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 at your new duty station and make reservations in advance.
How to find and reserve military lodging facilities
Service members traveling on permanent change of station orders can usually make reservations before other eligible patrons (retirees or vacationers, for example). For the summer PCS season, it's important to make your reservations as far in advance as possible. Either the service member or a spouse may make reservations, but most facilities will require a copy of the service member's PCS orders. There are many resources to assist in finding and making reservations for temporary lodging:
- Relocation Assistance Program office. Usually located near the military and family support center, this should be your first stop when planning a PCS move. The office has information on your next duty station, including information and contact numbers for military lodging facilities. You can also access contact information for temporary lodging through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS. Select "Temporary Lodging/Billeting" in the "Looking for specific program or service?" box.
- Service branch central reservations. Another convenient way to make reservations for military lodging facilities is through each services branch's central reservations. You may visit their websites at Navy Lodge, MCCS Lodging, Army Lodge or call Air Force Lodging Reservations at 888-235-6343 (valid in the continental United States only) and Navy Lodge Reservations worldwide at 877-628-9233.
- Your sponsor. If you are moving overseas, your sponsor can make reservations at the lodging facility. Your Relocation Assistance Program office can help you find a sponsor (a service member already living at your new overseas duty station).
- 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. You can make reservations with a pet-friendly hotel in the local civilian community, but because nonavailability policies vary by installation, it's possible that you may not be reimbursed for your lodging expenses. Some installation lodging facilities may allow your pet to occupy your room. When making a reservation, inquire about the lodging's pet policy so there are no surprises. Be aware of the non-refundable pet reservation fee for the length of your stay, your financial responsibility for damages caused by your pets and the facility's requirement to sign a waiver and indemnification agreement so that the lodging operation is not responsible for any injury or damage your pet may cause to the hotel, staff or other guests. Proper medical certification specifying that all vaccinations are up to date must be available at check-in. For overseas moves, families should check with local authorities on the availability of a veterinary clinic and/or quarantine facility , if they have a need for one.
Types of lodging
Military lodging facilities come with a variety of amenities. Fortunately, most are designed to meet the needs of military families traveling to a new duty station.
- Permanent Change of Station Lodging. On many military installations, there is at least one PCS lodging facility specifically for families. Many are equipped with laundry rooms, playgrounds and DVD players.
- Temporary Duty Lodging. Single service members or service members traveling without families often choose to stay in TDY lodging facilities, also known as Bachelor Enlisted Quarters or Bachelor Officer Quarters.
- Military recreation facilities. Military recreation facilities may be available to families moving to a new duty station, depending on the location. While these facilities are designed for vacationers, they can be a great place to stay while waiting for housing. You may need a certificate of nonavailability from the military lodging facility for reimbursement.
- Commercial Lodging. Motels, hotels or other commercial lodging may be an option. 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. If you choose to stay in commercial lodging, check with your Relocation Assistance Program office for information on reimbursement.
Reimbursement for lodging expenses
Lodging expenses are reimbursed through Temporary Lodging Expense and Temporary Lodging Allowance for service members on PCS orders. These cover lodging expenses either at your old duty station or once you arrive at your new duty station. Per diem, which is reimbursed separately, covers lodging and other costs while traveling.
- Temporary Lodging Expense. The Temporary Lodging Expense - ‘TLE' - is designed to partly reimburse relocating service members and families for the cost of meals and lodging at either your old duty station or your new one. These expenses can be reimbursed for up to 10 days for CONUS moves and up to five days for moves from CONUS to outside the continental United States.
- Temporary Lodging Allowance. Military members moving overseas will find that TLE is limited to only five days within CONUS. The Temporary Lodging Allowance - ‘TLA' - reimburses service members on OCONUS moves for lodging on arrival at the overseas duty station and on departure from the overseas duty station. It may cover up to 60 days while you wait for installation housing or search for off-installation housing.
If you choose to stay in off-installation lodging, you may need a nonavailability statement to be reimbursed for TLE or TLA. More information is available from your Relocation Assistance Program office or on the Defense Travel Management Office website.
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 other lodging while you wait for installation housing.
- The waiting list. Before moving, contact your new installation's housing office to get an idea of how long you will have to wait before being offered installation housing. Be sure to put your name on the housing list as soon as you are eligible. Policies vary by service and by installation, so check with the installation housing office for details. Because housing waiting lists can change overnight, be sure to check back often.
- Temporary lodging while you wait for installation housing. Most military members are allowed 10 days TLE (within CONUS), which will give them time to accept a house on the installation or find housing in the local civilian community. If you run out of TLE before housing is available, you will need to decide if you want to pay for lodging at your own expense while you wait for housing or look for a more permanent solution.
- Temporary off-installation rentals. If you decide to find a rental in the local community, talk with the housing office to get a good idea of when you can expect to move into installation housing. You can negotiate your lease based on that information. Always ask for a military clause in your lease, which will allow you to move out without penalty if you receive orders unexpectedly.
- Overseas rentals. In many cases, TLA will reimburse your lodging for up to 60 days while you wait for installation housing or search for a home off the installation. In some areas, the installation housing list is long, and you will need to find a rental in the local community. Your RAP office will help you navigate the local rental market and find housing agencies experienced in working with military families.
Making it work for you and your family
Living out of a suitcase can be tough on the whole family. Finding a new routine and getting involved will help you adjust to your new home more quickly.
- Pack plenty of toys. Living in a temporary situation can seem like a chore, especially if you have small children. Pack plenty of activities for the kids-toys and games they haven't seen since the holidays will seem like new to small children. Keep in mind you can always do laundry, so pack fewer clothes and more entertainment activities.
- Get involved. If you have children, you may want to check out the local schools or child care facilities. You can take a class at the gym or visit the military and family support center to find out about volunteer opportunities. 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. Visit your installation's Information, Tickets, and Tours/Leisure Travel office for discounted tickets and group tours. Check out Using Military Lodging Facilities for Leisure Travel for more information.
- 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. Keeping in touch by telephone or email may help ease some of the loneliness.