By Erica Glass, Alaska Chapter Director
We all have goals for our children. We want them to be healthy, kind, mindful… But do you have any goals some may consider quirky? I do! I want my milkids to visit all 50 states before they reach age eighteen. After stumbling onto websites such as All Fifty States Club and Travel 50 States With Kids, I knew we could–and would—do it.
Here are five ways we are pulling off this massive goal:
1. Getting to hard-to-get-to-states
Okay, I admit we live in the state that is usually the hardest and rarest for a person to get to: Alaska! Just by being stationed here we have already been to a state many Americans can only dream of reaching. And Alaskans can actually reach Hawaii much easier than those living on the East Coast! For us to visit family in the Midwest or East Coast, it usually involves red eye flights, changing plans a few times, weird layovers, and higher costs, but I can get a non-stop flight to Hawaii from Alaska at a great time and price! We got to knock out the two hardest states to reach just by being stationed in Alaska.
2. Take advantage of those military deals!
I always get asked, “Isn’t that expensive? We wouldn’t be able to afford all that travel.”
It depends on what you want to do. My kids and I are in love with the National Park System (NPS) and collecting each park’s Junior Ranger badges. Military families can receive a free America the Beautiful Pass to enter the parks, and the Junior Ranger program is free to all kids. Make sure you check out Blue Star Parks if you love the NPS. If museums are your thing, check out the Blue Star Museums participating museums’ list in the area you are visiting. They offer free admission for military families! Most places do offer generous military discounts (Disney’s Armed Forces Salute, SeaWorld’s Wave of Honor program, and others), you will just need to do a little research.
3. Take advantage of your friends and family! Ask your military friends and family politely if you can stay at night or two at their place
Because we’re military, I almost swear we know someone in every state and even overseas. Do not be afraid to ask if their guest room is open for a night or two. I’m willing to bet they will be just as happy to see you as you are them. I have reached out to friends and family I haven’t seen in years, and it was so wonderful to catch up with them in real life instead of just seeing their Facebook profile.
4. Google Maps is your bestie
I am as obsessed with Google Maps the way a preteen is obsessed with Minecraft. I have sat for hours playing on Google Maps, seeing the best way to connect states. Seriously, the number of hours I have spent on Google Maps is embarrassing. Let’s, uh, move on to number 5.
5. No cheating
I am going to say it again and louder for the people in the back: AIRPORT LAYOVERS DO NOT COUNT AS “VISITING A STATE.” Seriously, stop it! We all have our travel rules, and our family rule is to count a state, we must have done something specific in that state. My daughters and I flew to Nebraska (Homestead National Monument) to view the 2017 eclipse, and I purposely chose an airport in Kansas to fly out of just so we could find a beautiful sunflower field to visit and take a photo in. Because when one thinks of Kansas, you think of sunflowers right? People thought I was nuts and could not understand why I would do that. Well, that’s what we do! And you should not be afraid to do a little “crazy” stuff to meet your goals. Apply that to every goal in your life.
Tell us about your crazy military kids adventures! Or tell me about your National Park experiences! I really love hearing about great NPS stories!
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