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Vacationing and the Military: Making it Work

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military lifeTaking a family, or couples, vacation is something everyone looks forward to. Weeks, perhaps months, of planning go into the perfect trip. The food, the hotels, the travel time, the costs. Then planning the days you’ll be gone. Taking time off work – just enough to leave, have a while there, and still come back to a day or so of recovery.

Sounds lovely.

When you’re in the military, it’s a bit different. We are still able to take vacations and go places, but there is always the chance of something happening where my husband has to stay. Not the “my boss called a last minute meeting” stay, but a “I have to go or I’ll go to jail” stay.

When we had over a month off in May, we chose to use some of that time exploring the nearby cities. What I didn’t know while busily making plans, was that without having a mileage pass approved beforehand, he wasn’t allowed to go further than 250 miles. Which was almost exactly how far we wanted to go, but had I not known that and not mentioned our miles to him, there might have been problems.

Your spouse is able to put in for leave ahead of time for a vacation or trip back home. His officers need to know where you’ll be staying while you’re gone in case they need to contact you. Your spouse will have to pick up his paperwork that grants leave before you can go.

Keep in mind that if something happens that they absolutely must have your spouse for, the military comes first. They most certainly will keep him there, and if he leaves to go with you anyway he’ll be considered AWOL (absent without leave). This is rare – leave is normally set in stone and takes something major to keep your spouse from going with you.

The best thing to do is be flexible and practical. If your husband was let out of a mission last minute, it might not be the best time to go anywhere. We’ve had many days where Sam comes home and says, “Never mind, I’m going anyway.” Buy travel insurance if your spouse not being able to go would cause a financial hardship or mean you can’t either. Have a way to get home quickly if needed. Stay where you said you’d be, and your spouse should check in every so often to make sure he’s not missing calls.

Above all, keep in mind that your life is dictated in many ways by the military too. The most important part of your spouse’s job is the mission and him being able to be in it.

What are your tips for planning a vacation?