For most military families, a PCS can involve a lot of time in hotel rooms. Inevitably, you may get tired of the cramped quarters, rules about pets and limited cooking options. What if there was another PCS lodging solution? A way you and the family could stretch your legs and enjoy open spaces, relax in nature and cook over a grill or firepit?
During one cross-country PCS, our family spent a week camping in a tent and driving from one national park to the next. At first, it seemed like a daunting idea that might be more work than fun – especially since we were travelling with our four young children, who had never camped before! But once we got going, we quickly realized that this was a wonderful way to travel and make memories along the way.
If you are PCSing this summer, I recommend making camping part of your journey. Here are five reasons why:
- Save money. Instead of staying in hotels or in military base lodging, use your military ID to get free access to national and state parks (active-duty members get a free annual pass). You may pay a nominal fee to reserve a campsite, but the money you save on hotel rooms will more than cover the cost of camping supplies. If there are no national parks along your route, you can find affordable camping at local and state parks.
- Get more sleep. Because we were travelling with kids, one of our main concerns was finding a way for everyone to get enough sleep each night. If you have ever tried to get kids to settle into beds in a hotel room after a long day in the car, you know that it’s not easy. However, camping allowed our children to run around each evening, climb on logs and explore the campsite. Some campgrounds even had playgrounds! Once the sun went down, they quickly fell asleep. Without TV, we all went to bed earlier and got more sleep than we would have in a hotel room.
- See the country. A PCS is a great opportunity to explore states you have never visited before. What better way to plan your trip than by looking at a map of national parks? These are some of the most beautiful places in the country, with unforgettable scenery. Visiting parks will give you a new appreciation for any state, even if it is one where you have lived for several years. Get out there and see America’s natural beauty!
- Make it an adventure. Not only will you get off the beaten path but you will enjoy meals around the campfire and s’mores under the stars. Exploring new parks and trails will give you a sense of adventure that you don’t feel when driving down the highway. If possible, take some extra leave time to make it a leisurely trip, so you can spend a few nights at each park. This will break up the driving time with some relaxing down time.
- Get the whole family involved. If you have children, a camping trip is a great way for them to be a part of the planning. Get their input about places they want to see and things they most want to do. Whether or not you are experienced hikers, there are a variety of activities at any park: challenging hikes, easy family-friendly walking paths and ranger stations with hands-on activities.
Camping doesn’t have to be intimidating, and it may end up being a fun and memorable trip that your family will be eager to repeat next time – so consider it the next time you plan your move!