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Fun Vacation Spots During a PCS

Wednesday, May 27, 2015
When my daughter was in 6th grade she was the recipient of the Daughters of the American Revolution Award for History. In her acceptance speech she stated, “Of course I know history; my dad has dragged me to every battlefield that he could think of since I was born.”  

Sound familiar? What military kid doesn’t have a long list of military battlefields he or she has visited during every PCS they have been through up to age 18? It’s a rite of passage and a pretty normal military family experience. 

Most military families that I know “vacationed” during PCS moves. Memories for millennials that grew up as military children consist of summers spent in minivans packed to the gill with suitcases, boxes, and a backpack for each child full of travel must haves – coloring books, Gameboys, comic books and the Bernstein Bears stories. And when you weren’t PCS’ing, you visited grandma and grandpa; or they came to visit you, because after all, you lived in exciting places. 

But today’s military family sees the traditional definition of a vacation as essential to their wellbeing. This isn’t surprising when you consider that for the past thirteen years military families have taken family vacations after lengthy separations due to deployments. And guess what? It was fun!  

Today, vacationing for vacation’s sake is the norm, not the anomaly. 

Luckily, many opportunities exist now to help keep the cost down. The National Parks offer free annual passes to military servicemembers and their families. The pass, called America the Beautiful, provides pass holders access to all National Parks and Federal Recreation Areas in the United States. 

America the Beautiful passes are available to all U.S. Military members and their dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard and also, Reserve and National Guard members. 

The pass must be obtained in person at a Federal recreation site by showing a Common Access Card (CAC) or military ID (Form 1173). 

It covers entrance to Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service sites that charge Entrance Fees, and Standard Amenity Fees at Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation sites. 

It admits the pass owners and any accompanying passengers in a private non-commercial vehicle at per-vehicle fee areas, or the pass owner and up to additional 3 adults at sites that charge per person. The pass does not cover or provide a discount on extra amenity fees such as camping, boat launch or interpretive fees. America the Beautiful passes must be presented with valid military ID are non-transferable.  

Pass holders have access to some of the most beautiful national treasures in our country, such as Little Big Horn Battlefield, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Great Smokey Mountains, and Cape Hatteras National Seashore. For a complete listing of all the sites available with this pass visit the following website: http://store.usgs.gov/pass/military.html 

In addition to enjoying perks at America’s National Parks, Active, Guard and Reserve military personnel and their can now visit more than 2,000 “Blue Star” museums across the country free of charge. The Blue Star Museum Program is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 2,000 museums across America from Memorial Day, May 25, 2015 through Labor Day, September 7, 2015 - See more at:http://arts.gov/national/blue-star-museums 

Armed Forces Recreation Centers (AFRC) offer first class accommodations at affordable prices. AFRC resorts provide an array of affordable and wholesome vacation opportunities exclusively to military service members, their families and other authorized patrons of the Total Defense Force. Resorts can be found in Hawaii, Germany, Korea. The Shades of Green Resort located on Walt Disney World Resort in central Florida is also a participating location! For more information about AFRC, visithttp://www.armymwr.com/travel/recreationcenters/ 

So what are you waiting for? Pack up those suitcases, grab the kids and hit the road. Happy trails!