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“Do you want to meet me in Hawaii?”, words every spouse wants to hear as a six-month deployment comes to an end! When searching for ways to economically get to Hawaii during the holiday season, I contemplated using Space Available (Space-A) travel. While I was wildly researching the requirements, tips, and historical data on the availability of flights I could potentially catch, I discovered the travel Facebook group SpaceAtheWorld. SpaceAtheWorld has helpful tips for Space-A travel as well as personal travel testimonies of flying out of specific terminals and bases. My favorite part of the site is the willingness of the members to share their personal travel tips for the exact places you are interested in visiting. The collaborative positive environment will motivate you to take the chance of an adventure with Space-A!

“Shannon, founder of the Facebook travel group SpaceAtheWorld and a military spouse, took some time to share her incredible travel stories and the inspiration behind her Facebook group.

USAA Member Community Shannon Venice.jpg

Carnival in Venice, Valentine's Day 2017!  When your husband expects you to be subtle”

Tell me a little bit of your story. Did you grow up traveling or is this something you found a passion for later in life?

Shannon: While I did grow up traveling, the wanderlust, as it were, hit later in life for me.  It was a transition from "enjoying vacations" to really wanting to immerse myself in foreign countries and cultures. It started to really blossom after visiting my husband on a deployment to Curacao a few years ago.  I loved every second of it and it just sort of blossomed.  Within the past 18 months, I have now hopped over 30 times!

 

What was your first Space-A Experience?

Shannon: My first Space-A experience was last July, during a deployment of my husband.  This is when I decided to quit my job, homeschool the boys, and go where the Space-A winds took us.  I followed flights for months and had it figured that a hop from McConnell AFB to Mildenhall AFB would be the closest, most "predictable" hop for us to attempt.  I knew, without a doubt, statistically speaking, that we would make that flight.  We drove hours to the terminal and upon arrival, realized that we were not, in fact, making that flight; 7 seats were released for a probably 30+ passenger list.  It was full of OCONUS families attempting to return to England. 

 

I asked the pax rep if he had flights going anywhere else that day, and he sort of laughed while saying, "There is one to Eielson."  Eielson is in Fairbanks, AK, a bit different than what we had gone for originally.  After calling to secure on-base lodging, we made roll call and were the only pax en route on a KC-135 to Alaska.  The boys got to go down in the boom pod, which is amazing view! We arrived about 2300 in the Land of the Midnight Sun, about as far from our original destination as we could get that day.

 

How did you decide to make the switch form Nursing to homeschooling and traveling?

Shannon: When we found out my husband was deploying, I had been at my job for 3 years, while my husband had been non-deployable for the same timeframe.  With him going, it presented a challenge for juggling school transportation and care for my two children. I would probably have to quit my job, as well as pay for overnight care for my boys.  I sort of jokingly said that I would quit my job and just travel around the world.  My husband laughed.  In full wifely manner, I took that as FULL permission to do it. I started to research Space-A, and what had started out as a pipe dream quickly turned into something achievable, albeit a logistical nightmare. I posed the option to my boys, who were thrilled at the prospect.  I obtained a house sitter for the 5 months that we would be gone, and we were in business!

 

How have your kids adjusted?

Shannon: My boys were 9 and 10 when we started our adventure, and I am so thankful to have been able to give them this opportunity for world travel.  While it was an adjustment to homeschool them (we like to say we “worldschooled” them), they thrived once we have our rhythm. Returning home was more of an adjustment, the stationary aspect of living.  We had been so used to flying every 3-4 days, changing hotels every day or two, waking at all hours for roll calls, hopping different time zones, navigating foreign metros and undergrounds and taxis, and juggling various languages and currencies.  Going from that pace to being still, and in a structured classroom, was a bit of a challenge for us all.

 

What are 3 things you would tell any Space-A traveler?

Shannon: Have a Plan B, extra money, and enjoy the experience. Space-A can be quite smooth, or a harried mess.  You can have flights break, drop, delay, reroute, etc.  You can have a flight with 73 seats drop to 0, or a flight going Monday now leave on Thursday.  You need to have a Plan B in case your Plan A fails...and maybe a C and D for good measure.  In that vein, you also need money.  The flights may be free, but lodging, transportation and food are not.  A taxi from Eielson to Fairbanks, for example, is $100. On-base lodging for 4 days of being stuck is hundreds of dollars...and more if base lodging is full. Many people say that they want to use Space A because they cannot afford commercial tickets.  I tell them that if they cannot afford commercial tickets, they cannot afford Space A.  Lastly, though, is enjoy it...even the messy parts.  We got stuck in Travis.  Instead of sitting in the hotel on base, we took one day to tour wineries in Napa Valley.  We rented a car and drove 8 hours to LEGOLAND and the cottages on San Onofre, spent a day, and drove 8 hours back for a roll call.  We took a fly that enrouted through Gander, Canada, a place that we would never go to otherwise.  We hopped from Elmendorf AFB to Wright-Patt for a flight to Belfast; that flight couldn't take pax for customs reasons, so we split a rental van with another couple and drove overnight to Charleston for a roll call. Sometimes the flights we missed resulted in the best memories. 

 

What is your most memorable Space-A experience?

Shannon: My most memorable Space-A experience was my children swimming in a rooftop pool in Singapore.  Nothing fancy, but important, nonetheless.  We had been jet setting for about 4 months at that point, and my boys were burnt out.  They wanted a "down day," so we had one.  They were blown away by the idea of a rooftop pool, so we spent all day up there.  The swam and giggled (even tolerated the Speedos they were required to get when we were in Paris prior), and I sunned with a $26 Singapore Sling...memorable for expensive reasons lol. I had a view overlooking the Marina Bay Sands and the city as a whole.  We had the place to ourselves.  I had hours of quiet, to simply reflect on everywhere we had been...Alaska, Hawaii, Charleston, Maine, NYC, Edinburgh, London, Paris, Germany, Tokyo...It was incredible and I literally stopped myself and said, "Just appreciate for a minute that you and the boys are swimming in a rooftop pool in Singapore right now." None of that would have possible without the gift that is Space-A!

 

If you are consider traveling Space-A, head to SpaceAtheWorld for personal travel testimonies and tips. Reading the comments and experiences of the travelers could have you throwing on your closed toed shoes and heading to your nearest terminal to get ready for adventure!

 

“Where have you traveled Space-A and what is your best tip?

 

Resource links:

Air Mobility Command: http://www.amc.af.mil/Home/AMC-Travel-Site/

Military One Source SpaceA Travel Tips

 

About the Blogger: Briana Hartzell is a Navy spouse, mother to two beautiful girls (4 years and 1 year), a former full time USAA employee and a graduate of Texas A&M University. Briana writes at Being Briana, a blog focused on the joys that military life and parenthood can bring.