Over 8 million consumers are part of the U.S. military community when you count active duty, retired personnel, reservists, and military employees.
Add in the immediate families of past and present military personnel, and this represents a sizable group of potential travelers that businesses like to honor and attract.
Many travel and leisure providers offer discounts to the military as a gesture of appreciation for their service. A wide range of continuing and promotional discounts and incentives are available — for flights, resorts, cruises, and theme parks among others — but often it can be difficult to locate the best possible travel deal, especially on general travel websites.
Here is a comprehensive guide to getting recognition for your military service in the form of discounts, special offers, and incentives — starting with organizations that cater to military personnel.
Organizations for Military Personnel
A number of organizations and programs for veterans allow special access to travel benefits and other advantages. These programs are often free for eligible U.S. veterans, and applications can be submitted online. Here are several organizations that veterans can choose from:
United Services Automobile Association (USAA) Travel Deals: USAA offers insurance, banking, investment, and retirement services to both active and former military service members. Military family members may also be eligible.
Along with the free financial resources that USAA members receive, veterans who register as members online can also check out the organization’s Travel Deals page, where you can explore car rental services as well as deals and travel discounts on flights, hotels, cruises, and travel insurance.
GovArm: GovArm is an abbreviation for the Government and Armed Forces Travel Cooperative. It was founded by Vietnam veterans who wanted to make it easier for veterans and current military personnel to find travel deals. GovArm works with suppliers to source discounts for a variety of travel and leisure activities.
The website breaks down travel deals by type and enables visitors to look at deals within each category of travel activity. There are also GovArm vacation packages that offer full trip itineraries in locations across the world.
Armed Forces Vacation Club (AFVC): The AFVC is a membership organization for active duty, guard, reserve, and retired military employees. It offers weeklong resort vacations starting at very low prices.
By visiting the website, military members can search through hundreds of thousands of resorts in over 100 countries. The organization offers last-minute vacation deals, “space available” deals, and short stay deals. Members can also buy travel certificates to be redeemed at affiliated resorts.
For travelers in need of inspiration, the AFVC features a Vacation Planning Resource Center full of vacation ideas and travel tips.
Veterans Holidays: This company is part of the Wyndham Worldwide hospitality group, and it finds veterans resort stays at heavily discounted prices (some as low as $50 per night for a condo!). There are over 200,000 resort accommodation options to choose from worldwide and at least 100 different countries to visit.
Veterans Holidays offers free membership to all veterans of the U.S military, and the travel discount scheme allows you to bring guests on vacation too. The company aims to open up the possibility of traveling to destinations in Asia, Australia, Africa, and beyond by making accommodation costs more affordable.
In Honor of our Troops Foundation (IHOOT): This organization originally started by offering veterans one free vacation per year. They have also added another program – the IHOOT Acquisition Program – that offers discounted accommodation rates to members all year round.
You can apply for free vacations that are aimed at offering rest, recuperation, and healing to help military families reconnect with each other. There are 100 locations, including accommodation in places like Hawaii, California, and Mexico; although the stay is free, airfare is not included. It is also suggested you apply at least 6 weeks before your intended vacation date.
Vacation for Warriors: Specifically aimed at providing free vacations for soldiers who are injured during combat, Vacations for Warriors is a non-profit that was set up in 2014. These vacations are made possible with the help of commercial organizations like American Airlines, which donated one million air miles along with other transferable hotel points and timeshare options.
Vettravel: Veteran’s Travel Resources helps you access discounted travel rates for military veterans, retirees, and their dependents. There are some tips on the website about how to enter your search to match the options and deals that have been reserved for veterans.
Operationwearehere.com: This website aims to provide a number of different resources for veteran travelers all in one location. If you scroll down the page from the link provided above, you will see additional external links that may prove useful when trying to make travel plans.
Themilitarywallet: The Military Wallet invites you to sign up for a free newsletter to stay up to date with some of the latest deals and incentives available to veterans. There are also plenty of external links to sites where you can apply for tickets and other travel options at reduced costs.
SMART RVing: SMART stands for Special Military Active Recreational Travelers, and this website brings military veterans together to enjoy some RV adventures.
SMART RVing aims to source the most competitive RV rental and accommodation prices available for military veterans, and there are regular rallies throughout the country that you might want to attend.
Military Veterans Websites for Bookings
Many travel discounts are available to veterans even if they do not belong to an organization. The following travel booking websites allow veterans to browse for military deals online:
Military.com Travel Benefits: Military.com is a website dedicated to providing military service members, military veterans, and military families with community support and information on the benefits they might have access to.
On the organization’s Travel Benefits page, visitors can find advice on military travel, getting military deals, and military lodging options. Although some parts of the site focus on active duty members, there are also resources for veterans.
Travelation – Military Travel Deals: Travelation has a search page dedicated to military travel deals, making it easier to book flights with these kinds of discounts. The page shows recently booked military flights as well as a military promotional code that can be redeemed with Travelation.
Expedia – Military Travel Deals: By visiting the Expedia Military Travel Deals page, veterans can sign up to verify their military status. Successfully verified veterans are able to claim Expedia+ Gold benefits like complimentary room upgrades when available, bonus booking points, Gold member rates, and exclusive travel offers.
Normally, Gold benefits are only available to those who have spent $10,000 or 15 nights on an Expedia-booked trip, so this is a great deal. Visitors can read more about Expedia+ Gold on the website.
Veterans Advantage: Enroll with Veterans Advantage and get access to a number of travel discounts, special offers, and medical/insurance services that are included as part of the membership package. Qualification includes anyone who served in the military and immediate family members. There is a charge of $4.99 per month for membership to Veterans Advantage, but if you take advantage of the various offers and discounts, the savings should be far greater than this fee. Plus, the $55,000 insurance coverage that comes as part of the deal is worth having.
Next up in the series: Discounts on flights, resorts and other lodging.
Dear Readers: My new guidebook, 100 Things to Do in Tucson Before You Die (Reedy Press, August 15, 2017) is now available for purchase. For those outside the Tucson area, you can go to the book’s sale page at amazon.com and order it. Don’t forget to write a review! Or you can order directly from Reedy Press.