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March 6, 2023

How to maximize your military benefits using Space A travel with Poppin Smoke creator and retired mil spouse Stephanie!

How to maximize your military benefits using Space A travel with Poppin Smoke creator and retired mil spouse Stephanie!

Today we are sitting down with retired army wife Stephanie to talk all things Space A travel.

I know Space A travel seems like a beast and you have probably heard horror stories, I have too! Stephanie is going to break it down into simple steps to help you understand how to make the most of this military benefit.

We cover:

-how flights work, and realistic expectations

-Identifying the closest bases with the biggest hubs to maximize you chance of getting a flight

-She goes through the process of sign up

-how to identify and track flight schedules

I’m not going lie, Space A travel is a beast! Especially if you are a newbie. I ask a lot of questions, because I’m trying to figure it out with you! 

Stephanie then talks to us about lodging when you finally arrive at your destination and getting a rental car when you arrive on a base. She has a great resource for this on her website!

We talk about how to plan your trip home and when to do that. If you can’t afford to fly commercial, you can’t afford to fly Space A. You always have to be prepared to fly commercial if you are unable to find a military flight home.

Stephanie shares her best tips to travel comfortably and be ready for any flight conditions, again, she has great resources on her website including travel essentials and pack lists!

When you have arrived at your location, Stephanie shares how to plan your excursions or events using the local base MWR or ITT offices and how to find them.

This episode is packed full of great tips and information! Please reach out and let me know if you have questions or other military topics you want to hear more about!

Here are some helpful links Stephanie wanted to share!
Space-A Quickstart Guide: https://www.poppinsmoke.com/space-a-flights/

Space-A Packing List: https://www.poppinsmoke.com/space-a-packing-list/

Location Guides: https://www.poppinsmoke.com/space-a-locations/

Also, on her Facebook page, she shares a lot of tips and her own articles, plus other information of interest to military travelers, including MWR trips from bases around the world, etc.: https://www.facebook.com/PoppinSmokeSite

I so appreciate you listening to the show!

If you wouldn’t mind leaving a rating and review I would really appreciate it!!

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To get in touch with Alison with questions or potential topics or guests please email


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And please check out our brand spanking new website! www.themilspousepodcast.com


[00:00:00] Today I am, I'm really excited to talk about this topic. We're gonna be talking about space a travel, which I feel like is a little bit of a beast. It's a little daunting, a little scary. So I have on the show today Stephanie. And Stephanie is a retired army wife and the creator of the website Poppins Smoke.

[00:00:17] If you guys haven't heard of it, I will link it in the show notes, but you need to check it out. And it's devoted to helping retired and soon to be retired military members. Take advantage of your military travel benefit. So Stephanie's gonna, we'll talk, we'll get into all that stuff, , you have some really great resources on how to really utilize those benefits.

[00:00:36] And then you guys, like if you follow on Instagram, You have, how might you just ran a, was it a marathon or a half marathon in Spain? I mean, like, you guys are like living the life over there. So I'd be really curious to hear about some of the adventures that that you've had over there as well. So, Stephanie, welcome to the show.

[00:00:51] Happy to have you here. 

[00:00:52] Thanks Allison. Appreciate the great introduction. I'm excited to be here. Yeah. 

[00:00:56] Awesome. Okay, so tell us a little bit about what, so your husband retired quite a while ago, back in 2015. Mm-hmm. . So tell us just a little bit about what your military life looked like 

[00:01:06] before he got. . So that's funny to say.

[00:01:10] You know, first of all, to say it was like quite a while ago, I guess now, it was, the time has passed very, very quickly. we were living in Washington, DC his last duty station was at the Pentagon, and I had personally been in DC for about 12 years before we left. So he had. We actually got married about four years before he retired, but prior to that we were dating, but it was some long distance, some, you know, a year deployment in Afghanistan, a deployment to Iraq right after we got married and so on.

[00:01:40] Mm-hmm. . So I was still working and I had my career going in Washington, DC and then toward the end we kind of, we were looking towards his retirement and asking ourselves what's next for us? And we loved our life in DC we, we still talk about how much we love DC but we sort of felt like. , we wanted something else and we just didn't know exactly what it was.

[00:02:02] So I had in mind my, it was my idea to take a sabbatical or a gap year, whatever you wanna call it, to travel. And at first, my husband was not a huge fan of the idea because he did 30 years and his dad did 30 years and he'd done enough travel for, for a lifetime. , I think. Sure. Ultimately he, he was willing to do it cuz it was my dream.

[00:02:22] And of course we're very happy that we did. 

[00:02:24] Yeah. Okay. So tell, so you like 100% live 

[00:02:29] abroad, is that correct? We do now. So we don't have a home in the United States. We plan to take a year off to travel. We store our household goods and that's something that we can talk about a little later cause that was courtesy of the Army.

[00:02:42] Okay. But and we just planted. Travel and for a year, and we weren't even sure if we would like it that much. Maybe we'd wanna come back after six months. Right. But then we plan to settle back in the United States. Just regular life. Yeah. But then that, that's, that's not what happened. We realized that we really enjoyed traveling and that.

[00:03:01] We weren't sure where we wanted to settle back in the US and in fact, that life was a lot cheaper in many places overseas. So, mm, we could live pretty comfortably on my husband's retirement plus va, and then I could build up my own business and be location independent. That was the goal. 

[00:03:17] Yeah. Okay, so then, so that was like 2015.

[00:03:21] You're like, okay, we get out, we're gonna take a year, travel, see how it goes. And here we are, what's it, seven years later, and you guys are still going on eight years later and you guys are still roaming abroad. So what does that look like? Do you like, Hey, I really wanna go to this place, and you stay on base the entire time you live in A T L F, you rent a house.

