January 27, 2020

More Adventures in Space-A: Slight Return

On the flight…

We’re back! 48 hours and one military hop later, and we’re back in the US of A. From the wild hills of Andalusia Spain, we now once again find ourselves in the land of strip malls, and Ihops, all in time for the looming Christmas weekend. Unlike our outward leg earlier this year, this one went pretty quick. We actually got on the very first flight we tried for.

Anyhow, we thought we’d share some of the tips and tricks we learned for successful Space-A travel, while our current stint is still fresh in our minds:

-Sign up early. For years, you had to sign up for Space-A in person. Then, remote sign-up became possible via ye ole fax. This month, we managed to actually successfully sign up via email for the very first time… I know, like the Catholic Church, the US military always seems to be a decade or two behind the times… in ten years, we’ll be signing up via App. An earlier sign-in puts you higher on the competitive list, and you can sign up up to 60 days prior.

-Watch that schedule. In the olden days, you had to call and listen to the recorded phone message for upcoming flights. Most Space-A terminals maintain a Facebook webpage now, and seem to update them about every six hours or so. Even then, it’s worth calling, as military flight schedules can be very fluid.

-Chase all flights. Some military flights are actually chartered commercial, with service just like on a normal airline. We’ve found, though, that these are much more competitive to get on. We’ve found that fewer retired folks seem to be willing to fly on refueling tankers and C-130′s, though your options open up enormously if you’re not picky. We once nabbed a C-130 flight from Okinawa straight into Bangkok, after less than 24 hours on the island.

-Inbound vs outbound. Here’s a curious observation; getting out of the US via Space-A is tougher than coming back. The only reason we can think of as to why this might be is, is that the pool of applicants gets smaller once you get overseas.

-On the plane. Most cargo flights are fairly chilly; its wise to bring a blanket if you can. Netflix downloads are great for in-flight entertainment, though make sure you bring full-ear noise cancelling headphones, as most military flights are pretty noisy. Oh, and while most military cargo aircraft have airplane-style bathrooms, the venerable C-130 is the sole exception, with simply a bucket with a curtain!

-the toughest leg. We’ve often noticed that the toughest leg after we land is actually after the flight, getting from the military airlift terminal onward. Military bases are frequently huge, and public ground transport is non-existent. Making things worse, the number of taxis able or willing to come on base are often few and far between. Often, strangers simply take pity on us and simply give us a lift to our next stop. Uber is another option, as many military members and spouses drive for the ride sharing service to make some extra cash.

-Have lots of time. The most important aspect of Space-A travel. Sure, you’re getting a thousand dollar trans-oceanic flight for free, but you’ll need patience to get it. Also, not being picky on a final destination (say just ‘Europe’ or ‘North America’) helps lots.

Well, that’s about what we’ve got in our sleep-deprived brain for today. Maybe next week, we’ll right about the reverse culture shock of return.

Have a great X-mas weekend!


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