. They are partnered with Explore Cruise and Travel, and the discount options are plentiful.
Major hotel and resort chains continue to promote military rates, but some are more visible or substantial in reductions than others. For example, it is widely known Sandals and Beaches Resorts administers a 10 percent discounted rate to military personnel. For smaller chains or properties, it is worth a phone call directly to the hotel to inquire, as they may extend a consideration not advertised. This often happens to us when we ask at a boutique or luxury property.
It is easy to forget military resources the Army’s MWR’s Leisure Travel Office (or other branches equivalents), because we become used to seeing their advertisements, but it is such a disservice to your family not to check in there every once in a while to see what discounts have been released. Reduced fees on many things from movie tickets to Disney vacations are available.
These offices tend to be regional in nature, offering excursions to nearby amusement parks, dinner theatres and sporting events, but access to national attractions are available as well. Leisure Travel Offices on installations near popular travel destinations such as San Diego, Washington, DC, and Tampa are stocked with discounts on expensive tourist activities.
Gratefully, Anheuser-Busch continues its Waves of Honor program for free admission into its family of parks. Although most military are familiar with these great opportunities, I want to remind us all to use these benefits wisely. It’s one park per year access. The kids grow fast, and may age out of some of the properties. For instance, Sesame Place in Pennsylvania is really designed for kids 2-7. Don’t miss out on free admission because you weren’t aware of the park options.
When curious, just ask! You’ll find businesses can be very accommodating, even if there isn’t a set military discount policy. Travel is one of the best perks of military service. Don’t wait for someday; make the most of these helpful benefits and tour the world!
Whether you're an experience traveler or just starting out, you may not be aware of all the travel benefits related to your military service. Get more information about Flying Space-A, military discounts, destinations, lodging, and more in our free resource, Guide to Military Family Travel.
By Dawn M. Smith