As a member or former member of the armed services - or as a civilian member of the Department of Defense (DOD) - you and your family have many special options when planning vacations. You can visit and stay at U.S. military bases around the world, military hotels and resorts that offer discounts, or take advantage of a variety of military vacation deals.
To start, if you want to find the location of any U.S. military base around the world you can go to todaysmilitary.com. Once there, click on A for all the Army bases, M for Marine Corps bases, and so forth. Explore all the U.S. military bases around the world and the great opportunities they offer for an inexpensive family vacation.
While staying on a military base for vacation can save you money, you should take advantage of Armed Forces Recreation Center (AFRC) resorts all across the globe. Here are 12 great destinations that cater to military families.
- Shades of Green at Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando, Fla.
Suppose you want take your family to visit Disney World. You could consider the Shades of Green at Walt Disney World Resort. This resort serves U.S. military personnel and their families, as well as members of the DOD. To be eligible to stay here, you have to be active or a retired military person with a valid military identification or DOD ID, as well as have a current Leave and Earnings Statement. You can review all the eligibility criteria here. The room rates vary by pay grade.
At Shades of Green, standard guest rooms are more than 400 square feet, and ADA-compliant bathrooms are available. There are also 11 family suite rooms, which sleep from six to eight guests. The resort includes a spa, fitness center, arcade, and neighbors two PGA championship golf courses, which are operated by Arnold Palmer Golf Management. Best of all, Shades of Green is located close to Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, and many other Central Florida attractions.
- Seward Alaska Resort, Seward, Alaska
If you’re looking for an unusual and memorable vacation experience, consider Alaska. As an eligible service member or former service member, you have a great option with the Seward Alaska Resort. Seward is located about 2.5 hours south of Anchorage by car, but you also have the option of taking the train with a Seward Resort discount rate. The train leaves you about one mile from your destination, where you can take a taxi to get you to the resort.
If you enjoy fishing, you’re in for a treat. Seward Resort has four charter boats that depart every day – weather permitting – with fishing for halibut, red snapper, and other seasonal fish. It’s important to call ahead for reservations and keep in mind that kids have to be at least 4 feet 2 inches tall to go on these boats.
In summer, you can enjoy the Freedom Fighters lounge, which is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. It has a full-service bar and grill, and offers wine from Homer Alaska’s Bear Creek Winery, which is made especially for the Seward Alaska Resort. In winter you can go on snowmobile tours or cross country skiing.
- Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast Guard and Airmen’s Club, New York, N.Y.
The Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast Guard and Airmen’s Club, located in midtown Manhattan, is a private club that caters to servicemen, military veterans, and their families. The club was established in 1919. It rents individual beds, as well as rooms with two, three, or four beds for families. Depending on availability, some guests may be asked to share a room with others of the same gender. Rates are $130 for single occupancy and $160 for double occupancy.
The club offers a great stopping-off point for all that New York City has to offer. Located on Lexington Avenue between 36th and 37th streets, it’s about a 10-minute walk to the Empire State Building or Grand Central Terminal, and about 20 minutes to Times Square and the Theater District. About a 20-minute taxi ride will get you to One World Trade Center, aka the Freedom Tower.
- MCCS Big Bear Recreation Facility, Big Bear, Calif.
MCCS Big Bear Recreation Facility provides a superb location to enjoy a mountain retreat. Nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear is a beautiful small town that offers a great getaway. It’s a little more than 2 hours of driving east of Los Angeles International Airport. Big Bear offers skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and Big Bear Lake has year-round activities, including camping, boating, fishing, sailing, and water skiing. It’s a big lake, measuring more than 8 miles long.
You can even visit the Big Bear Alpine Zoo and have a look at grizzly bears, the state animal of California. Summer daytime temperatures are generally above 70 degrees, despite being 6,700 feet above sea level. Winter daytime temperatures vary from 20 to 64 degrees, depending on weather.
