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The Best Travel Deals for Essential Workers and First Responders

From tropical escapes to cozy cabins in the woods, here’s how COVID-19 heroes can save on some well-deserved R&R.

To say that essential workers need a vacation right now is the understatement of the year–if not the century. And a lot of travel brands want to do what they can to help essential workers get some much-needed R&R. From international brands like Disney and Hilton to locally owned boutique hotels, the travel industry has responded with special deals and discounts. Most are available only to first responders and healthcare professionals, but a handful are also open to educators and other essential personnel. Here’s a roundup of our favorite deals. Please review all COVID-19 travel restrictions before booking.

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Mission Bay Resort

WHERE: San Diego

Located just minutes from top San Diego attractions like Sea World, Old Town, and the San Diego Zoo, the newly renovated Mission Bay Resort welcomes first responders and their families with a 15% discount. Use promo code DFIRS to book through the resorts website. Proper identification (military badge, hospital ID) is required upon check-in.

With customized spa treatments, poolside cabanas, and bonfires on the beach, the Mission Bay Resort offers plenty of ways to rediscover your zen or burn off stress with a game of tennis or volleyball. Explore Fiesta Island, Tecolote shores, and other surrounding natural areas by bike, kayak, jet skis, or stand-up paddleboard, all available to rent on site.

INSIDER TIPAsk the concierge about specially-priced tickets to the San Diego Zoo.

 

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AmaWaterways

WHERE: Select European locations

AmaWaterways is showing its appreciation by offering complimentary European river cruises to frontline medical heroes. The deal is available to all active medical personnel, including pharmacists, hospital staff, and lab technicians, when accompanied by at least one paying guest. It’s valid for cruises embarking through the end of 2021, but don’t wait, staterooms must be booked 90 days in advance.

River cruises provide an up-close-and-personal experience of the European landscape and culture. Sail down the Rhine or Danube on AmaWaterway’s small, luxuriously appointed vessels, past medieval villages, hillside vineyards, and storybook castles. Along the way, sample local delicacies like Kolsch beer, Mosel wines, and Austrian pastries. The onboard dining is just as delectable; all of AmaWaterways’ European ships belong to the Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious culinary societies.

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Bayview Collection Hotels

WHERE: Camden, Maine

The Bayview Collection invites first responders to the seaside village of Camden, Maine, for discounted stays at any of its three boutique properties. Book directly through the hotel websites to receive complimentary room upgrades and up to 15% off the best available rates.

Built in 1893, the Lord Camden Inn is a fixture of the village main street, surrounded by restaurants, shops, and galleries. For an upscale, coastal cottage experience, choose the 4-diamond Grand Harbor Inn. Enjoy water views from your private balcony in any of the inn’s 10 rooms and suites. The newest addition to the collection, 16 Bayview, is a chic hotel housed in a converted brick industrial building, just a block from the waterfront. The crown jewel is the rooftop bar, with 360-degree views of the Camden hills and Penobscot Bay.

INSIDER TIPBook a room on the third floor of the Lord Camden for a chance to encounter the inn’s friendly, resident ghosts.

 

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Rental Cars

WHERE: Locations nationally

Teachers, nurses, and other essential workers belonging to participating labor unions can obtain major discounts (up to 25%) from major car rental agencies like Hertz, Enterprise, Alamo, and Avis. Access discounts and coupons using the customized search engine at carrentalsavers.com or credential-verifying websites like id.me.

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Choice Hotels

WHERE: Locations nationally

Choice Hotels are extending discounted Choice Cares rates to all workers and volunteers classified as Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers by the US Department of Homeland Security. In addition to healthcare workers and first responders, this includes mass transit employees, food service, and agricultural workers. Book up to nine rooms at these special rates at participating hotels.

Whether you’re taking off on a road trip, or jetting off to the tropics, chances are there’s a Choice hotel near you. Choice operates 7,000 hotels in 40 countries and territories. Its brands range from the budget, no-frills Rodeway Inn, to the trendy, boutique-style Cambria chain.

 

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Hilton Hotels

WHERE: Locations nationally

Hilton’s Frontline Thanks offer is available to military and medical personnel in the Americas and Asia/Pacific. Educators, social service employees, and other Key Workers are also eligible in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The offer entitles you to up to 25% off stays at Hilton hotels and resorts from L.A. to Dubai, as well as flexible booking to accommodate changing plans, and COVID-19 restrictions. You must be a Hilton Honors member in order to book, but it’s quick and easy to sign up online.

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Hyatt Hotels

WHERE: Locations nationally

Healthcare workers across the globe can take advantage of Hyatt’s Friends & Family rates on advance bookings through December 31, 2021. The offer is valid for up to two rooms per stay, for a maximum of seven nights. Input the code “THANKYOU” on the Hyatt website for savings of 15-40%. For example, the standard rate for a single room at the Hyatt Regency Chicago starts at $229 per night, but with the Friends & Family rate, the same room runs as little as $109 per night. Other participating high-end hotels include the glamorous, art-deco Hotel Martinez in Cannes, and the Great Scotland Yard Hotel in London. On the budget end are the Hyatt Place hotels in Old Scottsdale and Baltimore Inner Harbor, and extended-stay Hyatt House hotels Denver and Seattle area.

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Springboard Hospitality

WHERE: Honolulu, Hawaii

Essential workers can enjoy the endless summer in Waikiki, Honolulu, thanks to the Pacific Monarch (formerly the Aqua Pacific Monarch) and its sister hotels, the Hotel Renew and Waikiki Sand Villa. All located within easy walking distance of the beach, these Springboard Hospitality properties offer a 10% discount for healthcare workers and first responders. Even better, they are waiving their $25 daily amenity fees. Book directly through the hotel websites.

