You’ve Made It to Europe…What’s Next?

Once your Space A flight arrives at your destination, where do you stay, on base and off? How do you get around? There is a variety of lodging and ground transportation options available in Europe! Check out my guest post at Poppin’ Smoke – another excellent resource for Retiree Category 6 Space A travelers – for information and ideas! 

View to street from hotel in Greece




Let the Travel Season Commence!

As the summer vacation season draws to close this Labor Day, it’s time to begin getting organized for fall travel! It’s probably a bit too early to actually try to head skyward if the destination is OCONUS – DODDS students can begin the year up to a month after school starts (and depart up to a month before the year ends), so there will still be plenty of  Cat 2, 3, 4, and 5 families returning for a late start. This means that it’s usually best to wait until the second half of September to initiate travel.

It is NOT too early, however, for PPP (Proper Prior Planning)! Investing some time and organizing now, will make for smoother space a travel in a few weeks.  So, let’s review some basics for Cat 6 space a travel:

PLAN FOR MULTIPLE CONTINGENCIES AND BE FLEXIBLE:  We may want to go to Italy (in fact, we usually do!), but are prepared to go to Germany, or England, or Spain, or wherever, to get there. Start paying attention to the Facebook flight forecasts of the most likely terminals for direct or indirect connections to your destination. Make use of the historical data available at the individual terminals and from sites like The Military Space Available Travel Flight Destination Database (msatfdd): to plan a variety of possible routes to your final destination (and back). Or, be prepared to go wherever the flights are headed – we once ended up spending a few weeks on Crete, though our original intent was to go to Hawaii!

SIGN UP:  (If you haven’t already!) Lady Cat 6 and Sponsor usually aim to travel around day 50 of our 60 day sign up, to give ourselves optimal date and time seniority without running the risk of expiring and having to start over at the bottom of the list. We take a look at our planned itinerary, and sign up for our return terminals so we are beginning our homeward journey around day 50 also. And, we sign up at every terminal we think we may even remotely need to fly out of! There is no limit to the number of terminals at which you may sign up, so think big here – you may not NEED to use the terminal you’ve delegated to Plan “G”, but best to be prepared, just in case!

PREPARE FOR GROUND TRANSPORTATION UPON ARRIVAL: Find out whether your desired destination terminal (and any alternatives) has ground transportation available to get to lodging, or wherever else you may need to go. Some bases allow taxis aboard; some do not. Some have shuttles between lodging and the terminal (and some of these have limited hours); some do not. Some allow car rental agencies to pick you up at the terminal; some do not. Some have lodging relatively close to the terminal; some entail quite a hike to lodging (we usually walk if it’s a mile or less – after hours on the plane, it feels good to stretch the legs a bit). Some have a limited list of authorized taxis/shuttles. You don’t want to be trying to figure out how to get where you want to go at 0300 when your flight lands! If you’re going to need to network in-flight with other passengers to arrange a ride, it’s better to know that going in.

PREPARE FOR LODGING/CAR RENTAL AT DESTINATION LOCATION: Make sure that phone numbers for lodging and car rental are programmed into your phone for quick access. We usually make on-base lodging and car rental reservations at our destination as soon as we decide to compete for a flight. If we don’t get seats at roll call time, we call and cancel, or slip a day or two, depending on the flight situation. Having likely phone numbers already programmed into the phone makes the process easy and quick. We have off-base lodging and car rental numbers saved also, in case there’s nothing available at the base where we’re landing.

ORGANIZE CARRY ON: It’s important to be prepared for any type of aircraft you may encounter. This does not have to involve a lot of extra gear; a few essentials will make a big difference in your travel comfort. Consider a thin, insulating base layer you can pop on under your shirt, a lightweight but warm “puffy-style” jacket that can be stuffed into a small sack (and double as a pillow!), a sleeping pad, such as my favorite – the Klymit Static V Recon ( – which is lightweight and rolls to the size of a water bottle (in a pinch, a blow-up pool float will also work), and a fleece or lightweight down throw-type blanket that can roll up or be stuffed into a small bag. Sometimes we also pack hats and gloves, so we’re prepared for the coldest conditions we can imagine. Lady Cat 6 does NOT like to be cold! These items, and the rest of your carry on gear (tablet, snacks, medications,etc – whatever you would carry on to a regular commercial flight) should easily fit into a small to medium sized backpack with room to spare.

PLAN FOR YOUR RETURN: When traveling OCONUS, it’s best to be on your return leg by the middle of December. Holiday vacations begin to kick into gear about that time, and seats for Cat 6 start to become scarce. Give yourself a week or so before December 15 to get on a flight back to the US mainland, so you don’t end up competing with Cat 2, 3, 4, and 5 families returning home for Christmas.

