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Your Naval Air Station Jacksonville / Naval Station Mayport Area Guide

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No question, Florida is a fun place to live, in spite of the frequency for hurricanes and the humidity that may affect your Yuma-perfected hairstyle. But when the orders come down for Naval Air Station Jacksonville or Naval Station Mayport, you may find yourself with more questions than answers.

WHERE IS JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA?

The area where the St. John's River meets the Atlantic Ocean is where you'll find the heart of Jacksonville. The beach and golf are two very popular things to do in the area, as TPC Sawgrass and Neptune Beach top almost every "must do" in Jacksonville list.

Jacksonville sits between two Navy installations, Naval Air Station Jacksonville and Naval Station Mayport. From the city center, NAS Jax is about 10 miles to the southwest. NS Mayport is about 20 miles due east. With two installations so close to each other, families can live on either installation or somewhere in between and still have easy access to the military resources. They could also easily blend in with the locals and feel at home on the beach and in the downtown areas.

NAVAL AIR STATION JACKSONVILLE

As the largest navy installation in the Southeast, NAS Jacksonville is also the third biggest navy installation in the country, which is why you will probably run into friends from long ago on your tour there. NAS JAX is a master Air and industrial base and home to aviation training and anti-submarine warfare. With over 17,000 military and civilians working on the installation, there are over 34,000 family members in the area. Hello, military town.


NAVAL STATION MAYPORT

On the other side of the city lays NS Mayport, which is almost as big as NAS JAX. About 15,000 active duty and 32,000 family members call this area home. The port can hold up to 34 ships, and the 8,000-foot runway can accommodate any type of aircraft the Dept of Defense wants to land there. Busy is NS Mayport's middle name, and "sustain and support the fleet" their game.

NAVAL AIR STATION JACKSONVILLE HOUSING

NAS Jacksonville and NS Mayport housing are both managed by Balfour Beatty. It is a mix of older and newer neighborhoods. As is common in older military housing, some of these houses are smaller than what you would find out in town. However, the convenience of living on the installation often makes up for it.

Traffic is always a concern in larger cities and should be considered when looking at housing options. With unpredictable work schedules, overnight duties, and time out to sea, living a little farther away may not affect your daily commute enough to be a problem. Some of the popular areas to live nearby Naval Air Station Jacksonville include Northwoods, Coastal Oaks, and Carriage Crossing. Make sure to check out the reviews on these neighborhoods.

Leave Reviews of your Jacksonville Neighborhood Here!

JACKSONVILLE FLORIDA WEATHER

You probably don't need a refresher on how awesome Florida weather is, but here it is in a nutshell. It's awesome! Sunny days, occasional rainstorms, warm weather year-round. Oh, and hurricanes in the summer and fall. And the unusually cold weather in the winter. Just don't complain about the weather to your friend living up North, who really don't want to hear about the temperature in Jacksonville, Florida.

JACKSONVILLE BAH & COST OF LIVING

The marketing in Jacksonville is increasing, at an average of 4.8%, with some areas, including Spring Park, increasing even more. Buying may be a good option if you are stationed here long enough or are looking for a rental property as an investment. In 2018, the average rental for an apartment increased by 11%, bringing the average for a two-bedroom apartment to $1248, which is doable for most families. However, when it comes to renting a home, the prices are all over the place, varying due to location, size, etc.

ON-BASE AMENITIES

The MWR at NAS Jax boasts some great options. From golf and fishing to bowling and bingo, there is something for everyone. Learn to sail or canoe, rent a stand-up paddleboard or surfboard and explore the St. Johns River – all without leaving the base. There are monthly 5k runs and a sauna in the Base Gym. And, the commissary is open every, single day!

You can also utilize the Tickets & Travel Office to get discounted tickets to local attractions, cruises, and hotels. If you can't find something there, check out what GovX may have available in the area.

CULTURE & CUSTOMS

Florida can often be caught in the middle between southern and not southern. While in the south, it's not really "the deep south." But, don't worry, you can still find some awesome restaurants and shops in the area.

COFFEE

We know you like coffee, or, if you don't (we still love you), you know that meeting someone for "coffee" is the start of a beautiful friendship. Skip the Starbucks and head to Bold Bean Coffee on Stockton Street or Hendrick's and order a spiced chocolate latte or a honey latte with almond milk. Chamblin's Uptown is a beautiful place to grab a cup of coffee and wander through the bookstore. Cinnamon apple cider sure sounds good while sitting outside reading your new book.

RESTAURANTS

Food is fuel, for the mind, body, and soul. Finding a solid date night restaurant, one for ladies' night out, and the one you can take your toddler to on a rough deployment day is hard. Here are some suggestions. The Metro Diner has been voted the best breakfast in JAX since 2006. They've also been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Go ahead, order the meatloaf plate or maybe the Pittsburg Steak salad. Or both.

Another great breakfast idea is Maple Street Biscuit Company. With at least half a dozen locations in Jacksonville (and some in other excellent places!) you won't want to miss out. They serve good food, with fun names like The Squawking Goat and The Sticky Maple, with a great attitude. Make sure you get there early in the weekend though, they're closed on Sundays. And, for date night or something a little fancier, try Copeland's of New Orleans.

RIVERSIDE ARTS MARKET

Each and every Saturday, the Riverside Arts Market features local artists, farmers, and other creatives as they show off their wares and sell their products from 10 am to 3 pm. Fresh produce is a huge draw for locals, and this venue accepts WIC, EBT, and SNAP! There's morning yoga starting at 9 am, and this family-friendly event will be full of strollers, bikes, and toddlers. Each week about 4,000 people head down to the area under the Fuller Warren Bridge.

AREA ATTRACTIONS

Like any new place, you may be overwhelmed by all the options. Here are some of our favorite things to do around NAS Jacksonville.

THE JACKSONVILLE FLORIDA BEACHES

While the Emerald Coast and Pensacola's beaches are some of the most beautiful in the country, the Jacksonville Florida beaches give them a run for their money. Ponte Vedra Beach, home to the golf world, is calmer than some of the "Spring Break friendly" places while Jacksonville beach is the quintessential vacation-style beach area. Shops, restaurants, boardwalks, and surfing make this a much-see place. St. Augustine's beaches are a great place for a family adventure and the only place you can drive your car on the beach.

SPORTS

The sporting scene in Jacksonville goes way beyond the Jaguars, thankfully. There's a minor league baseball team, the Jacksonville Suns, which can improve any summer evening. The Sharks bring indoor football to a whole new level. You may be able to snag some tickets to the Players Tour (golf – for those who aren't fans), and the Daytona 500 is only a quick hour away.

Each January, the TaxSlayer Bowl is held in Jacksonville (and tickets are infinitely easier to get for military families) and when the Georgia Bulldogs head to visit the Florida Gators, the entire city loves football.

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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