[00:03:41] Like, how long do you decide where you're gonna stay and what you wanna go? How, how does that 

[00:03:45] all. Well now we've actually lived in two places with regular apartments and things like that. It's not been completely nomadic, so Okay. After that first year, my husband is half Japanese and we had through that first year of travel, we had visited some family that he had recently met.

[00:04:02] It was his mom's siblings and they don't speak English. And they said they're the only two siblings left that still live in Japan. And they told him that he needed to learn Japanese. So since we weren't ready to come back to the United States, we said, okay, we're gonna go there and he can study, do an intensive language program for what was supposed to be six months Uhhuh

[00:04:22] So we did that and about four months into it, we were, we decided, wow, we, we like it here and it's, we're having a great time and we don't wanna leave. So we looked, my husband researched it a little bit, and because of his heritage, we were able to get residents visas. Oh. Oh, okay. It just is like a child of a Japanese national.

[00:04:41] Okay. So they actually gave us three years, which was pretty shocking because everybody, you know, one of the among expat communities, one of the big topics of conversation is always like, , what visa do you have and how can what's, you know, how are you gonna make it so you can stay here and so on. So everybody we knew who had, for example, a spouse visa had gotten a year at a time, and then you have to apply to extend it and so on.

[00:05:02] So they gave us three years and we actually made our decision to stay on six months at a time. Okay. But we ultimately were there for two and a half years. Wow. And then we did some. I had set my sights also on living in Spain at some point. So after some back and forth and Covid, we moved to road to Spain where we've been for a little over two years.

[00:05:25] Okay, so in, in both places. Yeah. We have to have regular apartments and things like that. Not, not living on base. Okay. 

[00:05:31] Okay. Wow, that's fascinating. So that's like, I don't even know if we want to even touch that , cause that's 

[00:05:38] probably 

[00:05:38] like a big rabbit hole, but the whole visa thing like that, if you, so, so I guess so it's a different, we're gonna s we're gonna focus on.

[00:05:46] We're gonna focus on, just for sake of time and clarity. Mm-hmm. , we're just gonna focus on like space a travel. Sure. And like, Hey, I really wanna go to this place. What can we do to maximize that benefit? Get there, stay visit. We're not gonna kind of dive into the, Hey, I really wanna go live in Japan. How can I do that?

[00:06:01] Sure. We're, we're, we're, we'll skip that part. I maybe different, better episode. That be a different podcast. Yeah. Okay. So then so then tell me or tell us about how pop and smoke, the website that you created, where, where did that come from and how has that grown and developed over the years? 

[00:06:18] So, I created it.

[00:06:19] I started at about. More than a year after we'd started traveling. Okay. Which is of course is, is too bad because we did quite a bit of fun stuff that it would've been good to document in the interim. But basically when we took off to travel, we were using all these benefits. We, so the first thing that we did was road trip around the United States, and we stayed in base lodging in almost all the places that we went.

[00:06:42] and then we flew Space A to Europe. That was my first space, a flight. And it worked very well for us because as we can talk about a little later, you can't always plan too far in advance and you kind of have to take, you know, go where the mission is going. Right. So still, it was a great benefit. I estimate we probably saved like $20,000 on flights with all the flying that we did.

[00:07:04] Yeah. And you know, we, because we had a lot of time at our disposal, it was easy. Learn as we go. How? How it all works, but okay. We also use like military recreational facilities overseas. So when we were in Okinawa, we went scuba diving with a marina, or we rented a boat at McDell Air Force Base. All these cool things that it just seemed like not enough people know about.

[00:07:26] And you know, we would talk to other retirees or active duty folks and they would say either they hadn't heard of space A or they heard bad things about it that was too difficult and so on. and so I really wanted to help people take advantage of these benefits, particularly people that are retiring.

[00:07:43] That are retired or planning looking towards retirement because there are some very cool benefits that you have to plan ahead to use. Okay. For example, I mentioned that we stored our household goods. Yeah. So after retirement you, you, according to the reg you have, they, the military will pay for up to one year of storage.

[00:08:03] Oh, okay. And then you can apply to extend that storage on your own dime up to six years. Oh wow. So, that I always called that the price of freedom once we started paying for our storage. Because just not having to worry about all your household goods and being able to explore and figure out what you wanna do next is so huge.

[00:08:25] Yeah. And so that, but it's something you can't, you have to know about that in advance in order to be able to take advantage of that. Yeah, for sure. Yeah, so mostly I wanted to start popping smoke to, to educate people about all these benefits and explain how to use them. So it's the idea. A travel blog like, Hey, look what we're doing.

[00:08:44] It's, here's what you can do. And I have a lot of, I, you know, I make a point of also featuring other retirees or other people using their benefits who use different benefits than we use. For example, we don't rv so if, but there's a lot of people that are really interested in RV travel, so I always have guest contributors right about that topic.

[00:09:02] Yeah. So, okay. So then if, if, if someone is, cuz I am, I'm in the camp of, I have heard the horror stories of space a mm-hmm. and that it's really hard to do mm-hmm. . So can you kind of like, just, I don't, I, and I say Cliff's notes, we talked about this before, I was kind of aging ourselves, but like, kind of like the, just like the brief version of what does that look like, how can you utilize it and kind of what are like some of the big things that you need to look out for, like you were saying.

[00:09:28] It worked for you guys because you kind of had that open schedule and it was like mm-hmm. , you were able to kind of move around stuff. So w So is that then not ideal for someone like, Hey, I wanna go to Maryland for a week in the summer? , you know, on these specific dates maybe. Mm-hmm. , they might not be ideal for you.

