4 Things I’ve Learned about Road Trips

I have received compensation from this post from TravelCenters of America. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Summer is here, and I was so excited to share that TravelCenters of America is partnering with NMFA {National Military Family Association} this summer. So it seemed like the perfect time for me to ramble on about how much I love a good road trip. It’s such a great opportunity to see places and spend time as a family, or couple. Whether or not you have kids, the road trips I’ve taken have been some of the greatest memories and so much fun!

1. Explore America Is Fun! I’m sure that it sounds incredibly cheesy…get out and explore our country!! But its so true. We take driving trips a lot, even before we had kids. You see things you might not normally see if you were simply flying to a destination, or driving straight through. If you budget right, look for deals, and save up it can be cheaper than any other trip. I know for us, flying out of the DC area can be a daunting thought process. Five people on an airplane….the cost is sometimes insane. But a drive somewhere is much less daunting. Taking advantage of living in a place where a couple hours drive can take you to one of four states.

Seriously though, isn’t it beautiful?!

2. Research.  Before we go out on our road trip we spend some time researching the route we are taking. Looking up local places to eat, must see stops in small crazy towns, and where all the Starbucks are.  Am I right?! There was a time where my hubby and I, in high school and college, looked up where all the Big 5 Sporting Goods along our route. Mr. Air Force used to work there, and we spent a lot of time there. So we collected business cards from Big 5’s down California and even snagged a few in Nevada. It seems silly, but its just a small fun thing we used to do. We also look up Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives food joints for any given location. We haven’t been to one that was a dud and it is always some really fun, locals only, non-chain kind of place.

chilling out and all packed in for our East Coast or Bust move!

3. Road Trip Early With Your Kids! Lets face it, road trips are just easier without young kids. But I will say that it is so important for you to travel with your children from a young age. I know that it isn’t the easiest thing to think about doing. But biting the bullet and going for it was one of the best things we did. I know that some babies just hate to be the car, especially facing backwards. My poor friends that have experienced this, I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. As soon as you are able to start getting them used to long trips do it!

Letting the kids get some wiggles out during our West Virginia Road Trip 2012!

4. Be Prepared! For the times you do want to travel with your kids, its important to pack right. Relying on technology alone to get through a road trip is, in my opinion, is missing the opportunity that a road trip provides and isn’t healthy either. Its good to break up the time, especially if you are going to be on the road for a long time; but come up with other cool options to keep kids entertained. Choose an early morning departure time, or time it so a good chunk is taken up with a nap time, make frequent stops and brush off your old-school car game knowledge. Check out my travel board for some of my favorite kid-trip games with free printables!!!

And just in case you might be planning a road trip this summer, why not use that opportunity to give back to an amazing cause! TravelCenters of America has joined with National Military Family Association to give back to military families this summer. How can you help you ask? Well, its probably the easiest way to make a difference, simply eat!

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 I love seem large companies take the time to give back in some way. For TravelCenters of America its important to give back to our service members and veterans. “Nearly one in three truck drivers is a military veteran,” noted Tom O’Brien, President and CEO of TravelCenters. “These brave individuals served our nation in the armed forces and continue to serve by safely delivering goods across our country.”

So while you’re planning your road trip, between now and August 5th, consider stopping by Travel Centers of America!

What’s the best road trip you’ve ever taken?

Happy Road Tripping!!!!

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Military Monday – Communication is Magic with #VonageBox

 Communication in the military world can be a tricky thing, however modern technology is continually making things easier and easier.  And grand entrance stage right – the Vonage Box!  When Vonage approached me I didn’t know much about them.  I mean I understood the general idea but not much more than that.  When I heard more about them and that they were specifically hoping to reach out to Military members and their families it was thrilling for me!

So let’s take a look at what Vonage has to offer for service members and those that are military-connected.

It’s clear to me that most obvious benefit to a service like this would be most deployment situations and overseas pcs’.  The ability to chose a local number to where a majority of your friends and family are and then keep said number no matter where you go and how many times you move is priceless.  There are definitely other options out there.  Most of us have used Skype, and there’s Google+.  If you have an Iphone you’ve got facetime.  There are also other internet compatible phone services out there like MagicJack.  What they don’t have is the reliability and customer service.  Granted you might not be able to see each others faces like on some of the other products I mentioned; but sometimes a simple and reliable phone call is exactly what you need to breathe a sigh of relief.  You made the connection with your loved one, across states or maybe even continents.  Let’s break down and look at some visual comparisons (I’m always better at those anyway).   These are what really got me excited about sharing this with you guys!

Do you see all those orange checkmarks? That is the sign of an amazing product.  Vonage World gives you the ability to call over 60 countries!  All of the major duty stations are covered – Italy, United Kingdom and Germany.  Even unusual locations you might find yourself sent to for things like Embassy duty are covered – Turkey, Mexico.  While there are only 10 countries covered with the mobile plan, my guess is that will be growing; plus, with the ease and price of the VonageBox it would be easy to go that way if you needed.

