by Rachel Tringali Marston
Spring Break is on the horizon and military families are starting to think about what to do and where to go. The much-anticipated vacation opportunity often offers the first chance of the year to take time off, potentially, without a coat, gloves and scarf. However, if you’re new to your duty station location, you might second yourself at a loss for nearby vacation ideas. Finding cool trips and deals around your new duty station is a lot easier than you think.
Where to go or what to do for destination ideas:
Amusement Parks – Your local amusement park is a quick and great way to spend a day or two of your spring break. There are so many different ones peppered throughout the continental U.S., including Six Flags, Great Wolf Lodge and even overseas options including Disneyland Paris. The best part: most amusement parks offer military discounts (SeaWorld even offers free tickets for service members and their families for one day per year), making it an affordable choice too.
State Capitals – Our country has a rich history and what better way to learn firsthand than visiting the
state capital of your temporary home. Typically, state capitals are centrally located, making them easily accessible no matter where your base or post is located. From there, you are able to get additional ideas for nearby attractions from staff or other local visitors.
MWR / Installation Travel and Ticket Office – You’d be surprised how many resources are available at your installation’s MWR office. The travel and ticket office is stocked with local pamphlets and ticket options for attractions nearby. For those who have no clue on where to start, you should start here. Military families can receive discounted tickets — but you might end up adding more options to duty station bucket lists.
National Parks – Did you know that active duty military families can visit any of our 58 (yes, 58!) National Parks for free? Just ask for a pass from a park ranger and you’re covered for a year. There are so many different parks, with several near military installation. In addition, you may have lodging options besides tent camping. Shenandoah National Park is about two hours away from the Washington, D.C., area and has accommodations with military discounts with spectacular views. That’s only one example. To find one near you check out: https://www.nps.gov/findapark/.
TripAdvisor – TripAdvisor aggregates all the attractions at a given location making it simple to see a list of things to do. The best part of the site is that actual visitors rate the attractions, giving you a real sense of what it would be like for you and your family. In addition to attractions, TripAdvisor ranks hotels and restaurants as well. https://www.tripadvisor.com/
Where to go for “everyone” deals:
Groupon Getaways – Groupon was created to connect locals to new businesses in their area by offering discounts and deals. Since its creation, Groupon has branched out to offer vacation or getaway deals that are somewhat close to your location or they also allow for bigger trips including airfare, if you’re looking for a faraway destination. https://www.groupon.com/getaways
Travelzoo – You can find nearby, short trips or major vacation deals on Travelzoo. They partner with travel companies to provide affordable global vacations. It’s also easy to filter family-friendly option and sort by price that way you can find something that you’re your budget. https://www.travelzoo.com/
Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO) – Part of the HomeAway family, VRBO connects homeowners with families looking to secure a whole house at destinations around the world. HomeAway focuses on collecting vacation rentals options, some hosted by property managers. Collectively, VRBO and HomeAway’s offerings are over a million listings strong making them trusted resources. https://www.homeaway.com/ and https://www.vrbo.com/
Airbnb – Similarly to VRBO, Airbnb gives property owners a chance to open up their home or rooms to those traveling. Whether it’s a castle, house or apartment, your family can find a home that fits your needs at any length. Hosts or previous visitors can also share experiences that can enhance your family’s stay. https://www.airbnb.com/
Where to go for military deals:
Armed Forces Vacation Club (AFVC) – Known for their affordable Space-A stays, AFVC is only eligible to military members and their immediate families. They have rentals across the globe — mostly condo-style homes with plenty of space for traveling military families. There is potential to receive additional amenities at selected resorts making it a desirable resource. https://www.afvclub.com/
GOV Vacation Rewards – First time members receive credit when enrolling for free. Military members active and retired are eligible for the countless deals offered on the website. Whether you are looking for a cruise or reasonable hotel room, GOV Vacation Rewards has many options. https://www.govvacationrewards.com/
Straight to the Hotel – You’d be surprised how many hotel brands offer military discounts. If your family is keen on a specific location, research the accommodations close by and contact them for their latest military rates. You could save hundreds for your family by going straight to the hotel and other unique deals could be shared too.