Join the military, they said. See the world, they said. Well, so far, you’ve seen exotic places like Minot Air Force Base, N.D., and Fort Irwin, Calif. If you’re ready to see more of the globe, you may want to consider Space-A travel.
Space-Available travel is one of those military perks that seasoned spouses refer to and new spouses don’t always understand. There’s an even bigger chance your service member has no idea about it and won’t really care to explore it until retirement, if you go that route.
So, as usual, the travel planning falls on you. And being the brilliant military spouse that you are, you go to a trusted source: another military spouse. Don’t worry, we’ve got you. There are tons of seasoned travelers out there who know the ins and outs of flying this way. We’re going to share a few things that don’t always top the charts though.
Here are some little known facts about Space-A:
1. It’s not open to everyone.
This one is hard to hear sometimes. We all have these grand notions of hopping on a plane and heading to Italy for the summer while our spouse is in the field, but that’s not quite how it works. The only people eligible for a Space-A flights are military ID holders. You can’t bring your cousin, your college roommate or even little Johnny’s neighborhood friend. You also can’t bring anyone who isn’t your dependent. So, you can’t travel with that awesome teenage nanny whose dad is in the military because they aren’t your dependent.
2. It’s not even open to all military ID card holders.
True to military form, it keeps getting more complicated. On the list of those who may have an ID card but aren’t allowed to use Space-A are widows of a service member (active or retired), Reservists or National Guard members, and — wait for it — dependents of a sponsor stationed CONUS and not deployed. So, basically, you cannot travel without your service member when you are stationed stateside, unless they are deployed.
3. They will ask you your weight.
When the incredibly young person working the terminal desk asks how much you weigh, do not take offense! Of course, the plane has a max weight, which includes all the military equipment and personnel, as well as you and your luggage. So be prepared to answer truthfully and pack lightly. While they aren’t quite as strict as commercial airlines, they do want you to stick to same guidelines of two, 70 pound bags per person.
4. The story behind 19 seats.
Frequently, you’ll see 19 seats available on flights. In fact, you’ll almost always see this. Here’s your trivia for the day: The rules require that a spot for a pallet be open for Space-A luggage for 20 or more passengers. So, by stating that 19 seats are open, they can load that plane up with as much military stuff as they need.
5. Paperwork is crucial.
You know how the military is about paperwork, so be prepared. When it comes to international Space-A flights, all of the same requirements as a commercial airline apply, and then a few more. Since you’ll be going through customs, everyone in your party will need a valid passport, even infants. DOD ID numbers are also required, and for kids under 10 who don’t have their military ID yet, make sure you write those numbers down.
6. Traveling alone may pay off.
Experts will tell you the best time to travel Space-A is when kids are in school. But, if you’re traveling solo — or even in a pair — you’ll get luckier than others. Seats are given out according to category and when you sign up, if you only need one seat, you may skip to the front of the line. Imagine this: There are 10 seats, the first person on the list is a family of five. The next is a family of four. One seat left. Lots of families in line. You just got on the plane. Win-win!
7. It’s not always free.
Many times, we hear from people about how much money they saved traveling Space-A. Yes, it can be a huge savings, but it’s not free. Forget the rental cars to go from Dover, Del., to BWI, Md. Forget the hotel room for the day you didn’t get on the flight. Even forget the last-minute ticket you had to buy to get home on time. The actual, international flight often costs money. On the chartered flights, referred to as Patriot Express or Rotators, there is a fee of $17.80 or $35.20 per person. CONUS commercial flights cost anywhere from $4 to $8.90 per person. And most of the time they want cash money.
Space-Available travel is an amazing benefit for military families. Many families use it to travel home from overseas when their service member is deployed. Some use it to plan very flexible European vacations. Don’t let these little-known facts discourage you; use them to your advantage and be prepared for an adventure!Read comments