It’s summertime and the living is … expensive. Whether you’re PCSing, traveling for fun, or looking forward to a staycation, we’ve got 21 military freebies to ease this season’s strain on your budget.
Military Freebies: Travel and Sightseeing
1. Free National Parks admission
Enjoy free entry to National Parks and/or the annual America the Beautiful Pass. Learn more and apply for a pass the next time you’re enjoying one of the thousands of federal parks across the country.
Eligibility: Veterans and active duty military
2. Blue Star Museums
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, thousands of museums offer free entrance to military families. This yearly opportunity can save you hundreds in ticket costs. Use this map to find participating museums near you.
Eligibility: Active duty United States Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy, and Space Force members; members of the Reserves, National Guard, U.S. Public Health Commissioned Corps, NOAA Commissioned Corps; and up to five family members.
3. Space A
If you have the time and a little bit of patience, Space A flights can save you boatloads (or should we say “planeloads”?) of cash. Get up-to-speed with our Space A explainer.
Eligibility: Space-available travel on DoD aircraft is permitted for certain categories of individuals, such as active duty and retired military members, dependents, DoD civilians, and other eligible travelers after space-required passengers and cargo have been accommodated. Eligibility varies based on the traveler’s status and circumstances. Travelers must have proper identification and documentation and meet any additional requirements specified in DoD policy. Space-available travel is allowed on a non-interference basis only and is subject to availability.
4. TSA PreCheck
Service members can use TSA PreCheck for free. What about military kids and spouses? Learn how to navigate this unique benefit.
Eligibility: Active duty servicemembers and children under 12 traveling with someone who qualifies for TSA PreCheck.
Military Freebies: Experiences
5. Camp Corral
Camp Corral gives Silver and Gold Star military kids a chance to be kids. The organization hosts Kids Summer Camps and Family Camps at locations around the country at no cost.
Eligibility: Children age 8-15 of wounded, ill, injured, and fallen service members.
6. Camp Yellow Ribbon
Camp Yellow Ribbon is a week of emotional support and play for military kids ages 7 to 14. While camp is free, there is a $50 registration fee.
Eligibility: Children of wounded, ill, injured, and fallen service members. See eligibility FAQs.
7. Operation Purple Camp
Operation Purple Camp is an entirely free camp for military kids. Spots fill fast, so keep an eye on NFMA’s announcements and apply immediately. If you missed out this year, mark your calendar for next summer!
Eligibility: Active duty and veteran military-connected children from all eight uniformed service branches are eligible to apply.
8. Operation Little Learners
Prepare your toddler for kindergarten with Operation Little Learners at your local Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA). Through parent-child interaction and coaching from experienced staff, you’ll learn how to best support your child as they grow.
Eligibility: Active duty military at select locations.
9. Military Teen Adventure Camp
Offered for free or at little cost, Military Teen Adventure Camp is held throughout the summer in seven different states.
Eligibility: Military teens (13-18 years old of Active Duty, Guard, Reserve, and Retired personnel).
10. Installation Opportunities
You might have a trove of free events and opportunities at your installation already:
- Youth centers may offer sports, music, and/or crafting camps and programs.
- Look for free movies and concerts held on or near your installation.
- You may have access to private beaches, trails, or other recreational areas.
- Your base library may participate in the DoD-MWR’s summer reading challenge. There’s a virtual option, too.
Eligibility: Active duty military.
11. HomeFront Equestrians
HomeFront Equestrians offers military families in the Massachusetts area free riding lessons up to twice a week.
Eligibility: Not clearly stated on the program website. Call or text (413) 813-9005 to learn more.
12. Military Kidpreneur Camp
This virtual camp gives teens the tools they’ll need to plan and pitch their own business by the end of the week. Campers are invited to monthly meet-ups after their experience, too!
Eligibility: Active duty, veterans, and retired military, reservists, and National Guard.
13. Project Sanctuary Therapeutic Retreat
Held across the country throughout the year, these events offer week-long experiences for military couples and families, pairing education and therapy with recreation. Attendees are responsible for transportation costs and a refundable commitment fee.
Eligibility: Retreats are open to active-duty service members, veterans, Guard and Reserve families from all branches of the military and all eras. All families, including the LGBTQ+ community, are welcome.
14. Vet Tix
Stability is crucial for military families, yet it can be hard to come by when PCS moves and deployments are the norm. Vet Tix is a charity organization that connects military families with free tickets to events. You can sign up for free and request access to events that interest you. The best part? As an ID.me member, you already have the ability to quickly prove your military status when you register.
Eligibility: Active duty, veterans (all honorably discharged members and retirees), Severely Wounded Veterans (Purple Heart), primary next of kin of someone killed in action, surviving spouse of service members with a service-connected death.
Military Freebies: Services and Products
15. Armed Services YMCA
You can receive an ASYMCA fitness membership at no cost. Membership includes 16 hours of free respite childcare a month. (If you don’t live near an ASYMCA, participating gyms offer 6-month memberships for free with the ability to renew.)
Eligibility: Active duty military at select locations.
Avoid the summer slide or enrich your child’s academic interests through online tutoring. Tutor.com offers free tutoring services for military children, personnel, and spouses.
Eligibility: Those who fund the program determine eligibility. Eligibility can change, and program availability is dependent upon the available budget and is not guaranteed. Apply here.
17. United Through Reading
Serving parents create videos of themselves reading books using United Through Reading’s app or their physical locations. Children receive the recordings and a free book so they can read along, shrinking the distance at storytime.
Eligibility: All branches of the military, regardless of duty status, including Veterans, for all types of separation including deployment, drill weekends, and duty nights. They also serve non-custodial parents, geo-bachelors, and the wounded, ill, and injured at medical facilities.
18. United Heroes League
Introducing the coolest nonprofit you’ve never heard of. United Heroes League offers free professional sports tickets, outdoor events, sports camps, and even top-of-the-line sports equipment to military families. They also have grant opportunities to help military families afford fees for local leagues.
Eligibility: Active military currently serving in the U.S. or Canadian Armed Forces, honorably discharged veterans who have deployed to a combat zone, or a service member with an honorable 20-year retirement and their children under 18 years old. All military branches are included and may apply.
19. Our Military Kids Grant Program
Eligible families with children ages 3 to 18 can receive grants to pay for sports, fine arts, and STEM experiences, camp fees, and tutoring programs.
Eligibility: Children ages 3-18 of deployed and stateside activated National Guard and Reserve service members, as well as those of combat-injured Veterans from any service branch.
20. Sittercity Membership
Snag a year of free premium membership to a search engine dedicated to vetted, hourly child care that meets your needs and your budget.
Eligibility: Anyone who is eligible for Military OneSource services. See detailed eligibility requirements.
21. Child Care Aware
This organization offers fee assistance to eligible military families as well as respite care. Use Child Care Aware’s database of branch-specific child care options to find exactly what you need.
Eligibility: Varies by service branch. See the Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood (MCCYN) website for details.
With all of these no-cost military freebies at your disposal, this will be the best summer yet!
Joanna Guldin-Noll writes one of the largest military spouse lifestyle blogs online, Jo, My Gosh! Her writing has been featured in national and international publications. She is currently the social media manager at Military.com and the co-founder of PILLAR, a free virtual deployment retreat for military spouses and significant others. Joanna lives in Pennsylvania with her Navy veteran husband John and her puppy Albus.