For some, the idea of military vacation deals might feel a little awkward. Many former and current servicemembers hesitate to draw attention to their sacrifice. The desire to keep a low profile can be intense. Such modesty is understandable but hardly necessary.
In reality, the discounts, deals and special offers available to current military personnel and veterans are a win-win. Thanking veterans for their service is good for business. It attracts other customers who are patriotic, and who appreciate our military. And servicemembers deserve that appreciation. So why not take advantage of the perks?
When it comes time to plan that trip, do your homework. There are some great military vacation deals out there, and you deserve them.
Am I Eligible for Military Vacation Deals?
First, you need a current or past connection to the military. In practical terms that means that you either need to be a veteran, on active duty or a reservist. Military dependents are also generally eligible. All that's needed is proof of service, past or present, or a veteran's card.
Types of Discounts
There are a lot of military vacation deals to choose from, and the amount of money you can save varies widely from location to location. You might get a percentage discount. You might also get extras, upgrades, and bonuses. A little forethought can result in some significant savings. It all comes down to finding the best deals.
Veterans Day, for example, is the mother of many a great deal. Promotions spring up all across the country in the days leading up to it, so it's an especially good time to keep an eye out for bargains. With deals ranging from free cruise ship cabin upgrades to free nights in a Bed & Breakfast, oil changes, and tour packages, planning a trip on or around November 11 makes a lot of sense.
Veterans advantage card
The Veterans Advantage Card (VAC), is the first port of call when looking to find the best military vacation deals. It was set up in 2001 by former Leuitenant Scott Higgins, an ex-Army veteran who wanted to give something back to those who served. By 2015, it was a public benefits corporation armed with a mission to create and sustain positive social change. Today, the VAC offers numerous discounts to serving and retired armed forces personnel. These include prescriptions drug discounts, everyday shopping concessions via partners such as Sears, Samsung, and Target, and a whole host of other benefits including some great military vacation deals.
The VAC vacations
Those searching for military vacation discounts are well-served by the card. Prominent brands such as United Airlines, Hertz and Royal Caribbean offer flat discounts. Hotels and resorts are well-represented as well with Stay America, Red Roof Inn, and, Microtel offering up to 20 percent off the price of a room or suite.
The VAC also helps you save money on dining and entertainment. Amusement parks such as Hershey Park and Sea World are just two of the many places offering savings in the region of 20 to 45 percent per person. When combined with discounted theatre tickets, dining discounts, and other benefits such as a $20 per annum travel protection plan, the VAC helps make vacationing that much more affordable.
Of course, many companies offer discounts outside of the umbrella VAC partnership programs. While they lack the one-click verification of the VAC, the cuts are no less impressive. Shop around. And don't assume that a special offer doesn't exist just because it's not advertised. If in doubt, ask.
Ground transportation deals
Whether you’re driving across country, taking a long haul flight, or renting a vehicle, getting someplace is never cheap. And it can be stressful. Getting a discount on the price can make it less so. Thankfully, military vacation deals that mitigate transportation costs are not that hard to find.
Car rentals are one of the more common military vacation discounts. Companies such as Alamo, for example, offer flat discounts in addition to waiving additional driver and collision damage fees. Other companies provide cut-rate insurance, free upgrades, and cheap airport parking.
For those who need to give their family vehicle a once-over before embarking on that well-deserved break, there are plenty of options too. BMW, Chrysler, and Ford are just some of the dealerships that offer discounts for service personnel. At times these companies will lower the cost of leasing brand new cars, but many also cover added extras such as oil changes, tire servicing and, replacement parts.
Flight deals are also up for grabs for serving military and veterans alike. Companies such as American Airline Cargo will let you ship your pet across the country for half price. Meanwhile, Jet Blue, United Airlines and Lufthansa set aside discounted tickets for veterans. Several other companies offer some other welcome perks such as free baggage allowances, priority boarding as well as waivers of add-on fees such as those for pets or boarding pass printing.
At any rate, websites such as militarytravel.com maintain a searchable database of discounted flights. Most of the major airlines offer a set number of cheap seats for military personnel. Those looking to land some of the best military vacation deals would do well to book early.
Accommodation is another one of those big-ticket expenses that drive up the price of the typical vacation. Fortunately, there are a lot of deals available.
The Hilton and Hyatt hotel chains have a flat discount between 10 and 15 percent for active & retired military and their families. Meanwhile, a quick trip to Hotels.com allows you to input your military ID to get similar savings at thousands of other locations. There are limited spaces, though, so book early.
