With summer in full swing and kids out of school just long enough to start driving their parents crazy, now is when many military families have summer vacation on the brain. And while you might also have something more elaborate on the docket, there's something to be said for adding a spur of the moment road trip or vacation to bust up summer boredom.
But vacations can be expensive, and booking early is often the best way to save. If a last minute getaway is on your mind, how can you make sure it's affordable?
Enter: military discounts. Thanks to generous businesses, nonprofits and government supported programs, there are plenty of discounts for military members that might just put an extra trip in the cards for your family.
Check out these six military discounts that could make you summer just a little better.
1. Tents for Troops
Camping is a great way to vacation on the cheap, but campground fees can still add up, especially if you're using an RV.
But privately owned campgrounds and RV parks offer free camping space to active duty military ID card holders through a program known as Tents for Troops. The web site features a list of participating campgrounds as well as their contact information. It notes that the campgrounds may observe blackout dates or be full. As with any discount offered by a business, the best rule of thumb for military families looking to use the discount is to be polite and flexible.
Don't have an RV or any camping supplies, but still want to try your hand at camping? Your base MWR likely has camping rentals including RVs and even camp stoves. Rent an RV or borrow a tent from a friend and grab sleeping bags or a stack of blankets and you're well on your way.
2. Military campgrounds and recreation sites
Many military bases host campgrounds that are a perfect place for military families to crash during a summer vacation.
And even better, many bases also run recreation areas in popular vacation destinations. In Alaska, for example, popular tourist spots Seward and Valdez both have military recreation areas. In Washington State the Navy operates several resorts, including one on the beach. At Fort Benning, Georgia, the Army operates a cabin and camping recreation area adjacent to the base. And in Virginia, the Navy rents beachfront homes.
3. National Parks or State Passes
The National Parks service offers a free America the Beautiful Pass to active duty military or Guard and Reserve members, and disabled veterans can get the even better free Access Pass. Those passes can really cut down on costs at National Parks that have entrance or exhibit fees and, in the case of the Access Pass, even some amenity fees.
But don't stop with National Parks. Veterans and troops should look into state parks discounts, too. Although every state is different, many offer discounts or special passes for military members. In Alaska, for example, disabled veterans can get a free state park camping pass. In Florida, active duty families can receive a discounted state parks pass, while most service connected disabled veterans can get one for free.
Fueled by donated tickets or tickets bought with donated funds, VetTix connects active duty military families and veterans with tickets to concerts or other events in their area.
But users can also apply to get tickets for places they are visiting. That makes the service perfect for someone looking to fund a cheap destination vacation. You could even pick where you are headed based on where you can get tickets.
5. Theme parks discounts
Theme parks across the U.S. have generous programs that offer heavily discounted or free entrance to military families. While rules vary by company, one thing is consistent: big price cuts on theme parks can take a vacation from impossible to within reach.
Check out this complete list of the best amusement park military discounts.
6. Blue Star Museums
If theme parks aren't your jam or you're in the mood for indoor fun, the Blue Star Museums program is a great way to experience some local culture during your travels.
With over 2,000 museums nationwide, the program gives active duty ID card holders free entrance each year between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Plot out a museum or two to visit during a road trip, and you've just scheduled a car break in a place with interesting information and clean bathrooms. Win.
Cheap military vacation Bonus tip
Feeling extra brave? Check out the Space-A flight program. Most military family travelers will need their service member with them, and a flexible travel schedule is key to making Space-A work. But it could be worth a shot. Learn more about Space-A.