Military veterans’ travel guide – Ideas, discounts, & resources
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Military veteran vacations are an important break from the strenuous military life. Surely any military member — present or past — can agree with this. However, as most in the military aren’t part of the 1%, is it possible to for you to scratch the travel itch and satisfy your wanderlust?
With the numerous vacation deals available, especially for military veterans, of course it is. Most airlines, hotels, resorts, cruises, and car rental agencies have some sort of military discount. And if you get one of the best credit cards for military members, you can rack up points and save even more on travel. Below is a military veteran’s travel guide that will help you find some of the deals and discounts available to members of the armed forces.
Travel organizations for military veterans
Veterans have an excellent selection of organizations that can help them to save on travel by offering exclusive deals on flights, cruises, car rentals, hotels, and more. It’s possible to conveniently sign-up online for most programs, and best of all, many of the travel guides and travel discounts are offered for free to veterans and active military personnel. Below is a small selection of what’s available:
USAA is probably best known for its insurance and banking products, as well as other financial products for veterans, active military, and in some cases, their direct family members. Less well known are the travel deals that USAA offers to its military members. On the USAA website, visitors can browse through several travel deals for flights, hotels, resorts, cruises, car rentals, and of course, travel insurance. Deals are only available to members, but registering online is easy.
We also like that the organization offers tips regarding the financial aspect of vacationing, from saving for the trip, to budgeting spending to handling travel related debts.
The Armed Forces Vacation Club (AFVC) is an excellent resource for veterans and active military members looking for an affordable vacation. The network includes a massive number of resorts in all 50 states and over 100 countries worldwide. Weekly rates on resorts are as low as $359 per person — and even lower when there’s a sale! Also, they offer up to 60% discounts at over 600,000 hotels. Membership is free, but they also have a premium membership option that unlocks even more significant discounts and deals on travel. You can also choose from all-inclusive resorts.
Some of the best deals on the site will be the last-minute deals and short stay deals, but the discounts on most every resort are substantial. One unique offering on the website are the Vacation Certificates, which are vouchers for one-week vacation stays. These can make an excellent gift for friends or family, even non-military.
We’d really be remiss if we didn’t mention The Military Wallet. This website is an excellent personal finance resource for military members and veterans. One of their offerings is a free newsletter that gets sent out a few times each month and covers information regarding military benefits and new legislation, personal finance information, and of course, travel deals.
Military veterans websites for bookings
It isn’t always advertised or well-known, but many of the established traditional travel sites also have discounts available for active and retired military members. Here are a couple of websites that are well-organized and easy to browse for veterans’ vacation deals.
Travelation is an online travel booking website that’s been in operation since 2001. They have a page dedicated to deals for military members and also offer discounts of their own. The travel search engine makes it easy to find flights, hotels and car rentals. For exclusive flight deals not published on the site, visitors can call directly to Travelation.
Veterans Advantage is way more than just travel deals. They offer discounts on a wide variety of goods and services, and membership is entirely free. The service is available to active military, veterans, retirees, and family members. For an additional fee of $4.99 per month, members can get extra benefits like deeper travel discounts and $50,000 in medical travel insurance. Members can expect to get:
- Up to 10% off airline tickets
- Up to 25% off rental cars
- Up to 40% off select hotel stays in the Veterans Advantage network
Booking flights as a military veteran
Veterans can take advantage of discounted flights at several booking engine websites. Two top-rated options include:
The Military Fares website lets active duty military and veterans search through offerings from an extensive network of airlines for the best military flight deals. The site is partnered with Priceline travel and the flight offerings cover destinations all across the globe. The site also allows non-military to book flights and clearly marks the difference to let you know if a military ID is needed to book a flight or not. It’s also possible to book hotels and car rentals from the site with the same great discounts.
Military Hops allows military members to fly on military aircraft if and when there is room. It’s not easy to get space available military flight tickets, but if you still want to give it a try, this site will help you find out what’s available on any given date and for travel to destinations around the world.
Just note that if flights are changed, canceled, redirected, etc., your trip is out of luck. There aren’t usually backup flights like the commercial airline world.
You should know that many commercial airlines do offer discounts for military members, but they don’t advertise the fact — and you can’t get the discount when booking online. Instead, it’s necessary to call the airline’s booking center to get any available military or veterans discounts. Discounts aren’t limited to reduced fares, either. In some cases, the airline may waive baggage fees or provide other incentives.
Here are a few airlines and their inventive schemes:
- American: There are flight discounts for military members, but they can’t be booked online. You must call to receive the discount.
- Delta: Same as American, special fares are offered on select routes for the military, but you’ll have to call to learn the routes and the size of your discount.
- JetBlue: JetBlue has a 5% discount for active military, retirees and veterans. They also offer a special fare class for active military personnel who aren’t traveling on orders. This special fare class waives any advance-purchase requirements.
- Southwest: Military personnel can get special discounts from Southwest, but only by calling to book.
- United: The airline offers a discount of up to 5% for U.S. military veterans, active-duty military, National Guard and Reserve members, and their families; some restrictions apply.