[00:09:44] So can you kind of give us a little bit of the, the ins and outs of, of the space a flights? Just, we'll start with just the flights to begin with. 

[00:09:52] Sure. So basically what a space a flight is, is when a military mission, after they've accommodated all the required personnel and cargo, has extra space, extra seats.

[00:10:03] Mm-hmm. . So the mission could be, it could be the rotator, which a lot of people will be familiar with, like the, also known as the Patriot Express that brings. Active duty people to their duty station, like in Japan or Kiran, Rhoda. It can be a cargo flight, carrying tanks, ammunition, anything, right? It can be a medevac flight.

[00:10:21] Any of those are military missions, and so, You have to go where the mission is going. And so that's, I think one of the first misconception is you can't say, oh, I would like to go from here to here on this date. Are there any flights? So the flight schedules aren't actually available until 72 hours.

[00:10:38] Advance in advance at at most. Okay. And there are. Most of the missions are going from one base to another. Like occasionally you're gonna see a flight from a base to a civilian airport or someplace like that. But other than those rotators, the Patriot Express missions, most of them are from one base to another.

[00:10:54] Okay. And then typically, you know, certain bases fly to other, you know, certain destinations most frequently. And there can always be a mission from, from anywhere to anywhere. But that, Piece of, of learning how space it works. So the first thing I would recommend to anyone is really just take the time to read through the whole process and understand how it works.

[00:11:15] So I have a quick start guide on my blog that explains all that it's, you know, the, the entire process from understanding what your category is, that's another Yep. Misunderstanding about space A is that it has anything to do with rank. So, is, this is one instance where rank does not have privileges, but you're right, if you're on it just depends on what your duty status is.

[00:11:38] Like if you're traveling on E M L or if you're on leave, you're active duty. So on do our higher priority. So right. A junior enlisted person on leave is. Is category three, whereas my husband and I, after him serving 30 years, he's a category six, which is the bottom, the lowest category. Right. So it, it's, it's not, it's not about a rank or anything like that, but, Oh, that's good to know.

[00:12:03] Yeah. . So, yeah, the biggest thing is to really just understand how the overall process works and where you can and can't use it, what circumstances it's good for. So in the example that you. Your correct. Summer is actually a more difficult time to fly space A, because it's during PCs season. Right. And there's just like more competition and, and generally fewer seats.

[00:12:25] Okay. But also you have to. Figure out where the hubs are. So the, the main space a hubs in the United States tend to be on the coast. So like on the West Coast, Travis Air Force base is like the biggest hub, joint base. Lewis McCord is a big hub. Yeah. And then on the East coast you have Norfolk, you have McGuire, you have Dover, all those.

[00:12:44] Okay. In the, in the middle of the country, there's fewer bases with as many flights. . And so that that is, that's where you have to kind of ask yourself the question, like, do I wait around to see if there happens to be a flight, or do I just fly a commercial? Right. Yeah, 

[00:12:59] that's kind of where, where we ended up going.

[00:13:01] I was like, I was, you know, I was telling you beforehand we wanted to go to that's how this kind of can of worms opened for me. And so I was like, Hey, we're going to the East coast and you know, there's, , all the bases are right there. , it should be no problem. Right. But coming from Colorado, Colorado Springs is the closest space, a Peterson Air Force base.

[00:13:21] they don't have hardly anything. So I was like, okay, they don't, that's, that's not gonna happen. So that's good to know. And then I guess this was something else that was kind of tripping me up too, is that where you are going or where you wanna come from, they're all separate. Like, so, like for example, if you wanna fly out of a base in Colorado, Colorado Springs, Petersons Air Force Base, you have to go and apply specif.

[00:13:44] With them and from them. Right. And then if you, so it's, it depends. So you have to go to each individual place that you wanna go. And it's a whole process at that specific location. It's not like a, you know, like an online system. Wouldn't that be nice? An online system that's like, Hey, this is where I wanna go.

[00:14:00] When it's like this is what's available. That's not how it 

[00:14:03] works. . Well, it's. So that's called signup. When you let a, when you let a terminal know that you wanna fly for them, and then it's actually, you don't have to go there in person, it is pretty easy to sign up. Okay. So the way we always do it is my husband does our signups, is he sends one email to all the terminals that we might wanna fly from.

[00:14:21] Just, and you can put on as many as you want. Okay. Lets them know there's, there's a form on the A M C the Air Mobility Command website that tells you what information they need. Basically it's, you know, information, personal information, how many passengers traveling with you and so on. Okay. And then you send that to via email to the terminals.

[00:14:39] Okay? And you can blind copy or copy all of them. That's one way to do it. Okay. There's also an app that you can use that kind of does the same thing. Okay. And then you, you can, you can go to the terminal in person. There's also, there is an online form, but you can only sign up for one terminal a time with that form.

[00:14:58] Okay. So we just like to do it like, one good rule of thumb is that say you were trying to fly to Europe, you would sign up with all the bases on the East coast. Just, just, just in case, you know, you never know where you'll get the flight. Okay. And so the signup piece is really easy and in general, your signup is good at most spaces for up to 60.

[00:15:18] Oh, okay. So when you're, when you're signing up, you're not signing up for any particular flight. You're saying, we're gonna fly out of here sometime in the next 60 days. Okay. For active duty people, they cannot sign up until they're actually on leave, so that's very important. I mean, there's different rules for every, okay.

[00:15:38] Category. Whereas like as a retiree, we are a lower priority, but we can sign up whenever. But like if you wanna travel with your husband, you have to wait till he is actually on leave, then submit your signup. But the good news is you're higher, you're high priority though, so Okay. That makes that part a lot easier.

