By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 27, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 27, 2013) -- As temperatures rise and summer takes its grip on the South, the community may begin dreaming of blue waters and tropical siestas, and Fort Rucker Leisure Travel Services is here to help those who wish to get away.
Fort Rucker's Families have their own free travel agents available and ready to help design every step of their vacations at a discount.
"We want to find the best value, the best deals and the best discounts for vacations for Soldiers and their Family members," said Kristen Hartwell, program manager for leisure travel.
"If people book with us, we do all the leg work up until they leave for their trip and we have representatives available to answer all their questions from the time they first come in and have no idea where they want to go up to when they are leaving for their vacation," she continued.
Leisure travel services works with both active and retired military; Department of Defense employees, including non appropriated-fund and appropriated-fund employees; Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers, contractors and all correlating Family members.
"People need to bring in identification cards in order to use our services," said Hartwell.
Currently the office has specials for Walt Disney World, Gatorland, Legoland, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Medieval Times and the Gulf Coast Jam. The office also books cruises for people with different cruise lines.
"We have five ports very close to us and the military can get great deals for a vacation on the ocean. We are lucky to have these ports so close to us," she said.
It is high season at the beach currently, so Hartwell advises to book early and to consider staying at a military installation to save bushels of money.
"We recommend people stay on the bases. They can go to www.dodlodging.net and it can provide information about staying on any installation all around the world. They can find rooms as cheap as $45 a night on the beach," she said.
Leisure travel services also books vacations to other destinations besides the most popular amusement parks in the South. The office can connect people to national sporting events, parks and camps and city attractions like Atlanta's Georgia Aquarium or Ripley's Believe It Or Not.
For people wanting an all-inclusive vacation, the office books those as well, usually at a 10 percent discount.
"When people want to get a special price on hotels it does take us 24 hours to get the best deal because we check several different services," she said.
The office does not book airline tickets or rental cars, though the representatives can help a customer with the process and can answer questions they may have.
"All of us are military spouses and we have military children so we all have a lot of knowledge and can relate to our Families," she said, adding that they are also well trained through the different theme parks.
Soldiers, said Hartwell, are the hardest working people around the world right now, and the representatives enjoy helping them plan.
"To help them utilize their money in the cheapest way possible is important because they need their down time with their Families too," she said.
Soldiers often do not take vacations to new places, but Hartwell said that it is important to travel instead of just visiting Family.
"You need to spend special, quality time with your Family so you can make special memories that will last a lifetime," she said. "You do not always get that if you just go back to your hometown, so utilize that little bit of time in the most fulfilling way."
Vacationing is often a major stress reliever for people, though fewer people are taking them each summer due to financial concerns.
"It is worth the money," she said. "We try to get people the biggest bang for their buck and our tickets are much cheaper than they are at the gates or over the internet. And we can get deals that outside travel offices do not have access to."
The office also takes passport photos for $7 each, but does not process passports themselves.
"Safety is important while vacationing, especially on cruises, so passports are important," she said. "Always be observant because there are thieves that take advantage of travelers. Use your military training to be aware."
The leisure travel office is open Mondays through Fridays, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Bldg. 5700, Rm. 130 and walk-ins are welcome.
For more information on summer vacation deals and discounts, call 255-2997 or visit www.ftruckermwr.com/lodging/leisure-travel.