If you are looking for an affordable way to travel and make the most of your PCS trip, consider staying in military campgrounds and RV parks. You can make the save money from your PCS travel reimbursement by camping during your PCS move. Military campgrounds and RV parks are often located on or nearby a military base, and managed by MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation). They offer many amenities for a fraction of the cost of a civilian campground. Most site reservations start at $15 a night!
1. Check eligibility
MWR campsites and RV parks are available to active duty, retirees, National Guard and Reserves, Disabled from 0-100%, and most recently they extended reservations to civilian personnel. You can stay at a facility managed by any military branch, no matter what your service member’s affiliation has been. Remember that just because you are eligible does not mean that there will be a site available. For availability, active duty service members and those on PCS orders are always a priority, so be sure to mention your PCS orders when making a reservation. You can be placed on a waitlist, especially during peak PCS season in the middle of summer, when many families are traveling. The sooner you call to make a reservation, the better chance you have of securing a spot, so make those calls as soon as you receive PCS orders and begin planning your driving route.
2. Base access
When making your reservation, ask for check-in instructions and for base access details. Due to COVID and heightened security precautions, many installations will only allow access to RVs through a specific gate. Sometimes they are closed after hours and on weekends, so plan your arrival time accordingly. And of course, keep your military ID cards handy at all times when you are traveling.
3. PCS binder
No matter how you PCS, you should always have a PCS binder. Keep your important documents with you at all times. Your PCS binder (or folder) is a great way to keep everything organized during your move. Use it to save all your travel receipts, including gas for the RV and campground reservation costs. A PCS binder can also hold your travel itinerary, your RV campground information, and your updated emergency contact information.
4. Know your weight
Many families use an RV to store extra belongings during a PCS, and then file reimbursement for a full or partial PPM (DITY move). While it is tempting to load everything into the RV, remember that there are many types of RVs, and each has their own weight cargo limit. You may have a motorhome Class A, B, or C. There are also a variety of 5th wheels and travel trailers. Whichever type of RV you are using on your trip, follow this rule: Don’t overload! Not only will you use more fuel and have a more difficult time navigating hills, but you also risk causing an accident. If you are above the cargo weight limit, your insurance can find you liable and not cover your damage claims.
5. RV insurance
Speaking of insurance, make sure you are fully covered throughout your trip! When PCSing, always call your insurance agent and update your information. RV coverages vary from state to state. Once you receive your orders, give them a call and verify your policy for coverage while traveling to your new duty station. Be sure your policy includes roadside assistance, which you may need during your move. In our case, our insurance premium increased from California to North Carolina because NC has stricter laws for RVs.
6. S’mores kit
It’s not RVing if you forget the marshmallows! Even though a PCS can be stressful, make this part of the trip a fun adventure. Especially if you are traveling with kids, they need something to look forward to after a long day on the road. Make time to take a break from your travel and relax. Camping is supposed to be fun! Enjoy the ride.
7. Inspect tires
This is another reason why your RV weight is important. Before your trip, prepare your vehicle and do routine maintenance, which may include rotating your tires. Invest in a good tire pressure monitor system. This will help avoid accidents on the road. Also, never drive more than 400 miles in a day.
8. Surge Protectors
Depending on your RV, you will have either a 30 or 50 amp connection. Having a surge protector is vital to protect your RV investment. It acts as a buffer between your RV and the power coming out of the electrical outlet from the campsite. You never know when you might end up camping during a storm, so it’s best to prepare by setting up proper surge protection at every site.
9. Sticker map
If you are traveling with kids (or if you’re a kid at heart!) this is a fun family activity. Update your map when you reach a new state. In most RV stores, you will find a U.S. sticker map. You can also use a magnet map on the side of your RV. Many RVers have a different opinion on when can you add a sticker. Did you drive by the state? Did you do an activity in that state? Did you stay overnight? For our family, we count staying overnight and doing a family activity. You make your own rules to keep track of your adventures!
10. Co-pilot training
Teach your co-pilot to drive and let him or her take the wheel often. Both adults should be comfortable driving alone, so that they won’t be stranded if one gets sick or is hurt. We recently updated our RV from a motor home to a fifth wheel. To be honest, I would rather drive the motor home. On the 5th wheel, I still need practice. But helping out your partner and sharing driving duties will help reduce driving fatigue. This is another reason you shouldn’t drive more than 400 miles a day.
I hope these tips help reduce your PCS travel arrangements and make it more fun. Safe travels!