Best places for military lodging on a discount
Military, retired military, veterans, and even military family members will find that most hotels and many major resorts have some sort of discounted rooms available. Some are quite upfront about the matter, while others may bury the information and require you to ask if there’s a discount available. It’s always worth asking any hotel or resort if they offer a military discount when you’re booking veteran vacations. Don’t be shy; you might be pleasantly surprised and save yourself a good bit of money.
Another option for active-duty military is to take advantage of the Department of Defense Lodging network. You can search for available Air Force Inns, Army Lodging, Navy Gateway Inns & Suites, and Navy Getaways RV Parks, as well as other campgrounds and vacation rentals that are overseen by the Department of Defense.
Also, there are centralized reservation systems available to book accommodations with the U.S. Army (866-363-5771), the U.S. Navy (800-628-9466), or the U.S. Air Force (888-235-6343). For U.S. Marine Corps and Coast Guard lodging, you’ll need to find the closest lodge to your destination and contact the lodge directly as there are no centralized reservation systems for these branches of the military.
Booking a resort vacation as a military veteran
There’s nothing more relaxing than getting pampered at an all-inclusive resort. Your only task should be to lie in the sun and imbibe your favorite beach or poolside drinks.
If you’re an active military member or a veteran, you can take advantage of special military travel discounts and some of the world’s best all-inclusive resorts. Below are two you should check out when you want a great deal on an all-inclusive resort:
Beaches All-Inclusive Military Savings: Beaches is a family-friendly all-inclusive resort with locations in the Caribbean. Beaches resorts have some of the best beaches on Earth, fantastic dining experiences, water-sports, and incredible accommodations. Military members can get special discounts when they book an all-inclusive vacation at any of the Beaches locations.
Sandals All-Inclusive Military Savings: Sandals is the adult-only version of all-inclusive resorts, and just like Beaches Resorts, they have some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. There are Sandals located all across the Caribbean in Jamaica, the Bahamas, Saint Lucia, Antigua, Grenada, and Barbados. All active military, retired military, and veterans can take advantage of the Sandals special military offer to get some quality time in the sun and sand.
Booking a cruise as a military veteran
Cruise lines all offer military discounts, and they are pretty unique among the travel deals offered to members of the military. We say this because not only do the cruise lines provide exclusive military discounts, they will also monitor rates and retroactively apply a lower rate to your booking if one pops up. So you get the lowest possible price on your cruise even if you book it 12 to 18 months in advance and discounts come up months after booking.
Princess Cruises Military Discounts: Princess Cruises is one of the most popular and well-known cruising companies. Their boats are known to be clean and comfortable, with loads of activities and levels of accommodation. Military members who book a cruise with Princess can avail themselves of a wide variety of perks, one of which is up to $250 in free onboard spending money that can be used in the ship spa, for shore excursions, shopping in the ship boutiques or unique dining opportunities. Both the U.S. and Canadian military can take advantage of the benefit, which is available through an online application.
Military Cruise Deals: This website is an ideal way for military and veterans to find the best deals on cruises. Some of the discounts available include up to 80% off cruises with some of the top cruise lines. Like the cruise lines themselves, Military Cruise Deals takes exceptional care of its military users by monitoring any bookings made through the website and applying discounts if they become available after booking. The site includes bookings for all cruise lines and locations all around the world. This is a great place to begin a search for military cruise discounts.
Besides the obvious monetary benefits military and veterans can receive when traveling, there are other perks and benefits offered to our military by airlines, hotels, resorts and cruises. We’ve already covered some, like the baggage fee waivers provided by some airlines, or the spending money provided by Princess Cruises as a perk for military and veterans. Those are just the tip of the iceberg, though. Military members can also receive additional perks that make traveling more comfortable or rewarding.
Southwest allows military members an unlimited number of bags for free, and they waive the weight and size limits up to 100 lbs and 80 inches. American Airlines offers a similar baggage perk, but ups the ante by also giving any active service member in uniform, plus their immediate family, access to the Admirals Club lounges. And military members and family members traveling with them on the same reservation get free access to Preferred Seats and Main Cabin Extra. United also offers United Club access to active duty military members in uniform or with existing leave orders or rest and recuperation papers.
Military members can also take advantage of TSA PreCheck to make flying commercial a bit more efficient and comfortable. Military members use the Department of Defense ID as the known traveler number, allowing them to bypass the long security lines while also avoiding removal of shoes and jackets, and leaving laptops secure in their bags.
And while not a perk in and of itself, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® are two credit cards that provide excellent additional perks for military members. For one thing, the cards typically have annual fees of $95 and $550, respectively, but those fees are waived for active military members. Plus, the cards come with solid travel perks, like insurance for canceled or interrupted trips, waived foreign transaction fees, reimbursement for expenses related to delayed travel and primary rental car insurance. Also, American Express cards can be a good choice for frequent travelers, especially when considering the benefits provided by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).
Signing up for the military just to get military travel discounts and perks isn’t a great idea. Still, once you’re already an active military person, retired from the military, or a veteran, it certainly makes sense to take advantage of as many of these offers as possible. The savvy military traveler can find a host of discounts, save plenty of money on each trip, and have more money left for later travel or simply for loading up on souvenirs.
If you’re a military person who enjoys travel and knows where to find the deals, we’ve love to hear from you in the comments below. And by all means, feel free to comment on any exclusive deals and discounts that are your favorites.
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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)