Here’s how milfams can get free access to VIP airport lounges and travel in style
(Photo: Pixabay)

Military families travel. If we’re stationed far from home, sometimes we travel a lot. I enjoy traveling–in fact, I consider it the main perk of the military lifestyle–but unfortunately, I’m the type of traveler who can never seem to get it together.

You know the kind. I’m the one who always gets selected for extra screening. I’m the one who always seems to be juggling too much luggage as I head to my gate. I’m the one who inevitably must stop to purchase a $5 bottle of water, because I forgot to empty my Nalgene before I went through security and TSA wouldn’t let me dump it out without waiting through the hour-long security line again.

In short, I’m typically a hot mess.

However, I have friends, who, at least according to their Instagram and Facebook feeds, always seem to travel in style. As I’m sitting on the floor by the trash bin at my gate because I got there too late to get a seat, they’re posting photos of themselves relaxing in a VIP lounge, enjoying a free snack and soda while they wait for their flight in style and comfort. Looking at those photos, all I can think is how did they pull that off?

It turns out that many of these friends simply take advantage of perks offered to military members by airlines and credit card companies. Perks that aren’t well advertised–which explains why after 15 years I’m still sitting next to trash bins.

Here’s how they do it:

Pull out the AmEx

They have an American Express Platinum Card. Did you know that American Express waives the annual $550 fee for active duty service members? All you have to do is submit a request and provide a copy of your orders. That shiny little card gets you and your family into more than 1,000 VIP airport lounges, including their own Centurion Lounges (think free massages and complimentary gift bags). Not only that, the card gives you a $200 annual airline fee credit, a $75 annual hotel fee credit, and a fee credit for your TSA precheck application. Yep, no more waiting in the long line for security and no more sitting on the floor waiting for your flight.

Picking the airlines with benefits

They fly American or US Airways. Active duty military flying in uniform also have free access to the 600 domestic and international Admirals Clubs run by American Airlines. All you need is a valid active duty military ID and your boarding pass. You’re also welcome to bring your family or two non-related guests with you. Although the website says service members must fly in uniform, from my experience this isn’t always true. As long as my husband has shown his military ID, we’ve been welcome.

Flashing another card

They have a Citi Prestige Card. Unfortunately, this card has an annual fee of $450 and although some military members on Reddit have said they’ve been able to have the fee waived, it is not company policy. But it does get you and your family access to hundreds of Priority Pass Select VIP airport lounges. With a $250 air travel credit and discounts towards hotels, luxury tours and vacation packages, if your family travels a lot, it may be worth the $450 annual fee.

Using your active duty status (if you are active duty, that is)

They fly United. If you’re an active duty service member, you’re eligible for free access to United Club locations on the same day you’re travelling. Unfortunately, this offer is limited to service members only and guests are not allowed.

Find the USO

They use the USO. With free internet access, snacks, and a comfy place to sit or sleep, the USO is an invaluable resource for military members and their families. The best part is, it’s open to military family members regardless of whether they’re flying with the service member or not.

By Liesel Kershul