The PCS dust has settled and you’ve arrived at your new location.
Most military families are pros at living out of suitcases during a move, but what if your time in temporary lodging ends up becoming a matter of weeks…or even months? The longest stint our family of six spent in TLF (temporary lodging facility or extended stay hotel) was nearly four months. Needless to say, we learned a few survival skills for making the most of a less than ideal situation.
While I hope that you won’t face such a long-term scenario, there are some situations that may call for extended stays in temporary lodging: OCONUS moves, waiting for designated housing to become available, or other factors.
While there’s no magical solution to make the time pass more quickly, consider these tips.
Tips for PCS Survival in Long Term Military Lodging and Extended Stay Hotels
1) Establish a routine.
If you’re in temporary lodging for a lengthy period, the military member will be back on duty long before you’re settled in your new home. While their life may have some semblance of normal, it’s time to establish a new, temporary normal for everyone else.
Especially if you have small children, create some touchstones throughout the day: meals around the same time, regular naps for those who need them, playtime outside if possible. Even visits to the laundry room or the lodging lobby for hot cocoa can become part of your daily routine.
If you’re moving with a pet, plan daily walks which will have the benefit of exercise for both of you, along with helping you discover new green spaces and local trails. If your kids will start school while you’re still in temporary digs, it will be important to set a routine quickly.
2) 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. If the front desk is unable to meet your needs, check in with the installation family support services. As part of their "welcome" amenities, they often have household items available to loan out for temporary use.
3) Tidy up.
While living in the small space of a TLF, you may feel less cramped and more comfortable if things are relatively picked up and clean. Coming back to lodging after a long day of sightseeing or househunting is more enjoyable if you’re not greeted with a mass of clutter, a stack of dirty dishes, or a pile of laundry.
Utilize the housekeeping services if possible. That can help you stay on top of the messiness that can go along with living in close quarters!
4) Build in special treats.
Life in temporary housing can quickly become mundane. Add an unexpected “treat” when you can. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Visits to the post/base library for new books or movies or checking out the installation’s bowling alley or pool can help pass time.
We found that even if they were activities we’d done before, the newness of a different place somehow made it more special. Check out online reviews, then drive around the area and scout out what you’re looking for: a church, pizza place, park, or coffee shop. From finding the nearest Target in the U.S. to discovering a hidden castle in Germany, exploring the new area helps foster excitement.
Source: Flickr user Joe Lewis
5) Find joy in the simple things.
If you’re moving with kids, fun doesn’t have to be elaborate! Some of our best memories are of teaching our kids to play “Stack” Uno or Euchre at a rickety card table. Start a new puzzle together that you’ll race to have finished before you get into housing.
Evening walks or watching a favorite cooking show together are simple pleasures that help kids feel the security of normal family life.
6) Plan ahead for what you'll need.
While you may not know ahead of time that you’ll be facing an extended TLF stay, consider the possibility when you pack your luggage before the move. Laundry can be washed, so perhaps take less clothing and allow more room in your suitcase for special toys, books, and games. Or, ship a box of these items to your forwarding address before you move. Of course, there’s always Amazon for whatever you forget!
Consider the time of year that you’re moving. For our family, when facing a PCS move right before a season change (for some reason, our family seemed to rarely hit the typical “summer PCS” timeframe), especially for an overseas move, we made space to pack light jackets or swimwear, as we just never knew how long it would be till we saw our household goods.
7) Unpack what you need right now and stow the rest.
If you discover after arrival that you’re in for an extended stay, corral what can become a tornadic TLF mess by hanging up clothes, utilizing the dressers and shelf space, and then stowing the luggage and anything else you won’t be using immediately (such as dress clothes, seasonal clothing).
Consider rotating toys/games if you’ve brought enough of those to keep things fresh. Less clutter = easier daily clean up and more sanity for parents!
Source: Flickr user Emily May
8) Make the most of your assigned sponsor and the installation's family services.
As mentioned, your family support office on the base (each service branch has its own version of this) may offer a loan closet for you to borrow some household necessities. But these centers also provide information and resources for military spouse and family job and volunteer opportunities, drop-in childcare, pool and gym classes, and probably a newcomers’ tour or orientation.
You can also find out about upcoming tours and area attraction discounts. And you just might meet your future next door neighbor, as I once did at a Family Services newcomers’ event!
Make use of your sponsor, if you've been assigned one. Their knowledge will be invaluable as they show you around the installation or point out must-see local sights.
Photo by Goh Rhy Yan on Unsplash
9) Stay active.
When the newness begins to wear off and you feel like you’re slogging through the same “Groundhog Day” over and over a la Bill Murray, hang in there! Force yourself to leave your lodging space on a regular basis, whether you feel like it or not. Fresh air and time away from the hotel will help give everyone a new perspective.
Living in close quarters for an extended stay with your whole family can be a challenge. Though you might drive each other a little batty in a cramped space, the shared family history of “the night the power went out” or the time you battled mice in the ancient lodging will likely become memories you laugh about later.
If you’re facing a PCS move and will be living in military lodging or an extended stay hotel long term, here’s hoping it’s over before you know it, that you cultivate new coping skills, and that you find little ways of your own to make your stay as enjoyable as possible.
By Jen McDonald
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