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Your MCAS Miramar Area Guide

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YOUR MCAS MIRAMAR PCS GUIDE

If you're PCSing to Southern California, specifically MCAS Miramar, then you're in for a treat. The weather is usually always sunny and warm. There are a ton of things to keep yourself entertained, and being right on the ocean means there are lots of beaches to enjoy. The cost of living in San Diego is a lot higher than many other duty stations, but the beautiful scenery and all the sights make up for the price.

WHERE IS MCAS MIRAMAR

MCAS Miramar is located in San Diego, right on the coast of Southern California. If you aren't already familiar with the area, then you should know it's called "Sunny San Diego" for a reason. The coastal climate is terrific, with average highs in the 70s and lows in the 60s.

San Diego is full of things to do and has a seemingly unlimited amount of restaurants. There are people from all walks of life so you will get to experience many other cultures and traditions.


ON POST AMENITIES

Balboa is the Naval Hospital that is closest to Miramar. If you need an emergency department, a clinic, a pharmacy, or really anything else, then Balboa is where you need to go.

There is one commissary on base, which always seems to be busy. If you want to go grocery shopping on payday, then it is highly recommended that you go to Vons, Sprouts, or any other grocery store rather than the commissary.

There is one large MCX on base and two smaller ones as well. They recently started utilizing the large MCX for their pharmacy so wait times would decrease in the pharmacy next to medical. The cost of living in San Diego is relatively high, so the MCX is an excellent place to go if you want to save a little money while doing your shopping.

HOUSING

ON BASE HOUSING

Lincoln Military Housing offers both on and off base housing with five on base and one off-base community, they manage 592 homes total in the six communities.

All of the communities are pet-friendly and offer amenities such as swimming pools, playgrounds, community centers, and game rooms.

There tends to be a long waiting list for certain housing communities, so you'll want to get on the list as soon as possible.

OFF BASE

Lincoln Military Housing offers additional off-base rental homes and apartments, if you're looking to save some of your BAH, then Bayview Hills is probably the place for you. However, this housing is located in National City which is south of the base. This means that you will be fighting the horrific San Diego traffic when you're traveling North in the morning and South in the evening.

The Village at Serra Mesa or Murphy Canyon is an excellent option if you want to be a little closer to the Miramar base. Each of these housing areas is only about 15 minutes from base, and there's not too much traffic to worry about, which is always a plus.

BAH AND COST OF LIVING

The median cost of a home in San Diego is around $622,700, way more than the national average. If your heart is set on owning a new home in the San Diego area, it might be worth your commute time of around 20 minutes to look in the suburbs which run a little less expensive. The median home cost in Lemon Grove is approximately $450,00 and in National City is about $422,000. Both of these communities are around 20 minutes away but take into consideration that traffic can get pretty rough.

MCAS MIRAMAR WEATHER

The weather in San Diego is essentially the same year-round. The average temperature in the summer runs in the 70s to low 80s, while in the winter lows are in the high 50s and 60s. The rainy season is typically in the winter months, especially in January. "June Gloom" is also something you'll learn to love. It really is always sunny, except in June. During June, the sun likes to hide behind the clouds, and the temperature is usually in the low 70s. After dealing with constant sunshine for a few months, you'll be glad when the "June Gloom" comes around.

CULTURE AND CUSTOMS

LOCAL CUISINE

If you want authentic Mexican food, then San Diego is the place for you. You will find endless amounts of good Mexican food, especially if you visit Old Town. Old Town marks the site of the first Spanish settlement on the West Coast, which is why it's known for its Mexican heritage. You might also want to try the California burrito. If you like seafood and sushi, then you'll want to check out The Fish Market or Oceana Coastal Kitchen. These restaurants specialize in seafood and sushi, but they also offer vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free items.

Food trucks are also huge in San Diego. You can often find them in Balboa Park or downtown. The food trucks have everything from pulled pork sandwiches for those of you who miss the east coast BBQ, to gumbo for those who want New Orleans traditional meals. There's a ton of variety in San Diego so you can find something to enjoy no matter what you're craving.

HIKING TRAILS

Whether you are starting out as a beginner or consider yourself an advanced hiker, there are hiking trails for everyone in San Diego. If you want an easy hike, then you should check out Sunset Cliffs. The hike is relatively simple, and you can probably guess from the name that you'll want to go so you can see the sunset over the ocean. Torrey Pines is also a great place for beginners since this "hike" would actually be more of an easy walk compared to other trails. If you're looking for something more difficult, then you need to hike Iron Mountain. This is one of the most popular hikes in San Diego and makes for a great Miramar day trip.

SAN DIEGO ZOO

The Zoo, located in Balboa Park, is a great place to go if you're trying to keep your children entertained or if you want to spend a day with just your spouse. The San Diego Zoo has recently changed their policy so that active military members get in for free, while their dependents get in at a discounted price. Safari Park is an extension of the zoo that is located in Escondido. It's a little farther away, but the park is much larger than the zoo and is well worth the short drive.