[00:15:53] , your signup, you kind of have like seniority based on your place on this virtual list. Okay. So if you've signed up, 45 days ago, and you get to the terminal you are gonna be called, you will get a. Before someone who signed up last week, who's also in your category. Okay.

[00:16:11] Okay. So then so I, I got lost there for just a second. So when you, you put, you, you fill out your Forbes, right? And you're like, this is mm-hmm. . And so the forms are good for 60 days. So then does the terminal let you know. And how long do they let you know, hey, there's a flight that's gonna have space on it come at this time?

[00:16:29] Or how does, what does that look like? How does the notification that there is a flight and there's space on it and you have the potential of getting on, what does that look like? 

[00:16:37] So you can track the flight schedules? . Each of the terminals has, or most of them have a page on the Air Mobility Command website.

[00:16:45] Okay. So I can give you a link to, I have an article that basically gives with screenshots, like a step-by-step how to find the flight schedules. Okay. But they publish their 30, I'm sorry, their 72 hour schedules on their respective websites. Okay. A lot of them also publish a report that shows which flights left in the last few days, how many people got seats, and so on.

[00:17:04] Okay. A lot of term, the terminals used to use Facebook to post these schedules, and they basically have been transitioning away from that since last year. So almost all of the Air Mobility command terminals are now on the A M C website. A few like national Guard, actually Peterson Air Force Boys does still use Facebook.

[00:17:22] Yeah, I saw that . So, yeah, it, it, I mean, it, it makes it accessible, but it's. , you definitely have to, A lot of people ask, is there one place that says where all the flights are going? Or how do I know? You know what flights go from where, and unfortunately there, there isn't really one place that aggregates all that information, in part because the missions can go anywhere.

[00:17:44] Sure. And then you can have a base that was flying. Like McGuire Air Force Base used to have tons of missions to places in Europe, and then now it seems that Dover has taken over a lot of those. And so things change over the years and you just have to, you kind of have to be proactive about monitoring the flights.

[00:18:02] Okay. And then one exception I should note though, is I've mentioned those Patriots breast flights. Yeah. Those schedules are available for one calendar month at a time. So, 

[00:18:11] and those are different because those are like specific. Those are not doing a mission. It's like actual flight route routes that flight all the time.

[00:18:18] Is that, is that what that is? The Patriot 

[00:18:20] Express? Well, their, their mission is to take families to their duty stations overseas and so Oh, gotcha. Okay. So they do have those planned, because those are commercial charter flights. . Okay. So they, they typically, the schedule usually is the same, like it's, you know, every other Tuesday or something like that.

[00:18:37] Okay. From Nafo to Rhoda and Silla, that's pr I'm sure I'm getting the actual date wrong, but that's more or or less how it works. Okay. So you can plan ahead in that respect, knowing which days the flights take off. Okay? But you won't know if there are any space a seats until 72 at least, or at most 72 hours prior to the.

[00:18:57] Okay, so , 

[00:18:58] that is like how I'm, I'm already overwhelmed and like, so I have a very like type A personality. So maybe this is not the ideal season for me to be and we also have young kids, so I think that, but I'm just thinking like, oh my gosh. You. Figure out what terminal you're gonna fly out of.

[00:19:16] You fill out your form, it's good for 60 days, you can look on the a m C at what flights. Mm-hmm. they have available. , within 72 hours of a flight, they'll let you know if there's space. So then you'll pack up your stuff, you'll show up at the terminal and you may or may not get on the flight.

[00:19:30] Is that 

[00:19:31] that's, that's more, more or less how it works? Yeah. So you, oh my gosh. Unless you see a flight that you, you wanna try to take, we call it competing for the flight. , you go to the terminal and you, you, it's called marking yourself present, which is essentially checking in, basically saying to them, Hey, I'm, I wanna try for this flight.

[00:19:48] Okay. And then at that point, 

[00:19:50] and that's, is that 72 hours ahead of 

[00:19:51] time you would do that? You do that within 24 hours of the. The time listed on the schedule. Oh, okay. That they have on their website. And so you can do it, you can do it three hours before that time. You just have to do it within 24. And then you wait for what's called roll call, which is when they read the names of people who are selected for the flight.

[00:20:12] And they do that in order of priority. So if there were 30 available seats, they'll start out reading the people who are in the mo, the highest priority category, which is people traveling on emergency leave. Right. And then they go from there. . So, yeah, I mean, your summary was, was, was pretty much perfect.

[00:20:28] It's, it sounds, I suppose to, because we've gotten a little bit, you know, more details on some aspects than others, but it's a pretty, once you get it, it's a pretty straightforward process and Okay. Especially when people are, you know, they live in an area. where they're close to the terminal with frequent flights, it can be pretty easy.

[00:20:46] And you start to learn that, like if you live near Travis for example, that's the number one place to start if you wanna go to Hawaii. Okay. And because they have very frequent flights to Hawaii. Okay. That you're gonna see a lot of those. And so I wouldn't, it's, you know, arguably easier that to, to fly from there than a place that only has flights every so often.

[00:21:06] And yeah, you're not always, you're not always travel ready at that. . 

[00:21:10] Yeah. So then, okay, so then say, you know, we've retired and we've retired in Colorado. Mm-hmm. and Peterson is the base here that doesn't have very many flights. So then if I wanna go, like, say I wanna go to Europe, I wanna go to Rhoda or to Japan.

