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How to Ease the Stress of Moving While You Wait for Housing


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. The service member or 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:

  • Military and family support center and online information - The military and family support center 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 the installation, then Temporary Lodging/Billeting in the program box.
  • Your sponsor - If you are moving overseas, your sponsor can make reservations at the lodging facility. Your military and family support center can help you find a sponsor (a service member already living at your new overseas duty station).
  • Traveling with pets - Some installation lodging facilities may allow your pet to occupy your room while others may not. When making a reservation, inquire about the lodging's pet policy so there are no surprises. 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. Be aware of a non-refundable pet reservation fee for the length of your stay, your financial responsibility for damages caused by your pet 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 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.

  • Lodging for families - 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 temporary lodging facilities, also called 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. Take a look at Best Kept Secrets Joint Services Campgrounds and Facilities for more information.
  • 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 military and family support center for information on reimbursement.

Reimbursement for lodging expenses

Lodging expenses are reimbursed for service members on PCS orders.

  • Temporary lodging expense, or TLE, is designed to partly reimburse relocating service members and families for the cost of meals and lodging at either the old duty station or the new one. These expenses can be reimbursed for up to 10 days for moves within the continental United States and up to five days while still in CONUS for moves to locations outside the continental United States.
  • Temporary lodging allowance, or TLA, reimburses service members making 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 military and family support center or on the Defense Travel Management Office website.

When installation housing waitlists are 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. Find contact information on MilitaryINSTALLATIONS. 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 of temporary lodging (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 temporary lodging days 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 off the installation.
  • 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 are reassigned.
  • Overseas rentals - In many cases, your lodging will be reimbursed for up to 60 days while you wait for installation housing or search for a home off the installation. As with CONUS installations, the OCONUS installation housing waitlist may be long, and you will need to find a rental in the local community. Your military and family support center 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 with things will help you adjust to your new location 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.
  • Stay active. 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 office for discounted tickets and group tours. Check out Using Military Lodging Facilities for Leisure Travel for more information.
  • Keep in touch. 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 with friends and family by telephone or email may help ease some of the loneliness. 

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