People walking outside

Summer Dilemma: Enjoy Down Time or Pack the Schedule?


Summer officially arrives in just a few weeks, even though scorching weather across the country says it’s already taken hold. Families are wrapping up the school year, eager to be rid of homework and school lunches. They’re also planning how to fill the days with day care, summer camps and grandparents’ visits before back-to-school events kick off again. And, of course, many military families are also preparing for a PCS.

Summertime is challenging for parents to balance quality downtime with obligations like cross-country travel to family reunions. In my experience, the best way to enjoy summer is to pair non-boring downtime at home with a hefty dose of activities and adventure. You can achieve both; you just need to pre-plan and take advantage of military family-related resources. Half the fun for me is planning and researching how we’ll enjoy our free time away from work and school.

Inside of the museum

  1. Have a fun staycation or explore your hometown. Enjoy sleeping in and staying up late without a schedule to keep! Summer is the best time to bend a few rules and plan something entertaining at home or in your area. Who says downtime can’t be relaxing and fun?
  2. Plan inexpensive games and activities at home. Try a few of these if you want a budget-friendly summer bucket list.
    • Splash into fun in the water by washing cars, bicycles and outdoor toys
    • Plan a night in a backyard tent and make campfire food
    • Paint small rocks and decorate your garden
    • Take a walk in the evening and count fireflies
    • Have a dance party
    • Build a blanket fort
    • Learn to bake a summer berry pie
  3. Research the MWR on your nearest base. You might be surprised by what type of adventures they offer, like golfing, swimming, camping and more!
  4. Explore your hometown. Every town, no matter how small, has unique features. It’s time to play tourist and enjoy activities in your neighborhood.
    • Check out the programs at your parks and recreation centers
    • Head to the library to learn a new skill, attend story time or make a craft
    • Visit ice cream shops or other interesting small businesses
    • Tour a local museum
    • Go to your chamber of commerce or tourism center for walking tours and city maps
    • Try a throwback activity like roller skating or watch a classic movie at a drive-in theater
  5. Leverage out-of-town travel resources. Life doesn’t necessarily slow down in the summer if you’re a military family. It’s the easiest time of year to travel and catch up with family and friends. Many military families also add vacation plans to their summer PCS routes.
  6. Look at some of the vacation resources the military offers. They could save you money and help with hard-to-find amenities like pet-friendly hotels.
    • American Forces Travel is the perfect first place to start if you want to plan a true vacation. It offers savings on rental cars, airfare, hotels, cruises and custom vacation packages.
    • MWR Recreational Lodging offers accommodations ranging from true hotels to resorts and campgrounds. Make sure to reserve early. These accommodations are popular during PCS because they’re affordable and have more space than traditional hotel rooms.
    • Blue Star Museums provide a cool respite from the heat and humidity while offering families free entertainment and learning opportunities.
    • America the Beautiful passes satisfy summertime wanderlust with free access to national parks nationwide. Go for a day trip or plan for an extended stay. Many parks have lodging options onsite.

Outdoor concert

You don’t have to choose between long, dull days at home and hectic weeks on the road. Plan and take advantage of military access and discounts. You can enjoy a summer that’s equally relaxing and adventurous.

Written By Dawn Smith
Army Spouse

Dawn is an experienced military spouse and freelance writer. When she isn’t writing, her teen daughter, Army husband, and Golden Retriever keep her busy with dog walks, home upkeep, travel planning, and chauffeur duties.

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