The groundhog might have seen his shadow this year, but spring break is right around the corner for many American families. For parents of younger children, it can be a challenge to plan — depending on your budget, schedule and the ages of your crew, you might be up for a big trip, or equally happy to stay home and “hibernate,” or explore in your own backyard.
With a little planning, you can find options that work for your entire family and won’t break the bank. We’ve done some of your research for you and come up with eight fun, family friendly activities, including links to military rates, deals and promotions.
1. Visit an aquarium or zoo
Whether you’re looking to fill an entire day or just a few hours, look no further than an aquarium or zoo. Both have entertaining, informative exhibits that cater specifically to children, but will appeal to family members of all ages. Most offer military discounts or even free admission for active-duty service members and veterans. Here are just a few that offer discounts: The Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida, The National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD, The Texas State Aquarium, The Alaska Zoo, The Bronx Zoo, The Indianapolis Zoo, The Oklahoma City Zoo, or The Honolulu Zoo.
2. Enjoy a theme or water park
Spring break is a perfect opportunity to enjoy an amusement theme park. If you’re planning on taking younger children, it’s probably best to find one that has multiple attractions with no height restrictions that can appeal to all ages. The best part is that if you do your research ahead of time, you can likely get free or discounted tickets and accommodations. LegoLand Florida, Cedar Point, Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Orlando, Great Wolf Lodge, Dollywood and Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America are among those that offer military discounts.
Sea World Parks and Entertainment also offers currently serving military members (and three direct dependents) one free admission to any of its amusements parks each year, including Busch Gardens. Blackout dates may apply so make sure to check before you book.
3. Plan a camping getaway or explore a national park
It’s never too early to introduce your children to the joy of being in nature and show them the natural wonders our country has to offer. Current military members and their families can get a free annual pass to any national park through the National Park Service and then the sky’s the limit. Veterans and Gold Star Families qualify for a free lifetime pass. With a little digging, you can often find accommodations that are military-friendly as well (like the Gatlinburg Cabins for a visit to the Smoky Mountains), and get discounts on cabin rentals, RV parks, and campgrounds — even camping gear and supplies!
4. Take a Disney vacation
A trip to the “Happiest Place on Earth” definitely deserves its own place on the list. Children of all ages will delight in the magic of character interactions, exciting rides, water parks, delicious food, fun performances and so many other attractions. However, because it can be such a big investment and undertaking, it’s recommended that you plan your trip well in advance, and book through a travel planner who specializes in Disney trips and is familiar with special military offers or rates. Alternately, you can stop by your local military installation’s ITT office where you can learn more and purchase discounted tickets.
5. Hit the slopes
Spring break can fall during prime skiing season, and if you’ve been waiting for a chance to introduce your children to a new sport or fun family activity, do yourself a favor and purchase a military Epic Pass. It provides greatly discounted lift tickets to dozens of participating resorts and makes the cost of skiing or snowboarding significantly less prohibitive. After only a couple days of being out on the slopes, the pass will pay for itself.
6. Get out of town
If you’re planning to travel for anything longer than a spring break day trip, definitely check out American Forces Travel, a discount travel website managed by Priceline that’s specifically for military members. USAA members can book rental cars at great rates through the USAA website, and if a cruise is more up your alley, check out special military deals with cruise lines like Carnival.
7. See a movie
Regardless of whether you take a trip or stay home, going to the movies is a great family friendly option for easy entertainment. If your children are going stir crazy in the house, but it’s a cold or rainy day, look no further than your local theatre. Check Regal and Cinemark theatres near you to see if they offer a discount for military.
8. Learn something new
Your children may be on a break from school, but that doesn’t mean the learning has to stop. Museums aren’t just stuffy, quiet places for old artefacts — many of them offer interactive exhibits and features that specifically appeal to children. Check out your local Children’s Museum or find a museum that fits your family’s particular interests or passions. Look ahead on the website before you go, because most offer free or discounted tickets to military families.
Additionally, it’s not too early to plan ahead for Blue Star Museums, a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and museums across America to offer free admission to the nation’s military personnel and their families each summer. It starts in May and goes through September, so keep that in mind for the next break from school.Read comments