Soldiers spend years putting others before them, serving their country and often living miles away from their families.
They wake up early, complete grueling drills in the heat and may even be deployed to an active combat zone. Then there are those who rise through the ranks and make the military a lifelong commitment, serving for decades.
Suffice it to say, members of the armed forces are more than deserving of a reward from civilian businesses in the form of a military discount. After active duty military members retire, travel discounts can serve as one reward for them and their immediate family members for time spent in service to the country.
From discounted rates on car rentals and event tickets to discounts at hotels, theme parks, and even on cruises, the offers for military travel discounts span many types of travel.
6 Ways for Active Duty Military Members and Retired Military to Save on Travel
1. Veterans Holidays
Veterans Holidays, part of hospitality company Wyndham Worldwide, offers veterans resort stays for $379 a week on a space-available basis. That’s less than $100 per night for a spacious condo that includes a kitchen, living room and oftentimes a pool and other resort-style amenities.
The company can connect retired military personnel and their families with more than 200,000 resort accommodations in more than 100 countries. All U.S. military veterans are eligible for a free membership with Veterans Holidays, which can help make trips to the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia more affordable.
Though only veterans can make reservations through Veterans Holidays, the company has a family policy that states veterans are welcome to bring guests with them on trips. And, as a final bonus, even though the Armed Forces Vacation Club is just that — a club — its membership is entirely free to veterans, who only need to create an online account to activate these perks for amazing travel deals.
2. Wounded Warriors Family Support Retreats
The Retreats have two options — families can apply within the organization to spend five nights at Universal Studios and LEGOLAND theme parks in Orlando, Florida, entirely for free.
Or, families can apply to have a no-cost “staycation” where the Wounded Warriors Family Support organization covers the fees associated with a family staying local and exploring a new hotel, concert or restaurant.
The Wounded Warrior Family Support nonprofit describes both their Florida and staycation options as ways to destress, decompress and take time to strengthen the bonds and relationships military members have with family.
3. Disney Resorts and Theme Parks
The “happiest place on earth” offers veterans and military service members some sweet deals.
This year, military personnel can choose between a Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Ticket for $359 plus tax or a 5-Day Military Promotional Ticket for $379 plus tax, both of which include the “park hopper” option to jump between Orlando parks.
That’s a savings of about $60 for either ticket normally priced at nearly $400, and allows entry to Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom all in one trip.
All active or retired members of the military and their spouses are eligible for this deep discount. Military personnel can purchase up to six discounted tickets to share with family and friends.
Disney also has a special, military-only resort called Shades of Green, which offers incredible deals depending on the room type. Rates are just $154 per night for a standard room type, and begin at $379 per night for a family suite that can sleep up to eight people and includes one king bed and up to three queen beds. The resort also offers deals up to 40% off throughout the year.
Staying at Shades of Green can also help you get up to 12% off full-priced tickets with no tax to Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, LEGOLAND, Busch Gardens and other central Florida attractions.
4. Travel Companies
Though many airlines and cruise companies offer military rates, most don’t advertise them online. It’s best to call and ask directly about their discounts.
Many offer discounts to members of Veterans Advantage, which provides members of the five branches with deals, insurance and financial services for $10/month when paid monthly or $60 for an annual membership when paid in-full and up-front.
Companies Offering Military Discounts
Here’s a sampling of travel companies that offer discounts to veterans and military personnel:
- United Airlines offers up to 5% discount on airfare to military veterans, active duty service members and their families in the U.S. and Canada.
- Delta offers a free checked bag for active duty members as well as special pricing on airfare for their vacation packages (call to find out more about how to reserve special vacation package pricing).
- American Airlines offers up to 10% off domestic and international flights as well as numerous free checked bags for active-duty military.
- JetBlue also offers a 5% discount for veterans and a special military fare for active-duty personnel not traveling on orders. JetBlue also waives baggage fees for active-duty personnel and includes a family policy of also waiving baggage fees for dependents.
- Amtrak offers a 10% discount to veterans and family members traveling by train.
- Veterans in the San Francisco Bay Area are eligible for a BART discount card, valid for five years to ride the rapid transit system.
- Trailways offers a standing 15% discount to all veterans and active-duty military, including spouses and dependents.
- Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruises offer special military prices, but you’ll need to call to ask about potential travel dates to get the best deal.
- Disney Cruises also offer discounted pricing for members of the armed forces. While they do update their wide variety of cruises and special pricing regularly, it’s best to call a Disney representative to get the most up-to-date information.
- Princess Cruises offer up to $250 of free onboard spending money, valid on any cruise at any time of year.
- Hertz provides discounted rates of up to 10% off the base daily rate of their car rentals for active-duty military and veterans alike.
- Enterprise offers rates of at least 5% off the base rate for rental cars that are being used for leisure travel by government and military officials.
- Budget has one of the best military discounts yet — 25% off base rates when members of the American forces sign up for a free Veterans Advantage account.
- Avis also provides the military community with 25% off base rates when folks sign up for Avis’ free Veterans Advantage program.
5. “Space A” Flights
If you’re an active-duty or retired military service member, and you have flexibility with your travel dates, you can participate in “Space A,” or space available, flights.
Here’s how it works: If you’re eligible, you can complete a booking request at various military terminals. When a seat on a Department of Defense flight becomes available, you’ll be notified. Terminals typically post flight schedules 72 hours in advance, so you have to be prepared to depart at a moment’s notice.
Space A travelers usually pay a small fee levied by the military terminal, but otherwise, these flights are free and are available to military and their immediate family.
Kristin Mickelson, a Navy veteran whose husband is also in the Navy, saved $8,000 on two round-trip flights from Norfolk, Virginia, to Seattle with her family of four.
Keep in mind, this is a lot like traveling standby on a commercial airline. You may be stuck waiting around for a flight to and from your desired destination. Sometimes, you’re flying on a cargo plane, which can mean you’re traveling without many of the comforts of commercial flights.
“Military Space-A flights have been a major element of our strategy for saving money on our frequent travels since my husband retired from the Army in 2015,” wrote the spouse of a retired Army member on the Poppin’ Smoke military travel site. “I estimate that during our last 6+ years of world travel, we’ve saved more than $20,000 by taking (Space-A flights).”
6. Travel Supplies
So you have your Space-A flights booked and your well-deserved free stay at a resort is tantalizingly close, but now you need to pack!
Fortunately, veterans and members of the American forces can get big military discounts on travel gear, too.
One way to save upwards of 10% on travel items is to visit Shop My Exchange. While anyone can visit the Shop My Exchange site, in order to purchase any items, you’ll need to create an account where you verify your military service.
Shop My Exchange is a huge online catalog of products ranging from jewelry and watches to furniture and small appliances – and travel items, like swimwear and luggage, too.
All items are steeply discounted for veterans and active duty military. For example, you can get the normally-$257 Piel leather duffel bag for $194 via Shop My Exchange when logged in.
Colorado-based writer Kristin Jenny focuses on lifestyle and wellness. She is a regular contributor to The Penny Hoarder. Reporting from former Penny Hoarder contributor Sarah Kuta is included in this report. Staff writer/editor Tiffany Wendeln Connors updated this post.