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We all need an escape from 2020. How do we plan a convenient, safe, and socially distant one, that also fits within our military schedule and financial budgets? This year is many things, including the year of road trips. It is an excellent time to look at the great outdoors and make a getaway plan utilizing a road map and a fantastic military discount.
America the Beautiful
The National Park Service America the Beautiful pass covers entrance fees and standard day-use fees at national parks, wildlife refuges, and federal recreational lands. More than 2000 sites across the United States are part of this benefit. The pass covers fees for the driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle. Children under the age of 15 are free. The most beautiful part of the discount is that the annual pass is free for current U.S. Military members and dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Reserves, and National Guard. To obtain your pass, present a military ID card or CAC at the site where passes are issued.
Connect the Dots
Not sure where to start? Take a look at the park list and think about a day trip, road trip, or overnight staycation near you. It is easy to connect the dots with a map and the list of sites closest to your location. National Parks are so much more than just parks. They include seashores, monuments, lighthouses, wildlife refuges, and historical sites. Let’s take a look at the five largest military bases to see how easy it is to plan a staycation near you.
Fort Bragg is the largest military installation in the United States. Within North Carolina, over 20 parks, monuments, seashores, forests, and lighthouses are available. Each of these is within a five-hour drive of Fort Bragg.
Are you stationed at Fort Campbell? There are 18 sites in Tennessee within a five-hour drive, and some as close as two hours. Within Kentucky, there are 25 sites in driving distance, and some are under two hours. Within your backyard, you can access forests, caves, lakes, mountains, and historical sites, including the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln.
They say Texas is like a whole other country. Coming from Fort Hood, you have access to over 40 sites. Lakes, rivers, forests, seashores, wildlife refuges, recreational areas, parks, and historical sites are all within the Lone Star State. Big Bend National Park is an eight-hour drive from Fort Hood, while South Padre Island Seashore is five hours away by car. If historical sites are more your speed and long road trips aren’t for you, the San Antonio Missions are only two hours away from Fort Hood.
Moving westward to Washington state and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, you have over 25 sites to choose from for your great outdoor staycation plans. Forests, mountains, wildlife refuges, parks, wilderness centers, volcanic monuments, observatories, lakes, and historic sites are all at your fingertips. Most are less than four hours away by car.
If Fort Benning is home for you, many great things await in Georgia and Alabama. You will find wildlife refuges, battlefields, military parks, seashores, monuments, recreational areas, and national forests. Most of these are accessible within two hours, while others are a four-hour drive. Alabama, on the other hand, also has forests, lakes, and wildlife refuges to share.
The Great Outdoors
Now more than ever, an escape to the great outdoors has new appeal. Being outside allows us to more easily socially distance and remain safe while still enjoying some family rest and relaxation. As military families, we are road trip experts. We can utilize our PCS experiences and skills to reframe the road trip fun.
Consider camping or renting an RV. Select MWR offices rent camping equipment for your convenience. You can plan dinners on the barbeque and lunch picnics, or campfire smores with songs and ghost stories. Hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, fishing, and exploring are a few fun ways to exercise. Are you worried about entertaining the kids in the car? Think about going old-school and putting away the electronics for a while. Remember travel bingo games and the license plate name game? Or, have the kids create a road trip playlist. Make the pit stops fun by trying new foods at each location.
As military families, we are tired and need a break. A road trip offers a family, military, and budget-friendly, getaway option that will provide a much-needed change of scenery. There is nothing like the great outdoors to refresh the mind, body, and spirit. Take yourself, your family, your pets, and get outside to see all that “America the Beautiful” has to offer!
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