Originally published on thriftynomads.com.

By Jen Avery

As of 2016 there are approximately 18.8 million military veterans in the United States. Almost 1.5 million are still on active duty. That’s a lot of veterans! If you’re reading this, you might be interested to know that there are a ton of benefits out there geared toward veterans. As a travel-obsessed military veteran myself, I’m here to help you navigate the sea of military travel discounts and outright freebies awaiting veterans and their families.

First things first: not all discounts apply to every veteran. A veteran is anyone who served in the United States Military or National Guard. A retiree either served 20 years in any branch of the military, or medically retired from service. In either case, they have a DoD issued “Retiree” ID card. Finally, active duty military is just what the name implies, currently serving on active duty. Some of the discounts below require proof of active or retired service in the form of an ID card, and some only require honorable discharge papers as proof of service.

So, ready to save? Here’s our ultimate guide to military travel discounts!

Free (or Almost Free!) Flights

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This spectacular benefit is available only to active and retired military with an ID card. This is probably one of the most underused benefits of serving in the military. These free flights are called Space-A.

How to get military Space-A flights

  • Step 1. Check out the Air Mobility Command Homepage to see where you can go (under the “passenger terminals” listed on righthand side)
  • Step 2. Be sure to “like” and “follow” the Facebook pages for anywhere you think you might be interested in. This step is absolutely necessary because most of the terminals post their schedule 72 hours out only on Facebook (then it is deleted for security reasons).
  • Step 3. Fill out AMC form 140 (found anywhere online), AND the Space-A sign-up request form, and email or fax both to the preferred departure terminal
  • Step 4. Keep checking Facebook until you find a flight you want. If you’ve already sent in your AMC Form 140 and travel request, all you have to do is show up, and wait for roll call. Happy flying!

A few things to consider when you’re flying Space-A; extreme flexibility is required. As a retiree, I’m in the lowest category, CAT VI, so I’m aware that I can be bumped from the flight at any time by active duty personnel (CAT I), even after I’ve taken my seat on the aircraft. Patience is also required. The flights can and often do change on short notice. However, if you time it right and avoid summer peak flights departing from the east coast, the reward is a flight that costs almost nothing.

For example, a flight departed from Seattle to Japan on Feb. 12, 2016, with 94 available seats, 43 of which were used. The total cost for that flight would have been $35. That’s not taking into account additional costs such as ground transportation, hotels in case you don’t make the flight, and food purchased on flight, but if you’re flexible and can handle the possibility not making the flight, what a deal!

Lodging Discounts

Choice Hotels offers a special rate to veterans, usually about 10 percent. Intercontinential, MarriottHoliday Inn, RadissonExtended Stay AmericaStaybridgeLa Quinta, Hilton (including Hampton Inn), Best Western, Motel 6Red Roof, and Starwood Hotels all offer discounted rates to military veterans. These are just some of the hotel chains that offer discounts to veterans. Many chains offer at least something. All you have to do is ask!

Additional lodging discounts are available with a Veterans Advantage card on everything from budget to luxury hotel chains. A list of participating hotels is available here.

Car Rental Discounts

Most of the major car rental companies offer discounts to active and retired military. The discounts range from 10 percent off to a free collision and damage waiver. This discount is usually reserved for active and retired military with an ID card, however some will accept proof of service in the form of DD-214 discharge papers.

The car rental discounts are too numerous to mention, but Budget, EuropcarHertz, SixtAvis and Thrifty are just a few. Almost every agency I’ve used offers a discount to military veterans. We rented a Budget truck for our move to Arizona and saved 10 percent off our rental, which was substantial for a cross-country move.

A Veterans Advantage membership can also give you access to additional car rental savings. A list of their rental car offers is available here.

Rail & Bus Discounts

Amtrak and Greyhound bus lines offer a 10 percent discount to military veterans. The Amtrak discount increases to 15 percent if booked with a Veterans Advantage subscription.

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