Apr 012017
 

 

Cindy Yates - Community

As military families around the world celebrate Easter and Passover this month, the thoughts turn to family.  Spending time with family is a luxury for most mil fams, but the spring holidays offer an extra incentive.  Spring Break from school is usually offered up at this time too.  So, this year, take time to worship and play with your family.

As a grandparent, I know traveling for the holidays, especially around Spring Break, can be extra difficult.  I always enjoyed it when we were stationed close enough to drive to visit over Easter.  But, over the years there were plenty of times if we were to visit, we had to plan ahead to fly.

This is only for the adventurous.  Depending upon where you fly, your cabin mates may be a crazy group of high school or college students on their way to party for a week.  Lucky for us, most people were not traveling to Omaha for Spring Break.

I found a wonderful travel site, out of sheer panic when my dad was scheduled for routine  surgery.  My brother and sister-in-law were there with him as I waited by the phone, but instead of the call I was hoping for, I received the phone call no one wants to get.  My dad’s surgeon found cancer during the operation.

I was called with the two options the surgeon purposed.  Needless to say, I needed to be there in a big way.  I lived in Maryland, and my dad was in Nebraska.  How was I going to get a flight out the next day without paying a fortune?  I quickly searched several sights for reasonable fairs and came up with militarytravel.com.

I entered my information.  Since the flight I needed was within a twenty-four hour window, I could not complete this purchase online.  I had to call the number given.  I called and a friendly voice answered the phone.  During the course of purchasing my ticket I broke down, and the woman on the end of the line instantly became a friend to me.

She talked me through the booking, and within half an hour I had a plane ticket to go see my dad.  She was also very patient with me when I had to hang up to call my husband, and then call her right back.  You see, to purchase this flight I had to show my military ID card at check-in.  As I looked at my ID while making the reservation, I noticed it would expire while I was in Nebraska!  Great news for one who is already an emotional wreck, right?

I called my husband, and he said he would deal with it when I came back.  Hopefully they would let me on the plane for a return flight home.  (Reminder Alert – Take notice of the expiration date on all ID cards and allot at least a month leeway to go get a new one!)

All of this was taken care of for half or more of what other airlines were going to charge me for an emergency flight out by this military travel website.  There were no hitches in this reservation, everything was sent to me via email, and I was good to go out the next morning.

Last March my brother called and told me they had taken dad to the hospital again.  He explained that if I wanted to see him I needed to get there as soon as I could.  I again called military travel to book a flight.  Again, a wonderful representative walked me through the reservation process, comforted me, and made sure everything was good to go for my husband and my departure the next day.

These tickets were a little over $300 per person for a flight leaving in less than twenty-four hours.  This site and the personnel really came through for me, and I highly recommend them to anyone who needs to make airline reservations whether for an emergency flight, family reunion, or a family vacation.  Although, it’s always a good bet to check all travel sites if you are making reservations well in advance for comparison prices.

Another tip I learned, after the fact of course, is most airlines will waive the baggage fees for active duty military and their families while traveling.  We were headed out on spring vacation to meet up with family, and during the airline booking process we paid the airline baggage fee.  Paying ahead would save us $20, for we would pay $25 for each bag instead of the $35 at check-in.

When we arrived at the airport to check in for our flight, the attendant told us the airline waived baggage fees for active duty members.  So, instead of saving $20, we ended up paying $50.  Lesson learned.  Call ahead or visit the airline’s website for information as some airlines only waive the fee if the active duty military member is traveling on orders or PCSing.

Either way you must show required paperwork for this waiver to apply.  Also, during a PCS move, some airlines will allow over weight bags to go without the extra fee.  But again, call the airline or check their web site for the facts before going to the airport.

I also learned at a kiosk check-in at Reagan National Airport, there was a specific ticketing kiosk for military members to check-in.  This kiosk gave options to take care of the baggage fee.  If you do not see the military kiosk, always ask representatives.  I have always had courteous customer service people to help me. Who knew?

If flying is not your thing this spring, what about a cruise?  We took one for Spring Break one year, and I quickly found it was not my favorite thing to do.  But, many people love to cruise, and it is a great way to meet family and spend time together which includes activities for the children.

Militarycruisedeals.com lists all of the military cruise deals in one place. Instead of searching each website individually, this one has all of the major cruise lines such as Carnival, Princess, Holland America, Norwegian, and Disney, to name a few.  This website states it offers perks above and beyond what the individual cruise lines offer.  So, check it out in advance of booking for some fun in the sun with the family.

If flying and cruising are not in the cards, how about an amusement park? Each individual park may offer discounts.  Military.com/discounts offers a whole list of parks with military or Wave of Honor discounts.

However, I could not confirm Sea World’s Wave of Honor program.  On the Sea World website it states, “Please contact your base ticket office for ID requirements to purchase these tickets.” to provide tickets.

So, if you are in the area, the ITT (or MWR) office might be the best place to start.  If you are not local, you can always contact the closest ITT office to the park you are looking to visit.

For one Spring Break I booked airline tickets to the United Kingdom through the ITT office as they seemed to have the best pricing, and I really did not feel comfortable booking an intercontinental flight by myself online.  There seemed to be too much at stake if I made a mistake!  They were very helpful but very difficult to reach, so make sure you call plenty of time in advance of your trip.

Maybe something closer to home this year for your vacation?  Try the National Parks around your area.  Annual passes are available to U.S. military members and dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines,  Coast Guard,  and Reserve and National Guard members.  Passes must be obtained in person at a federal recreation site by showing a Common Access Card (CAC) or Military ID (Form 1173).  Go to this website for complete details.

Whatever you choose to do this spring for a get-away with family, choose something fun and meaningful.  Memories last a lifetime, so go make some memories!

An Army wife for over twenty-seven years, Cindy Yates is a member of several organizations that seek to help and support the military family.  She holds a Master’s degree in education from the University of Nebraska. Contact

Photo Credit – BookBabe