IMPERIAL BEACH

Located in the South Bay region, Imperial Beach is about 5 miles north of the Mexico border. It's only about a 30-minute drive from the Miramar base and is the perfect place for surfing, sport fishing, or riding a horse along the edge of the tide. You can also find the Tijuana River National Estuary here, which is a good place if you like bird watching.

CORONADO BEACH

If you own a dog that loves the beach, then Coronado is the place to go. The North beach is dog-friendly, so you can always find sweet puppies and their owners here. The waves are a little calmer here, which makes it a great spot for paddle boarding or boogie boarding. There are also tide pools during the low tide.

LA JOLLA BEACH AND REEFS

Depending on where you go, in La Jolla, you could see long shores, rocky cliffs, coves, or reefs. La Jolla Beach has a little bit of everything, which makes it a go-to spot if you want to explore. If you decide to visit La Jolla, make sure you stop by Sunny Jim Sea Cave. This small store has been known to have sea lions roaming around inside occasionally.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

LA is a 2-hour drive north of Miramar. You can spend the day walking down Rodeo Drive, which is a memorable experience. You can also visit the infamous Hollywood sign or go down the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

These are only a few of the many activities and sights in and around the San Diego area. Enjoy your time in sunny southern California!

DISNEYLAND

Located in Anaheim, California, Disneyland is 1.5 hours away from the Miramar base. You can choose to go the Disneyland Park, Disneyland California Adventure, or both.

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD

Universal Studios is located in Los Angeles County and is a 2-hour drive from MCAS Miramar. One of the most visited attractions here is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and they've recently added the new The Walking Dead attraction.

LEGOLAND CALIFORNIA

Only a 30-minute drive from base, Legoland is located in Carlsbad, California. This is an excellent place to take your children since not only is it a theme park, but it has a miniature park and aquarium as well.

For more info about the area, go to PCSgrades.com where you can see what other military families think about MCAS Miramar and the entire area. Or if you are already living life in southern California, leave a housing or neighborhood review for your fellow military families.


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.

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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.

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Nordwood theme, Unsplash

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!

LESSONS LEARNED

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.

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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.
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While retired military Space A travel is a privilege, there are some retirees that do not have this privilege. There are different categories of retirees, some are eligible for Space A and some are not. But there are efforts to change the eligibility requirements.

For a retiree to be eligible for Space A travel they must possess a 'Blue' DD Form 2 (Military ID card). This includes those that are medically retired. Their dependents are also allowed to travel with them and must bring along their ID cards. All dependents should be enrolled in DEERS.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR RETIRED MILITARY SPACE A TRAVEL?

There are plenty of rumors out there saying that ALL retirees are eligible. This is not true. If you are 100% disabled and you only possess a DD Form 1173, or the new DD Form 2765 ID cards, you are not entitled to travel on Space A. Also, if you possess the brown ID card with DAVPRM (Disabled Veteran Permanent) in the bottom right, then you too are not entitled to retired military space a travel Space A travel privileges.

Dependents of retirees are not allowed to travel without the retiree. If the retiree dies, then the dependents no longer have Space A privileges.

If you are a member of the Guard or Reserves with a 'Red" DD Form 2 you can travel through CONUS (Continental United States), to, from, and between Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico. Also, if you are active duty for more than 30 consecutive days, Guardsmen and Reservists may fly anywhere that Space A flies.

Dependents of the Guard and Reserves are not authorized to fly on Space A until the member reaches the age of 60. At that time, they will be in the same category as a regular retiree, Category 6. Retired Guardsmen and Reservists who have completed their 20 years but are not old enough to collect their retired pay are considered to be in a "gray area".

AN ACT OF CONGRESS

There have been attempts to change the eligibility of all of the above retirees and dependents.

The first Bill to be submitted to the House of Representatives was House Bill 4164 aka Space-Available Act of 2012. This bill sought to authorize the Secretary of Defense to establish a program to provide transportation on Department of Defense (DOD) aircraft on a space-available basis for (1) active duty and reserve members holding a valid Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card; (2) retired members who, but for not attaining age 60, would be eligible for military retired pay; (3) an un-remarried widow or widower of an active or reserve member; and (3) certain dependents of members described above. Allows the Secretary to establish an order of priority based on considerations of military needs and readiness.

This Bill was sent to the Subcommittee on Readiness in March of 2012 where it has sat with no action.

Earlier this year, a measure to establish a space-available transportation priority for veterans of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected, permanent disability rated as total was introduced in the house. That bill HR 936 was referred to the House Subcommittee on Readiness.

HAVE YOUR VOICE HEARD

How can you help? Write your Congressman. Make your voice known.

The Gray Area Retirees Facebook group was created to talk about these problems and to try to get the changes implemented.

Space-A eligibility is sometimes confusing and false information is passed around often. Check out the resources in this article for any updates.

PCSgrades.com is a review platform for military and veteran families. Leave a review of your prior duty station and read the reviews of where you are PCSing to. Home is where the military sends us and together we can make a difference!

This post sponsored by PCSgrades.