Mid-September through mid-December is one of the two best times for Cat 6 travel OCONUS (Mid-January through mid-May is the other). Being prepared can be the difference between having a FABulous experience, and enduring a disaster. Lady Cat 6 finds the above-mentioned items most helpful in that preparation – what are some  your own must-do’s that make a difference for you?






Another space a option in Europe: Take The Bus-

The Medevac Bus!

(current as of 05/2017)

The medevac bus exists to transport active duty/dependent medical patients between the Vicenza, Italy, clinic and the facilities at Landstuhl Hospital, near Ramstein. If there are extra seats available after patients are accommodated (there almost always are!), retirees and other authorized travelers can ride along. There is no sign up process, and no seniority/category. Just be at the designated pick up area at the appointed time, sign the manifest, and get on the bus.

The ride through the spectacular Austrian Alps takes approximately 12 hours, depending on traffic conditions.


There are 2-4 rest stops along the way, mostly at McDonald’s rest areas. The stop outside Innsbruck also has a separate German restaurant and a small store/gift shop. Stops are normally 20-30 minutes long.


The bus is a very comfortable tour-type bus. There is a bathroom on-board, but passengers are encouraged NOT to use it unless absolutely necessary.

Schedule and pick-up points as follows:

From Ramstein to Vicenza, Italy:

  • Departs on Tuesdays and Fridays
  • Departure times/pick up locations (be at the pick-up point 10-15 minutes early!):
    • Landstuhl Hospital: 0900
    • Ramstein outside KMCC main building: 0930
    • Vogelwegh lodging office: 1000

From Vicenza, Italy, to Landstuhl, Germany:

  • Departs on Mondays and Thursdays
  • Departure time/pick up location: 0700 outside the health clinic (very close to lodging – be there by 0645!)
  • Drop off order: Vogelwegh lodging office (if there are pax going there – they skip it if there aren’t any); Ramstein outside KMCC main building; Landstuhl Hospital

Happy Riding!

Watch your feet!

I love a red shoe! Glancing down at my feet and seeing that bright cheery color makes me smile!  My closet contains several pairs so when the mood strikes, I have an adequate variety to choose from: patent leather, sneakers, sandals, and a very special pair of Italian leather purchased in Rome, which I love love love! The shoes, that is. And, Rome, too!

But those lovely little crimson gems seldom make the cut for space a packing. The contents of the suitcase of Lady Cat 6 are akin to pieces of an intricate puzzle, where each item fits together just-so. This is how a trip to Italy, for two plus months, can be fit into one small carry-on bag weighing less than 30 lbs. Truly, this is the ONLY way such a trip can be managed with such a small amount of luggage. I digress. We will discuss packing in another post. For now, it’s sufficient to know that the strict two pairs of shoes rule (one – the clunky old lady walking shoes with the orthotics inside on the feet, one – a lightweight pair of sandals or crushable flats for fancy dinner attire, in the suitcase) is sacrosanct! Part B of said rule states that item of clothing in the case must go with everything else, so red shoes just don’t qualify.

Quite recently, though, a very small, very quick one-week trip was on the agenda. Several items normally slated to go into the bag for an extended foreign trip were not needed this time, and there was a small gap in the suitcase puzzle just perfectly sized and shaped for my beloved Italian slip-ons. In they went! With all the extra space available (!) in the suitcase, I could always buy something to wear them with if nothing already packed would work.

The next morning at the McChord passenger terminal, things were looking fine for the few people who had shown up and marked themselves present for a C 17 ride to Dover, DE. Oh, happy day!

Roll call began. We were chosen, and had just lined up to put our bags through the x-ray machine when a piercing cry of disappointment rent the terminal! A lovely woman stood, distraught, in tears. Looking her up and down, my gaze became riveted on her feet. Oh, no! She was wearing SANDALS! She had failed to note the restriction against high-heeled, open-toed, or “five-toed style” footwear aboard AMC cargo aircraft! She had no other footwear packed, her sponsor was wearing the only shoes HE had packed, and all seemed lost. Unlike earplugs, which terminal reps and aircrews hand out like candy, there is no ready supply of closed toe shoes to dispense. The couple had driven hours, only to be denied boarding because of prohibited footwear (and failing to properly prepare).

Suddenly, I remembered my precious little Roman shoes, nestled in the suitcase. Inquiring about the woman’s size, it was happily discovered that we were a match. The shoes were tried, and found acceptable, and the sandals were packed away in the woman’s suitcase until flight’s end. Lucky!

After deplaning at Dover, the shoes were returned and safely fitted back into their spot in the suitcase. It turned out I never did wear them that week: the weather was hot, there was no time for clothes shopping, I needed the walking shoes for chasing little people around playgrounds, and my sandals sufficed for dinner wear. But, there were 3 happy travelers who were sure glad I brought them!

Remember: when flying space a on a cargo aircraft (C-5, C-17, C-130), no open toe footwear (or high heels, or five-toe style)! SHOES, and shirts, of course, required.