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Heading to the Open Road? Bring Your Military Atlas

Mandy Rebmann

Planning a family road trip? 

Your first stop should be your base’s PX to pick up your copy of United States Military Road Atlas.  Sold for around $20 in the PX or the book section of Clothing and Sales, this book is an invaluable source for the military traveler.  Just about everything you need to know about saving money on the road is in there. 

Our family loves to travel.  For me, nothing beats the freedom of the open road.  It’s not for everyone, but I love spending hours in the car seeing America. 

About a year ago, when our daughter was just over one, we took our first family vacation and visited the amazing state of California.  Wanting to hit as many of the major cities as possible in the nine days we were there, we planned a whirlwind tour starting and ending in San Francisco - the most expensive city for both housing and hotels, where even “cheap” hotel rooms can run you upwards of $200 a night. 

After a couple days visiting California’s truly awe-inspiring National Parks, Yosemite and Sequoia, we spent a couple days in Los Angeles then headed up the coast and flew back out of the city by the bay.

A 1,000 mile drive in nine days in a compact car with a one-year-old in the back?  It may not have been the best idea we’ve ever had, but we forged ahead. 

When it came time to plan, we went right to the atlas to plot our course.  In addition to all the usual information on the map, the atlas also showed us the location of all military bases.  Most bases have lodging available, which based on availability, can be reserved for leisure travel.  So instead of paying $200-$300 a night for a hotel in San Francisco, we stayed nearby at Travis Air Force Base and paid less than $70. 

The quality of the hotels varied from base to base, but ranged from acceptable to quite nice in some cases.  It took a bit of planning, and sometimes the bases we stayed at were slightly out of the way.  But,by using military lodging for seven of the nine nights, it saved us over a thousand dollars. 

The atlas is pretty easy to use. Once you determine where you want to visit, just identify a nearby base.  Then you can look up in the back of the book what recreation and travel options they have.  It lists other travel-friendly features, such as fitness facilities, food options, car rentals, and ticket offices.  We were able to get our tickets to Disneyland right at Travis AFB. 

And as it turned out, our daughter was a great traveler.  The only time she ever gave us any grief was in San Jose, at the Winchester Mystery House.  Apparently, a walking tour of an old Victorian house wasn’t the most fascinating thing for a one-year-old.  Who would’ve guessed?

Happy Travels!


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