[00:21:24] Mm-hmm. , I need to really get myself over to east Coast base and try and, and do something from there. So, I'm, I'm just trying to like, am my brain like ? I hope this isn't painful for the listeners, but maybe your brain's doing the same thing. But I'm like, I'm just trying to wrap my head around like what this looks like in the process.

[00:21:45] So like, if I'm like, I live in the middle of the country, I wanna try and take space a cause I wanna go to Europe. , then I would kind of get myself to the base and then like, hope for the best . Is that I mean Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:21:57] Ba basically, yeah. I mean if you don't live near a base with frequent flights, the best thing to do, and, and then at that point it really becomes worthwhile.

[00:22:05] Mostly if you're going someplace far like Japan or you wanna go all the way to Europe. Yeah. But yeah, so if you wanted to go to Japan, you would either take a fly commercial to Seattle because there is a. A rotator, a Patriot Express out of Seattle Airport that goes to Japan and Korea. Okay. Or you could, you know, Travis has frequent flights to the Pacific.

[00:22:27] And then if you wanna go to Europe, there's a bunch of different bases on the East Coast that could be good starting points. So Uhhuh . I mean that is part of the strategy with Flying Space A is figuring out, you know, you do some back of the envelope calculations too on, yeah. So how much is it gonna cost you to fly commercial to get yourself to that base, and then figure in what if you have to wait a couple nights in lodging versus how much does it cost to fly to Europe directly from your location in the Midwest or so?

[00:22:53] Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So

[00:22:55] then so, so you have figured it out and you've gotten on a space, a flight. Yes. And now you're flying to say, we're flying to Ro, to Spain, Uhhuh, . So then what does that look like when you get there? You, you, because, so I'm thinking that if you really don't know if you're gonna get on a flight or when one's gonna be available, it's really hard to make those once you get.

[00:23:16] Kind of plans and reservations. So what does that, what does that look like, I guess, what has your experience been with that? Because I'm sure you know, people are just gonna be different, but I'm just curious like, cuz I'm just thinking, oh my gosh, if I'm just figuring out, I'm leaving on, I'm leaving in two days.

[00:23:29] Oh gosh. And then how do you figure out what you're gonna do for lodging and. Wh that's, so that's the first one. Like where are you gonna live? And then the other thing that was kind of tripping me up too was I was like, okay, so you're taking this military flight, you're gonna land on a military base, and then how do you get off of the base

[00:23:46] Yeah. You know what I'm saying? And like, because they don't have like rental car terminals on base. Right. So I'm curious about that part too. So what do you do as far as like the lodging is? It might be a last minute thing, or it is kind of towards the last minute. And then one of the other parts too was how do you navigate off of base to get to your lodging.

[00:24:03] Mm-hmm. 

[00:24:04] Well with Grace. Say you don't wanna book anything non-refundable in advance because Okay. . Even if you, you know, you, you're, even if you're selected for the flight, then all of a sudden it's delayed and it turns out you're gonna be arriving 24 hours later or something. They're, you know, so basically we, we usually just book wait till we land and we figured out from there.

[00:24:26] And so we've gotten pretty comfortable doing that. And I mean, I think by definition, because we're not flying space a in the middle of the summer, we're usually flying in the off season. and it's just, we've never had a problem. You, you know, you just, there's always a place to stay. We're, we've never been homeless when we landed or something like that.

[00:24:43] So, okay. The rules, most spaces do have a rental car on base, but the rules differ, like if you're overseas, on whether peop who can use it. So for example, if you fly into Germany retirees cannot rent from the, the main rental place on the base. There's one location they can rent from, but then otherwise you have to go off.

[00:25:04] And that just has to do with the sofa agreement with Germany. Okay. About what retirees can use, but Okay. Yeah, rules vary overseas as to whether taxis can drive on the base and so on. Usually there's at least one taxi company that can come on the base, but so I do like, we also have on pop and smoke.

[00:25:23] We have a list of. We have a bunch of location guides that give you all of the information you just asked about so that people know what to expect when they land. So what are the lodging options? What are the ground transportation options? Oh, awesome. All that stuff. So that's, yeah, that's good stuff to research before you go so that you can kind of hit the ground running.

[00:25:41] Yeah, when 

[00:25:42] you get there. And then, so then, so I'm like, okay, fantastic. I'm flying to Germany and I wanna spend, I, I don't know, like, however, how do you, how do you kind of figure out the way back home? Do you need to start doing that right away? Like what, what does that look like? Or do you kind of keep it open-ended?

[00:26:00] You definitely, I mean, you wanna keep that in mind. If you were, you know, I wouldn't tr fly from the US to Germany for less than. I don't know, 10 days or something like that. It just depends. It depends on what commitments you have on either end. And so I would say also that anytime you fly space, say you have to be prepared just in case to fly commercial home.

[00:26:22] Like if you just can't get out, you know that's, yeah, that's you. You'll, you'll just have to pay. for commercial tickets. Okay. So you hope that doesn't happen, but that's just a reality. Like some people, you'll hear people say, if you don't, if you can't afford to fly commercial, you can't afford to fly space a because there's always the possibility that you would have to get a commercial ticket at some point, but Okay.

[00:26:42] Yeah, with Germany, I mean the same thing. And you just kind of keep watching the schedules. Look for the patterns. , , my rule of thumb is you're traveling between the US and an overseas location. Take whatever flight you can get back to the States.

[00:26:54] Okay. Like if you're coming, if you flew out of Dover into. Ramstein Airbase. And then there's a flight going to Westover Airbase in you know, in, I think that's in Massachusetts. Just take it . Okay. It's not then. And then figure out from there where, where, how you can 

[00:27:13] get back home. Yeah, just get back to the US and then you Sure.