Lovers of the great outdoors will be pleased to learn that Koa campground is not alone in offering military vacation deals that include 5 to 15 percent off regular prices. Indeed many campsites, resorts, motels, and rental properties will provide such discounts upon request.
So many of us tend to get carried away on vacation. Dollars flow through our hands like water. Many people think nothing of dropping hundreds of dollars a day on vacation treats. And that can add up.
That’s why it is often the little things that make military vacation deals so appealing. Free national park access is available to all active duty military personnel and covers all 397 parks year round. Purchases made in anticipation of a golfing break enjoy military discounts as do any number of other niche vacation requirements. You can also save on fishing and cycling equipment, outdoorsmen gear and camping equipment.
And of course, since vacations tend to work up an appetite, saving the odd dollar or two at the likes of Chuck E Cheese, Dairy Queen or Burger King might not be the world’s greatest windfall but it all adds up. Just watch that the savings doesn't translate into too much unwelcome vacation weight.
All-inclusive vacation packages offered by the likes of Sandals and Beaches Resorts are affordable options for many American families. It’s great then that both resorts have taken steps to make things that little bit thriftier. They offer a 10 percent military discount on top of any other promotion or deal you see advertised.
The same can be said of amusement parks like Disney, SeaWorld, and, Dollywood. And that's just a few of hundreds of resorts that are willing to pass on some great savings. These discounts apply to the entire cost of your stay. So depending on the package, you opt for the savings might include entrance fees, food, and accommodations.
Strictly speaking, there's no such thing as a top destination as far as military vacation deals are concerned. Generally, the bigger the operator, the more likely they will grasp the PR value of offering a military discount. Cruise lines, for example, usually go out of their way to accommodate serving and retired armed service personnel. Long-time cruise operators such as Disney, Princess, MSC, and Carnival all offer special military rates.
Meanwhile, travel agents specializing in military travel, as listed on the Travel Leaders website, are a fantastic resource. These travel professionals know all the tricks of the trade when it comes to military vacation deals. Drop them a line before booking a vacation.
Similarly, Military Only Travel deals – as the name suggests – works exclusively with serving or ex-armed forces individuals and dependents. If a great military vacation deal exists, chances are that these guys can find it for you.
Armed Forces Vacation Club
The Armed Forces Vacation Club (AFVC) set itself the task of providing serving and retired military professionals weeklong breaks for as little as $309. Membership is free to all active duty, guard, reserve and retired U.S. military. Benefits are also open to civilian employees of the Department of Defense. With 200,000 locations spread across 100 different countries, the sheer variety of breaks available is almost bewildering.
The AFVC can help you find short stays, all-inclusive resort deals, and last minute deals for as little as $309 to $329 a week. Although the website is fully searchable, many of the best deals form part of what is known as the company’s Space-A program. These breaks cost just $349 but come with an important caveat. Organized on a first come first served basis, they require that you travel on 10 days (or less) notice.
Such flexibility might be a stretch for an active duty family, but it's a nice option nonetheless.
Searching through vast databases of military vacation deals can be something of a chore. To make things worse, holiday activities often occur on the fly without too much prior thought. Still, just because you like savings doesn't mean you need to abandon spontaneity. There are plenty of tools and online resources available to help you track down the bargains.
Online portals offering aggregated lists of discounts are everywhere with popular sites such as Miltary.com, GovX, Military Benefits, and Expedia, setting a high benchmark for other portals to follow.
Other operators such as Deal Hack provide a quarterly review of brands that offer military discounts. It’s quite comprehensive and well worth dropping in a few times a year to see what’s new. Veterans View is another surprisingly in-depth discount portal. It covers car dealerships, banking discounts and, of course, military vacation deals including some hotel discounts that don’t seem to be elsewhere.
Getting the Most out of Military Vacation Deals
Ultimately, getting the most out of military vacation deals is going to require a little forethought. A cheap flight to a more expensive location does not always make for the best military vacation deal. Eating at a discounted restaurant that is more expensive than the across-the-road competitor might not be the best move either.
However, the fact remains that great deals do exist. Existing enterprises such as the Vacation Club might lack flexibility, but even elsewhere planning can make a huge difference. Timing can be everything. Such savings can stretch the budget that little bit further. And vacations can be that much more luxurious, a shade more welcoming, and a whole lot more fun.