Your Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego Area Guide
So, you got orders to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. Congratulations! You are about to enjoy a few years in one of the most beautiful areas of the country. Yes, it can be expensive here. The rush hour traffic is something you'll learn how to navigate. But the wonderful climate, landscape, and access to multitudes of activities more than make up for those drawbacks. If you come here with a desire to make the most of it, I can almost guarantee you will love it your time here!
WHERE IS MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO
MCRD San Diego is one of many military bases in the San Diego area. Located off the I-5 next to the San Diego airport, it is one of the lower profile military bases here. Most people think of San Diego as a Navy town, but its also among the most historic. It was founded in 1921 and by 1923 was fully functional as a Marine training center. It is currently where all the male recruits from West of the Mississippi are sent to undergo the rigorous training process that will allow them to become Marines.
Lincoln Military Housing San Diego is the current provider of military housing. None of it is actually on-base; however, the Point Loma housing area is directly outside of the MCRD gates. There are a variety of housing areas throughout San Diego County. The wait list and availability of housing tends to vary, so be prepared for a wait.
If you are looking to rent or buy while in San Diego, it is essential to define your priorities. In general, San Diego housing is costly. If you are ok with smaller living spaces (I.E., condo, apartment or townhouse) and enjoy the urban lifestyle, you have a lot of options in fun neighborhoods like downtown, North Park, South Park, Coronado, and Hillcrest. If you want/need more space, a yard, or a good school district; you will need to move farther out from Central San Diego. People speak highly of the school districts in East Lake and Poway. Coronado is a beautiful place to live, but the housing tends to be very expensive. You can check out local neighborhoods and find an A-graded agent at PCSgrades.com.
BAH & COST OF LIVING
You might be in for sticker shock when you move to Southern California. Most military families figure out a way to stretch their BAH and make it work. The median San Diego home value is $618,600 which is up 5.1% over the past year. Local real estate experts expect home values to continue to rise over the next 12 months.Read reviews from Milfams in the San Diego area
ON BASE AMENITIES
The Command Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Any chapel on base can be reserved for weddings, retirements, or re-enlistments by active duty, reservist, active duty/reservist dependents and retirees. Families may be interested in the library, the MCX, the fitness center (with workout classes), the bowling alley, and the Marina. The Marina boasts a playground, gazebo and a rental center where paddleboards and kayaks can be taken out on the water for a nominal fee.
San Diego weather is sunny and 75 degrees. It's hard to complain about the typical San Diego climate. It is perfect weather for folks who love outdoor living. The temperature cools off a bit in the winter. You might need a light jacket in the evenings (layers are key!), and there are definitely some hotter weeks in the summer (up to the low 90's). Many homes here were built without air conditioning so you may require a portable unit for those few hot weeks in July and August.
CULTURE & CUSTOMS
Tacos are life here in San Diego. People aren't joking about Taco Tuesday when you will find cheap tacos and drink specials at many Mexican restaurants. In general, there is great Mexican food here, but you can find food from every nationality if you look for it. From Brazilian steakhouses to sushi, to trendy vegan eateries, Mediterranean, Laotian, the list goes on. Of course all the typical chains you know and love will be found here too. Fast food aficionados rave about In and Out Burger so make sure to give that a try while here in Cali!
Almost every neighborhood in San Diego has a weekly farmers market. This is one of the best spots to buy local produce, sample artisan goods and buy food and drinks from the assembled food carts. The Little Italy Farmer's Market on Saturday is one of the busiest and most fun to meander around.
GO ON A SAFARI
Safari Park is an affiliate of the world renown San Diego Zoo. They are both great places to spend a day soaking in the outdoors and checking out all the amazing animals. Military members get in for free and family members can buy discounted tickets at ITT.
HIT THE BEACH
We have gorgeous beaches all throughout San Diego County, from the picturesque coves in La Jolla to the dog beach in Coronado and the surfer's paradise in Imperial Beach. There's plenty of sandy real estate to settle on for a lovely day by the ocean.
Taco and Margarita Fest, Beer Fest and Mac and Cheese Fest are just some of the popular events happening on the regular here in San Diego. Wandering around a waterfront park, listening to live music, drinking margaritas and sampling tacos from dozens of different restaurants… what could be better than that?
Sunset Cliffs, Potato Chip Rock, Mission Trails, Cowles Mountain, Cabrillo National Monument: the list of fun, challenging and exciting hikes are endless. Some are dog and kid friendly, others are more challenging and best for those seeking a workout. You are guaranteed to find some that suit your needs.
