There are numerous websites and resources already available that do a good job at navigating the many travel perks afforded to service members.
Here are a couple resources that explain what I am going to talk about in much more detail:
1. Space-A Travel
|Example of a Space-A flight|
Space available flights, also known as Space-A or military hops, allow members or veterans of the military and their families to essentially fly for free by filling unused seats on Department of Defense-owned or controlled aircrafts once all the required seats have been filled. From what I hear, this can be very unpredictable and cumbersome to book so is not the best way to travel if you have set travel plans plus there are numerous stipulations that must be met. Personally, I have never taken advantage of this unique travel benefit but it has always sounded intriguing and I am thinking about testing it out.
2. Airline and hotel discounts
Many of the major airlines and hotel chains offer some form of military discount if booked directly through them and of course some companies are more generous than others. Sometimes you'll need to book through specific channels to obtain the discount such as with the Armed Forces Vacation Club (AFVC) and other times you'll need to join a third party organization such as Veterans Advantage to qualify which grants a 5% discount on all United and JetBlue flights.
3. Lounge access
There are several options when it comes to free lounge access. American Airlines offers a "Comfort For Returning Soldiers" program that grants access to their lounges for active duty members on orders as well as up to 2 guests. All military members, both past and present, also have access to the more than 180 USO lounges located worldwide which can provide a small sanctuary away from all the hustle and bustle of the typically busy airports. These lounges are rather basic when it comes to amenities and are usually found PRIOR to security but sometimes they are the only option available.
4. Free checked bags
Another key benefit available to members of our Armed Forces are free checked bags. Regardless if you are on official orders or not, most airlines will waive the checked baggage fees even if it is for personal travel. All you need to do is show them your military ID during check-in and the fees magically disappear. And they usually allow for multiple bags (2-3 for personal travel, 4-5 for military orders) with higher weight allowances. Not all airlines participate and you should check their policy beforehand to verify but this is the exception rather than the rule. The budget carrier Spirit Airlines just announced that they have changed their policy to allow 2 free checked bags and 1 free carry-on for active military members.
5. Free TSA Precheck
As I alluded to in my post about TSA Precheck, members of the U.S. Armed Forces - including those serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, Reserves and National Guard - may use TSA Precheck for free. DoD and U.S. Coast Guard civilian employees are also eligible to participate once they “opt-in” via the milConnect website. In prior days, my husband said that all he had to do was show his military ID at security to be placed in the Precheck line. However, nowadays in order to participate you need to include your DoD ID number when making reservations to receive this benefit.
6. Waived credit card fees!
This is perhaps one of the best benefits afforded to active duty military members and I wish I had known about this when my husband was still in the Army. In order to ease the financial burden placed on our service members on duty, the government enacted the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act, or SCRA, which among other things waives service fees and renewal fees including annual fees. There is a great article on how to accomplish this for each major financial institution at https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-cards/0-apr-and-waived-fees-credit-card-benefits-for-active-duty-military/ and the best part is that you are still entitled to all of the same benefits of the card as everyone else including airline credits.
While in no way able to make up for the selfless work that our brave men and women in the Armed Forces do for our country, these few travel perks at least ease the burden they face and allow an opportunity to get away even if just for a short trip. I have been lucky enough to be able to utilize many of these benefits although some are geared towards specifically towards those on active duty. I want to thank again everyone who has put their lives in harms way in order that we may all benefit from the luxuries we so often take for granted.
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