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Your Twentynine Palms Area Guide

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Congratulations on your orders to MCAGCC, Twentynine Palms! Without a doubt, this base seems to have a certain reputation around it. Yes, it is quite isolated in the desert, but the community it offers cannot be beaten. There is a popular saying about Twentynine Palms, "You cry when you get here, and you cry when you leave." If you come with a positive attitude, I can almost guarantee you will love your time here!

WHERE IS THE MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS?

MCAGCC Twentynine Palms is located in the high desert region of the Mojave Desert, an hour and a half east of I-10 and Palm Springs, California. The site first held a Naval Auxiliary Air Station from 1942 to 1945. MCAGCC, as a full Marine Corps base, has been in operation since 1949. It is currently one of the largest military training areas in the nation.


LINCOLN MILITARY HOUSING TWENTYNINE PALMS

Lincoln Military Housing is the current provider of military housing at Twentynine Palms. There are nine neighborhoods on base, with one auxiliary housing development 5 miles from the main gate. The wait list and availability of housing tends to vary, so be prepared for a wait!

If you are looking to rent or buy off base, many families choose to commute from the neighboring towns of Joshua Tree and Yucca Valley. Though the drive to base can take 20-40 minutes, these towns offer a wider variety of shops, restaurants, and schools compared to the smaller town of Twentynine Palms. Stationed at Twentynine Palms? Leave a review of your on or off base housing here!

TWENTYNINE PALMS WEATHER

The weather here is exactly what you expect from the desert. The summers will be hot, reaching into the 120's during June, July, and August.

Once you make it through the summer, the winter months offer a nice reprieve from the heat with temperatures in the 60's and 70's. There can even be an occasional taste of winter with temperatures dropping into the 30s and 40s. Many homes off base have swamp coolers which are evaporative cooling devices, instead of the typical central A/C unit. You may require a portable unit for those few hot weeks in July and August.

BAH & COST OF LIVING

The median Morongo Basin (Twentynine Palms and its surrounding towns) home value is $210,000, with costs fluctuating as you move closer to the larger cities of Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs. Due to the popularity of the Joshua Tree National Park, home values are expected to continue to rise over the next 12 months. Given the high heat over the summer, electricity costs should be taken into account when considering your home purchase.

ON BASE AMENITIES

MCAGCC has a large MCX with a Starbucks and a cafeteria. There is a commissary as well as two smaller gas stations. The base has two libraries, one of which is a children's branch with an attached indoor playground. Families may be interested in the three separate fitness centers (with workout classes), the bowling alley, and the splash pad. Each neighborhood also offers playgrounds for its residents. There is a large athletic field with a running track.

CULTURE & CUSTOMS

Twentynine Palms offers a glimpse into small-town Southern California life. Beyond the typical chains, there are several locally owned restaurant options. The small downtown area has had a recent resurgence of businesses as well as a newly formed Farmers' Market.

AREA ATTRACTIONS

FARMERS' MARKET

The Joshua Tree Farmers' Market runs year round and offers shoppers a wide selection of vegetables, fruits, prepared foods, and flowers. There is also a large assortment of locally made specialty goods. This market holds an arts and craft fair in both the Spring and Fall. The Farmer's Market runs rain or shine.

GO HIKING

The Joshua Tree National Park is just 20 minutes from base. Offering a wide variety of hiking trails, this is a great spot for the avid hiker and novice alike. The park also has many campgrounds available. Active Duty military and dependents are gifted free admission so be sure to stop into the visitor center for your free pass, renewable each year.

THRIFTING

Joshua Tree and Yucca Valley both have many thrift and antique stores. Grab a coffee from a local shop and take the afternoon to peruse the shelves. From furniture to records to vintage jewelry, you never know what you might be able to find.

PIONEERTOWN

Just 45 minutes from base, take a step back in time and walk the streets of the old west. This small village has been used in several movies to include 2016's Lazy Eye and hosts festivals throughout the year. Staying for dinner? Grab a table at Pappy and Harriet's for great food and live music. This spot often offers the opportunity for celebrity sightings.

GONE FISHING

Water in the desert? Yes! Joshua Tree Lake offers a small fishing lake surrounded by both RV and tent camping. From the site, you will be able to see panoramic views of the Joshua Tree National Park. Be advised; there are no rentals or food options at the lake. Pack your own equipment and lunch and spend the day by the water.

JOSHUA TREE MUSIC FESTIVAL

In May and October of each year, there is a local music festival in Joshua Tree. This family-friendly festival offers a weekend full of children's activities, yoga, food vendors, and art installations. For locals, there is a great opportunity for volunteering.

AERIAL TRAMWAY

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway offers a 10-minute ride up the side of the Chino Canyon on the north edge of Palm Springs. At the top of the mountain, there are two restaurants, a cocktail lounge, an observation deck, and over 50 miles of hiking trails. Each year, they offer free admission through the month of July to active duty and retired service members. Typically, the temperatures will be anywhere from 30 to 40 degrees cooler. This is a great way to take a break from the heat in July.

WHITEWATER PRESERVE

Another great opportunity to cool down in the summer is with a trip to the Whitewater Preserve just off of Highway 10. The Whitewater River runs year-round. During the summer, free weekend programs are available for children, which include bird watching, catch-and-release fishing, and art projects.

EASY DAY TRIPS

PALM SPRINGS (1.5 HOURS)

When you first arrive in Twentynine Palms, you will often hear people refer to going "down the hill." This applies to the drive down to Palm Springs and its surrounding cities. Palm Springs and Palm Desert are home to the closest Target, Whole Foods, Old Navy, and Trader Joe's. There is also a large mall in Palm Desert. When your shopping is complete, check out the downtown Palm Springs area that is full of delicious restaurants and quaint shops. If you really want to make a trip of it, book a tour of the mid-century modern homes in the area with a pit stop at Elvis' honeymoon home, which is open to tours.

CABAZON (1.5 HOURS)

Cabazon is the home of both the small Cabazon outlets and the large Desert Hills Premium Outlets. This shopping destination has over 150 stores to check out. There is a Starbucks and a cafeteria on location, so there are plenty of options to make a day out of it!

BIG BEAR LAKE (1.75 HOURS)

If you are dreaming of a White Christmas, Big Bear Lake is the spot for you. The winter months blanket the mountain with plenty of snow for skiing and snowboarding. If you are taking the trip in the summer, enjoy several hiking trails, water skiing on the lake, and the local farmers' market.

LAKE ARROWHEAD (2 HOURS)

Located in the San Bernardino National Forest, this is a quaint mountain resort town. A great spot for outdoor activities, Lake Arrowhead has hiking, backpacking, bicycling, and water/snow skiing. There is also a small village with shopping and boat tours of the lake.

SAN DIEGO (3 HOURS)

Need a trip to the beach? You are in luck! All that San Diego has to offer is a quick 3-hour trip away.

LAS VEGAS (3 HOURS)

Through the winding roads of the desert, you can get to Las Vegas in only 3 hours. Many of the units attached to MCAGCC will have their yearly balls in Las Vegas. Be sure to look into all the military discounts available in the city!

Are you currently stationed at Twentynine Palms? Please help other military families moving to your area by leaving a base housing or a neighborhood review.

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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