For many busy military families, vacations can seem like a distant dream. Although it would be great to take a road trip across the country or spend few days at the beach, finding the time between work and family obligations can be a real challenge. Luckily, in the military community, families have a built-in opportunity for a vacation with every permanent change of station.
Why vacation during a PCS?
Whether you use the trip to visit family or friends between point A and point B, or you plan to make a pit stop in a place you've never been, a PCS may just be the perfect time to get out and see the world. Here's why:
- More time off — When you combine your vacation leave with house-hunting leave and other travel-related time off, you may be able to take more time off than you normally would.
- Cost savings — With the cost of some travel expenses covered by per diem and other moving allotments, an otherwise budget-busting trip may now be affordable.
- Timing — Once you've settled into your new home, work commitments and deployments might make it difficult to plan a vacation. The time between duty stations may be the perfect time to spend together as a family.
- Fun for the kids — While the move may not be an easy sell to kids — especially older kids — a fun-filled vacation could help sweeten the deal.
- Rest and recuperation — A vacation after a busy pack-out can give you some time to relax and recuperate before you tackle the next part of the move.
Ideally, you should start planning a few months — or at least a few weeks — in advance. Good planning is key to pulling off the perfect PCS-inspired vacation.
- Do your research. Take a look at your travel route and research potential vacation spots. Are you interested in a beach vacation? Do you want to visit a national park? Let everyone in the family have a hand in the planning.
- Confirm your dates. By setting your plans in motion far enough in advance, you can be sure work at your current installation will be wrapped up in plenty of time for you to hit the road. Check that your travel dates don't conflict with check-in at your new installation or the arrival of your shipment.
- Set a budget. The article "Housing Allowances for Service Members" has a section on relocation and travel allowances, which will help determine what expenses are covered with your PCS and what expenses you'll be paying.
- Book ahead. Military lodging tends to fill up quickly, especially during high PCS season. Use MilitaryINSTALLATIONS to find contact information for lodging facilities.
- Pack up. Make a list of the items you'll need for vacation and be sure to keep those items safely packed in your car or at a neighbor's home when the movers are packing your belongings. That way, you'll be certain these items don't get accidently shipped.
- Think twice about moving yourself. If you're planning a personally procured move, also called a PPM, keep in mind that making several stops might be more complicated. While it isn't impossible to vacation during a PPM move, you may need to make storage arrangements for your belongings.
Ideas for great PCS vacations
With military installations scattered all over the country, and all over the globe for that matter, you have lots of choices. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
- Take a road trip. Whether you're moving 50 miles or 500 miles, there are sure to be locations along the way that pique your interest.
- Explore your new area. Use this opportunity to get to know your new home. It may be especially fun if you're moving overseas or to a popular resort area.
- Visit family and friends along the way. This may be a great opportunity to visit old friends, visit grandparents or a meet your great aunt along the way.
- Visit a military resort or recreation center. Resorts offer first-class resort amenities at much lower rates and in places service members may be transferring to or from. Find out more in the article "Using Military Lodging Facilities for Leisure Travel."
- Take advantage of installation resources. Check out lodging facilities, campgrounds and other resources at installations along your route (visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS). Read "Camping Facilities and Rental Gear from Morale, Welfare and Recreation" for more ideas.
- Visit your installation's Information, Tickets and Travel for discounts. They offer information and discounted tickets for sporting events, shows, amusement parks, museums and more.
With a little planning, a little creativity and a taste for adventure, you can turn an otherwise humdrum PCS into a great vacation that will create lasting memories. Whether your ideal vacation is a couple of days on a quiet shore or taking in the historical sites in a bustling city, chances are you can find something that fits your taste, your budget and your timeline.