Lizann posing for a photo on a beach in the Mediterranean.

Summer Vacations Unique to Military Families


As summer approaches, families across the country are making plans for vacations, getaways and travel destinations. But for military families, the summer travel season looks a little different.

Some of us are preparing for a PCS move, while others may be getting ready for a deployment. When many military families plan trips to visit relatives back home, they often travel across several time zones, and they may even make the trek from another country if they are stationed overseas!

Most of these trips shouldn’t really be called “vacations.” Sure, they involve travel, and can be quite expensive, and they all require the service member to be on leave. But does that make it a vacation for the whole family? Isn’t it time we had some other words to describe the many different types of travel that the military experience?

If you are a military family, you have probably been on several of the unique “vacations” from the list below.

  1. The PCS Adventure. This is the trip you take when you have to move across several states, so you make the most of it by turning the cross-country trek into a family “vacation.” We’ve all done this at least once, right? Maybe you added in a fun park or point of interest along the way to break up the drive, or perhaps you indulged and spent time at a resort location instead of sleeping on air mattresses. The PCS adventure trip is a fun way to make family memories while following military orders.

Lizann’s four children posing for a photo in Big Bear Lake.

  1. “Deployment-moon.” Maybe you’ve heard of a friend taking a “baby-moon,” which is one final vacation as a couple before a baby is born. Military families have their own version of this vacation. In the weeks leading up to deployment, the service member takes leave to spend some special time with their spouse — with or without kids. Whether you go to a family-friendly amusement park, check into a romantic hotel, or spend the time visiting relatives, this is one last attempt to relax and connect before the challenges of deployment.
  2. Family Visit Vacay. Speaking of relatives, let’s talk about all the times we use our summer vacation days to travel “back home” and visit family. Military families often spend thousands in airfare to spend a week sleeping on sofas or cramped in their childhood bedroom. If you’re lucky, you’ll get stationed close enough to drive home for a visit more than once a year, but the farther away you live, the more challenging it is to arrange a trip home.
  3. Change of Scenery Budget Trip. When you’re stationed in the middle of nowhere, almost any destination will feel more exotic than the small town around base! For a unique summer vacation, drive to another military installation and check into their on-base Inn or Lodge. Check out Navy and Marine Corps bases for beachside views! Many military bases have discounted campgrounds and outdoor equipment through the MWR office.
  4. Overseas Whirlwind Vacation. Military families stationed overseas are the closest they will ever be to exotic locations and foreign countries. Their OCONUS tour probably includes at least one crazy trip where they try to do and see all the amazing touristy things. Whether it is visiting castles in Germany, temples in Japan, or island-hopping in Hawaii, many military families enjoy traveling during overseas assignments. There are several DOD hotels in overseas locations with discounted rates for military families, and each one makes a unique vacation destination.

Lizann and her daughter riding camels on the beaches in Morocco.

  1. Taste of America Tour. If your family has ever been stationed overseas for a few years, you may have taken this trip during your assignment when you were longing for everything and everyone back home. It probably included riding a Space A flight back to the States, renting a car to visit family, and then enjoying the incredible luxury of American restaurants where you recognize everything on the menu. Be honest — you made a special trip to Target to stock up on supplies for the rest of your overseas assignment!
  2. Post-Deployment Reward. You’ve just completed a long deployment away from your family. What are you going to do next? You’re going to Disney World! (Or maybe Universal, or Great Wolf Lodge or whatever vacation destination your family prefers.) After spending many months — or even a year —apart, service members often reward their family with a trip they’ve all been looking forward to. It may take most of your deployment savings, but hey, you’ve all worked hard and earned it.

Lizann and her family in front of a white wall in Barcelona.

No matter what type of “vacation” your military family is planning this year, make the most of it, enjoy your time together and try to laugh about the many unique situations that are part of this crazy military life!

Lizann Lightfoot
Written By Lizann Lightfoot
Marine Corps Spouse

Lizann is the Seasoned Spouse – a Marine Corps wife, mom of four and published author. She loves writing, exploring new duty stations and chocolate!

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