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4 Ways to Cope in Temporary Lodging

By Jen McDonald for MilitaryByOwner


PCS season is underway, and if you’re moving this year, you know what that means.

Time for “creative” dinners with the last remnants of your pantry! (Really, someone needs to create a cookbook with recipes designed to use up a case of ramen, the final squirt of a mustard bottle, a dusty bag of Craisins, and a gallon of peanut oil.) 

Along with your not-so-master-chef debut, you’ll also be sorting through closets, overseeing the movers, cramming a forgotten toy into a suitcase after the moving van pulls away, checking into temporary lodging, checking out of temporary lodging, along with all the wrangling of pets, children, plans, and sometimes… our service members! 

If you’ve been there, you know it. A military family move can be exhausting.

However, the upheaval could stretch weeks or even months past the official “moving day.” You might be without your household goods for an extended period. This can happen in many scenarios: for instance, if your move is overseas, you take leave along the way or you wind up waiting for housing longer than you’d expected.

While our family of six has spent our fair share in the limbo that is temporary lodging (TLF), our longest stay was one memorable stint that stretched into five months. The seasons changed as we waited for our belongings to wind their way across the Pacific Ocean from our previous assignment in Guam, then our crates sat in storage as we experienced unexpected delay after delay for housing. 

Our tiny two-bedroom TLF room became a… shall we say, cozy space. 

If you’re also facing weeks or months in a longer-than-you’d-like TLF or hotel situation, or even in your new home but with loaner furniture, let’s get practical:

1. Maintain routines. 

Usually, the military member will be back on duty long before you’ve moved into your new house. Your family’s typical routines will provide some comfort of familiarity. For instance, resume your normal “flow of the day” if you can (for little ones, something like wake up time, breakfast, play, lunch, nap, outside play, dinner, bath, bedtime, etc.).

Set up an area for homework, if it’s needed, and remember to build in time for activities you’d normally do, like a daily walk. These simple routines help create a semblance of structure when everything else has changed and life seems on hold. 

Find familiar things your family loves in the new area, such as a restaurant or store (this can be a little more difficult overseas). For my military kids, checking out the installation’s bowling alley, pool, library, and shoppette was important to them. It was their version of a hometown!

Our family enjoys card and board games, so we always brought along a deck of cards or introduced a new board game to play together. One sweet memory of my now grown children is all of us huddled around a rickety card table playing Hearts by candlelight after the power went out one evening. 

2. Unpack what you’ll be using right now and put everything else away.

Use dressers, closets, and shelves to deal with the messiness that can go along with temporary living. Stow luggage and items you don’t immediately need under beds or in the top of the closet. This could include anything extra you’ve brought along for your new residence, out of season clothes, or toys and books you’d rather rotate than have out all at once. Taming some of the clutter helps make the lodging space more enjoyable and easier to clean up at the end of each day. 

3. Get out and explore!

Now that you’re experiencing the military’s version of Tiny Home Living (Why does it seem so much more glamorous and minimalistic on HGTV than the reality of living in it with two preschoolers, a newborn, and an elderly dog?), there should be less to manage in terms of chores and upkeep. Plus, everyone’s had their schedules completely reset—no sports practices, team mom duties, or volunteer obligations just yet! 

Use your gift of time to explore what the new location offers. We’ve found what ended up becoming some of our favorite places by getting lost on purpose and checking out a coffee shop, park, or restaurant we might not have discovered otherwise. 

4. Stay active. 

It’s tempting for the whole family to park on their respective phones to pass the time in a new place with no friends yet. Of course, it’s always important to let everyone process and work through the move in their own way, but fresh air and sunshine can help lift sour moods. Plus, getting out of lodging regularly will brighten your perspective. 



Remember: this too shall pass! (One final tip from this 30-year military spouse: keep your sense of humor! You just have to laugh sometimes or else you’ll cry.) And once you’ve finished your not-so-temporary lodging stay, you might find that life seems simpler. It’s shocking to realize how little you need to live on for months. I’m also confident that you will make your own memories of how your family made it through your long-term lodging stay.

Now… card game by candlelight, anyone? 

Are you moving overseas? Get more tips for settling into your new location in MilitaryByOwner’s free Overseas PCS Survival Guide.


  • MilitaryByOwner Advertising Inc

    In 1999, the owners of MilitaryByOwner Advertising, Inc, David, (USMC,Ret.) and Sharon Gran, were stationed in Germany faced with a move back to the states. This move triggered the idea of linking relocating military families. In 2000, MilitaryByOwner was launched. Our website offers advertisements of homes for sale or rent near US military bases. Our home advertisers connect with other families in need of living near a military base. Our business advertisers provide valuable resources to help make a PCS move a smooth one. For more information, please email We strive to provide superior customer service by being available for questions through our live chat online, email and office hours. The majority of our staff is either military spouses or dependents who can relate to the joy and stress of a military move. Don’t hesitate to contact us by phone, email or live chat!


  1. Sharita Knobloch

    This made me smile– not only because sense of humor is critical in mobile, cramped spaces but also because #beentheredonethat! We once stayed in a single-bed hotel room for 6 weeks with two adults, a dog and a 4 month old. Ahhh memories. Then we stayed for three weeks in a hotel room with a kitchenette and a then-5 yr old and 1.5 yr old. I think someone needs to invent a childproofed hotel room 😉 Thanks for sharing this! Good stuff!

    • Jen McDonald

      Thanks so much, Sharita! Isn’t it amazing what you go through and can later look back on and laugh!


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All The “Lasts”

All The “Lasts”

It’s here again. We’re currently in the “season of lasts” – also known as PCS season. It’s always a scramble to close everything out, and run around to do everything – ONE. LAST. TIME.

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