Europe for sixty bucks: A Kentucky Guardmen’s budget vacation odyssey, Part II

Story and photos by Capt. Daniel Van Horn, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion 138th Field Artillery

(Editor’s note: Capt. Daniel Van Horn  and his wife Alleena discovered the benefits of Space A travel during their trip a few months ago to Europe.  We asked them to share their story with our readership and show how Kentucky National Guard members can take advantage of this sometimes misunderstood resource.)

Click here for part one.

Click here for more photos.

NOTICE:  Since publication of this article it’s been pointed out that M-Day Guard members (Category 6) have limited access to Space A travel.  Check with the Air Mobility Command and Space Availability travel website for complete information on whether you qualify.

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Vatican City. Space A only charged the Van Horns a total of $60 to get to Europe.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The following day we bought tickets on a “hop on, hop off” bus tour around the city of Rome, which saved our feet tremendously and allowed us to hit all the main tourist spots with ease. Our main point of interest was Vatican City, the world’s smallest independent state in the world encompassing roughly 110 acres and houses one of the world’s largest museums. With our flight leaving that night at 8 p.m.  We hastily finished the museum at 5 p.m. and began to make our way to the airport. By 7 p.m. we had boarded our three hour flight to Paris, and were able to catch up on some much needed sleep.

We met our International Business Program friends again and took a metro train with them to their flat near the famous storming of the Bastille which began the French Revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte’s rise to power. By this point, even with a bachelor’s degree in history I was ready to sit back and relax for a change. For the past week and a half we had run around to as many sites as possible and many people probably thought we were competing in the Amazing Race television show.

Through the next five days we toured numerous sites around the city such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Palace of Versailles, Arch de Triumph, and finally a three drive to Normandy where I found a new appreciation for what Soldiers went through some 68 years before during the D-Day invasion.

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The Van Horns at a world famous landmark. Note: a visit to Paris can reap unexpected dividends!

Heading home, adding up the savings … and a surprise souvenir!

Our five days quickly flew by and before we knew it we were saying good bye to our friends and departing back to Ramstein for our return flight home the following afternoon. I reflected on our trip and just how much we had accomplished. I kept a running total of how much we had spent and the results pleasantly surprised me. After five countries, airfare, rail tickets, car rentals, lodging, food, touring, and shopping, our total so far was only around $3,000.

Amazing.

Our departure from Ramstein the following day went without a hitch, and after we touched back down in Baltimore, I began to realize just how much we had really saved by using Space A. The same trip had we not used Space A and purchased tickets online would have been around $5,200. The door to Europe and many other destinations was suddenly open.

Without hesitation I leaned over and asked my wife, “Sweetie, what are our plans for Valentine’s Day?”

It wasn’t until we got home that we discovered an extra bonus as a result of our trip — we’re expecting our first child early this summer!

Yeah, it was the cabaret in Paris … and the wine.

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Contrary to popular belief, the Château de Versailles -- also known as the Palace of Versailles -- is not located in Versailles, Kentucky!

You can do it, too!

Alleena and I encourage any service member or retiree reading this to seriously consider taking advantage of Space A.  Information is readily available on the internet, which is how our trip began.  The process was easy, the customer service outstanding, and the experience exceeded our expectations. With approximately 79 destinations around the world the hardest part was simply connecting the flight schedules to create an itinerary.

The six categories of priority for Space A are as follows:

Category 1: Emergency Leave Unfunded Travel (usually Soldiers who receive news of a death in the family)

Category 2: Environmental Morale Leave (Soldiers on leave from an overseas installation with adverse environmental conditions)

Category 3: Ordinary Leave (Active Duty personnel on regular leave)

Category 4: Unaccompanied Dependents on EML (family members of Soldiers in Category 2 unnacompanied)

Category 5: Permissive TDY (Soldiers completing temporary duty)

Category 6: Retired, Dependents, Reserve, National Guard

Only active duty service members fall under categories 1-5 with category 6 reserved  for National Guard, Reserves, retirees, ROTC Cadets, and unaccompanied military family members.

If you are in a government owned aircraft, you will not be charged a fee. Should the flight be a commercially contracted flight, a small fee may be charged for meals and taxes (approximately $15-30).  Each passenger may carry two baggage pieces each weighing no more than 70 pounds each and a carry-on that can fit under the seat or in the storage bin, which made my wife quite happy.

And like the old saying goes, “If mama’s happy, everybody’s happy.”

Amen to that!

Click here for more information on Air Mobility Command and Space Availability travel.

Capt. Van Horn is happy to share more information on his Space A experience.  He can be reached at  502-607-1358, email: daniel.vanhorn@us.army.mil.

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