No matter how many miles it is, traveling during a PCS always seems like an endless journey for our family. When we finally arrive at our destination, we’re happy to be out of the car and excited to explore the new area.
Nine times out of ten, we have the keys to our new place, but our household goods haven’t arrived. So, we end up "indoor camping" in the new home--sleeping on air beds and dining from tailgating chairs. However, if we’ve arrived at the new assignment and are still on the hunt for where we’ll live, we end up staying in a TLF (Temporary Lodging Facility), otherwise known as extended stay hotel suites on a military installation. Sounds sort of posh, right? Sadly, it is often quite the opposite!
It seems to me that many TLF units were decorated in 1972 with unwanted garage sale furniture! At any given time, at least one appliance in the kitchenette is sputtering in the corner. The cupboard doors may pitifully sag off the hinges and the TV remote may be held together with a combination of duct tape, scotch tape, and a band-aid. Since we have dogs, we make reservations at the pet-friendly TLF, which means the quality of our lodging is equal to a room trashed by a herd of wildebeests or Led Zeppelin. Nonetheless, even if the status of the TLF is less than desirable, the bed is most likely clean and comfortable, and the housekeeping staff does their best to keep the rooms tidy.
If you’re facing a PCS with an extended stay in a TLF, consider these tips for survival.
1) Ask for what you need.
If your room lacks a few comforts of home, ask at the front desk if they have options for you. My husband loves to read, so he asks for a lamp for the side table. I require coffee to get me going in the morning! Rather than stumbling to the complimentary cups of coffee in the lobby, I ask for a coffeemaker for our room. If the front desk is unable to meet your needs, check in with the installation Family Support office. As part of their "welcome" amenities, they often have household items available to loan out for temporary use.
2) Keep it clean.
While living in the small space of a TLF, you may feel less cramped and more comfortable if you simply keep things tidy. Coming back to the hotel room after a long day of sightseeing or househunting is more enjoyable if you are not greeted with a mass of clutter, a stack of dirty dishes, or a pile of laundry.
Try to organize your things into neat stacks on the closet shelves, wash up the dishes after eating to avoid a pile-up, and find out where you can do a few loads of laundry during your stay. These tasks do seem a bit like work amidst your transition time, but you may feel more at ease if your quarters are kept clean.
3) The housekeeping option.
A friend of mine requests full daily maid service when at a TLF, since she is indeed paying for the lodging. This includes bed linens changed, tub scrubbed, floors mopped, and more. Our family is relatively tidy, so we don’t request full service each day. With most service starting in the morning, we place the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door so we can be lazy and sleep in if we want. That little bit of extra privacy makes us feel we are on vacation while in our new area. Later, we try to flag down a housekeeper to empty the trash and change out the towels and request a full cleaning as the week goes on. Do what you feel is best, in regards to maid service. Simply having the housekeeping option can help make time in a TLF seem more enjoyable, though.
4) Get out!
Whether your accommodations are lovely or lackluster, try to find things to do beyond the room. Browse online reviews and simply drive around the area to scout out a local church, a coffee house, and a pizza place. While staying at a TLF, we’re motivated to take long walks with our dogs, wander down local trails, and find different routes to parks and green spaces. By exploring during these initial days, you may gain a better sense of what the area has to offer. Set out to see and do things each day, and your lodging time may pass by much more quickly!
If you’re facing a PCS and have reservations at an extended stay hotel or TLF, here’s hoping you may find little ways of your own to make your stay worthwhile.
Original article by Mary Ann Eckberg, updated 2018 Jen McDonald.