6 Budget-Friendly Last-Minute Vacation Ideas for Military Families
You can still plan a great family vacation, even if you’re short on time or budget.
Bottom Line Up Front
- Call ahead to see if national parks require reservations.
- Check out military campgrounds for a great getaway at an affordable price.
- Look for fun daytrip ideas close to home.
Time to Read
August 2, 2022
Itching to take a family vacation? Even if you’re short on planning time or have a tight budget, you still have lots of great options. Try these budget-friendly ideas for your next getaway.
Hit the road.
If you need a change of scenery, taking a road trip can be a more affordable way to travel. You can plan to see friends, family, events, monuments, new destinations or a combination. See a sign for something interesting? With no plane schedules to worry about, it’s easier to be spontaneous. Other than gas and food, lodging will be your main expense.
Visit a national park.
From mountains to lakes to seashores, get in touch with nature at its finest at America’s national parks. Annual entrance passes for servicemembers and their families are free. Bring your own camping gear, and you’ll have an amazing getaway that’s easy on the budget. Simply call ahead of time to see if open campgrounds are available and if a reservation is required.
For a complete list of national parks, visit the National Park Service website. You can even search by the categories (e.g., seashores, lakeshores, battlefields, scenic rivers, parks) that interest you.
Stay at a military campground.
Across the country, campgrounds and recreational vehicle sites are available as a service of the Army’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Programs. Located on military installations and recreation areas, these sites provide servicemembers and their families with vacation destinations at affordable prices. Learn about these hidden getaways on MWR’s website.
Share with friends.
Whether you love lake resorts, the desert, city life or the beach, sharing a place at your favorite destination with another family can save you money and time and give your kids some ready playmates. Have a conversation about your vacation goals, meals and cleanup, bedroom arrangements and how much time you’ll spend together. Then you’ll be ready for some fun.
Take advantage of long weekends.
The military extends many holiday weekends into 4-day weekends, making these great opportunities for quick trips. Pick a destination that’s no more than a few hours away, so you don’t lose time traveling. Then, decide whether you’ll do one major activity or several smaller ones so you’re not overloaded with too many activities and not enough time. If an amusement park is on the schedule, you can save money with multi-day passes or military discounts. You can find a list of parks that offer discounted admission for military at Military.com.
Try a 'staycation.'
Don’t have the time or money for a faraway trip? Try being a local tourist. Relax in a pool, have a picnic, fish, play board games, visit museums, do a taste tour of your city—your options are limitless. Check your local newspaper—many list upcoming activities like festivals, fairs and free outdoor concerts. Looking for more ideas? Do an online search for “fun one-day trip near me” and put your options up for a family vote.
Your on-base Information, Tickets and Travel (ITT) office can help out with more recreation ideas, discounts and tickets. No matter what you decide, use your rewards credit card for vacation expenses so you can use the rewards you earn for your next vacation.
Navy Federal Credit Union is committed to serving those who serve. Visit our Military Life resource page for tips on financial readiness, getting ready for deployment and relocation, and easing your transition to civilian life.
- Consider the activities your family enjoys and try to plan simple vacations around those priorities. Once you know what you want to do, you can look for the most affordable ways to have that experience.
- Timing is everything. Try to plan vacations strategically, such as around long weekends. You can also save money by booking travel and lodging during off-peak times. Ask about discounts on last-minute bookings.
- Always explore the potential of a military discount! From airfare to lodging, admission to permits, there are plenty of discounts to take advantage of. Start by checking this frequently updated list.
This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.