by Janine Boldrin
Mid-tour leave is a chance to relax during your deployment, but you can also use the time to re-establish bonds with your family and friends.
“I think vacations are necessary for overall health and wellness, but specifically for families to reconnect when life gets in the way,” said Julie Lanham, Professional Travel Planner with Vacations To Remember. Lanham is also the spouse and daughter of Army veterans. “A military family has an even greater need to bond and get away from life, responsibilities, and distractions since family time is often limited.”
Vacations can help you lower your stress and bring you closer to those you love, but only if you have a solid plan for that valuable time during the middle of a deployment. Need ideas for a trip? Try these:
Do this: Go to Walt Disney World! Does the idea of visiting Mickey Mouse make you think of long lines and crowded hotels? Don’t cross this family-friendly resort off your list so fast! You can create a magical vacation that will allow you to bond and chill with your family during mid-tour leave.
“Truly, no one does vacations like Disney and family togetherness and memories are at the core,” said Tara Lennox, a Disney Vacation Planner with Simply Magical Vacations. Lennox is also a military spouse who has taken many trips to Disney World with her own family. “There are so many little ‘magical extras’ from the ‘welcome home’ feeling we get from the cast members, the magical feelings of being in Mickey’s house, to the character and the special attention often given to military families.”
Avoid this: Going without a plan. Lennox recommends having an itinerary so you have time to focus on family time together.
“Specially at the parks there are numerous opportunities for togetherness from simply spending the day at a resort pool, dining with the characters, doing a dinner show, making special arrangements at events like Bippidi Boppidi Boutique or Pirate’s League, sharing a magic moment at one of the many firework shows or simply taking a boat ride,” said Lennox.
She added that recent changes and updates to programs may make planning for your trip a little more complex, so getting help is key to your stay.
“Allowing someone to assist in this planning gives you the freedom to get exactly what you want out of your vacation and family time without all the stress,” added Lennox.
Fireworks and crowds are a problem for some returning service members, so be sure to ask your planner to help you avoid some of the places and events at the park that may be of concern to you.
Consider this: Try a Disney Cruise Line vacation! While Walt Disney World Resorts can make for a great trip, a cruise may allow you to relax a little more during mid-tour leave.
“For me, it’s the perfect of combination of the magic of the parks. Warm welcoming people, fireworks, but less busy and a lot fewer people,” said Lennox.
Want to rekindle the romance?
Do this: Think all-inclusive. Resorts that include everything from food to entertainment to day excursions are perfect for the couple looking to relax and reconnect without having to worry about making a plan or paying as you go.
“The all-inclusive concept is an amazing way to travel. A vacation should be stress-free, and worrying about money and how much has been spent can really ruin that,” said Lanham. “Sandals Resorts are the perfect couples’ resorts where all of the fun and activities are geared towards couples in love. Even all of their hammocks are built for two. And they offer a military discount.”
Avoid this: Going too far away. Spending a lot of time on an airplane to get to a resort means more time traveling and less time together relaxing.
“Pick something within a couple hours of home. You don’t want a 10-hour flight mid-tour,” said Lanham. “Also purchase travel insurance with the package. As we all know, the military loves to surprise us. You don’t want to be hit with stiff penalties if you have to change the date because of a delay of R&R time.”
Consider this: Plan time alone. If you are traveling as a family with kids, but still want couple time, look at resorts that offer opportunities for kids activities and care.
“Mom and dad can relax while the kids are entertained. Beaches Resorts has amazing family activities as well as a childcare center, so everyone gets a vacation. Best of all, they offer a military discount,” said Lanham.
Don’t have money to travel?
Do this: Vacation at home. The staycation has become an overused word but saving money may be at the top of your list when it comes time to head home on leave. Instead of getting down about not going someplace new, think about how you can make the “usual” interesting again by focusing on building up your relationships with family and friends through local activities.
Plan a local “vacation” by making plans with a family member or friend who would like to reconnect. Ask each to find something they would like to do with you, like a lakeside picnic and tubing down a river, a hike at a favorite spot, or a trip into the city to go out for dinner and fun. Family and friends are often happy to offer their help in making plans with you, but sometimes you have to ask to get things started.
Avoid this: Making assumptions. Friends still have to go to a job while you are home. They also might be tight on money. Family may not think you want to be bothered with full days and may assume you want to relax. Be sure to communicate what you would like to do when you are home long before returning so everybody knows what to expect and can plan for the “vacation.”
Consider this: Look at free options! Some of the best things in life are free (for military)!
Visit National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands with a free annual pass, available to service members and their families. Check out some of the places that make America beautiful while reconnecting with your friends. Find out how to get your pass at store.usgs.gov/pass/military.html.
BLAST: Be a family that races together! Disney World offers couples and families the chance to run races together through their runDisney program at the resort.
Lennox ran her first Disney race with her husband after he returned from his second deployment. Now she has run a total of 11 of the races. They used the first race as a way to stay connected during the deployment by training with each other virtually across the miles, then finally running the race together at Disney World when he returned. Find out more at runDisney.com.
BLAST: Meet up in Germany? Edelweiss Lodge and Resorts’, located in the Bavarian Alps, offers a special package for service members and their families who want to spend their R&R together. Many military families decide to fly to Germany to meet their family member while they are on leave and explore Europe together. This journey creates wonderful family memories and brings you closer through the beauty of the area. Visit www.edelweisslodgeandresort.com/component/k2/operationrr for more information.