Summer brings thoughts of shoreside escapes and mountain treks, and trips to theme parks with the kids.
It doesn’t have to break the bank.
Military community members should explore the discounts and vacation spots and activities available to them. Whether you’re planning a day trip or heading to another state or country, here are some ideas to get you started:
1. MWR’s a must. Your installation’s morale, welfare and recreation program generally has a leisure travel office, often known as “information, tickets and tours” or “tickets and tours.” There, you’ll find information on discounts available to local attractions and hotels, as well as some details on nationwide deals, such as cruises.
Many MWR-office discounts aren’t available anywhere else, so check in before you go.
Some examples: The MWR website for Fort Bragg, North Carolina (PDF) showed deals for Carowinds amusement park in Charlotte ($39 a ticket, instead of $68.98 at the gate) and Medieval Times in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina ($42 for an adult ticket, instead of $58.17); while the Naval Station Mayport, Florida, MWR site offered deals for Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Kennedy Space Center and other attractions.
2. Stay smart. Consider military lodging, available around the world, from beach cottages to recreational lodging facilities and resorts. Visit www.dodlodging.net, which shows properties in the Air Force Inns program, Army Lodging, Navy Gateway Inns and Suites, and Navy Getaways.
The Coast Guard has a variety of cottages and other rentals available near beaches, including some housing and RV parks on Cape Cod.
3. Join the club. The Armed Forces Vacation Club offers $349 weeklong “Space-A” stays at rentals around the world, as well as upgrades and discounts on other properties.
4. Discover hotel deals. Some hotels — such as participating Hilton, Red Roof Inn, Westgate Resorts and certain MGM Resorts International properties, including those in Las Vegas — offer year-round military discounts.
5. Go all-natural. Army MWR’s Paths Across America offers options for RV parks, campgrounds, military recreational areas, cottages and cabins around the country. Possibilities include the Lake of the Ozarks Campground in Missouri, which offers RV sites, cabins and other options to serve as your base for swimming, fishing, boating and other activities.
6. Find military-only offerings. Armed Forces Recreation Centers are resorts open to those of all branches of service, to include the Dragon Hill Lodge in Seoul, South Korea; Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Germany; Hawaii’s Hale Koa Hotel; and Shades of Green in Orlando, Florida. Learn more about these resorts here.
7. Visit Blue Star Museums. This program offers free admission to participating museums around the country through Sept. 3 for active-duty, Guard and reserve personnel and up to five family members. More than 2,000 museums are participating; learn more here.
8. Hit the (national) park. Active-duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual military pass to any national park that usually charges a fee. Most federal lands that charge fees can provide the annual pass when you visit, but call ahead to be sure.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.