By Rebecca Alwine, Army Spouse
Sometimes vacations are planned far in advance. And sometimes, they are last minute four-day weekend kind of deals, where you load up the car before you really know where you’re going. One thing military family vacations should have in common is affordability.
Tips from a Milspouse
Military spouse Mylene Hollick, owner of Jet Set Destinations, has a few tips to help military families plan their next vacation. Hollick knows it can be overwhelming and wants to make sure that military families get the most out of their vacation.
1) Decide what you want to do – Do you want to sit by the pool or explore the town you’re staying in? Choose your accommodations and the location of them accordingly.
2) Keep in mind travel time – A four-day weekend (or 96er for those Navy/Marine families) seems like a lot of time until you try to fly somewhere and end up with only two days to do anything.
3) Have a realistic budget – Keep in mind food and entertainment in your budget, and consider an all-inclusive resort or cruise for a great deal.
4) Remember to ask for discounts – Many places offer a military discount, so don’t forget to ask!
Several Options for Military Families
Make sure that you know what is available to you as a military family. Here are some of the most popular options.
Vacation Rentals – AirBnB and Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) are very popular. Staying in someone else’s home can feel a bit odd, but the freedom it gives you is wonderful. Instead of cramming your family of 4, 5, 7, etc. in one hotel room with two beds, you can rent a whole house. A whole house! You’re no longer stuck with rigid check in/out times or loud neighbors.
Shades of Green at Disney – For active duty or retired military families that love Disney, the Shades of Green resort in Florida is a great option. The standard hotel rooms sleep 5 and are bigger than normal hotels. Guests love the family atmosphere that you find on a military installation, and the pools are wonderful. It’s located on Disney property, and guests can get those “Extra Magic Hours” in the park.
Waves of Honor – When on vacation, sometimes the activities you want to do get cut short due to budget. The Waves of Honor Program helps with that by offering free admission for the active duty service member and three dependents to SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Sesame Place. My family has taken advantage of this program twice, once in 2012 to Busch Gardens and just this past month at SeaWorld San Antonio.
Armed Forces Vacation Club – AFVClub works similarly to AirBnB as a vacation rental. There are options to book a place for a whole week for $349, and you can also view the space-available at resorts. Membership is free and is open to all active-duty, guard, reserve, and retired military families.
DOD Lodging – Staying on an army post somewhere probably doesn’t sound like a fun vacation, but with some of the great locations of Navy bases and those overseas installations, consider staying close to one. The rates are great, the hotels usually come with a kitchenette, allow pets, and include breakfast. There are standard hotel rooms, suites, cabins (like these at Fort Rucker), and amazing hotels, like Edelweiss in Germany.
While this military life may seem like an adventure at every turn, a constant vacation it isn’t. If you can swing a vacation this year, do so! And let us know where you’re going!
Rebecca Alwine is a PCSgrades’ Blogger Affiliate, freelance writer, army wife, and mother of three. Her writing experience includes military family topics, research pieces, guest blogging, and much more. She’s a contributing writer for ARMY Magazine, a regular contributor for several publications including to Homefront United Network, PCSgrades, ESME, and has also been published in Ms. Magazine and The Atlantic. You can follow her online at www.whatrebeccathinks.com