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By Carol Church

Every military couple knows how important it is to reconnect, get away, and spend a little special time together, especially after a service member returns from deployment or before the service member departs. It’s especially crucial for parents of children, who often are so focused on their kids and their needs that they can forget to nurture their own bonds.

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Unfortunately, as we know, it can be tough to find the time, space, and most of all, money to make this happen. This doesn’t mean that couples should give up on their efforts to get away together, though! Read on for some budget-friendly ways to connect that won’t empty your savings account.

  1. Visit a destination spot in its off season: A ski resort in summer? The beach in winter? Yes and yes. Many vacation areas that have a spendy “on season” are still trying to make a buck in the “off season”—but prices are quite a bit lower. There’s often still plenty to do and the area is still lovely. Plus, no crowds.
  2. Go camping: If you haven’t been camping since you were a kid and think of it as lying in a tiny tent on a thin foam pad, you may be surprised by how things have changed. Many state parks now offer very nice cabins, yurts, lodges, and other interesting options (or tent pads and backcountry sites, if that’s more your thing.) With the benefit of renting gear cheaply through the Equipment Rental office on base and bringing your own food, this can be an awesomely inexpensive option.  
  3. Wait till the very last minute: With the military lifestyle being what it is, this may sometimes be more of necessity than an intentional choice—but it can work in your favor! Hotel rooms and even flights sometimes drop drastically in cost at the last minute. Try Google Flights, Hipmunk and Hotwire for last-minute plane and hotel deals. Don’t neglect airline and hotel websites, either.
  4. Try a staycation: If you’re like most of us, you know there’s plenty to do and see in your own town that you just never seem to get around to. This can be especially cheap if you stay in your own home (without the kids, if possible!)
  5. Go Grouponing: You may have dabbled in Groupon when a deal for a restaurant or other opportunity in your area came to your attention, but did you know you can use it to specifically search for current hotel, restaurant and attraction deals in your area? This method of “preshopping” for a specific planned trip can eliminate a common problem of buying Groupon deals for “sometime” and failing to use them before they expire.
  6. Don’t forget about ITT: The military’s Information, Tickets, and Travel service on bases has a ton of amazing info on attractions, hotels, and trips in your areas, and they can help you get access to special reduced military prices on a vast array of options. (Look for info on individual ITT offices in the Morale, Welfare and Recreation section of base websites.)
  7. Check out a cool Airbnb not far from home: Have you ever spent some time browsing the Airbnb listings within a couple of hours of your home? Sure, you can try the more conventional home rental sites like VRBO or Flipkey, but Airbnb, a more casual, unique, and personal “rent someone’s home” site, tends to have options that are both less expensive and a lot more interesting (tipi or hammock under the stars, anyone?) Watch for cleaning fees and read the reviews, but you’ll usually be able to find something for quite a bit less than a hotel.

Most of us won’t be able to afford a luxury getaway to Hawaii, at least not often. (Even if we could, our retirement accounts might not appreciate it!)  The good news is that couples can find enjoy special time together in so many ways. With a little planning and creativity, these getaways can cost less and still be very memorable.