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Military Lodging for PCS and Vacation Travel

Monterey_lodging

Lodging at Naval Support Activity Monterey

What you'll find in this article:

 

Budgeting for a PCS move is tricky when you’re trying to count the days your family might be homeless while traveling or waiting for your next home to become available. An inexpensive solution may be to investigate the thousands of rooms the military has available on its installations and in other military lodging options. Or, new this year, many military members have access to an official partnership between MWR and Priceline for discounted hotel stays (more on that in a minute!). 

The Popularity of Military Lodging

Timing and pre-planning are key to making the best use of military facilities because many families PCS or vacation during the summer, and the most popular hotels are booked months in advance. Since the fees are so reasonable, military lodging is often the first option families consider— in part due to the convenience of base amenities and pet-friendly policies.

 

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Photo by Justin DoCanto on Unsplash

 

Don’t forget the many opportunities available on base near the military lodging. Exchanges and commissaries save money, as do the leisure ticket offices for excursions near your location.  Medical and dental care, as well as pharmacies, will also be available if the need arises. 

 

The worry of stored belongings in trailers or car storage units is also somewhat alleviated due to secure access to the base. It’s often a worry for my husband to have our items locked on top of our car while it sits overnight in an unguarded hotel parking lot. (Of course, it’s still necessary to unload the important or irreplaceable things into a room each night.)

 

Central Contact Information for Military Lodging

The frustrating part of military lodging is the fact that each entity or branch handles its policies differently, so it’s important to be in direct contact with the facility to understand its rules regarding fees, reservation priorities, and cancellations.

 

But, the DoD seems to be moving toward combining much of the branches’ lodging information at the website Department of Defense Lodging. The Defense Travel Management Office has more information regarding the DoD Defense Lodging if you want to read more. 

 

The website provides links for reservation help for the following:

 

  • Air Force Inns
  • Army Lodging
  • Navy Gateway Inns & Suites
  • Marine Corps select bases  
  • Marine Corps Community Services
  • Inns of the Corps
  • Navy Gateway Inns and Suites
  • Navy Getaways RV Parks and Cottages
  • Navy Lodge

We had a good experience using the Navy Lodge in Monterey, California. Our rental house owner hoped to get back into her house as soon as possible, so we ended up in temporary living space for ten days before we PCS’d back to the East Coast.

 

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Photo by Nik Lanús on Unsplash

The reservation process was easy, and the check-in and out was not a problem. The Navy Lodge was certainly not the Four Seasons, but it absolutely solved our housing needs for the short term, and it was actually quite a relief to be there. Unfortunately for us, updating and remodeling had begun the day after we arrived. The next set of travelers were going to be pleasantly surprised! 

 

Typically, military lodging is available to these groups of travelers:

 

  • Military and civilian travelers on official orders
  • Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy, Federal Government, and DoD personnel on temporary duty
  • Active duty military and families on Permanent Change of Station official orders
  • Active duty and families requesting lodging at on a space-available basis
  • Military retirees and their families
  • Widows/Widowers/Dependents of Retired Military Personnel
  • National Guard and Army Reserve members and their families

There are other circumstances where guests may qualify for stays, including medical patients or foreign military members.

 

This is an additional list of important websites or phone numbers for each of the military branches. Remember, each facility is unique, and it is essential to make direct contact so you’re not disappointed upon arrival.

 

American Forces Travel

In 2021, the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community & Family Policy announced a new discounted travel program for current and past service members. American Forces Travel was developed between MWR and Priceline to offer military families alternative affordable travel options. This program aims to widen hotel choices significantly, but discounts are also available on rental cars, vacation packages, flights, cruises, and event tickets. 

 

The website is open to all five military branches, but you must confirm your active duty status through a DEERs portal on the login page. 

 

As of now, American Forces Travel serves: 

 

  • All current active duty military (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard)
  • All members of the Reserve components and National Guard
  • Coast Guard Auxiliary Active Duty
  • All current active duty and retired National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • All current active duty and retired US Public Health Service (USPHS)
  • All retired military, including those in the Reserves and National Guard who are retirement eligible
  • All Medal of Honor recipients
  • All veterans with service-connected disabilities, all veterans who are Purple Heart recipients, all veterans who are former prisoners of war, all individuals approved and designated as the primary family caregivers of eligible veterans under the Department of Veterans Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.
  • Eligible family members who are officially sponsored (ID card holder) by authorized patrons in the above categories
  • All Department of Defense and Coast Guard civilians, including appropriated funds (APF) employees and non-appropriated funds (NAF) employees
  • Full-time, paid employees of the American Red Cross and United Service Organizations (USO) hired in the United States and serving at U.S. DoD installations overseas

 

Eligible authorized patrons coming soon:

 

  • All Department of Homeland Security (DHS) civilians in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), including appropriated and non-appropriated fund employees.

Armed Forces Recreation Centers

If you happen to find yourself overseas (or in Hawaii or Florida) for your next PCS, the popular Armed Forces Recreation Centers (AFRC) may also be helpful, especially for those who are traveling on PCS orders and hope to spend vacation time along the way. AFRC locations have a resort-type setting with plenty of vacation experiences, whereas most standard military lodging is not intended for luxury stays. Take a look at: 

 

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Room at the Hale Koa Hotel in Hawaii

 

These properties provide great relief when traveling in a foreign country. Rates are reasonable because they rely on pay grade and rank. Although not officially part of the AFRC, The New Sanno in Tokyo provides the same feeling of a resort in a home away from home. 

 

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Image from Shades of Green

 

Use these budget-friendly lodging options to take away some of the stress and expense of PCS and vacation travel! Before your last click to seal the reservation deal, it’s helpful to read reviews online or to reach out to other military members who’ve stayed at the properties to have a better understanding of the dos and don’ts of the hotel you’re considering for your stay. They’ll be quick to tell you if the place is pet-friendly, noisy, what to buy before arriving, and many more detailed-oriented tips and travel hacks.  

 

Get more tips for your upcoming military travel!

 

By Dawn M. Smith

 

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