By Skip Vaugh, USAG RedstoneMarch 17, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--Thinking about a vacation trip' You might want to travel first to the corner of Aerobee and Patton roads.
That's where you'll find the Leisure Travel Office in building 3711, the newly-renovated Community Activity Center. Before stopping by, call 313-0090.
Grace Bennett, senior travel consultant, is pleased with the renovation which included the addition of a waiting room for her office.
"It is an improvement and a half from what we used to have," she said. "I could not complain. I'm thrilled."
During the renovation, the office was at building 3400 on Gray Road from September 2009 until November 2010.
"I think business is picking up," Bennett said. "I think it's much better than it was at the other location since people couldn't find us. We just really want to make sure everybody's aware of what they have access to."
This includes cruise bookings, Disney packages (including hotel, dining and flights), all-inclusive Caribbean resorts for families and couples, Hawaii trips, European escorted package tours, hotel accommodations and car rentals.
Everyone who has access to Redstone Arsenal is welcome, along with their family members.
"This office is provided as a service to the Redstone Arsenal community," Bennett said. "Proceeds go directly back into FMWR (Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation) programs. There's no fee to use it. There's no fee for this service. It's completely free."
When people pay a cruise line for their trip, the cruise line in turn offers the travel agent a percentage. That money goes directly to FMWR. Bennett, an hourly employee, doesn't work on a commission.
"They don't have to worry about high-pressure sales," Bennett said of her clients.
She tries to get the best value for the customers, who number about 100 in peak months and 850 per year.
Bennett keeps track of State Department alerts and travel advisories. An added benefit for the customers is that the office is connected to the military's vast travel network. Bennett can draw advice from her counterparts throughout the joint services - the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard.
"I think that's a huge benefit because we have all that behind us, all that support," she said.
The office is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. People are asked to call first at 313-0090 to make sure someone's there; and if not, just leave a message. After this week, Bennett will be out for medical reasons until April so ask for Gail Glass.
"I'd like to just get the word out to what we offer," Bennett said. "I'd love to see it grow to where we need more than one person."
Advantages of using this office for leisure travel include the convenience and personal service.
Betty Sue Walters, who formerly worked at Redstone and is the wife of a military retiree, uses the Leisure Travel Office.
"Grace has booked several cruises for us," she said, referring to herself and her husband, retired Sgt. Maj. Wilson Walters. "She booked one for us year before last, then last year and this year. She's just very good.
"I think it's wonderful if people will take advantage of it. They have discount tickets at different places. If there's a possibility, she'll get discounts. And if the prices go down after she's booked a cruise, then she'll go in and get that price for us.
"It's a good thing if people will use it, especially since they've renovated it. It's beautiful since they've renovated it."