12 Ways to Have Fun as a Military Family (Without Breaking the Bank!)
By Lizann Lightfoot, The Seasoned Spouse
SpouseLink Guest Blogger
It’s important to spend fun time together as a family so you can bond, relax, and create shared memories. This is especially important for military families before and after deployments and during PCS moves.
While you may not be able to afford an expensive vacation, there are plenty of simple ways to enjoy time together. The list below shows ideas that are available on most military bases and fit in any family budget. Some can even be enjoyed without the service member taking any leave days! So go ahead and soak in some family time this summer. The whole family will thank you!
1. Go bowling.
Most military bases have a bowling alley, and they all offer discounts to military families.
Or, your local bowling alley will do if you’ve got one in the neighborhood! Call ahead to see what days offer the best deals for your family. Then enjoy an afternoon of bowling (and air conditioning).
2. Catch a movie.
The base movie theater typically offers shows for just a few dollars per person, much more affordable than the cineplexes off base! Go to a kid-friendly matinee in the middle of the day for the best deals, and enjoy the discounted snack bar too.
3. Spend a day at the pool…
Your base probably has several swimming pools, either in Housing communities or near the base gym.
Call ahead to see which ones are available for free swim (since some are reserved for lap swimming only.) Many base pools are free to military families, so just bring your ID card and a picnic lunch to enjoy some fun in the sun.
4. Or visit the beach!
If you’re lucky enough to be stationed near a beach (I’m talking to you, Navy and Marine Corps families!) then there is probably a beach on base or within driving distance. These are free for military families to use, and are often much less crowded than a public beach. Pro tip: even if you aren’t stationed near a beach, you can drive to the nearest coastal military base and stay at a beachside campsite or cabin for a huge discount. This makes an easy and affordable vacation. Call ahead for reservations.
5. Take a walk in the park.
While there are probably many parks and hiking trails located near your base, don’t forget that active duty military get free passes to any National Park site. This includes hundreds of parks and historical sites around the country. Check out a complete list here and plan your next family getaway.
6. Gather some neighbors.
Military housing communities can be welcoming, friendly neighborhoods, but during PCS season there are many families who come and go.
Whether you want to host a backyard BBQ, smores in the driveway, or a street-wide bike derby for the kids, summer is the perfect time to hang outside and get to know your neighbors. Get the kids involved making invites, choosing a theme, or shopping for supplies. Then spread the word and get ready for some low-key neighborly fun.
7. Plan a water battle or Nerf fight.
If you want to get the whole family involved in some memories you’ll be laughing about for a long time, then look no further than your garden hose or your collection of Nerf guns. Either fill up buckets with water balloons or hand out Nerf bullets. Then get ready for some crazy outdoor family time.
8. Take a family bike ride.
Dust off the bikes, pack a picnic, and look up some bike trails near you.
You may discover a new park, playground, or even a historic site along the way. Biking is a great way to exercise together while enjoying scenery and sunshine.
9. Catch a concert.
Many towns host an outdoor concert series in the summer, which may include music, fireworks, or movies. Often these public events are free or offer a military discount. Check with your base Family Center or MWR office to learn more about local events and how to get tickets.
10. Go camping.
Nothing will make you bond as a family like a weekend sharing a tent in the woods, away from all technology!
If you don’t have your own camping supplies, you can rent them from the base MWR or Outdoor Recreation office. You can find great rates at State Parks or National Parks.
11. Explore your local town.
Not every military base is located in an exciting location. But every base community has something unique to offer. Let the family members research and suggest interesting local events. Consider shopping downtown at local businesses, finding a new restaurant, or checking out a local festival or celebration.
12. Plan discounted daytrips.
The best source of military discounts will be your base ITT (Information, Tickets, and Travel) office. They offer exclusive ticket discounts that aren’t available on websites.
And your base ITT office can give you tickets to attractions across the country. So whether you are planning a day at a theme park, a local sunset cruise, a winery tour, or a big vacation to Disney, always start with ITT. They also have hundreds of brochures for lesser-known attractions in your local area.
These ideas will keep your family busy and happy for the rest of the year! So whether you need a quiet break after a deployment or a few hours to chill during PCS season, bookmark this list for a dozen simple ways to enjoy family fun.
Lizann Lightfoot is the Seasoned Spouse, a military wife of 12 years who has been with her Marine through 7 deployments, 5 PCS moves, and the births of their 5 children. She writes books and blogs for the military community with a focus on sharing encouragement and resources. Her newest book, the Ultimate Guide to Deployment, helps prepare military families for upcoming deployments. For more information, visit www.SeasonedSpouse.com.
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