[00:27:16] It's just, is that international part. Okay. So can you tell us? Okay, so , in my past life I trained dolphins and sea lion for the Navy marine mammal program, which I've talked about on the show before. So I, we'll, we'll get into that. But we use the military to help us transport our animals and so I have been on flights, on military flights.

[00:27:37] Our animals and civilians come on to fill those space a seats. Right. Wow. So yeah, which I don't, well, I don't, they weren't a huge fan because the require, some of the requirements that we have is the temperature has to be very cold. . Mm-hmm. . Yeah. So they were, I felt bad. There were people quite, quite bundled and not prepared to not prepared for, for the climate that we had in the plane.

[00:28:01] But, so I'm curious what type of. , like flight conditions should you expect if you're flying space a mm-hmm. on like mm-hmm. . So I guess if you're flying like a military mission mm-hmm. , like what kind of, what does that look like? And then and then if you could tell us a little bit about what those Patriot Express planes and flights look like.

[00:28:20] Sure. 

[00:28:21] So on a cargo flight it's pretty much always cold. I mean, it can be cold or hot, but you should plan. So dress in. I always dress like I would dress for a day of like outdoor activity. So lots of light layers. We bring a sleeping pad and we, I actually have a, a packing list that explains exactly what we wear and everything 

[00:28:41] that we wear.

[00:28:42] I saw that. Yeah, you have, it's, that's a really great, like, cuz you, there was all kinds of like how to pack stuff and then things to make you comfortable on the plane. Like, it's a great, it's a great list. So, yeah. Okay. Sorry. Continue. I, I saw that and I was like, oh yes. That's great. Oh, we should get that too.

[00:28:55] Yeah. So that's fantastic. Okay. Sorry, continue , 

[00:28:59] that's, I mean, that's just, yeah, you just plan, you just know it's the biggest thing is knowing in advance what the conditions are and then planning accordingly. So yes, it is cold, but if you're dressed if you have the right gear and you have brought your sleeping pad so that you can sleep, I would, you know, give me a C 17 any day.

[00:29:16] I would absolutely prefer that over any commercial flight, and actually I prefer it to the Patriot Express as well. Okay. The Patriot Express is just a commercial. Charter flight. So yeah, it looks like any other airplane, they have flight attendants, they have movies, they serve food and so on. Okay. But they don't have as much legroom as a C 17.

[00:29:36] So , you know, everybody has their preference. I mean, some people think, you know what, there's no better way that to go than the Patriot Express, because it is a lot, you know, it's almost exactly like a civilian flight. Okay. And you know, you don't have to bring any special gear or anything like, Right. But personally, I love the cargo planes.

[00:29:56] I mean, I, to me, that's part of the adventure and, and I haven't had the pleasure of being with any animal cargo or anything like that. But we've had some, it doesn't happen often, but when it does happen, 

[00:30:06] I know, I mean, I think they still thought it was cool. Like, who gets to fly with the dolphin or sea lions.

[00:30:10] I mean, that's, yes.

[00:30:12] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that's, that's part of why, like, to me, that you have to go into space. Thinking it's an adventure and looking forward to it as adventure, because there's always that piece of it. And so many of the things that happen happen with civilian flights as well. So if there's delays or cancellations, but the flight is free, you know, and you're not doing, you know, and you're just, you know, it's a, it's just not as stressful.

[00:30:36] There's now, you know, 10,000 people surrounding you and trying to go through the security with them. Barking at you about Right, right, right. Barking. Yeah. So, 

[00:30:45] I can, I agree with you on that point though, because, well, I've only flown extensively. We, we, I went to Australia one time from the west coast. It was a long flight, and you can't, the seats only recline so 

[00:30:56] far 

[00:30:57] unless you've got the money to spend on those little pods or the business class that, and I agree with you, I would much rather have a sleeping pad and some open space on the floor so she could actually like, Become horizontal as opposed to trying to sleep as best you can sitting up.

[00:31:10] Right. So I, I, I can see that for sure. Okay. So do you know then what type of aircraft you're gonna be on? Like if, when you get on that 72 hour list, do you know what type of aircraft you're gonna be on? So then you can make a little bit more plans as far as what 

[00:31:25] to pack and whatnot? You might know in advance if you're gonna be on a Patriot Express, if that's, if that's the one that you're planning for.

[00:31:33] Okay. But sometimes if you. Say, like I said, like if you're in Germany and you say, okay, now it's time to try to get back to the United States. You don't know which flight you're gonna get, so you might hope you'll get a Patriot Express, which would take you to Baltimore. Yeah. But you might get a c5, so, okay.

[00:31:48] If we are flying space, say, we would always bring, you know, our layers in our, in our Sure. Sleeping pad and so on. Yeah. So that's 

[00:31:57] okay. Yeah. And, and so then the Patriot Express are for military only and operated by military, is that right? 

[00:32:05] It's actually a contract service. So it's a civilian carrier. Oh, and the flight attends are civilians.

[00:32:11] So 

[00:32:12] is that, so then are there military. , so are only military people on those flights or civilians can fly on those flights as well. 

[00:32:21] It's only military, I suppose. Probably d od civilians that are coming. Okay. People, people coming to their military duty station. Okay, but it's not 

[00:32:29] like a united plane or a No, no, no, no.

[00:32:31] It's, it's separate. Okay. But it is but it's a charter. It's for the military. Okay. Yeah. Okay. Gotcha. So then, okay, so that's flights.

[00:32:37] And that's a lot like, it's, it's a beast to kind of figure out. But like you were saying, if you, you have your quick start guide, read that. And then once you kind of like give yourself, like the first time you do it, give yourself some space and some latitude to be able to kind of navigate and figure it out.

