By Lizann Lightfoot
Sometimes my service member isn’t able to take a week of leave to go on vacation or visit our families. Instead, we save money and spend our time doing mini “staycations” on the weekends either on or around our base. The purpose of a staycation is to be a tourist in your home town. If you want to take some of the cost and hassle out of your summer activities, try these cost-saving military staycation ideas!
Go camping on base
Most military bases have a park or campground area that is only open to service members and families. This is a great location for your first family camping trip. You won’t have far to drive, and you can use the amenities like a playground, lake, or restaurant that are included on your base. Campsites have a low reservation fee but may need to be reserved months in advance, so plan ahead. Base campgrounds typically provide BBQ grills, fire pits, and picnic tables so you can enjoy a dinner followed by that summer essential: S’mores. If you don’t have many camping supplies, go to your base Recreation Checkout or Outdoor Recreation center. These offices are managed by MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation) and offer discounted rental prices on camping items like tents, sleeping bags, coolers, and lanterns to get you ready for your next adventure.
Visit the beach
If you are lucky enough to be stationed near the ocean, then you can spend a day at the beach on your base. Your only costs will be the food and supplies you bring with you. If you are more landlocked, consider driving to another military base on the coast. You can find affordable beach rentals at some of these lesser-known military beaches. Or, consider staying at a Navy Lodge. The Lodge is like a hotel but at much more affordable rates only available to military families. Most locations give visitors access to a pool and other base amenities. In locations like Coronado, CA, you have beach access right outside your room. . . with a view of the much pricier Hotel Del Coronado less than a mile away. Be sure to make your reservations in advance: Bases with a Lodge or beach-side cabin rentals are often booked months ahead of time.
Get discount tickets from ITT
The ITT (Information, Tickets, and Tours) office on your base has discounted tickets for hundreds of local attractions and activities. No matter where your base is located, you can get tickets at your ITT office for locations across the country, such as Disney World, Disneyland, Busch Gardens, Six Flags, Sea World, and Legoland. ITT offers special military pricing that may not be available online or at the gates of these theme parks, so it is worthwhile to check prices at ITT before planning any big trips. If you are staying in your local area, ITT sells discounted tickets for sports events, zoos, shows, dinner cruises, concerts, movie theaters, or group tours. We have used ITT discounts to plan family day trips and date nights or to save money on local tourist attractions when family members visit us. They also have great ideas for local activities like discounted wine tastings at vineyards or haunted walking tours of historic towns.
Take a trail ride
If your base has stables, check into their options for trail rides or evening trips. This can be a fun outing for the whole family if your kids are old enough. . . or save it for date night. Military families can enjoy discounted rates on a memorable summer experience.
Other staycation amenities on your base might include bowling, the movie theater, the swimming pool, a paintball course, a golf course, or a rock-climbing wall. Choose the activity that works best for your family.
Use Blue Star Museums
From Memorial Day until Labor Day, Blue Star Families provides free admission to military families at more than 2,000 museums across the country. Visit children’s museums, art galleries, natural history museums, and more. This is a great way to make family memories at very little cost. Visit their website to learn about Blue Star museums located near your base.
Lizann Lightfoot is an associate editor at Military One Click and a Marine Corps spouse. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.