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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.
Stephanie Wade/U.S. Transportation Command

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.

7 airplane travel hacks with kids

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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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