[00:32:52] And then the more you do, I, I mean, just like anything, right? The easier it becomes and then you kind of learn the ins and outs and this is what you need to do and not do. And pack. And not pack, but your website again kind of gives you all of, a lot of those tips and tricks and guides to help you navigate that.

[00:33:06] Okay? So then, so then we, now we've arrived. We've got the whole flight situation and we've arrived. Mm-hmm. . So then what do you do from there? Do you guys usually stay in military bases on, on, on bases, or do you stay, go out in the civilian world? Like what does that look like for you guys? 

[00:33:23] if we're flying overseas, particularly if it's a place we have not been before, we usually like to stay a night or two in base lodging just to kind of get our bearings.

[00:33:31] Especially if you arrive late at, you know, in the middle of the night or something like that. . So that works best for us and then we, and then we like to go. On the economy, that's, we don't, you know. Okay. That's a lot of the experience. So if we're staying in a place for a longer period, we usually go with Airbnb.

[00:33:47] If we're only staying for a couple days, we'll look for a hotel or something like that. Okay. And again, we, we always do all this last minute we. You can always find deals, especially when you're traveling in the off season, so, okay. That just works for us. And it's, it's funny, that's now like when I'm traveling with, like I'm coordinating with family or something to travel and people wanna book flights and hotels four months in advance.

[00:34:08] It just seems so strange to me. , you know, I'm so used to our style of travel now, which is very much on the fly. But yeah, it just, it just works. Cause there's always a cancellation, say, especially in base lodging, like people will say, Hard to get a room. And so maybe if you had called three days in advance, they would've said, no, we don't have one.

[00:34:25] But if you, if you just show up somebody, there was always a cancellation or they waited until, you know, a certain time before they released a room. That's, you know, if there was a nohow, things like that. Right. Right. 

[00:34:37] Okay. So then so usually stay on base just for a couple days, especially if you're going overseas to kinda get your bears and then stay out in town or on the economy.

[00:34:46] Mm-hmm. is like kind of the mm-hmm. the term as you're over there. And then so then what kind of, you, you were saying that you like to use a lot of M W R facilities and mm-hmm. things to do, like excursions and things like that. So can you kind of talk about that just a little bit? What, what, how you plan that out 

[00:35:02] and what you do.

[00:35:03] Sure. So basically, , if you wanna find what kinds of tours and activities, just Google whatever the name of the base is, M W R, or Outdoor Rec or something like that. So recently, for example, we didn't fly space a, but we went to Sicily and Okay, we, we looked around the base at Cella and we did a tour, like a quad tour on Mount Aetna through them, which was very cool.

[00:35:26] Yeah. So that's just an example of, you know, I think it's more a question. , remembering the, these things are there and looking into them. Sure. Because the bases all do these really fun tours and you don't have to be stationed there, like retirees can do it, or people who are stationed elsewhere. It doesn't matter what branch of service you're in, as long as you have your ID card, you can do it.

[00:35:45] Yeah. So it's, it's, it's fun stuff and it's just nice having someone do all, you know, take care of all the logistics and planning and driving and things like that. Yeah. And just go 

[00:35:55] on, go along for the ride. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Okay. Okay, so then what has. So you've been doing this for quite a while now, so what has been like your favorite place that you've traveled 

[00:36:05] to?

[00:36:05] So, . Oh gosh. That's . Everything everywhere. Everywhere. I love everywhere. And I wanna go back everywhere. I mean, pleases are so unique. I mean, Sicily was, you know, in my brains. We were just there a couple weeks ago. Yeah. We, we would look forward to going back there. I loved our time in Japan for, we were there for two and a half years.

[00:36:26] We're looking to go back to Japan this year because this is the first opportunity we've had since Covid. Sure. . Every place is unique. I mean, there's no, there's no place I can think of where I was like, okay, been there, done that. I don't , I don't wanna go there again. Yeah. Yeah, it's, I mean, we've, we climbed Mount Fuji and that was another fun thing that we did.

[00:36:45] So again, using base support, so there is a marine base at, at the bottom of Mount Fuji, it's called Camp Fuji . Yeah. And so we stayed there the night before our climb. We used. We didn't do an organized tour, they just have like a shuttle service where they drive you to one trail head in the morning and pick you up at a different one in the afternoon, and you just have to make sure you're there on time.

[00:37:09] Yeah. So yeah, that was, I mean, that was so convenient and yeah, you know, all these things and. . It's just, that's why I also wanted to create pot smoke is people should use these things cuz they're all there and you know, we sometimes ride on, you know, empty buses and things like that. Yeah. And if the services don't get used eventually maybe they'll cut them out.

[00:37:30] Stop. 

[00:37:30] Yeah. So if you were, okay, so then I'm gonna go to Japan and, and I'm gonna fly space A and get there, what is your recommendation for that? So, so you. You wanna find the base, the, the base, would you just, would you just search like maybe not necessarily the, cuz you know, the marine base that was at the base of Mount Fuji, that's not associated with like, where you're gonna fly into, right?

[00:37:53] Right. So is it like a, it's a good idea to Google like military bases in whatever areas you're gonna travel to and just see what's there because you never know. Who knew that there was a marine base at the Mount Fuji. Yeah. Yes. 

[00:38:07] Well, that was also easier for us because we were already living in Japan.

[00:38:10] But yeah, so, gotcha. Like for example, if you, one of the bases that you're likely to fly into in Japan is Yokota Air Base, which is near Tokyo. Okay. So, . Yeah, you could look and look for the Tokyo's Outdoor Recreation, or, I'm sorry, Yoko's Outdoor Rec or you know, any of those terms. Outdoor rec. M W R, right. I t T, which stands for Information Tickets and Travel.

