By: Andrew C. Wight January 3, 2012
For those who serve in or have served in the United States armed forces, the military offers a wide array of options for discounted traveling around the world. Discounted travel is one of the many benefits available to soldiers and their dependents, from staying on base to purchasing cheaper flight tickets. These discounts are available to all major branches of the military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and National Guard.
Why the Discount?
Many of the discounts offered to military personnel are offered through actual military services. Different military bases offer lodging for soldiers and their families, while different military air transportation units offer tickets at a lower price when space is available on the flight. Other companies simply wish to pay the men and women of the armed forces back for their service to their country. Many organizations offer very generous military discounts to military personnel, especially in times of war or international conflict. It is their way of saying ‘thank you’ for all of they’ve sacrificed for the United States.
Discounted Flights for Military Personnel
One of the man privileges available to men and women in the military is discounted flights. Space available flights, also knows as Space-A flights or military hops, is a service offered not only to service members, but to their families and military retirees as well. Under this program, soldiers (and others) who qualify are able to fill the unused seats on aircraft owned and operated by the Department of Defense. These seats are made available only after all space-required passengers and cargo have been accounted for on the flight. While they can be a tad unpredictable, space-available flights are an excellent alternative to paying hundreds of dollars on commercial flights.
Space Available flights used to be much more popular. Post 9/11, however, these flights have become much harder to access due to growing security restrictions and other red tape. For example, mission schedules used to be available online, which means that military personnel and their family could sign up for flights over the internet. Because of 9/11’s effect on the military’s security measures, though, they’ve since been removed, making finding and securing a flight much harder for soldiers and their families. Also, because we are currently in a time of conflict, seats are becoming less available as more missions require soldiers and cargo. The main problem with military hops, though, is that there is no centralized system for booking these flights, leaving service members and their families left to do most of the work.
Those who wish to use space-available flights are put into categories based on the urgency of their travel. These categories help to sort out those who need to fly right away and those who simply want to use military hops for leisure purposes. There are six categories total.
In order for the family of a soldier to qualify for Space-A Travel, they must:
- Be family members and legal dependents of the military personnel (includes Reserves members).
- Have military personnel that has been activated or deployed for at least 120 consecutive days.
- Have a letter from their sponsor’s commander verifying deployment.
- Be willing to pa certain fees, especially when traveling overseas on military aircraft.
- Children under 18 years old must be accompanied by an adult or legal guardian while traveling.
There are literally thousands of rooms available to military members and their families around the world at housing facilities, hotels, resorts, and bases. These rooms are divided into two different categories: on-base lodging and armed forces recreation centers. Each branch of the military offers different styles of lodging as well as different discount packages. Different branches have different specifications for people looking for available housing, as do different military bases.
Discounted housing is available to:
- Military and civilian travelers on official orders from the United States Military.
- Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy, Federal Government, and Department of Defense members that have been called into temporary duty.
- Soldiers and families on Permanent change of Station official orders.
- All military retirees and their families.
- Widows, widowers, and spouses of military personnel and retirees.
- Foreign military (on orders from their commanders).
- Medical in-patients and family members of the seriously ill.
- Medical out-patients.
- Official guests and visitors of the commanding officers may be able to stay in military housing.
Housing is also available upon request. The spouses and family members of all servicemen and women are eligible for all types of housing on a space-available basis. They are also eligible for other deals offered through the military, such as discounts on hotel rooms and rental cars, etc.
Military Specialty Lodges and Recreational Facilities
The military also has several specialty lodges available to soldiers and their families. The lodges are available at discounted prices, with a long list of amenities to make sure that military personnel and their families are well taken care of. Among these lodges are:
- Dragon Hill Lodge – Korean Peninsula Resort Lodge
- Armed Forces Recreation Center Europe
- Hale Koa Hotel – Hawaii
- Shades of Green – Walt Disney Resort
- The New Sanno Hotel – Japan Resort Lodge
- Rocky Mountain Blue – Keystone, Colorado
- Armed Forces Vacation Club – Resort condominiums available on a space-available basis only.
These resorts are specially designed to reward military personnel and their families with an assortment of amenities and services. For example, Walt Disney Resort’s Shades of Green, which has only been around for a relatively short time, has gone to great lengths to make sure that their resort is one of the most relaxing resorts on its property. Military personnel must meet certain eligibility requirements in order to stay there, and each resort’s requirements are slightly different.
Military travel discounts are an excellent way for both the military and other companies to show their respect for those who have served in the armed forces as well as their families. Military hotels, lodges, space-available flights, and other traveling discounts take some of the strain out of the common problems that can arise with traveling.