Thursday, March 9, 2017

Travel Benefits for Veterans



We recently visited Hawaii, and did it on a budget. It was still expensive, but we enjoyed doing everything at the lowest prices on the island.  All of this was possible because I'm a retired member of the military. There are many who use this perk, but even more who leave active duty and never think again about advantages waiting for them. All it takes is a little investigative work and a military ID card.

We stayed at the Hale Koa Hotel, one of the armed forces recreation centers, which takes reservations up to one year in advance, but books up quickly. There are people who complain about being able to get through to someone via phone because the lines are busy and the time difference can make it frustrating, but you can also book on-line. Other choices where we've stayed in the past are Bellows AF station and Kilauea Military Camp. The price of the room depends on the military rank, so the higher your rank, the more you pay. The Hale Koa hotel is right on Waikiki beach, and has 2 swimming pools (but they will be under construction later this year, so check dates). With Fort Derussy beach park right next door, you can buy food at the on-site exchange and grill your dinner or have a picnic.  There are also restaurants and bars with reasonably priced food, so it won't bust your budget. On weekends, you can find a seafood buffet or Mongolian barbecue. Both offer good food at great value. You can see the daily menus and get more information at the Halekoa website.
The chef served up ham or crab legs
The Atlantis Submarine port is right in front of the hotel at the beach and it offers a huge discount to military members. You can also rent beach chairs, umbrellas, kayaks, and other watersport gear from the vendor at the beach for lower prices by showing a military ID. We took the submarine tour and as an added bonus watched whales splashing in the water from the boat that takes you to the submarine dock. It was birthing season so there were pods of whales including babies.
Inside the submarine

Some of the fish we saw from the submarine

A very long distance shot, blown up, of a whale
From Hawaii, we traveled to San Diego, California, home of both Navy and Marine bases. Using their ticket office, I was able to get discounted tickets to Disneyland for a fraction of the gate cost. It's always a good idea to do a search for discounted tickets to theme parks when you travel. There are several sites that list perks, but here is one that includes stores as well.  We've used the discounts at other parks when we've traveled- Sea World, Legoland, and Disney World all participate. Active duty personnel have choices that include a slew of museums too.  It never hurts to ask. The main thing is to see what's available and use those perks.
Disney is even better at discounted prices
We usually use Hilton chain hotels because they offer a military discount.  If you choose the Doubletree, Homewood suites, or Hilton Grand Vacations which are part of Hilton brand, you get a discount as well as a kitchen so you save on cooking your own food. By consistently using just one chain, we get points to use for free nights, though it takes awhile to accrue enough points.

Our son loves the military base bowling alley and game rooms, so we try to make time to play on the base when we can. $10 goes a long way in the video arcade. You can stay on bases as you travel. Check the DOD lodging website for availability.

Maybe you've traveled using veteran benefits. I'd love to hear where you've been.