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With the winter weather taking over the Metro DC area, a lot of federal workers are starting to think about planning their next vacation. And for those who have kids, Spring and Summer breaks are quickly approaching.
Many government workers, however, are not aware of the multitude of great travel discounts that they can take advantage of, so here is a rundown of some of the best options to save on your next trip.
Most of the large hotel chains offer great discounts for government employees and they are very easy to find. Starwood Hotels (Sheraton, Westin), Hilton Hotels, Marriott Hotels (Marriott, Renaissance, Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn, Courtyard), Hyatt, Choice Hotels (Quality Inn, Comfort Inn, etc) and Best Western, all have an easily searchable booking engines where you can select Government Rate from the list of special rates offered.
Usually, the government has a fixed rate negotiated with the hotel based on the per diem rate in a particular city. In many cases, the government rate is a lot lower than the regular or AAA rates offered by that hotel, however, not all hotels offer government discounts on all dates.
If your travel plans are flexible, check out different dates to find ones where a government discount is available. In very few occasions and on last minute bookings, the government rate may be slightly higher than the regular rate, so do your comparison shopping before you book.
Government employees can book up to 2 rooms under the government rate for most hotel chains, which is great if you are traveling with family or friends or if you have older children who prefer to sleep in a separate room.
CruiseDealsforFeds.com is a web site created specifically for government employees. The owners of the site scour the internet and work directly with the cruise lines to find the best cruise deals for government employees. They send out a weekly newsletter in which they feature the best cruise deals of the week.
Government employees can save hundreds of dollars and also take advantage of limited-time offers like onboard credit, extra perks and group rates. In addition, on their website you can find the latest news about new ships and cruising advice.
One of the best values for cruising are the so called Repositioning Cruises. Departing every spring and fall, they are designed to move the ship between two continents. Cruises range from 12 to 20 days and can often be snagged for around $1000 per person or a little over $50 per day.
Most car rental companies offer federal workers some sort of discount, usually ranging from 5% to 20% off the regular rate. You can book directly from their website by selecting the government employee discount. Click on these links to be taken directly to the government discount page of each company – Alamo, Hertz, Enterprise, National, Dollar and Thrifty.
Because car rental rates can vary significantly from company to company, based on the size of the car, length of rental and and location, it is best to shop around to find the best rate. Unfortunately, websites that offer side-by-side comparison rates for car rentals, do not reflect the government discount but those can be a good starting point for your search.
Walt Disney World
While Disney does not offer any discounts on tickets, hotels or activities for government employees, you might still be able to get a government discount for your hotel stay.
It is a little known fact that Starwood Hotels manage and operate two of the most famous Disney World hotels – the Swan and the Dolphin. Since Starwood offers government discounts on select dates, if you are lucky, you may be able to stay at one of these two hotels at a fraction of the price. Keep in mind that you have to book through the Starwood website to get the lower rate and that government rates may only be available during off-season, less popular times of the year.
If you are planning a trip to Vegas, you may be surprised that some of the best hotels, right on the Vegas Strip, do offer discounts for government employees.
Caesars Entertainment (which operates Paris, Caesars, Bally’s, Flamingo, Planet Hollywood, Harrah’s and Rio Hotels) offers 10% government employee discount off their lowest rates, which can be combined with other offers and promotions. Tropicana Las Vegas also offers special government employee rates when you use code HGVT3. Cosmopolitan Hotel, one of the newest and most prestigious hotels in town, is part of Marriott Hotels and, if you are lucky, on select days you can get a government employee rate when you book through the Marriott website.
Sato Travel is a large travel agency, division of Carlson Wagonlit Travel, which is focused solely on servicing government and military personnel on official or leisure travel.
In many cases, you can find good discounts on package vacations, all-inclusives and hotels. However, it is wise to shop around before you book, because not all of their rates have a government discount and in many cases it is hard to determine which trip price reflects a special government rate.
Best “Bang for Your Buck” Vacations for 2018
With the dollar-to-peso exchange rate being extremely favorable for US travelers, Mexico is one of the most affordable destinations for a family vacation. Combine that with great weather, perfect beaches and a lot of history and cultural activities, Mexico is a perfect vacation spot for federal employees.
With a number of new ships coming in 2018, and offering a myriad of activities like car racing, surfing, laser tag, rock climbing and water parks onboard, cruises offer amazing value for anyone from single travelers to extended families.
Several of the new ships will sail out of New York City, only a few hour’s drive from Washington, DC where many federal employees reside. And for those federal workers who have accrued a lot of unused vacation days, there is a lot of value in choosing a longer cruise (12-21) days to explore Europe, South America or Asia.
The best thing is that you only unpack once but you can see as many as a dozen different destinations in one trip.
As a result of Brexit, the British pound to dollar exchange rate has become much better than in years past. Since the UK has long been a pricey destination to visit, now is the time to plan your trip. And with many US chain hotels offering government employee discounts in their properties in major UK cities, feds can be sure that their British vacation will not break the bank.