One of the top benefits available only to active and retired military with an ID card is the space-available travel program (Space-A). If you’re taking a trip by plane, using Space-A can really save you money as your flight will cost next to nothing.
However, if you’re on a tight schedule, Space-A might not be the best option. When you check out Space-A flights, you need to know that nothing is 100% certain and you should be ready with back-up plans if necessary. Here are some travel tips to help you save money and get the most out of your travel.
- Time your travel wisely
- Make use of all in-inclusive travel packages
- Look for military discounts
- Benefit from military programs
- Use free services (like USO airport lounges)
When you’re flying Space-A, extreme flexibility and patience is required as flights often can and do change on short notice. It’s always best to travel during off-peak periods, like February through March and October through November.
Sign up for a flight three to four weeks before your travel date and call the terminal to find out where you stand on the waiting list. You will stay on the waiting list for 60 days, with your name getting closer and closer to the top every day.
The summer and major holidays are always more expensive when it comes to flights, hotels and transportation. If you avoid peak times, you will save money.
Booking all-inclusive or package deals through some providers can help you to save a bundle when traveling. Costco Travel is one provider that will save you money with an all-inclusive package when planning a vacation.
Members of the military, retired military members, spouses and dependents also receive freebies, coupons and other savings worth more than $60 upon registration.
Some military discounts require proof of active service in the form of an I.D. card, and some require honorable discharge papers as proof of service.
Typing the name of a city and “military discounts” into Google gives you some idea of restaurants, shops, hotels and other places offering discounts. You can also contact the local tourist board and ask for a list of military discounts.
If you need to fly commercially, there are many airlines that offer military discounts and perks. If you’re not sure if your airline offers them, call customer service and check.
Blue Star Museums is a free museum program run by the nonprofit Blue Star Families. Hundreds of museums are free between Memorial Day and Labor Day for military families. Another one of their programs is Blue Star Theaters that offers free or discounted tickets for fine arts performances.
Disneyland and Disney World offer discounted tickets for most of the year and the National Park Service also has a free yearly pass promotion for military families.
Many local attractions, such as theme parks, zoos and aquariums, have their own complimentary pass programs or military discounts.
Most major U.S. hubs offer USO airport lounges. These offer comfort to military service members on journeys. They are located before and after TSA security checkpoints and offer anything from comfy couches and clean bathrooms to free snacks and coffee. Some lounges even have a luggage room, showers and quiet rooms for sleeping.
Many airlines also offer free bags to service members traveling on official orders. The number of free bags can vary and it’s worth checking with an airline before you fly. When checking your bags, it doesn’t hurt to flash your military I.D. and always carry a copy of your orders with you.