One of the biggest recruiting tools used to entice young men and women to join the military is the ability to travel the world and visit places you may never experience otherwise. While I’ll be the first to agree my time in the service made good on this promise, I would hardly call it a vacation and I certainly never had an opportunity to take my family along. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to use your time in uniform as a way to get some great deals on real family vacations. You just need to know how and where to look.
When it comes to cheap, or at least cheaper, family vacations, military members have several options: military-run recreation areas, military-only private resorts, military travel centers and military-only private facilities. Each has its own pros and cons and not every option is available in all areas. Prior to making any travel plans you should consider which options may be available, learn what eligibility requirements exist and have a backup plan available.
Military Recreational Facilities – these are military owned or managed properties, usually paid for with Special Morale and Welfare funds, designed for the specific purpose of providing a reduced cost getaway for service members and their families. Specific locations, eligibility requirements and reservation procedures can best be found by contacting the controlling service’s MWR or Community Service office. Be advised that space is limited, priority is often given to Active Duty personnel and at those facilities in close proximity to sponsoring service bases sites may not be available during peak transfer season – when space may be used for overflow temporary housing. That being said, these are generally the best deal for vacationers in terms of cost and amenities.
Military Only Resorts – many larger destination resorts offer specific sections designed to provide military customers their own exclusive facilities, such as Disney’s “Shades of Green”. Although not managed by MWR these sites do provide a good alternative as guests get to enjoy all the perks of staying at a top notch resort, including access to theme parks, at a discounted price. If you are planning to visit an area serviced by one of these resorts be aware that space is limited, especially during peak vacation periods, and you may do as well or better staying at an off site location and using discounted tickets many hotel chains offer guests.
Military Travel Centers – these are the temporary quarters of days past with a few added features to accommodate families, but they are not really designed for vacationers. Although you may be able to get a room, reservations are not always available and those not on official business or change of duty station orders are provided for on a space available basis. I have found this a poor option for an extended vacation, but much better suited for overnight stays while in route to another destination, or when unexpectedly stranded near a larger military base.
Private Military-Only Hotels – while not as common as they once were, these are essentially hotels which cater to traveling military members. Most were originally designed to provide temporary quarters in large cities for service members awaiting transportation and have grown into more generic hotels which allow families to stay as well. The real disadvantage is the fact that they are not readily available in vacation cities, but limited to areas near large bases or transportation hubs. Plus, few offer assistance with sightseeing trips, park admission etc.
While you may not be able to take your family to Disney World or the Grand Canyon for pennies a day, you can still find many cost saving vacations while traveling with your family rather than Uncle Sam.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.