How to find and use temporary lodging facilities while you wait for installation housing at your new duty station.
Moving to a new duty station — whether it’s across the state or around the globe — is difficult for even the most seasoned military families. When arriving at a new duty station, most military families can expect to be living out of a suitcase until housing becomes available or other permanent arrangements can be made. Knowing what to expect and planning ahead will help ease the strain associated with your move. One way to do this is to find out what lodging facilities are available for you and your family when you arrive at your new duty station — and make reservations in advance.
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How to find and use temporary lodging facilities
Generally, service members with PCS (Permanent Change of Station) orders will be able to make reservations at military lodging facilities well in advance. Researching the facilities at your new duty station will help you find the best lodging for you and your family.
- Who’s eligible? Military service members traveling on PCS orders will find they can use the military’s lodging facilities — as long as space is available — so making reservations as early as possible is a must. The service member or spouse may make reservations, and they may need a copy of their PCS orders. Temporary Lodging Expense (TLE) is available to service members to cover lodging expenses associated with a PCS move for a period of 10 days (within the continental U.S.), and can be used at the old or new duty station — or a combination of both. TLE does not cover the cost of lodging while traveling, which is reimbursed separately. Be sure to contact your command for the details on how to apply for this benefit.
- Finding a temporary lodging facility at your new duty station. Information on temporary lodging facilities at military installations around the world is readily available:
- A visit to your installation’s relocation office, located within the Family Support Center, should be your first stop when planning your PCS move. This office has a large amount of information on your next duty station, including information and contact numbers for temporary lodging facilities.
- Military branch central reservations numbers are also a convenient way to make reservations for military lodging facilities.
- Making reservations. Service members or spouses with PCS orders should be able to make reservations at the military lodging facilities. During the spring and summer (usually the busiest PCS season), it’s best to make reservations as far in advance as possible. To make your reservations, call the facility directly, use a central reservations number (listed above), make reservations online, or visit the lodging or travel office at your current duty station for assistance.
- If the military temporary lodging facilities (TLF) at your new duty station are booked during the time you need a room, you may make reservations at the transient billeting facility. Always check with the lodging/billeting facility before looking for a commercial hotel so you will know which hotels have government contracts and can give you a much cheaper rate. Your local housing office, relocation office, Family Support Center, or travel office can provide assistance. If you make the reservations at a civilian facility yourself, be sure to ask for the military rate. Generally, if the military lodging facilities are full, you will be reimbursed for your room out in town. Before you make reservations, be sure to check with the TLF or housing office to find out how much you will be reimbursed. You will need a certificate of non-availability number from the lodging facility for your travel settlement.
- Traveling with pets? Military members will find limited space for pets at most military lodging facilities. There may be kennels available at your new duty station, either on or off the installation. Check with the lodging facility, Family Support Center, or the relocation office for help finding a kennel for your pet. Also, if you have a pet, you can make reservations with a pet-friendly hotel in the local civilian community, but you will be reimbursed only for the amount of the military lodging facility. For example, if your civilian hotel costs $80 per night and the military lodging facility costs $60 per night, you will be reimbursed the $60 per night rate.
- Moving overseas. Moving overseas can seem overwhelming for many military families. Your relocation office will help you find a sponsor (a military service member already living at your new overseas duty station), who can assist you with reservations at a lodging facility — and provide information on the housing waiting list, local services, and more.
- Military members moving overseas will find their TLE is limited to only five days within CONUS (continental U.S.). However, service members traveling with command-sponsored family members will be reimbursed for temporary lodging by TLA (Temporary Lodging Allowance) once they arrive at their overseas duty station. For more information on TLA, service members should contact their sponsor, their finance office, or their overseas command.
Types of facilities available
Military lodging facilities can range from modern units with kitchenettes to older, less charming motel rooms. Fortunately, most military lodging facilities are designed to meet the needs of military families traveling to a new duty station.
