Reader Justin sent me a link to his site where he maintains a wealth of military travel resources and information. Check out his Travel Guide for Military Personnel and Families. Now I am not necessarily endorsing every thing that he links to, but I thought that I would take this chance to review several of them.
Cost-efficient Travel – Has some good basic advice including this: “Before you finalize your itinerary, ask if the company offers a military discount. Many businesses do, even if it is not advertised.” I have found a lot of retail businesses where I either asked or they saw my CAC card when I opened my wallet and volunteered that they had a military discount. Examples are American Eagle and Under Armor. However, be careful about asking about a military discount from something travel related like airfare, hotels or rental cars. They will likely have a “military rate” that is actually higher than what you can get if you are smart shopper. The discount will sound large, but it is a discount off of the full fare which almost no one pays. The only real military airfare discount that I have found is the Veterans Advantage 5% off of any United, Lufthansa or jetBlue fare (including the most discounted ones you can find).
MilitaryHops.com – Good resources for flying Space-A. This includes links to the official AMC site as well as John D’s which I consider the easiest to use of several private resources sites. One caveat is that I would definitely NOT follow the advice given to buy a ticket through Militarytravel.com. If you get stuck on Space-A, that is a perfect use for using a bunch of frequent flyer miles to get a free one way back to your unit. Last minute tickets would still be very expensive even with any discount they could give you. Free is better.
MilitaryRates.com – A very professionally done site that has a number of non-travel military resources and articles such as BAH rates and New GI Bill explanations. The travel discounts offered for attractions and shopping are good. Again, I would pass on discounts advertised for rental cars and airfare and find your own deals.
OperationWeAreHere.com – Not a lot of travel related stuff here, but you can find just about everything else. This is a really nice site with more military resources on one page than I have ever seen. There must be close to a hundred links to various military sources of information.
VetTravel.com – A travel booking site that is supposed to have military discounts. I compared several flights that my wife and I have coming up with this site and Google flights. All VetTravel results were either the same as found on Google Flights or higher (some much higher). I didn’t try hotels or cruises, but I say pass. Also, remember that booking through the airline’s site gives you much more flexibility for changes than if you go through a third-party site such as this.
MilitaryTravel Service – Did a similar check to above and they did come up with a fare on USAirways that was $30 cheaper than shown on Google flights. This is almost certainly a consolidator fare. Consolidators buy a block of tickets on planes for a group discount from the airlines and then sell the individual tickets for a discount off of the regular fare. You can save money, but beware that you may find that the ticket earns no frequent flyer miles and is impossible to refund. Caveat Emptor.
MilitaryOnlyTravel – They advertise themselves as the “Ultimate Website for Military Travel” which normally would set off alarms bells. In truth, I found that they advertise a lot of modest discounts which are all available from open sources, such as the Disney tickets we have blogged about previously. Nonetheless, I do recommend the handiness of this site as it has a lot of these discount codes all in one place. They do have a travel booking service, but it is a very soft sell and actually seems likely to give you a good discount as it focuses on cruises and tours. I do believe that you can get a good military discount on these as opposed to flights and hotels.
Justin also has some great links to other resources, such as travel for vets with special needs (my Dad was one), off-duty resource links, links to lodging near military bases, and links to loans for emergency travel/ vacations (Emergency vacations?) but I would advise you to stay away from these. Go to the Army Emergency Relief (AER) fund or other military source.
Thanks Justin, maybe the wife and I will check out your vacation rentals in Florida one day, they look great!