I love to travel. Who doesn’t? The next adventure is always right around the corner. Almost six years of military service opened my eyes to the world. Three years in Germany and nearly a year in Iraq allowed me to completely immerse myself in other cultures.
Drunken barracks parties were never my thing. Instead, All of Europe was waiting just to be explored. If I didn’t have Multiple Sclerosis I would still be serving my country. I’m retired now. I spend my free time traveling, teaching, writing, and practicing yoga. I’ve learned that many travel benefits are available to military Veterans. Below are a few of the travel resources available to military Veterans that I use on a regular basis.
That’s right, free flights. In essence, it’s almost free. A small surcharge is paid at the terminal (usually less than $20). This travel benefit is available only for active duty military and retirees. It’s one of the best benefits available. It’s called Space-A or space available travel. If you’re on active duty or retired, sign up at the departure location of your choice. A list of departure locations is found on the AMC Homepage. Each location has a link to their Facebook page. For security reasons, flight information is available 72 hours in advance.
After you sign up you’re put into a category system. The category system determines your priority for the flight. Category I (CAT I) are active-duty personnel on orders. All the way at the bottom is where I fit in. Category VI (CAT VI) personnel are retirees and their family members. A complete list of categories is located at AMC Categories.
After you register at your preferred departure location, you show up for roll-call. After that, it’s a waiting game. Waiting to see if you’ll make the flight. Space-A travel requires extreme flexibility (departures on a 72-hour notice). Patience and acceptance are also two required traits for the Space-A traveler. If you travel Space-A you MUST accept that you might be bumped from the flight by an active-duty (CAT I) soldier. You might be bumped even after you sit down. Patience IS a virtue in this case.
If you sign up, pay the surcharge, make the cut, and manage to keep your seat, you’re in! Nearly free flights available to active-duty military and retired Veterans.
National Park Pass
What if you could get into every single national park 100% free of charge? You can. This travel perk is available to active duty military and disabled Veterans. All you have to do is take your paperwork from the Veteran’s Administration (VA) to any National Park entrance and fill out a form. You’ll receive a LIFETIME National Park access pass on the spot. If you’re on active duty, show your ID card at the entrance for a yearly FREE National Park Pass. I discovered this benefit by accident one day on my way to Shenandoah National Park. I can’t count the hundreds of dollars this pass has saved me in entrance fees.
State Park Pass
This discount for Veterans and active duty military varies from state to state. If you’ve had any military service and can prove it, be sure and ask about state park passes. Most of the state parks that I’ve visited offer free admission to Veterans. Florida offers a state park pass similar to the National Park Pass. It offers free admission to any state park for disabled Veterans.
The national or state park passes for Veterans and active-duty military personnel often come with the discounted camping. Again, this varies from park to park. The access pass for national parks provides fifty-percent off park camping.
In addition to the discounted camping available at state and national parks, most U.S. chain hotels similarly offer a discount for military Veterans. All you have to do is ask and show proof of military service. Hilton and Choice Hotels are two of the chains that I use that offer the best discounts.
Discounts on Commercial Airfare
Many airlines including Untied, Southwest and Jet Blue offer discounts ranging from 5 – 15%. Of course as with all Veteran’s discounts, you must be able to show proof of service.
Stay on a Military Base
Staying on a military base (Air Force) or post (Army) is a lot of fun. Only active duty and retired military can take advantage of this travel perk. On-post lodging fills up months in advance. However, savvy travelers can often snag a last-minute cancellation. A few military installations offer hotels right on the beach.
Don’t Forget the USO
The United Service Organizations, or USO is a great travel resource for Veterans and active duty military. The USO provides a space to relax between flights, and a place to catch up with other Veterans. Amenities vary, but a USO is similar to an airport lounge, only it’s free. Inside the USO you can find free wi-fi, snacks, drinks, luggage storage. Larger USO facilities also offer movie theaters and reclining chairs. One of my more pleasant memories from a year in Iraq and Kuwait was spending time in the USO. Only active duty and Veterans with an ID card can enter the USO.
Discounted Train and Bus Travel
Amtrak offers Veterans a 15% military discount if you sign up for their Veteran’s Advantage program. I haven’t personally used this perk, but it’s a great deal for Veterans. Greyhound also offers a 10% discount for military Veterans with valid ID.
To summarize, this is by no means a comprehensive list of all the available discounts for Veterans, Retirees, and Active Duty. However, there’s something for almost all the 21 million Americans who have at one time made the sacrifice to serve their country. Whether you’re retired, still serving, or a Veteran be sure and take advantage of businesses and services that offer generous travel discounts to the military.
Have you served in the military? Do you like to travel? In any event I’d genuinely love to hear from you. Find me on Facebook or shoot me an email.