First Stop: Base
Ryan Guina, who serves in the Air National Guard, founded The Military Wallet — a personal finance and benefits website for military members, veterans and their families, to give this exact type of advice to others. He helps the community “better manage money and understand the variety of programs and benefits available to them,” according to the business website. He says the first place he recommends looking when it comes to off-duty recreation is the installation Morale, Welfare and Recreation (known as MWR) center.
“Most bases have an MWR Center where you can rent certain equipment for local area sports and activities. This is a great way to get introduced to a new sport or hobby, as well as save money instead of buying gear right away. Many bases also offer inexpensive activities at on-base centers – including fitness centers, bowling, golf, paintball, running trails, libraries, and on some bases near a body of water, marinas where you can rent boats, fishing gear, and other equipment,” he said
In his own experience, Guina had the opportunity to go deep-sea fishing near Keesler Air Force Base for only $10 compared to the typical cost of $150 per trip.
Don’t Buy New
The cost of a new hobby can range from a few bucks to hundreds or thousands of dollars. Rather than investing that kind of money into a new activity, Guina says to look into buying used equipment.
“You can save a lot of money buying used gear that is in good repair. In many cases, you can save well over half the price of a new item. Start by looking for specific items on your local Craigslist, used-sporting goods stores, Ebay, yard sales, PCS sales, and word of mouth,” he explained.
Always Ask for a Discount
For years, businesses and corporations have found their own way of saying thank you for military service by offering unique discounts to those with a military ID. It may not be publicized so a good rule of thumb is to either research on the company’s website ahead of time or ask at checkout. Guina says it never hurts to ask — the worst they can say is no.
“Ask for military or group discounts. Many organizations offer free admission, membership, or other discounts to service members — all you have to do is ask. You may also be able to negotiate discounts if you organize a large group of people to attend your gathering,” Guina said. “This can work for something as large as a unit event, or sometimes even as small as a group of five to 10 people.”
Other Places that Offer Deals Annually
There are a whole host of private organizations and large corporations that offer military-specific deals yearround. Whether it is weekend liberty or a 96 for a holiday, you can plan an entire itinerary around who has bargains.
Outdoor adventures: Sierra Club Outdoors plans outings for military and veterans to go rafting, hiking, climbing, bicycling, and more. Find a local chapter at https://content. sierraclub.org/outings/sierra-cluboutdoors.
NATIONAL PARKS: Military members and their families get free access to over 2000 recreation sites. For details, go to https://www.nps.gov/ planyourvisit/passes.htm.
ARTS AND THEATER: Blue Star Families works with the National Endowment of the Arts to connect the military demographic to museums at no-cost. A list of participating locations can be found on their website at https:// bluestarfam.org.
AMUSEMENT: For daily fun at several amusement parks, there are various deals for free or discounted access.
- Waves of Honor Sea World, Busch Gardens, Sesame Place https://Wavesofhonor.com
- Shades of Green Disney www.Shadesofgreen.org
- Great Wolf Lodge Water Park and themed resort with 17 locations nationwide in 2018 www.Greatwolf.com/heroes
The options are endless. With a little research, a small budget (or no budget) can be stretched far for the unlimited places with free or discounted access. It is also a great way to make the most of whatever is unique at your duty station, especially if you end up somewhere like Hawaii or Japan or Europe. If you’re unsure of what to do with your free time, MWR takes the thinking out of it by planning day or weekend trips. Your installation’s website houses all of the latest updates and contact information specific to your area.Read comments