Hello, summer, hello outdoor adventures -- and hello spending more than you had intended on a place to stay.
Or, skip that last part and do what we do: check out the military's recreation areas.
Located all over creation, the military services all maintain a variety of recreation areas and campgrounds for authorized users -- that's anyone who can use MWR services (active duty and families, Guard and Reserve member and families, retirees, 100 percent service-connected disabled vets, Medal of Honor recipients, surviving spouses and families). At some places it is wise to make a reservation. In theory, however, all you have to do is show-up to be able to use it.
But how - oh how - do you know where these campgrounds and recreation spots are?
Fun fact: the Air Force has 36 recreation lodging locations with over 500 cabins and about 100 fixed-RV sites, according to this release. Also: there are 71 family camps with thousands of RV hookups and tent sites.
There are a couple wonderful things about Air Force campgrounds.First, the price. Although most of these campgrounds make you call them to find out the price, you can bank on it being somewhere around $25 a night for RVs and $10 a night for tents, with a slight price increase if you want full hookups for your tent.
Then, there's the location. Air Force bases have a habit of being in some of the nicest places and, on the flip side, some of the pokiest places in the U.S. That means no matter where you are traveling -- coast or interior -- you're likely to find an Air Force base not too terribly far out of the way. If you're trying to travel on the cheap, those bases might just be your ticket for a decent campground and a hot shower for a low price. Score.
There are also a few warnings about Air Force campgrounds.If you've ever stayed in a military campground before, you've likely looked around at the RVs there and thought "huh, it looks like these people actually live here all the time."
That's because they do.
While the Air Force claims to have a policy that does not allow people to stay in one camping spot for more than, say, 30 days, many of the campgrounds don't actually enforce it.
So what does that mean? It means that if you are traveling by RV and think you are going to get a spot at an Air Force campground without a reservation, or think that you'll be able to make a reservation last minute, well ... you're wrong.
For tent campers, you might find that the tent spots aren't actually marked. When they say "dry camping," some of the campgrounds actually mean "pick a spot in the dirt and that's your campsite." That means the tent "spots" don't ever really fill. But it might also mean that it can be hard to figure out where to pitch.