[00:38:31] Yep. Are gonna have cool stuff like that. And the other thing is you can also buy. tickets, like if you wanted to go to Disney or shows or events and things like that, they usually have military tickets. Yeah. So that's, 

[00:38:46] that's a good thing to remember too. I think you're right. I think it's just a, it's like outta sight, outta mind kind of thing.

[00:38:51] Yeah. And it's like you just, that's something to just be aware of is that even if you go overseas, there's still military bases all over the place and benefits that you can use and just kind of take advantage of that. Okay. Oh wow. So my brain. Woo, , all these possibilities. I know, like, oh my gosh, this is crazy.

[00:39:08] Okay, so can you just share with us like what are your, what, so again, your website, like we've already talked about, you have your quick start guide and you have y the packing list and there's other things. Are there any other any other things on your, on your website that you want listeners to know about?

[00:39:26] I would say, well, I don't wanna overwhelm people cause I think, but yeah, the quick start guide, I would say start with that, read through it in detail. There's a lot of linked articles from there. Okay. But I, I, I promise that if you read through that carefully and follow any links that pertain to you, because there're different categories of travel.

[00:39:42] Sure. You'll understand at the, at least the basics of how it works. Yeah. So, yes, the packing list absolutely. To know what, to, what documentation you need to bring, what to wear and what to bring in your carry on. Yeah. Then also our location guide, which we don't have one for every single base in the world, but just for the main hubs.

[00:40:01] Like what do you, , what are the logistical things you need to know about advance? Like how does immigration work? What's the ground transportation situation, what's the lodging situation? All that. So for anyone looking to fly space a that's, that's the main stuff. But then we also have. a lot of information about different military recreational facilities all over the world.

[00:40:21] Not just those little se you know, not like little, just little trips, but there's like, there's a military resort in Seoul, Korea, and there's one in Hawaii and there's a one in Germany, and then there's also a really fancy hotel owned by the Navy that's in the middle of Tokyo. Oh, wow. And there are.

[00:40:41] Beachfront cabins all over the world and RV parks and all kinds of fun stuff. So yeah, there's just so many possibilities. One of, we have a good friend we used 

[00:40:52] to work together actually at their marine program, and they are like RV lifers. Yeah. And they like, I mean, they live exclusively and their rv and like their goal, I think they've done it now, was to see every national park.

[00:41:03] Mm-hmm. and then I think they're doing state parks. But anyways, they're like key. Yeah, they spent like, oh yeah, three months in Kiwi and there's a military base right there. Park your rv. Yes. And like everything. And I'm like, oh my gosh. So you're right. There's like, there's so much that's available and I think you just have to remember to look for it.

[00:41:20] Right. That's like, there's, there's a lot of stuff that's there. Yeah, for sure. Okay, so that's awesome. To just to, so it's just a great resource. So if you're gonna travel. Pop and smoke, check it out, get the re the guides, the things, and then this and then like just backtracking, just a hair. So when you fly overseas, you get off your plane.

[00:41:41] And you get your luggage and you go through customs. What does that look like when you travel with the military? Could you land on a military base? Is there like customs as you leave the base or like what does that look like? 

[00:41:51] It's set up differently at every base. So like, okay, Ramstein, you land, you, you go through, there's someone, a representative from German Customs and immigration there to stamp your passport.

[00:42:03] Then you go through and you get your bag. So it's very similar to a commercial airport. Okay. But much faster and less chaotic. So it's, I mean, literally you get off and it takes maybe 10 minutes, you know, and then, and then you're out in the airport and you can, you know, find what you're doing next.

[00:42:19] Japan is a little bit different. For example, you have to go off base to get your passport stamped within 24 hours. Oh, okay. Immigration there. That's, so that's a, something that I've explained in my location guides too, is it does work a little bit differently everywhere. Okay. And you just have to be aware of the rules.

[00:42:36] Yeah. I mean, they'll, they'll explain that to you on the plane too, but you need, it's good to know in advance. Okay. 

[00:42:41] All right. Oh my gosh, my, my mind is just like spinning. It's so much information. I really hope you guys will have to give, give some feedback and let us know. , if that made sense. If there's more questions like, do we need to have you come back on and answer some more questions?

[00:42:55] Sure. Okay. So Stephanie, I appreciate your time. It has been fascinating to hear about the travel. And again, pop and smoke.com will link it in the show notes. And then also on Instagram you share a lot of your pictures and stuff of the different things that you've done overseas, which is inspiring and it makes.

[00:43:14] Me, it makes me wanna like, I'm like, Hey, okay, we're, let's start thinking about this. Like, let's go like, go on some adventures and do some cool things. And I think you said that really well, is that you need to approach it as it's an adventure, right? Mm-hmm. , so just, you know, be open to whatever. You might, you might go camping on an airplane, like who's ever done that?

[00:43:32] Right. You know? That's 

[00:43:33] right. , who ever really cool, slept next to artillery and there you go. That, that was how we spent our anniversary one year was flying back from Roto, sleeping next to our some cannons. So lovely. 

[00:43:45] They, you never know. Hey, it's how many people have get to say that though. Right. Right.

[00:43:49] You know, it's a unique, a unique experience. Awesome. Yeah. Is there anything else that you wanted to share in closing? 

[00:43:54] No, I think that that was , that was everything. But if I encourage everyone to check it out and read through things and send me any questions if they have them. 

[00:44:02] Yeah. Perfect. Okay, Stephanie, I appreciate your time.

[00:44:05] Thank you. All right. Thank you.