Orlando-based Marine spouse Cheyenne St. Julian says it seems like military families rarely get to vacation.
“We focus all of our energy on going home, especially when you’re stationed far away from family,” said St. Julian.
“We call it a vacation but it’s really going home and that’s busy — running around and seeing family. We aren’t typically unplugging and relaxing.”
In the past year, St. Julian and her family have found the time to relax and unwind with two vacations booked through the Armed Forces Vacation Club (AFVC).
Retired Army Maj. Fred Walz, who is an account executive with AFVC, says the free membership club, which provides access to resort rentals worldwide, was created as a way of saying “thank you” to our military.
“We wanted to provide our heroes with an opportunity to get away during stressful times, after deployments, or just the opportunity to spend time with the family,” Walz said.
According to Walz, the reasonable price point of AFVC is important for military families often on a budget. For $379, the entire family can rent one of the club’s more than 200,000 resort accommodations in over 100 countries for a 7-night say. The price includes a wide range of unit sizes from studios to three-bedroom condos that typically sleep two to eight people.
For St. Julian, the price certainly played a factor in choosing AFVC as did the idea of a condo-style vacation.
“My husband, who is retired now, does have some anxiety and PTSD. Having a space that’s ours — particularly if he is feeling overwhelmed on that day — gives us that flexibility to just be comfortable as a family. And I love that we’re not paying an exorbitant amount of money for it,” she said.
St. Julian says that it’s nice to have the option to cook their meals in a condo-style rental.
“We often prefer that to going out to dinner when we’re on vacation,” she said.
Last year, the family travel to Branson, Missouri, where they rented a condo on the water, enjoying the playgrounds, miniature golf, and pools located at the facility.
“We woke up every morning looking at the lake that was there. It was absolutely beautiful,” she said.
The family took in a variety of shows and met up with local friends.
St. Julian says that she and her family came back from that trip refreshed.
“That’s exactly our goal,” said Walz. “Vacations are great for your health, and especially important for our military families to reduce their stress levels. When you escape the daily grind, you feel happier, less stressed.”
Recently, St Julian and her family rented a condo in Orlando for the ultimate staycation.
“We needed to give the kids an outlet over the summer plus we had friends coming in town,” she said.
The condo, which was close to SeaWorld and a variety of attractions, served as a base of operations while the family played tourist in their own town. Additionally, the rental gave them access to a pool and a variety of amenities. St. Julian said she loved the space of having two bedrooms, two baths, a full kitchen, a dining room-living room area, and a balcony to entertain out-of-town guests.
“We knew we were going to be meeting up with my friend, her two kids, and her husband. It would have been completely overwhelming to take our families out to eat or to have them in our home. So this was the perfect place to cook, relax, and let the kids play in the pool together.”
St. Julian says that a staycation is often the perfect break for her family.
“We love it. We don’t get as frustrated with the traffic and we get to do all the touristy things. It allows us to escape kind of gives us that separation so we can enjoy Orlando as a destination versus just a place where we live.”
Where to go?
AFVC offers more than 200,000 resort accommodations around the globe. Inventory changes constantly but here are five beach destinations popular with AFVC members now:
- Orlando, Florida
- Daytona Beach, Florida
- San Diego, California
- Hilton Head, South Carolina
- Freeport, Bahamas