I’m excited to use the Vonage Box more.  I’m rather lucky to have lots of friends across the world and I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to speak with them more and without the cost I would usually incur to do so.  I think that not only is this a wonderful aid for Military-connected people all over the world, but for friends and family separated by country for other reasons.  These days it is incredible how global our society has become.  If anyone had told me that I would have friends living in Spain or England I would have probably thought you were nuts; and those people aren’t even military.

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Military Spotlight – Military Town Advisor

This past May I had the awesome experience of attending the Military Blogging Conference in Arlington.  It was amazing and I met so many wonderful people.  One of the absolutely wonderful people I met was the absolutely darling Cameron from Military Town Advisor.  Seriously, she is sweet and darling and has come up with an amazing and cool website.  Something I wish I had known about before we started looking to move.  I’m thankful we were lucky and ended up in a wonderful neighborhood, but seriously, how do you know for sure when you are going anywhere?  Areas vary from street to street, and you never can tell whats up until you are there, or you send someone to wander the streets of the area you move into.  Real Estate people can’t really ever tell you the down and dirty and unless you are moving on base, the area around the base might be a crap shoot.  Thankfully now there is Military Town Advisor, your one stop shop for all the information you need in your neighborhood.  I recently just submitted my own review of the last neighborhood we moved out of and it was super easy.  I will continue to submit reviews concerning neighborhoods that I’ve lived in.  So, without further adieu, let me introduce you to Cameron, a fellow Mil-Spouse.

How I came up with the idea of MilitaryTownAdvisor.com:
As newlyweds, my husband and I were stationed in Kingsville, Texas. I was new to military life and the only information I knew was that we were either going to a base on the East or the West Coast. I immediately began researching both coasts and attempting to gather as much information as possible. I quickly learned that the majority of information that can be found on the internet about towns and areas are tourist guides and statistics about the demographics of the area. Or I would go on Facebook and ask other military families and they always suggested areas that were good for their lifestyle not areas that fit my family’s needs.   I ended up discouraged and resigned to the fact that I could not go any further in my research until we received our orders.
When we got our orders and were headed to Virginia Beach we spent seven days looking for a place to live. We contacted a realtor and she started showing us homes.  She took us all over Hampton Roads and didn’t really listen to our needs.  This took up a lot of time and we wanted to buy a house all in a week’s time frame. Needless to say, we were extremely nervous about picking a house in the right area. Luckily we found a house in a great area, close to the base, with good school districts; however, this was not the outcome for many of our fellow military families. Some of our new friends chose homes far from base where it may have been more cost effective, but they ended up regretting being so far from the activities that are centered around the base. Also, others chose neighborhoods that were close to the base but did not end up feeling safe in those areas, especially during deployments. As each new family told me their storythe concept of MilitaryTownAdvisor.com was born. I knew that military families were the best resource for other military families. I understand the uncertainty and fear that can come with a quick move to a new part of the country, the lack of readily available information, and the need for each of us to be able to learn from each others’ missteps and successes.
How this site is unique: First, all of MilitaryTownAdvisor’s content is written by other military families in the form of reviews. It’s like TripAdvisor for military towns!  The reviews focus on neighborhoods, areas of towns, and schools.  Military families are different than other home buyers because they aren’t looking to purchase their ‘dream’ home. They want their families in safe, family friendly, social neighborhoods that are in good school districts and within a decent commute to base.   Military families are willing to give up ‘dream home’ extras for a good neighborhood. The site is a way for other military families to share their knowledge about where to live.
How to use the site: When you get your new orders, go to MilitaryTownAdvisor.com and search for reviews near your base. Read the reviews and make note of neighborhoods that fit your family’s lifestyle and needs. Then contact a realtor or go to sites like MilitaryByOwner.com and start looking for homes in those neighborhoods.
How we met: My husband and I met at Texas A&M our senior year. We shared the same major and started dating. After school was out, we both moved to Houston and my husband began working for his family and I worked at a bank.  After experiencing the ‘real’ world and being unsatisfied, my husband decided to fly for the Navy. We married and moved to Kingsville, Texas for his advanced training in jet aviation.  We both are Texans and have enjoyed moving around with the Navy, but hope to move back to Texas one day where we can have grandparents close by to help raise our kids.

About me: I graduated from Texas A&M University with a BA in Finance. I played Division 1 Soccer for Texas A&M all 4 years, in addition to being in the Pi Beta Phi sorority. I worked for a Comerica Bank in Houston for 3 years, then was a 5th Grade Math Teacher in South Texas (while hubby was in flight training), then once we were stationed in VA Bch, I have worked as a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep for GlaxoSmithKline for the past 6 years. I launched MilitaryTownAdvisor.com 6 months ago in Jan 2012 while having and infant and a 3 year old.
Upcoming: I am the ‘Resource of the Week” on Amy Wife Network Talk Radio http://www.armywifenetwork.com/ Listen to the show at 8pm (i go on about 9pm) Monday July 16th, 2012!!
Current Promotion: For the month of July, we are donating $1 for every review left on the website to Operation Homefront!

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