The MCCS Big Bear Recreation Facility has eight cabins, available year-round. Each cabin can fit up to six guests and comes with a living room, dining room, kitchen, loft, and bedroom. There’s also RV and campsite lodging with five hook-up sites for RVs and five tent sites. You can rent watercraft from the facility, ranging from canoes and kayaks to larger pontoon boats. No pets are allowed on the premises.
- Hale Koa Hotel, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii
Waikiki is one of the most famous beaches is the world, and the Hale Koa Hotel offers eligible service members and former service members the opportunity to enjoy Waikiki with all the aloha of the Hawaiian islands. This military hotel is situated right at beachfront, and has been operating for 40 years. It’s located at Fort DeRussy Armed Forces Recreation Center, along with a beautiful park and the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii.
In Hawaiian, Hale Koa means House of the Warrior – Hale = house, Koa = warrior, or brave, bold, or fearless. The resort is truly a first-class hotel, covering 72 acres, expert Hawaiian landscaping, and a view of Waikiki and the Pacific Ocean Occasionally you will see a morning rainbow, which will make you forget that you’re only a few blocks away from hustle and bustle of all the tourists in Waikiki.
For family fun, you can enjoy learning the hula, surfing, and playing tennis. You could also explore the island of Oahu, with visits to Pearl Harbor and Punchbowl, a hike to the top of Diamond Head, and a drive to the famous North Shore, where international surfing competitions are held in winter. Don’t forget about attending a luau and enjoying the Friday night fireworks.
- Kilauea Military Camp, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of those not-to-be-missed spots on the planet. The park is home to the world’s most active volcano: Kilauea. This volcano has been continually active since 1983, adding 500 acres of new land to the Big Island of Hawaii. Activity levels vary, but flowing lava can sometimes be seen from lookout spots, or better by helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft. The entire park includes a walk-through lava tube, steam vents, sulfur banks, lots of hiking, and a drive on the Chain of Craters road down to where the lava meets the ocean.
If you’re eligible military or former military, the Kilauea Military Camp offers a great way to experience Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The camp has 90 bedroom cottages and apartments, each with a small refrigerator, coffee maker, and other niceties. KMC is located at 4,000 feet above sea level, so the temperatures are usually mild, ranging in the 70s during the day and 50s to 60s at night.
You can also explore the rest of the Big Island, including the southernmost point in the USA, black sand beaches, waterfalls, the Keck observatory, and the beautiful Waipio Valley. Give yourself a lot of time when driving around the island. It’s a big island.
- Navy Lodge Monterey, Monterey, Calif.
One of the most scenic drives you can imagine is found on the California coast, between Monterey and San Simeon. This historic stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway features dramatic coastal views, and lots of wildlife, from spouting whales and sea otters to elephant seals. Monterey also offers many other attractions, including the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, kayaking, and the beautiful 17-mile drive through neighboring Carmel-by-the-Sea and Pacific Grove. Play a round at Pebble Beach golf course and take a trip down the highway to get to Big Sur and some of the best scenery that California has to offer.
One nice option to stay in the Monterey area is the Navy Lodge Monterey, located on the Naval Support Activity Monterey. The lodge has 28 rooms, featuring 36-inch flat-screen TVs, kitchenettes, microwave ovens, small refrigerators, and free lobby Wi-Fi. A quiet patio area offers a peaceful break from the rest of the world, and you’re only 5 minutes from the Naval Postgraduate School.
- Lake of the Ozarks Recreation Area, Linn Creek, Mo.
Located near the middle of the country, the Lake of the Ozarks Recreation Area is a little sanctuary where you can enjoy everything that a lake resort should offer. Camping, boating, swimming, horseback riding, and more await you at the site. If you like fishing, this is the spot: Catfish, largemouth bass, stripers, and crappie are waiting to take your bait.
