There are five key things to know before making a trip to Fort Benning, GA – especially if you are under the age of 25! Before Blair’s Family Weekend Pass from his BCT graduation I struggled with planning the trip from Nevada to Georgia. To me, buying a plane ticket, booking a hotel room and picking Blair up was simple. But after taking away the option of me renting a rental car, I might as well have run into a concrete barrier.
Apparently, rental car companies restrict people under the age of 25 from renting a car… And I was 19 at the time so I was in some serious trip planning trouble. While there might have been a few that would rent out to someone younger than that, the extra charges on top of the base rental fee was not worth it. So, I simply just had to do a little bit more planning.
Being three months into being an Army wife at this point, I was wishing that there was some magical site that would tell me all the answers to solving my dilemma. There wasn’t. And everyday after getting off of work, I searched for the best bargains, military friendly deals and tips to making this trip easy going and stress free. Below are the five key things to keep in mind while planning this trip. The extra planning is well worth it in the end – trust me! Just make sure to follow these steps and truly enjoy your time with your loved one and the Family Weekend Pass will be a success!
1. Getting There
If a rental car from the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport isn’t an option, call Groome Transport.
Truth be told, it is a shuttle, you are on it for a good hour and a half/two hours and it isn’t the most comfortable or best smelling when it comes to traveling with others in the hot and humid Georgian heat.
However, it’s only $39 one way or $72 for the round-trip. Pretty stinkin’ affordable by my standards…
There is a military discount if you take the shuttle to the base, but in my case, since we stayed at a hotel in Columbus, GA (the city surrounding Fort Benning), I was not able to receive it.
*Something to keep in mind is that Army “girlfriends” do not have access to military discounts! You have to be a spouse/family member and have a military identification card to receive most military discounts.
No car = Taxi Cab.
I took American Taxi Cab Co. back and forth from our hotel to Benning and I loved them. Their rates were fair and super friendly. Plus, if you call the same driver for your pick-ups, they tend to give you a discount for your “loyalty”!
Please note that not all taxi companies have the ability to go onto base! Each one has to pass a security process to be able to drive on base, so if you decide to use another taxi cab company, just make sure they have access. You are going to need it!
3. Victory Drive
All I really need to say with this tip is stay off and away from Victory Drive. With this road being less than a mile away from Fort Benning’s main gate, it’s easy to pick a hotel right there.
However, most Drill Sergeants tell the boys to stay away from that area due to it not being the best of places (crime, shootings, etc.).
If you do end up picking a hotel there, keep your soldier in the hotel with you and order food in. The Drill Sergeants aren’t joking when they tell you to stay away from that area and they do patrol. Again, trust me! I learned this on my second trip to Fort Benning… 😉
For me, exit 10 off of Interstate 185 in Columbus is the best spot to stay. We stayed at the Wyndham Garden Columbus, which ended up being about twenty miles away from Harmony Church where Blair was at Basic Training. While it does seem a little costly to be 20 miles away from the base (taxi rides were about $40 to the base), it was well worth it because you end up being close to good food stops (IHOP, Hooters for those certain boys, etc.) and a huge movie theater.
Another thing to keep in mind is that most of the boys will want to be as far away from Benning as possible. They’ve been there for the past three months or so and want to enjoy their break – not wake up to look out the window and see the place they likely dread the most!
*A good rule of thumb is to stay within 30 miles of the base. Driving and visiting Atlanta is super against the rules. Do it at your own risk!
5. Leave Time
In the Army, “on time” is late, yet too early is obnoxious. Just plan on leaving reasonably early for wherever you go.
I planned on arriving to Georgia the day before the BCT graduation ceremony. This was the perfect amount of time for me to relax, calm my nerves (I was literally uncontrollably excited and nervous – it was a huge moment in my personal and married life!) and iron my outfits for the next few days.
When it came to the actual graduation, I ended up being four hours too early… All I can say is that I was a tad bit confused on when the ceremony was. Luckily, Blair’s battle buddy’s wife had done the same! So we walked and talked and tried to calm each other down from our excitement the best we could.
When it is time for them to report back, half an hour prior was a good amount of time to say your goodbyes and once again leave them. This was the hardest part about this trip, but what I’ve come to realize is that it is a huge part of being an Army wife. Just stay strong, say your prayers and start writing him letters again as soon as he starts walking back to his troop.
Now this last bit isn’t quite a tip, but rather just common sense. Make sure as a spouse or a family member, that your soldier stays in his uniform if out in public, stays in his pt clothes if walking around the hotel and that he always says sir or ma’am. And if they do run into a Drill Sergeant, they should always stand at parade rest. Nothing too hard for any of them considering they have done all of these things every day for the past three months.
Remember that Drill Sergeants give out rules for a reason. If your soldier decides not to follow them, it is their choice. But as a loved one, push them to do the right thing! Because they really won’t want to mess up the last three months of training they have already had and start again from Day 0 if caught – and yes, that does happen!
I hope that this is helpful to someone out there – I know I sure would have loved to have this for direction!