Home to miles of trails, historic architecture, a Spanish art village, and many museums, Balboa Park is a must-see while stationed in San Diego. The Botanical gardens are free to visit, as are a varying selection of museums every Tuesday.
SEE A BASEBALL GAME
The Padres call downtown San Diego home, and the Padres Stadium is a great place to catch a game! They have opening day festivals, beer festivals, and kid's days, and frequently show fireworks after their games. They offer discounted tickets for military members, and the local USO often gets tickets donated so you may be able to catch a game for free! Or you can check for tickets from our friends at GovX.
EAT/SHOP/SEE A MOVIE AT LIBERTY STATION
Liberty Station used to be a Navy base that the city later converted into a shopping center. The area boasts tons of restaurants and a food court with local food vendors, cute shops, a museum, outdoor spaces and a luxury movie theater with seat-side service.
THEME PARKS— WITHIN 3 HOURS
SeaWorld, Legoland, Knott's Berry Farm, Disney Land, Universal Studios Hollywood—there is no shortage of theme parks to take your kiddos to if you are so inclined! Also, don't underestimate the annual San Diego County Fair for some campy local fun.
EASY DAY TRIPS
Tourists flock to Coronado in the summer, but it is also a year-round home for many San Diegans. The beaches on Coronado are beautiful! Many families enjoy bringing their pups to the dog beach for a fun outing. There are also many shops and restaurants worth checking out. The town hosts many events in the summertime, including Sunday afternoon concerts in the park. Furthermore, there are two large Navy bases on the island that military families can access. The Naval Air Station North Island has a newer fitness facility with an outdoor pool, as well as a movie theater, Navy Exchange and food court.
THE GREATER LOS ANGELES AREA—2 HOURS
Just south of LA, Santa Barbara is a lovely destination for a weekend away. With gorgeous beaches, a botanical garden, delicious food and wine there's a lot to enjoy. LA itself is two hours away—so if you want to attend tapings of TV shows you love, check out the stars in Hollywood, or frequent some of the famous restaurants and bars it is a doable weekend trip. Beware of LA traffic driving up or down the Coast!
A quaint little town just a short drive from central San Diego, Temecula is a great destination for a night away. It has some great restaurants but is most well-known for its wineries. Wine lovers should put this on the must-visit list.
MEXICO— 1 HOUR
While Tijuana is a well-known party destination (and one military members generally must avoid), there are other more family-friendly destinations that are worth checking out for a day or weekend trip. These include Ensenada and the Baja wineries. You can go on organized tours or do the research and drive around yourself. Fish tacos, wine, and cervesas… need I say more.
This post sponsored by PCSgrades.
In military life, there is really nothing more stressful than a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). Deployments are a close second, but a PCS takes the cake. Combine a PCS with a deployment and not only do you want to eat all of the proverbial cake, you want to guzzle copious amounts of wine, too. We see you. Cheers.
One company, PCSgrades, is trying to make the PCS process feel more like a three-letter acronym than a four-letter expletive. Founded by veteran Todd Ernst, PCSgrades is the epitome of the military community taking care of its own. "PCSing has an emotional connotation," said Ernst. "We use it as an adverb, adjective, a noun and even as a cuss word."
Ernst started PCSgrades in 2015 after seeing friends struggle with unethical real estate agents and being taken advantage of by moving companies who knew DoD would be a paying customer no matter how poorly the companies treated their clients - us.
Here are 4 resources PCSgrades provides that you need to make moving easier:
1. Housing reviews
Does it get any more stressful than finding out where you're going to be stationed, Googling base housing at that station and getting results from 15 years ago (if you find anything, at all)? Nope, no it doesn't.
PCSgrades is changing the game on that by having military families who live in an area provide honest, candid reviews of their housing so incoming families can benefit. With reviews of both on and off base locations, families can finally get the truth about housing, whether it has black mold or the best views in town.
2. Moving company reviews
Great, you've figured out where to live; that's half the battle. The other, larger, more complex half? Figuring out how your stuff is going to get there. Knowing someone else will be handling your personal property and driving away with it for the foreseeable future is stressful enough. But not knowing what that company's background is, well that's a whole different ball game.
PCSgrades has countless reviews of moving companies provided by military families who have used them. Let's be honest: You wouldn't try a new Chinese delivery place without looking at reviews … why should picking a moving company be any different?
3. Area guides
The giant Google machine can only get you so far in life when you're researching your new duty station. We know you're busy and you want one-stop shopping on the interwebs. What you really need is aggregate data of things like schools to attend, restaurants to try, day trips to take and neighborhoods to avoid.