- I. On many military installations, there is at least one lodging facility (known as Guest Houses, Temporary Lodging Facilities, or Lodges) designed to house service members and their families moving to a new duty station. These facilities are planned with families in mind — many are equipped with laundry rooms, playgrounds, and video or DVD players. Some single service members or service members traveling without families may choose to stay in the transient billeting facilities, also known as Bachelor Enlisted Quarters (BEQ) or Bachelor Officer Quarters (BOQ). (These facilities also house travelers on official government business.) These facilities are not intended for families.
- Military recreation facilities may be available to families moving to their new duty station, depending on the location. While these facilities are designed for vacationers, they may provide a great place to stay while waiting for housing. But again, be sure to get a certificate of non-availability number from the military lodging facility.
- Services available in a military lodging facility can include laundry machines, sundries, and video or DVD rentals. At the installation, you may be able to take advantage of dining facilities, child care facilities, gyms, swimming pools, and convenience stores.
- Civilian lodging. These facilities include chain motels or privately owned hotels and boarding houses. Many hotels and motels near military installations offer weekly rates or military rates for service members. By doing a little research, or by following the suggestions of military lodging staff, you may be able to find a nice, fully equipped hotel to meet your family’s needs. (Before using civilian facilities, be sure to find out if there is space at the installation because it is likely to save you time and money.)
When you need something more permanent
In some areas, installation housing waiting lists can be long. If this is the case, you may need to find a rental apartment or house off base while waiting for base housing.
- The waiting list. Before moving to your next duty station, contact your new installation’s housing office — they can give you an idea of how long you will have to wait before being offered a house on base. Make sure your name is on the housing list as soon as you are eligible. (There is established guidance on when this can be done.) Check with the receiving installation’s housing office for specifics. Because housing waiting lists can change overnight (sometimes going from a six-month wait to no wait), be sure to check back with the housing office frequently. Your service branch may or may not offer advance application for housing, which would allow you to get on the housing list at your new duty station before you move. Check with your installation housing office for more information.
- Looking for something more permanent. Most military members are allowed 10 days TLE (within CONUS), which will give them time to accept a house at the installation or find housing in the local civilian community. In some cases, a service member’s TLE will run out before quarters become available. If this happens, you will need to decide if you want to continue to pay for lodging at your own expense while you wait for housing. This might be a good option if installation housing is expected to become available within a short period of time. Otherwise, you will want to find a place in town with a month-to-month lease, which would allow you to move into installation housing once it becomes available.
- Leases. If you need to find a rental in the local community, you will probably be asked to sign a lease or rental agreement. First, talk to the housing office to get a good idea of when you can expect to move into installation housing and negotiate your lease based on that information. They should also be able to provide you with a list of acceptable locations in the local community for housing. Always ask for a military clause in your lease, which will allow you to move out without penalty if you receive orders unexpectedly. Your installation legal assistance office can provide more information on leases and rental agreements for military families.
Making it work for you and your family
Living out of a suitcase can be tough on the whole family. You’ve given up your friends and your daily routine, and your household goods are somewhere between your last duty station and your new one. Finding a new routine and getting involved will help you adjust to your new home more quickly.
- Living out of a suitcase can seem like a chore, especially if you have small children. By planning ahead, you can ease some of the stress. Pack plenty of activities for the kids — toys and games put away since the holidays will seem like new to small children — along with new crayons, markers, and coloring or activity books. Keep in mind that you can always do laundry, so pack fewer clothes and more entertainment items.
- Get involved. If you have children, you may want to check out the local schools or child care facilities. The installation family center (called Family Support Center, Community Service Center, or Family Service Center, depending on the branch of service) can provide information on local employment and volunteer opportunities. You may also want to take a class at the gym or visit the library. If you keep busy, the wait for installation housing will seem much shorter.
- Explore your new location. Drive out the front gate and discover what the local area has to offer. You can explore parks, beaches, or shopping malls at no cost. You may be pleasantly surprised at all the things available in your new town. Some installation Family Support Centers provide community tours for newcomers and their families. It’s a great way to meet new friends and relax while learning about your new community.
- Keep in touch with friends. Sometimes a PCS move can bring on feelings of isolation — especially when you haven’t yet moved into a place of your own. Many libraries have computers where you can e-mail family and friends. Keeping in touch — by telephone or e-mail — may help ease some of the loneliness.
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