Taking a road trip or traveling with your kids can be really challenging. I always suggest having a packing list and making sure you are prepared well in advance before your journey. The military provides a unique opportunity for military families to travel both CONUS and OCONUS.
Personally, we’ve taken advantage of bad duty stations and made them great by traveling within the local area. We’ve seen and done things I could have never imagined doing like visiting the Great Sand Dunes National Park or staring in awe at the architectural feat of building Mount Rushmore. With these journeys comes some challenges from the littlest members of my family. Kids make travel both entertaining and meaningful, while at the same time extremely stressful and anxiety-inducing.
As I’ve said before traveling with kids can be a challenge. However, to help alleviate some of the difficulties in traveling with kids I’ve turned to military lodging to make parts of the journey easier. It isn’t always feasible to stop at a military base but there is a fairly good chance you’ll drive past one. For instance, we stopped at F.E. Warren AFB on the way to Rapid City, SD (which also has a base Ellsworth AFB.).
I decided, whenever possible to stay in military lodging because of a few things. First, there is always a Base Exchange, Commissary, Shopette, and Gas Station. We use these services while on a road trip to stock up on snacks, get diapers if we need them and get a little bit more affordable gas. I know that all of these services will always be on a military base albeit the service of each facility is subjective to the mission of the base. It just makes it a little easier for us, that way we aren’t consulting a GPS service attempting to find a Walmart or Target. Additionally, we know the products and in general where to find them at an Exchange or Commissary. It also makes it feel a little bit like home because of them.
Second, lodging on military bases is often pretty affordable as we all know. In most cases lodging hs relatively new, this is not always the case but in my experience, a lot of the Air Force Lodging has recently been renovated. In general Air Force Lodging is clean and roomy, most definitely roomier than what you’d get at a comparable hotel off base. I have to say I’ve been highly impressed with Navy Lodges as well. Often times they have granite sinks, kitchenettes, and comfy beds. To add to that IHG hotels have been popping up on Army bases which make the quality of the lodging a lot better than it was when the military was in charge of it. These hotels are specially called IHG hotels, however, off base, it can be a number of chain hotels such as The Holiday Inn Express, Candlewood Suites, Staybridge Suites, and Historia Collection. IHG hotels participate in a rewards program which, guess what? The military can take advantage of when staying at an IHG hotel both on and off base.
The third reason I choose to stay at military lodging when on road trips and sometimes when traveling internationally, is PLAYGROUNDS. Even, if we choose to skip staying the night at military lodging on our road trips, I’ll make an exception to stop at a military base just for the playground. Due to the privatization of housing, a lot of the playgrounds have been rebuilt and are fair quality. I take some time to stop at the food court at the Base Exchange and then let our boys run around at the playground for a bit before we hit the road again. Naturally, this works better when we are staying at military lodging. However, stopping at a playground on a military base gets all the wiggles out and makes continuing on your journey just a little bit easier.
Finally, I am a travel agent and as such, I take it upon myself to always do a TON of research before any trip we take. I will always check to see if there is a Blue Star Families museum at one of our stops. I consult the ITT website at the base we stop at to find any events my family would be interested in or to pick up discount tickets to a local attraction.
Generally, stopping at a military base makes traveling with your kids a lot easier. There are so many amenities that make it worth a stop. These amenities are ones you are more than likely already used to from your duty station. You can except the same quality of rooms and in the case of IHG you’ll enjoy a free breakfast. Naturally, I wouldn’t say go completely out of your way to take advantage of a stay at a military hotel. However, I would really encourage you to stay at one if it is on the way. You really have nothing to lose!
Dina is a coffee loving veteran, military spouse, and mom to boys. A travel advisor and family travel journalist. She shares her love of travel and helps families plan dream vacations. Let Dina help you book your next family adventure by visiting her at lilyandmagnoliatravel.com