Friday, July 13, 2001

Affordable resort vacations for active military, retirees

Active duty military and retirees can stay seven nights at a condominium resort on an space available basis for $234, because of an agreement between the Army Morale, Welfare, and recreation (MWR) and Cendant Corporation.

The Armed Forces Vacation Club (AFVC) accesses inventory at privately owned resorts and makes condos available to the military community at this discounted flat rate when owners aren't using them. While most of the resorts are timeshare properties, the agreement between the Army and Cendant states that there is no obligation for AFVC users to attend a timeshare sales presentation.

Since the program began in late 1998, military families have booked more than 11,000 vacations, generating more than $222,000 in rebates used to support MWR activities.

Army retirees are automatically eligible to use the AFVC "Space A" rental program. There are no membership fees or dues.

Retirees call a toll-free number to a central reservation center and book a stay at one of hundreds of resorts in the U.S. and around the world. Available resorts and dates are posted daily on the AFVC web site. To visit the site, go to www.offdutytravelcom, click on "Great Travel Deals" and then click on "Armed Forces Vacation Club."

The web site also contains instructions for making reservations. The most popular feature is the "Search for Availability" section where you can search by country, state, or city to review thousands of vacation opportunities.

If you don't have access to the Internet, more information is available from Army MWR ticket and tour (ITR/ITT) offices on most Army installations. Installations that market the AFVC earn cash rebates from each reservation, so be sure to give the installation name and AFVC-assigned ID number when making a reservation. AFVC-assigned installation numbers can be found on the web site or obtained from the installation ITR/ITT office.

Don't live near an installation and don't use the Internet? You can still use the AFVC by calling the reservation center at 1-800-724-9988. Tell them you are "a first-time AFVC caller, account number 7033-00000." A vacation counselor will take your name, address and phone number, assign you an individual account number, and help you find a vacation opportunity. To make a reservation, you must have a credit card and pay at that time. You will receive a written confirmation in the mail.

Remember, the AFVC is a "Space-A" style lodging program. At these privately owned resorts, this means that owners have priority. Once owner requirements are met, inventory is available for AFVC use. Since owners use their resorts less frequently in off-season, most availability is in off-season, in areas that may be overbuilt (like Canary Islands, Hungary, and parts of Mexico), or available on short notice.

Cendant also provides military discounts to join OffDuty Travelers Advantage, a members-only travel agency that offers guaranteed lowest fares for air, cruises, and vacation packages plus a 5 percent cash-back for all travel purchases.

The military price is $30 per year; the general public cost is $69.95. OffDuty AutoVantage Gold is a national auto club offering emergency road service, towing service, trip planning, and special members-only discounts. The military program costs $50 and covers all family members, the general public cost is $79.95. Both programs pay a 10 percent commission to the MWR fund designated by the member at joining.

(Reprinted from Issue 2, Army Echoes).