10 Things to Know Before You Move to JBLM

#1 The Weather!


Yes, it rains frequently, but it usually is more of a mist or drizzle than anything.  Summers are beautifully mild and the lush green landscape is aw-worthy.  JBLM gets an average of 48 inches of annual rainfall and an average of 155 rainy days a year.  A good raincoat, boots and an umbrella are definitely recommended.  Snow is not common, but it does snow 2 – 4 times during the winter, but usually not enough to really disrupt traffic – just enough to look pretty and melt a few hours later.  However, every 4 - 5 years there is a sizable snowstorm.


#2 The I-5 - Traffic!


Interstate 5 (I-5) is the only interstate running north and south on the west side of Washington state. JBLM consists of three locations Lewis Main, Lewis North and McChord and all three of their main gates lie just off the I-5.  Lewis Main and McChord both have back gates that lead out towards Roy and Puyallup respectively, but these are not ideal for everyone to get on/off base depending on where you are coming from/heading to.  The I-5 traffic is not pleasant by any means and you should prepare for stop and go traffic if your commute includes the I-5 during peak times: 0630-0900 and 1530-1800.

#3 Rentals!

It is common practice here that rental Realtors only show the homes they manage.  They will need to be contacted individually for showings.  This is a little more time intensive when shopping for a rental, unlike other locales where a single Realtor can be solicited to show every home one desires to see.  Additionally, it is standard for property managers to follow the first-come, first-served protocol.  This is when the first qualified applicant gets the home, most property management companies will only accept a single application, process it and rent to that applicant if they meet all requirements presented by the landlord – therefore homes go quick.


#4 Recycling & Trash!

Recycling is strict here and is mandatory.  The standard issued recycling container is 96-gallons, whereas the standard issue trash container is only 35-gallons.  Larger trash containers can be issued for a higher monthly fee.  Extra trash or recycling bags next to your cans or excess trash/recycling in the containers not allowing the lids to close completely results in additional charges on your monthly bill.

#5 Plastic Bag Ban!

Thurston County (Lacey/Olympia/Tumwater) and King County (Seattle/Tukwila) have adopted a plastic bag ban.  If you live or shop here, be prepared to pay 5 cents per bag, bring your own reusable bags or carry your merchandise out in your hands.


#6 The Alcohol Sales Tax!

Washington State has the highest alcohol sales tax in the nation – 20.5% + $3.77 per liter!  This is paid when purchasing alcohol at a retailer like Walmart, Target, Hagens or BevMo.  If purchased at the actual winery, distillery or brewery, only local sales tax of 6.5% - 10.4% is assessed.  But if you buy alcohol at a charity event (almost all, have a tasting event with a wine shop), there is 0% sales tax assessed and proceeds go to the organization’s cause.

#7 Portland!

Speaking of sales tax, the state of Oregon does not have one.  Portland, Oregon is only 2 hours south of JBLM and can be a great day trip of tax-free shopping, especially if you are looking at purchasing a big-ticket item.  Just be sure you are able to haul back whatever you buy.

*Tip* vehicles do not count.  If you think you might be slick going south to buy your next car, think again – sales tax on vehicles is assessed based on where the vehicle will be registered, NOT where the vehicle will be purchased.


#8 Minimum Wage!

Washington state actually has the highest minimum wage of all 50 states at $13.50 an hour as of 1 January 2020.  There is also no ‘tipped’ minimum wage rate for Washington state.  As such, restaurant servers and other tip-based employees receive a minimum of $13.50 an hour, plus any tips received during their shift.

#9 The Wine!

If wine country makes you think of only Napa, California, think again.  There are actually well over 1,000 wineries in Washington state and there are several major wine regions just a few hours from JBLM: Woodinville (1 hr), Leavenworth (2.5 hrs), Yakima Valley (2.5 hrs). There are also a number of small-production wineries with tasting rooms within 30-45 minutes of base which can provide a nice weekend date.


#10 Bikini Barista Stands!

If you are used to fully clothed Starbucks baristas when going through your normal coffee shop drive thru, you may be in a rude awakening when you try a local coffee stand.  Though Washington is the birthplace of Starbucks, there are independent coffee shacks on nearly every street corner, many of which have bikini baristas, some with bikini bottoms and only pasties on top.  It’s good to know, before you go on your way to drop off the kids at school.


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