Hello-my name is Janice from @mysuitcasedreams . I am a military spouse who always
has one foot on the pedal and a suitcase in my hand. I help to eliminate the daunting task of
finding fun yet affordable places to visit around the Fort Bragg area. Make sure to read on as I
share my greatest staycation ideas, where you too can vacation regardless of your duty
Often, our summer months are filled with visiting our families back home and taking
advantage of our built-up leave. Or burning through it, which is my favorite!
I think back to the many summers spent flying or driving for what felt like
eternity to visit family which was also very costly while never truly taking
the time to explore around me.
A staycation is meant to be an affordable option to explore right in your
very own backyard. It’s traveling no more than three hours from your home
but just without buying that plane ticket.
Below are a few ideas and tips to help you plan your very next affordable staycation.
● Make a travel bingo card:
Yes, I said create a travel bingo card! This is a fun way to do local research and compile a
bingo card of local places to visit with your spouse, children, or even your friends. By trying
something new, you can ditch your regular restaurants and opt for that new place you’ve always
wanted to try. So, gather the whole gang together and fill in your summer travel bingo card
● Read Instagram, local publications, and travel blogs:
Did you know Instagram is a great resource to find local travel ideas? With a quick hashtag
search on Instagram, you can read and find unique and touristy must-see places to visit along
with a review. My favorite hashtag to use when I’m visiting a new city is #___(fill in your city)
foodie. Through this hashtag, I’ve found so many great local places to grab a bite to eat.
Another source beyond social media are local publications you can use for ideas. Most states
and local regions publish magazines featuring local getaways, spots of interest, arts and
craftsmanship, and interesting activities to do when looking for unique experiences. Look
around at local grocery shelves for state travel magazines.
You’ll be surprised at what you can find right under your nose you might not have even known was there in your backyard. Reading travel blogs is another great way where you can find inspiration and new places to visit that you may not have known existed.
Beyond Instagram and local magazines. Travel blogs can provide valuable local insight for
navigating the area for the first time. For example, is street parking available, or will I have to
park far away? Searching for local bloggers like myself and through local Instagram accounts
can help with so many aspects of travel planning before you set out on your adventure.
● Visit a museum at no cost:
Several museums have discounts for military families, which helps keep costs down, especially
when you bring along a picnic lunch. By making a day of it, you won’t have to feel rushed
exploring the exhibits or stressed about money, unless you like to visit the great gift shops like I
Even better, have you heard of Blue Star Museums? If not, check out their website and enter
your zip code of museums near you! Blue star Museums is a collaboration between The
Department of Defense and the National Endowment for the Arts. Through this partnership,
they offer FREE admission for active duty personnel, the National Guard, Reserves, and their
Through this amazing program, my children and I visited the Arizona Science Center at our
last Duty Station in Arizona and truly only paid for the gas to drive us there.
● Overnight Stays:
Who says that just because you’re exploring an hour away, you can’t book an overnight
stay? Some of my best travels have been the ones close to home. This leaves more time to
explore when I arrive or before I head home from my staycation.
Most military families like myself come with extended family members who
love to travel just like we do. Our pets enjoy traveling too, and finding last
minute boarding or the stress alone of leaving pets can feel daunting. I’ve
found searching for pet-friendly Airbnb (airbnb)rentals to be very affordable.
My best tip is to search well enough ahead for the best rates and availability.
● Outside of the box:
Don’t be afraid to try something new and go beyond your family’s comfort zone. I once packed
up my car with a friend to head out to a tea treehouse (The Honey Suckle Teahouse)one hour
away from Fort Bragg. When can you say, you’ve sipped tea in a treehouse? Search for local
events and locally sourced markets to visit (Triangle Pop-Up). I stumbled upon a beverage and
organic district (The Plant) by just visiting a local makers market on a Saturday. Even the
simplest of ideas like picnicking at a local lake or beach to enjoy a new view that you’ve never
seen is also a way to explore more of your local area.
When moving to a new duty station, it can feel overwhelming trying to get to know your new city. I began my travel blog (@mysuitcasedreamsj) because exploring my new duty
station helped me to settle into my new home. Change is never easy, but having fun along the way made the transition easier for my family. So alas my blog was born after realizing the need to share my must visit local spots with my fellow military families.
We tend to choose the same restaurants, parks, or even the same places to take out-of-town
guests when they visit. This year, break the routine. Staycations can be both affordable and a
great way to get to know more of your local area. Our time at a duty station is always short,
so why not make the most of it!