How We Get Military Base Lodging for Cheap Family Vacations
It isn’t always easy getting those cheap rooms and suites on military bases, but this Army wife discovered from years of using military travel benefits that, when we had the urge to travel, we could always depend on those base accommodations being worth any patience or efforts we needed to get them.
Here’s what we have done to get military base lodging and Space A lodging reservations when we plan a family vacation and the tips we have for you to get them too.
Tip # 1
Check into every single military lodge, temporary housing office, Military Space A travel office, and military campground or recreational area connected with the base in the area your family wants to visit.
Understand there are several different types of military family travel options available for leisure travel, usually even different ones on one specific base, and that they do not share reservations, staff, facilities, nor even have the same rules of use.
To raise your chances of getting an inexpensive sleeping accommodation on a base for your family, know ALL you have available to you, investigate all housing options connected with your destination, and check all possible reservation sources including these:
1. Purchase one or more of the Military Living publications which are available at your local base exchange.
While you can find a lot of information online and even make online reservations at the Department of Defense lodging websites and other websites that show Space A listings, these hard copy military travel guides provide the easiest way to see and understand what bases are close to where you want to go, what different kinds of overnight opportunities are available at any given military location, what other services are available there (such as recreation, dining, auto hobby shops, chapels, family support services, etc.), and the different phone numbers for each of the different offices, front desks, and/or recreation area staff.
You can purchase separate books on Space A housing, military campgrounds and military rec areas (with cabin rentals), and Space A Military Air Travel. However, usually one of those books will at least cross reference the other opportunities available on each base and provide the phone numbers you need to call each individual reservation desk.
2. Search the DOD Lodging website to find lodging at a number of overnight accommodations for military vacations. You’ll find Navy Lodges, Air Force Lodges, Navy Inn and Suites, etc. there and can see if any of those places are in line with your travel plans and if those lodges have room.
3. Get information and reviews on camping sites on military bases and campgrounds at military recreational areas from sites like http://www.militarycampgrounds.us/state-listing. Don’t just look for RV and tent camping sites at these places either. You’ll want to look for cabin rentals at these military campgrounds as well!
4. Look at base websites where or near where you are going and see if they mention any inns, suites, temporary housing, Space A lodging, camping, or recreational areas on their website. Not all bases will provide lodging information on their base sites, but many do and may in fact provide a direct URL to where you can go for more information, pictures, or reservations.
5. Call the local MWR office close to where you want to travel and ask for assistance and information. Calling also gives you a good chance to ask what recreational equipment they rent there as well as well as fun things to do there.
Did you know that you can rent RVs and camping equipment from many MWR offices on bases?
6. If you’re planning a longer vacation stay, check out the Armed Forces Vacation Club at http://www.afvclub.com/. This is a great benefit for military families who would like to stay at one of the time shares or condos that have been purchased specifically for their use only. While the cost for these military travel resorts might seem a little higher than a quick weekend getaway or an overnight stay on a base, when you consider the quoted price is for an entire week of vacation and for 4, perhaps 5 to 8 people, depending on the rental, these are downright CHEAP. You can navigate the site and see what’s available there or just make it easy on yourself and call them directly for ultra easy military travel reservations.
While locating all your various housing options and making sure you check each one out separately is number ONE when trying to get a reservation for family leisure travel, there are three more tips that will give you a better chance of booking one of these cheap rooms, suites, or vacation rentals.
Tip # 2
Be flexible with military travel discounts, housing, and plans.
If you can’t get a reservation for every night you would like, could you change your schedule a little or could you spend the nights you can there and then use other military travel discounts by taking advantage of military discounts offered by hotels in the community?
Could you go family tent camping one night, or two, and combine those nights of camping with staying in a suite or room on base another night or two? Even when lodges, suites, rooms, and cabins are taken, rec areas will usually have a few camp sites not taken, even at the last minute.
Combining housing, camping, and/or lodging might just make your trip a little more exciting. Taking advantage of ALL the possibilities provide a better chance of going on vacation, period.
Tip # 3
Be persistent, even to the very last minute.
Here is where we have hit some of the best home runs of our family vacation planning. It’s risky for someone who doesn’t live on the edge, but if you couldn’t get a reservation at an earlier date but are willing to call again the day OF your trip, perhaps the day or two before, you can sometimes pick up a great room or suite or cabin that has been given up by another military family with a change of plans.
We have found reservation personnel for military inns and suites, lodges, and rec areas to be extremely helpful and open to us calling later in the day, a few times even, when we were traveling and didn’t yet have a reservation with them. We called five times throughout the day when we went to Corpus Christi, TX last spring, all with permission of a very patient front desk worker who kept telling us to call back in 30 more minutes.
We ended up getting a front seat to the Gulf Coast when we did that too!
A disclaimer: We know, when we do this, that we might have to end up with staying at a hotel in the city or cutting our trip a little short if we can’t get something on base, but I have to admit that it does add a little excitement to the trip too.
Did I hear someone say “extreme vacationing”?
Tip # 4
Appreciate and use whatever travel benefits for military families are available for your use.
Military base lodging , Space A lodging, and recreation lodging are all benefits to enjoy, but they are not requirements the military has to provide for you to have a family vacation getaway.
Whatever you have available though, take it. Take it; use it, and be thankful for whatever can save your money and let you enjoy life a little more. It’s what makes military life with your family that much more special for you all.