By Lizann Lightfoot
Military families moving overseas have to make a lot of decisions in a short amount of time. One of the biggest choices is where you’ll live during your overseas tour. Families can typically choose to live in base housing or off base.
But what happens while waiting for a house or doing house hunting? It’s called temporary housing. The temporary housing options vary slightly at different overseas bases, but there are some general options you should know.
What is temporary housing?
When military families move overseas, their orders typically allow them to stay in temporary housing for up to 30 days after arrival–until they either rent a house in town or sign up for base housing. This allows families to adjust to the base and local town before making long-term living choices.
There are several types of temporary housing at different bases. It is difficult to predict which you will have, since they are based on availability. Families PCSing overseas should be connected with a sponsor on their new base. Typically, it is the sponsor’s job to make arrangements for temporary housing, but the military member should confirm this ahead of time. When you arrive, your sponsor should meet you at the airport and take you to your temporary housing. Your express shipment should arrive shortly after you get there, so you can use expressed items at your temporary housing.
Ask these important questions
- Which temporary housing option will best accommodate my family and pets?
- Where is the temporary lodging located in relation to the service member’s workplace?
- Will we need to rent a car to get around the base?
- If children attend base schools, does the school bus stop at this temporary lodging location?
- How far is the temporary lodging from the commissary, Exchange, or base restaurants?
- Will we have internet access at our temporary lodging?
Option one: base housing
Some overseas bases have an area of houses that are always used for temporary housing. It is not a long-term assigned base home, but it is a full-sized house with kitchen, bedrooms, and bathrooms. Appliances such as a washer, dryer, oven/stove, and refrigerator/freezer are included. The house will be completely empty and may not have internet access.
You or your sponsor can typically order temporary furniture through the housing office at no cost and keep it until you are assigned permanent quarters. (Shipping household goods overseas often takes four to six weeks, so it will take time for your own furniture to arrive). Temporary furniture includes beds, tables, chairs, sofas, lamps, desks, etc. It is not comfortable–and is similar to the furniture found in a college dorm room–but it is better than nothing!
Some bases also have packages of kitchen dishes, glasses, and cooking supplies that are available to borrow for free during your first month. Some military units also have sets available for new families, so check with your sponsor about how to get these supplies.
There is no charge to stay in base housing, but you will not receive any compensation in your paycheck, either. Most pets are allowed in base housing, which makes it a good options for families PCSing with their pets. If you know you will stay in base housing as your temporary lodging, your express shipment should include bedding, towels, cooking equipment, clothes, toys, electronics, and any baby items you require. You can also include bikes in your express shipment, so you have transportation options.
Option two: hotel on base
Military bases overseas have a government-owned inn or lodge that is basically an on-base hotel with different room configurations for individuals or families. The cost and the number of rooms allotted for a family are based on rank. Pets are not allowed in most rooms. If they are permitted, they typically must be kept in a kennel or cage.
Rooms include beds, a bathroom, and a kitchenette with a refrigerator, microwave, and basic cooking utensils. There is also a telephone and TV. Free internet is usually available. Families PCSing are generally assigned to one room with two queen beds. The quarters may be cramped for a family, since children do not typically receive additional rooms.
While staying in the base hotel quarters, you will receive a per diem payment based on rank, which will reimburse the cost of the stay and some food for up to 30 days. However, this reimbursement may not appear on your paycheck for several pay cycles, so be prepared to pay for the lodging out of pocket until you are reimbursed. If you know you will stay in the base hotel, your express shipment doesn’t need to include much besides clothes, toys, and electronics.
Option three: hotel in town
In rare cases when there is no temporary housing or rooms available on base, families will be placed in a hotel off base. You or the sponsor must obtain a certificate of non-availability from the base inn or lodge in order for your family to be reimbursed for their stay at an off-base hotel.
The military will reimburse hotel costs as part of your moving expenses, but they will not reimburse the cost of a rental car. (Keep in mind that overseas car rentals are typically stick shift.) Your sponsor should make reservations for the hotel and a rental car so that everything will be ready for you when you arrive. This option is usually only temporary until housing becomes available on base.
Lizann Lightfoot is an associate editor at Military One Click and a Marine Corps spouse. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.