The bitter winter that has gripped parts of the U.S. has many of us yearning for a warm vacation.
Before you book a trip, visit some Web sites that offer discounts exclusively to the military community in partnership with military morale, welfare and recreation offices. As always, comparison shop to make sure you're getting the best bang for your buck.
The Armed Forces Vacation Club http://www.AFVClub.com">has just relaunched its site to make it easier to search for vacation rental deals.
No registration is necessary; it's free, and all you need is a military ID or proof of Defense Department affiliation.
If you don't have your heart set on a specific location, browse the available deals. You can search space-available rentals worldwide as low as $369 per week if you're open to going where the best deal is. You can also search through high-demand rentals that are more expensive, and stays from $59 a night. Or you can search it all simultaneously.
You can book online and complete the reservation transaction in three steps.
The Web site is operated by Endless Vacation Rentals by Wyndham Worldwide, in conjunction with the services' MWR offices. The deals offered are not limited to Wyndham properties, but there's a separate 10 percent discount off the best available rate for military families at participating Wyndham hotels and resorts.
You can also sign up to receive e-mail updates and special offers.
• An additional source of vacation ideas and discounts is available at the Government Vacation Rewards Web site through the military exchanges' online mall. Search for it on the pull-down menu for retailers.
This is a partnership with the Army's MWR command and, as always, it is open to any authorized shopper, regardless of service.
This site focuses more on cruises and resort vacations, as well as airline tickets and car rentals. You can search for deals by date of travel and by locations. Recent deals included a seven-day cruise to Mexico for as little as $57 a night per person and a Myrtle Beach, S.C., resort hotel for as little as $35 a night.
There are no booking fees, and the site has a "best price" guarantee: If you find a better price for the exact same resort, cruise or tour package on the exact dates of your travel, GVR will give you that price.
By booking through this site, you also earn reward points that you can use toward future travel booked through the site.
Membership is free, and by signing up, you'll receive periodic e-mails about deals and discounts.
It's also worth checking in fairly often with your installation's off-duty travel and tickets office to see what local discounts are available in your area.
Universal Orlando Resort in Florida has extended its free two-park, seven-day unlimited admission tickets for military personnel through March 26.
The offer is open to active-duty Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard members, National Guard and reserve members, and military retirees with valid military IDs. Active-duty and retired members and their immediate family members can also buy additional two-park, seven-day unlimited admission tickets with a valid military ID for up to $35 off the retail price.
Visit participating tickets and tours offices at military installations, or the Shades of Green Resort in Orlando.
Coupons on Facebook
Here's something that might convert even the most die-hard social media holdouts: Navy exchange coupons on Facebook.
Navy Exchange Service Command has expanded its Deal of the Day program to include exclusive coupons for Facebook fans.
A recent promotion running the entire last week of February included a coupon for $1 off Huggies Snug & Dry Jumbo Diapers; $1.50 off Baby's Choice Infant Formula; and $1 off Brawny paper towels. These coupons could be used in combination with other manufacturer's coupons.
To become an NEX Facebook fan, http://www.facebook.com/NavyExchange">go here.