The lake itself is one of the country’s largest manmade lakes, a winding waterway that first opened in 1931. You can keep your eyes open for chipmunks, great blue heron, and other birds and critters. Lodging from April 1 to October 31 ranges from $71 for a one-bedroom cabin to $107 for a three-bedroom log cabin, which includes a loft. Off-season rates are about 20 percent lower. RV sites area available as well. On-site, you’ll find a country store with general supplies as well as ice, beer, firewood, and some food selections as well.
- New Sanno Hotel, Tokyo, Japan
Outside of the USA, as an eligible active or former service member, you and your family can enjoy the energy of Tokyo without having to pay Tokyo’s exorbitant hotel prices. Tokyo is known as the world’s most expensive city, but you can stay at the 149-room New Sanno Hotel, a U.S. Naval Joint Services Activity, at reasonable rates. Prices range from $50 for a single room for E1-E5 to $100 for a Japanese suite for a retiree. What’s more, the hotel offers an English-speaking environment, making it that much easier to enjoy the sights, sounds, and tastes of Tokyo.
The hotel offers many on-site events and facilities, including a fitness center, swimming pool, and a Navy Exchange with lots of Japanese gifts and jewelry, but you’ll want to get out into the city and explore. For example, you may want to visit the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, particularly if the cherry blossoms are blooming, or book a tour of the Sensoji temple. Of course, you can’t miss the Ginza district and a ride somewhere on one of Japan’s famous bullet trains.
- Dragon Hill Lodge, Seoul, South Korea
Also in Asia, you can explore the bustling city of Seoul, South Korea, while staying at the Dragon Hill Lodge. This lodge is operated as part of the Armed Forces Recreation Center by the U.S. Army. As an eligible guest, you can enjoy lodging specials like six days and five nights single occupancy for $399, or $299 per person for double occupancy.
Take advantage of the Seoul City Pass, which includes a bus tour of downtown, a river cruise, an evening show performance, and tickets to a variety of Korean galleries, museums, or the aquarium. Of particular interest may be a tour to the DMZ between South Korea and North Korea. Back in the city, you and your family can enjoy the Seoul zoo for just $3 per person or the art gallery on the 60th floor of the 63 Building, the tallest building in Seoul.
- AFRC-Europe, Garmisch, Germany
On the other side of the planet, you can experience an entirely different sort of vacation when staying at the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort, in Garmisch, Germany. Located about a one-hour drive southwest of Munich and about one hour from Innsbruck, Austria, this resort delivers unrivaled, breathtaking views of the Bavarian Alps. Room rates start under $169 and go up to $269 for a deluxe loft suite, which can accommodate 10 adults.
While there, you can get out and enjoy what nature has in store. Campgrounds are available if you want to sleep under the stars, and cabins in the campgrounds are dog friendly. In winter, skiing and other Alpine adventures are on the to-do list, but in summer hiking, enjoying the spa, and visiting a castle will be on the agenda.
- Island Seas Resort, Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas
The Armed Forces Vacation Club is free for all active-duty, reserve, guard, and retired members of the Armed Forces. Membership allows you get some great deals on resorts around the world. They may not be exclusive to eligible guests, but you’ll still get a great deal and be able to enjoy some of the finest places in the world.
One such place is the Island Seas Resort in Freeport in the Bahamas. This is a five-diamond resort right on the water, with its own private beach, as well as pools – including a children’s pool – and a Jacuzzi, with golf, fishing, tennis, water-skiing, windsurfing, and a casino all within 2 miles. You’ll find one- or two-bedroom condos starting at seven nights for only $349, or a bit more in desirable times, but still at about $80 to $100 per night. F
Calling All Heroes
As a member or former member of the Armed Forces, or a civilian member of the DOD, you’re an American hero. All across America and the world, you can join your fellow heroes and stay at special hotels and resorts that cater just to you. You can also join the Armed Forces Vacation Club and get access to resorts all over the world for greatly reduced rates. Many of these locations will honor your Military Star card and each of them will honor your service to our country.