Do you have the travel bug?
Traveling as a military service member or family member can be super easy and super cheap. If you know a few pro tips to start.
Every branch of service has a morale or travel office.
Each office has a price sheet with local attractions and package deals to places farther away. You can find deals at other bases, even if you don’t live there.
For example, Travis Air Force Base offers deals and discounts to Napa Valley tours or hotels. In Okinawa, ITT offers complete tour packages to places like South Korea, Tokyo and Thailand.
Pro Tip: Before you go, check with ITT for discounted tickets near your destination.
Did you know that the military flies to many prime destinations around the world? Think: Germany, Hawaii, Japan and England.
Most of these flights are open to eligible active duty service members, military dependents and retired personnel. Often there is a small fee or no cost at all.
There are a few catches with Space-A though. First, flights can be canceled at any time and seats fill quickly. Second, seats are filled based on category. So by the time that they get to you, all the seats might be taken. Also, certain destinations are only available from certain departure locations.
Finally, there is a process to sign up and actually get on board. It is time consuming and nothing is guaranteed. Meaning, you could get a Space-A flight to your vacation, but need to pay commercial fare on the way back.
Pro Tip: Check out Space-A flights, but know that nothing in 100% certain. Be ready with back-up plans just in case things fall through or change.
Military Airline Discounts
Southwest: Southwest offers military discounts on flights. However, the exact price is not advertised on their website. To get more information on discounted fares, call: 1-800-I-FLY-SWA.
American: To and from certain locations, American Airlines does offer military fares. Again, these prices are not advertised. Instead, contact them: 800-433-7300 (CONUS English line, available 24/7).
Delta: Like other airlines, Delta offers military fares, but does not advertise specific rates or discounts. To reach reservations/customer service, 24/7 from the United States, call: 800-221-1212.
United: Through Veterans Advantage, United offers a 5% discount. However, Veterans Advantage is a paid plan that opens up discounts at a variety of major U.S. businesses. To check on other offers, call the airline directly.
JetBlue: There are fares available for both official travel and for leisure travel. To find out more or to book, contact the airline.
Pro Tip: Not sure if your airline offers a military fare? Call customer service and check! The worst they can say is no.
Free Bags on Flights
JetBlue, United, Delta, American, and many other airlines all offer free bags to active duty military. The official line is that the service member or dependent family must be traveling on official orders, usually for PCS. However, gate agents will often allow free bags for service members no matter what.
The number of free bags can vary, from 1 to 5 per person. Check with the airline before you fly or be prepared to pay.
Be careful when PCSing OCONUS though! The commercial airline might let you check 5 bags per person, but the Patriot Express or Space-A will limit you to 2 bags or less.
Pro Tip: When checking bags, it never hurts to flash that military ID or bring your active duty spouse with you. And carry a copy of those orders everywhere!
Many major U.S. hubs host USO lounges. Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Boston are just a few of the places where troops and families can rack out for a few in between flights.
USO airport lounges are typically staffed 24/7 by volunteers, so be sure to say thank you. Inside, you will find free snacks and drinks, clean bathrooms and a place to recharge your tech toys. Some lounges, like Seattle, have showers, a luggage room and even quiet rooms for sleeping.
If you hold certain credit cards, like AMEX Platinum (fee free for military), you automatically get access to Centurion Lounges (AMEX Platinum only) or can enroll for free in the Priority Pass lounge program. These lounges are a little more upscale, with complimentary alcoholic beverages available.
Pro Tip: Find the USO (outside of security) or see if your credit card comes with airport lounge (inside security) perks.
Delta Vacations: This vacation program offers a set amount off of booked travel based on final package cost. This service lets you bundle flight, hotel, car rental and activities.
Sandals & Beaches: These premium all-inclusive resorts offer a 10% discount to U.S. military personnel. You can combine flights with your hotel stay, too. All stays include all you can eat, drink and play (non-motorized land/water sports). Sandals is adults only. Beaches is family friendly!
Non-inclusive hotel chains, like Hilton and Sheraton, also offer government and military rates. You can often choose “military/government” when booking or call your hotel to check for special discounts.
Pro Tip: Save a bundle when you book all-inclusive or package deals through some providers. You can choose the special rate when booking national hotel chains. No discount mentioned? Ask!