The Pacific Monarch, which boasts the highest rooftop pool in Waikiki, is the closest to the action. The smaller Hotel Renew caters to the sophisticated, health-conscious traveler (activities include astrology readings and beach cleanup sessions), while the budget-friendly Waikiki Sand Villa has more of a laid-back, vintage Hawaiian vibe.

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Cheap Caribbean

WHERE: Caribbean, Mexico, Bahamas, or Central American based destinations

Online travel company Cheap Caribbean wants to help essential workers get their groove back by offering exclusive “Hero” discounts to teachers, healthcare workers, and first responders. Receive a promo code for $150 off your next Caribbean vacation when you sign up for one of their professional “clubs”: Teach4Beach, ER&R, or Rescue2Relax. Promo codes may be applied to bookings of five nights or more. Browse packages by destination or interest. Choose from an “Adventure Vacation” snorkeling in Belize, or “Golf Vacation” in Puerto Rico. Cheap Caribbean also offers packages for different abilities; for example, check out the “Wheelchair Accessible Adventure” package in Turks & Caicos.

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Bear Creek Mountain Resort

WHERE: Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

The First Responder Recharge Package and Essential Worker Discount at Bear Creek Mountain give the overworked a chance to unwind amid 330 acres of hills, woods, and ponds, only an hour from metro Philadelphia. The offer is valid for 15-20% off the best available rates Monday through Thursday, making it ideal for an impromptu midweek retreat. The offer is not good during ski season (December-March) but Bear Creek Mountain has more than enough activities to fill your itinerary year-round. If you’re too worn out for mountain biking, ax-throwing, or kayaking, there’s also outdoor yoga, a full-service spa, pool, hot tub, and steam rooms. Book directly through the hotel website or by phone.

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Elk Springs Resort

WHERE: Gatlinburg, Tennessee

The Elk Spring Resort is treating “Hometown Heroes”–teachers, nurses, and other first responders–to a 10% discount on cabin stays. Just enter promo code WSHH2017 in the online booking system, and specify your profession in the reservation notes.

Your cabin at Elk Springs is anything but a shack in the woods. These are craftsman-style luxury retreats, each with its own individual character and amenities; for example, the 2-bedroom “Beary Cozy” features a hot tub with Smoky Mountain views, a stone fireplace, and game room. Beyond your cabin walls lies acres of Appalachian wilderness to explore–hiking, ziplining, whitewater rafting, and more. For the theme park version of the Great Smokys, head to the Gatlinburg strip, the only place on earth where you can eat a flapjack breakfast, climb the space needle, and play Davy Crockett mini-golf–all in one day.

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MSC Cruises

WHERE: Bahamas and Caribbean-based destinations

Celebrity billionaires aren’t the only ones who can escape to their own private islands. Swiss cruise line MSC hosts getaways to an exclusive tropical island–and it’s not just for doctors and nurses. MSC is extending the invitation to all hospital workers–office staff, cleaning staff, lab technicians, and even volunteers who lent their support during the Covid-19 emergency. Eligible workers receive up to 50% off on select cruises. Book by September 30, 2021, for sailings departing on or before April 30, 2022. Call to book: (844) 567-1578. This offer may be combined with other offers.

MSC’s private island, the Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, is a vacation fantasy–two miles of white sand beaches lined with palm trees, cabanas, and beach umbrellas, plus friendly MSC staff to serve you drinks or arrange a massage. All cruises departing from Miami and Orlando visit the island, which is exclusive to MSC passengers.

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Great Wolf Lodge Resorts

WHERE: Locations nationally

Howlin’ Heroes can save up to 30% on their next family vacation at participating Great Wolf Lodge Resorts. This exclusive discount is available to healthcare workers at 18 locations across the US. Apply promo code HEROES at checkout. Valid for stays through March 31, 2022. The package includes a suite for a family of four, family entertainment (storytime, PJ dance parties), and most importantly, passes to Great Wolf’s indoor water parks, where you can get wet year-round. Great Wolf’s imaginative water features appeal to all ages, from the Cub Paw Pool to the six-story Howlin’ Tornado water slide, and did we mention the adults-only hot tubs?

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Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort

WHERE: Orlando, Florida

What better break from the “real world” than Disneyworld? The Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort want to make your dreams come true by offering special appreciation rates of up to 25% off to medical professionals, first responders, teachers, and school support staff. Call toll-free, and ask for promo code NURSES RATE or TEACHER RATE. If booking through the website, check to make sure promo code ZTE or Y7N is displayed in the Corporate/Promo box.

 The Disney Swan and Dolphin are a short walk from Epcot and Universal Studios, and offer complimentary shuttle service to all Disney theme parks and attractions. There’s also plenty to do at the resort itself. The pool area is its own tropical paradise with five pools, realistic waterfalls, and grottos, surrounded by lush landscaping and a strip of white sand beach.

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Myrtle Beach Seaside Resorts

WHERE: South Carolina

At Myrtle Beach Seaside Resorts, it’s not just first responders, medical professionals, and teachers who are eligible for special rates, but homeschooling parents. Discounts are available at all six resorts, which share many of the same amenities–swimming pools, waterslides, lazy rivers, and ocean views. The Prince, Seaside, Avista, and Towers at North Myrtle Beach are located in mellower North Myrtle Beach, home of the legendary Carolina shag beach music scene. The Grand Shores and Horizon at 77th enjoy an equally tranquil setting along the Golden Mile beachfront. All six resorts offer fully equipped condo-style accommodations, ideal for large families and extended stays. Click on the name of your deal to be directed to the hotel’s online booking system.

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