Deployment schedules have a way of moving unexpectedly. Deployment timelines can be adjusted for maintenance, personnel schedules, and a wide variety of operational concerns. This makes planning a vacation either pre or post deployment very challenging and incredibly stressful. Time, money, and family schedules are all thrown unpredictably into the mix in order to create some much needed family time together.
Family vacations and experiences around deployments are very important. This advice applies to planning a vacation before a deployment and planning a vacation after a deployment. Additionally, a vacation might be a series of day trips and not a traditional vacation. Here are a few tips to help plan a relaxing vacation that can be adjusted when schedules and a high degree of variability are the norm.
Family Vacation Planner Tip #1 – Stay Within 1 Day Driving Distance. By deciding ahead of time your trip doesn’t involve flying, you can remove what could be a huge financial burden. Flying is a huge stressor even when it is planned and there is very little that can be done to save money when you have to apply a change fee to multiple tickets should deployment dates change. Instead, look for vacation destinations that are up to 400 miles or less from your house. Draw a 400 miles circle around your house and you will be amazed at the possibilities.
Family Vacation Planner Tip #2 – Create a Standing Plan of 2-3 Destinations. Having a standing plan of 2-3 different locations is another great idea. Maybe one amusement park location, one National Forest, and one major city destination is the best combination. If I am planning a vacation to Colorado, then I would have a plan for a minor ski area (great lift ticket prices), one trip in Denver, and another around Rocky Mountain National Park. This way, you can pre-plan hotels, activities, places to eat and more. When the date is finalized, you spring to set the plan in motion.
Family Vacation Planner Tip #3 – Look At Off Season Discounts. Off Season discounts are another great idea to save money. Go to see the Atlantic Ocean in the winter, visit a ski resort in the summer. You will be amazed at all there is to do and enjoy the lack of crowds and savings.
Family Vacation Planner Tip #4 – Keep The Bags Pre-Packed. Packing the family can be a hassle and can even be a multiple day activity. Instead, keep some bags out and pre-pack them. That way, when the timeline is finalized, you can pack a few last minute things and be out the door.
Family Vacation Planner Tip #5 – Set, Monitor & Do Not Exceed the Budget. When plans change, the temptation may be to just get to the vacation destination, and the budget may suffer. Instead, stick to your budget. Having a plan to drive, deciding on possible multiple trips to go on that are pre-planned, and having everyone’s things packed can relieve a great deal of the stress. Instead, if one destination is now too expensive, pick an alternate, or call your original destination and tell them what you will pay, the hotel or Bed & Breakfast may accept your offer.
Family Vacation Planner Tip #6 – Give Yourself + / - 30 Days From Deployment Dates. Anticipate that the deployment dates will change at least 30 dates from the planned departure and the planned return. With this in mind, you can schedule a few day trips as a family activity and then save the longer vacation to when the dates are more likely to happen.
Deployment arrival and departure variability, especially the final days, will probably never change. Variability in deployment dates seems to be part of the U.S. Military and the best way is to have plans that can be adapted, plan to drive, keep multiple options open, and look at off season discounts for bargains. Staying on a strict budget is the best way to keep stress at bay.
Have a great trip!
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About the blogger:
Chad Storlie is the author of two books: Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and Battlefield to Business Success. Both books teach how to translate and apply military skills to business. An adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at Creighton University and Bellevue University in Omaha, NE. Chad is a retired US Army Special Forces officer with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab. In addition to teaching, he is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and Manugistics. He has been published in The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and over 40 other publications. He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.
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