Introducing Area Guides, which offer exactly that: a holistic view of where you're moving and what to do once you get there. The best part? These are written by military families who have done it, for military families who are doing it.
4. Network of realtors and resources
PCSgrades has a nationwide network of A-graded realtors who know and understand the military and veteran lifestyle. Many of the realtors are veterans or spouses themselves, which takes the empathy to a whole new level. Having a realtor who gets the pressures of PCSing and the challenges of a military move is key to finding the right home for your family.
"I have friends who are hundreds of thousands of dollars upside down after bad home choices," Ernst said. "Housing choices can be pretty limited. Our moves are way more expensive than the typical civilian move." This is why Ernst created a way to alleviate the pain points for military families through PCSgrades.
In addition to a network of realtors, PCSgrades partners with "HomeScout," which allows you to search up-to-date home listings nationwide. Simply create an account with PCSgrades and the realty world is your oyster.
Whether you're looking for a new neighborhood, trying to find a vetted realtor, need a PCS checklist (let's be honest, is it on your radar to look at the expiration date of your military ID card two months before you PCS? Yeah, we know the truth; download the checklists here), or you're just wanting to know more about where you're heading, PCSgrades is making moving easier for every military family. Pay it forward by leaving reviews and be sure to take advantage of their excellent resources, today.
This post sponsored by PCSgrades.
Yeah! You got orders to (insert foreign country overseas)! You can already picture your kids in the international school, speaking with cute little accents and wearing local garments. Adorbs. You've got your housing picked out, adventures planned and passport photos taken. You're ready for your epic move ... except for that 13 hour plane ride. Have you wrapped your head around that yet? Before you grab for a paper bag and start hyperventilating, use our travel hacks to help make the emotional turbulence you're experiencing a little lighter.
We've all said it: "We'll drive. It won't be that bad." We picture the adventure, the memories, the nostalgia of car trips when we were younger.
But if we're really being honest with ourselves, think back to those car trips. Someone was crying. Someone was puking. Someone was whining. That person very well may have been your poor mother. True story, my mom once got out and walked along the highway when all six of us kids wouldn't stop fighting. A long car trip can be daunting, but with our tips and tricks they don't need to be.
WE ALL HAVE OUR SHARE OF HORROR STORIES WHEN IT COMES TO MILITARY MOVING!
Name the most disgusting item erroneously packed by your movers… for me it was used coffee grounds and of course, trash. For others, I've heard everything from wet towels to dirty diapers. I've caught movers raiding my fridge, lounging on my mattress in my front yard, and throwing out items that they've broken. Raise your hand (or have a drink) if you ever had packers show up late (or not at all). Ever had packers get into a shouting match among themselves as they were packing your china? Or have you caught your movers throwing boxes down the stairs to the basement? That would be me!
With each military move, there are "lessons learned". For instance, I won't go into great detail but let's just say after watching one packer go directly from using the restroom back to packing my kitchen without washing his hands, we now use gigantic ziplock bags to "pre-pack" all my kitchen utensils. A packers' bare flesh has never again touched one of my kitchen utensils.
My family's last military move was by far the shortest, only 1½ miles up the road. We were moving from a rental to a home we purchased. It was by far the worst in terms of damage and overall angst. I think because we were only "moving up the road" the pack job left a lot to be desired. I found one box of dishes which had not one piece of wrapping paper! Instead two throw pillows from my family room were used as a buffer! Amazingly, nothing was broken! Go figure!
When I heard glass shatter in the moving truck, I asked one of the guys what shattered.
There are any number of reasons why in a given situation renting might be better than buying or vice versa. For military families, it might make more sense to buy at one duty station and then rent at the next. Up for consideration with each PCS is whether to buy or rent, to stay on-base or off. In making these decisions, there are numerous pros and cons to consider.
PROS TO BUYING
- Purchasing the right home can be a great financial investment that can grow in value over time.
- Tax deductions such as mortgage interest and property taxes can greatly reduce your overall income tax burden if you itemize.
- Being a homeowner can give you pride of ownership and a sense of stability, rare in the military life which can seem nomadic at times.
- A mortgage payment that is lower than your BAH can result in a boost to your savings.
- You can decorate however you want! Goodbye white walls! Hello, Color!
- Anyone can stay with you at any time. So it is not a problem when your Mom or sister comes for an extended stay during a deployment or following a PCS.
- You can do (almost) whatever you want….host a late night party, plant a garden, knock a wall down!
- There are no security or pet deposits when you buy a home.
- You have the opportunity to become a landlord when military orders arrive and you have to move. Your home can become an investment property, providing a source of income which can partially or totally offset your mortgage, taxes, and insurance payments.