Planning any kind of family vacation is stressful. However, trying to plan a vacation when your spouse is active duty military can seem near impossible at times. Not only do you have the normal issues to contend with, cost, location, etc. you have to deal with your spouse’s command and their ability to take leave. There are times it can feel like you have to jump through hoops in order to take a simple trip with your family. So many things can affect your plans, the command can wait until the last minute to approve leave or it can even end up cancelled at the last second. There is nothing you can do to change the process of taking leave or speed up the command decision; however, there are steps you can take to make the rest of the process smoother for you.
Just like anyone else planning a vacation, you want to find the best deal on flights. Saving money where you can is important to everybody. There are many different websites that can help you find a good deal; Orbitz, Travelocity, and Kayak are just a few. Sometimes you can find deals on the airline’s website as well. The biggest thing to remember when booking your tickets is to make sure they are either refundable or can be easily changed for a minimal fee. Purchasing tickets as far in advance as possible is the best way to get a good price. But, anyone who has gone through the process before knows that the member taking leave can be unpredictable. Therefore, giving yourself the safety of being able to change or cancel your tickets will save you a lot of money and heartache in the long run.
Another option you have is the MAC or Space-A Flight. These are flights offered by the Air Force to locations all over the United States and even to other countries. They are generally free flights, however they are space available. That means you put your name on a list, but you are not guaranteed a seat on the flight. The Space-A flights are normal flights they run regularly for different reasons, but when there happens to be open seats, they will offer them to military personnel traveling for different reasons. There is a priority list and it is important to know what priority you are. Information like this and areas where the flights are available can be found on the website for Air Mobility Command. These can be a great way to save money on your trip, however they can be unpredictable. If you choose to go that route, you should be prepared to be flexible on dates and times also to be patient and understanding. They do their best to put people on those flights, but the mission comes first as always.
The next big thing you need when planning a vacation is a place to stay and transportation while you are there. Many hotel companies and even rental car companies offer military discounts. Even big companies like Disney offer a discount to military members and their families. Don’t be afraid to ask the question! As always, be sure to double check their cancellation policies. Some hotels will charge you for cancellation if it is not within a certain amount of time. Research is your best friend when planning. Some places actually have military hotels and/or vacation rentals. More often than not, these will be quite a bit cheaper than normal civilian hotels. The best thing you can do is ask questions and do as much research as you can.
There will always be a certain amount of stress that comes with planning a vacation. However, with the right research and by asking the right questions, you can take some of the stress off of yourself. Choose a location, make sure your spouse puts in for leave as early as their command allows and be sure to plan for the unexpected. Make sure your tickets can be changed or cancelled, double check the hotel cancellation policies and be aware of all the options available to you! Following these few simple steps can help make your next vacation a much smoother ride!