by Dawn Smith, MilitaryByOwner staff writer
With many PCS adventures behind us, I can look back and see, after the boxes were loaded and the keys were returned, the fun that followed our family as we made our way to the next destination. This is probably the only time I would ever accept a dare from my 7-year-old to try the “barf” flavored jelly bean at the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, California. I can tell you with authority, it was disgusting.
Admittedly, some cities were very hard to leave and I really wanted to stay, but the spark of excitement for a few days of fun-filled travel soothed the sting of separation. Although PCS papers have the power to change your geography in an instant, they also have an implied perk. There is almost an invisible clause inserted that suggests taking advantage of the transition and planning a few days of vacation.
One stress of moving is managing the costs involved. No matter how much the military pays us to move, there always seems to be more expense out of pocket each time we go. So it is important to plan how to achieve some well-deserved R and R before arriving at your new home. Military members have a lot of opportunities to take advantage of discounts and government rates. Here are just a few.
Use these budget-savvy tips wisely along the way and make life long memories.
Low Cost Transportation
- Not many people know that Amtrak offers a service to transport your vehicle. The Auto Train is an option if a cross-country trip is ahead but there is a lack of drivers available. This would be exceptionally useful if one parent had to drive multiple children alone. Train rides allow a lot more freedom and comfort than seatbelts in the back seat. I know families that have used the sleeper cars available and the kids were thrilled. Amtrak discounts their lowest fares for active duty ID card holders and their dependents for both the Auto Train and ticketed seats by 10 percent.
- Paths Across America is a website and outdoor guide to research information for recreational vehicle parks and campgrounds on military installations across the country. The site describes each location and distinguishes levels of amenities from the availability of water and electricity to cable television. Many locations promote access to staff members who can direct service members to MWR activities nearby, which may include admittance to base pools or information for scheduled tours in the area.
- The National Park Service is celebrating its 100 year anniversary in 2016 and is ramping up the festivities throughout this year. There isn’t a better time than a road trip to stop in and see one or two along the way. Military members are eligible for free entrance passes. You don’t have to just see the touristy sites like Yellowstone or Yosemite. There are 407 national parks to choose from, which means there is one closer to you than you think.
- Golf is a favorite pastime for many military members and their families. Luckily, there are two websites geared toward making those golf games a little less expensive and easier to schedule. Birdies for the Brave partnered with Quicken Loans to provide discounted or free tickets to PGA events throughout its season. Military Tee Time is a free one-stop booking website administered by Leading Points Corporation and The Golf Channel. It searches more than 8,000 courses for reduced fees up to 15 percent, in addition to tee times.
- Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vettix) supplies military families with free and discounted tickets to sporting events, concerts, performing arts, and family activities throughout the United States. Vettix works with major sports teams, leagues, promoters, organizations, and venues to provide inexpensive fun, perfect for a PCS road trip.
Oldies but Goodies:
Don’t forget these standbys. I continue to mention these because the deals are so great that everyone in the military should take advantage at least once.
- Visit Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) or ITT (Information, Tickets, and Tours) programs on base. These offices handle Leisure Travel Services which in turn sells the coveted and heavily discounted Disney attraction tickets. But the discounts don’t end there. Look for reduced tickets for museums, water parks, and other amusement and entertainment options. The lists are regularly updated for availability.
- Armed Forces Recreation Centers (AFRC) are fantastic resorts for respite in Hawaii, Florida, Germany, and South Korea. They provide great relief when traveling in a foreign country with prices that are very reasonable because they are based on pay grade.
- Anheuser-Busch continues its Waves of Honor program for free admission into its family of parks: SeaWorld in Orlando, San Antonio, and San Diego; Busch Gardens Tampa and Williamsburg; Sesame Place Langhorne, Pennsylvania; Aquatica, San Diego, and Adventure Island, Tampa. It’s a one park per year access for families of four.
- MilitaryByOwner Advertising works with Expedia to provide discount hotel stays through its affiliate PCS-Lodging. PCS-Lodging specializes in locating hotels and other lodging options near military bases throughout the U.S.
Although the barf Jelly Belly wasn’t a favorite highlight of the trip, it was unforgettable and that of course is the point in vacationing while on a PCS move. Make every moment count and collect memories to hold you over until the next set of paperwork comes your way.
P.S. If food factory tours happen to be your thing, I highly suggest the Ben and Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, Vermont. No barf flavored items there!
Now Read… PCSing With Older Children