If the military needs a spokesperson for its lodging facilities, I’m over here in Japan jumping up and down shouting, “Pick me!”
Despite being a huge fan of these facilities now, I started as a skeptic. I thought there had to be a reason they were so cheap. When we were newlyweds, my husband left for training and I stayed with him at the base’s temporary lodging facility for a few days. This trip deepened my skepticism with a shower I didn’t want to step foot in.
Then, while living in Monterey, California, I started hotel shopping for our family’s first trip to nearby San Francisco. I scrolled through one of the hotel sites for hours before realizing that hotels in the heart of the city are very expensive. Then, my husband mentioned the Marine Memorial Hotel. I replied with a sigh and an eyeroll, like a predictable hotel snob would. But eventually, I started quietly looking into it, never letting on that he might have a good idea.
I was surprised to hear that other military spouses in Monterey raved about the Marine Memorial Hotel. It ticked all the boxes: great location, clean, cool vibe and free breakfast. We stayed for two nights when we could’ve only afforded one anywhere else in the city (and that’s using “afforded” loosely). Plus, we ate a free breakfast with an awesome view! It’s nearly impossible to find anything else for free in San Francisco… except fog; there’s plenty of that.
That vacation was not an isolated incident. My family’s visits to the Hale Koa in Hawaii and the Dragon Hill Lodge in Seoul were vacation perfection. Both resorts house restaurants and convenience stores, host special events and can set up local tours for you. They are clean, and their location is unbeatable.
Other resorts, like Shades of Green near Disney World, Seward Resort in Alaska, Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Germany, and the New Sanno Hotel in Tokyo (which I get to visit in just a few months!) are on my short list. These are all available to make much-needed rest and relaxation trips affordable for military families.
A few years ago, on our cross-country move to Monterey, I was exhausted, and we still had to cross the Rockies and a desert before we hit the Pacific. I was out of patience, and the kids were out of movies and toys in the backseat. We were being overtaken by our dirty laundry in the back of the SUV. On night eight of our drive, we pulled through the gate of Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs for what I expected would be a less-than-relaxing night and a shower I may or may not want my feet to touch. My husband checked us in, then he drove us around to what looked more like a townhouse than a hotel room. I gave him a look like, “Don’t mess with me right now,” but he proceeded to unlock the door to a two-bedroom townhouse with a full kitchen and a washer and dryer. There were happy tears. I hugged the washing machine. That stay re-energized me for the rest of the trip.
Not all facilities are created equal, but the point is that it’s always worth a look. So, if you have travel coming up (or you want to have travel coming up), check out some of the military’s best kept secrets first. They may be on your route. They may be at your destination. Either way, you’ll save some money while you’re making memories with your family.