Spring Break is coming soon, summer vacation is just around the corner and for some on the West Coast, ski week is coming. This means planning for potential vacation. While it is easy to head to the big-name destinations and spend thousands on a vacation, there are some military options that are often overlooked.
When staying on base or a military-connected campground, there is usually a military exchange or commissary nearby. This means filling up on groceries or necessities like diapers, wipes and snacks can be done conveniently. There is no tax for on-base purchases, and it is much cheaper to prepare food in lodging rooms or at the campsite than it is to eat out every night. This is helpful when traveling with small children, and when you are traveling with little time to plan. Have a deployment that came up at short notice? Head to a local base for a vacation and buy what you need when you arrive.
Military bases have their own lodging system. (Don’t tell us you forgot about our Top 10 Secret Military Vacation Spots article!) The hotel is usually the busiest when it is the height of the moving season, so summer isn’t usually the best time to get a reservation for a vacation. But if you are traveling in the off-season, or perhaps making a military base your destination for travel, check out the lodging on base. Most on-base Army hotels have their hotels listed on their IHG Army Hotel site. Lodging on Air Force Bases is offered through the Air Force Inns website. Lodging on Navy Bases can be found here. Recreation Lodging on Marine Corps bases can be found here and traditional lodging here. The added bonus with on-base lodging is that there is often have full-size washers and dryers, and sometimes temporary housing with full-size kitchens allowing for staying on top of laundry and preparing meals to both save time on the end of the vacation and money during the vacation.
Many military bases offer unique lodging options such as cabins. For instance, Camp Pendleton in Southern California has two cabin areas – one in Del Mar at the south of the base and one on the northern part of the base at San Onofre. Both of these cabins are very popular, so it is recommended to go in person for reservations but for the less popular times you may be able to make reservations on the phone. Or maybe send a friend who is at the base to reserve for you. These beachside cabins are great for family-friendly beach vacations without the stress.
For those stationed in Okinawa, Okuma Resort is an exclusive resort for military and government employees right on the beach coast. The resort offers basic cabins for the rustic beach adventure with bunk beds, fridge, and microwave in the cabins – but bring sheets and be prepared to leave the cabin to use the restroom. Cabanas boasting bedrooms and bathrooms with beach views and easy access to the on-resort restaurant are also available. For larger parties or gatherings there are even available for groups of 10 or 18.
If the colonial period is your family’s jam, Cheatham Annex in Yorktown near the Historic Triangle in Virginia offers two, three, and five-bedroom cottages for military and DOD-affiliated families. There is even a two-bedroom pet-friendly cabin available.
While some military bases also have campgrounds within them offering RV and tent sites, there are also campgrounds at other DOD Service Departments that offer unique amenities throughout the United States. There are very few states without a campground or RV site.
Big Bear Recreational Facility is maintained by the Marine Corps and offers cabin, campsites, and RV parking locations. Outside of lodging, there are bike paths, hiking trails, playgrounds, and equipment rentals. Check for updates on their website as the cabins are currently under renovation as of this writing.
Fort Fisher Air Force Recreation Area is on Federal land and managed jointly by the Air Force, Army National Guard, and Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point (MOTSU) offers North Carolina coastal cottages, lodge rooms, RV parking sites, and tent sites to eligible individuals.
Check out if your state has options here.
Armed Forces Recreation Centers
Armed Forces Recreation Centers (AFRCs) are resort hotels designed specifically to provide affordable vacations for military families – from active duty to retirees. There are five resorts currently, with two within the United States. Shades of Green in Orlando, Florida, and Hale Koa Hotel at Fort DeRussy, Hawaii offer resort accommodations at affordable prices. Overseas, there is Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmish, Germany, Dragon Hill Lodge in Seoul, Korea, and New Sanno Hotel in Tokyo, Japan.
Parks and Recreation
Check with your military installation’s Welfare and Recreation, Family Services, or Community Services to see what equipment you can rent to make your adventuring more comfortable, at affordable prices. Need a paddleboard, tent, or sleeping bag? You are able to rent these items at a fraction of the price to own them allowing you to try out different items you may desire to purchase in the future.
Information Ticket and Travel, or ITT, is also called SATO Travel at some bases. Check with these locations to ask about discount tickets or packages for local campgrounds or vacations. While it may not be specifically military lodging, there may be more options to save money while on vacation.
Staycations are all the rage. They are perfect ways to test the travel waters with small children, allow for shorter travel distances, and can be more budget-friendly. As a military family, there is also the bonus of military lodging options to save money as well.