2020 is a crazy year for PCS moves, between the Coronavirus pandemic, the DoD Stop Move order, and the incredible uncertainty that has come with all of that. But now that families are beginning to move and make their PCS travel plans, one thing is certain: we all want to find the safest and most affordable way to travel to a new duty assignment.
Staying in hotels is the most common way military families get from point A to point B during a PCS move. But even though hotels can be reimbursed on a PCS travel claim, they are often an expensive and frustrating part of a PCS move. If you have more than two kids, you will need more than one hotel room, or you will have to pay extra for a large suite. And if you find your PCS dates adjusted, you may end up staying in a hotel for much longer than expected. Many military families are reporting spending a month or more in hotels and temporary housing while waiting on housing at their new base! If you’re in a standard room, those walls start closing in quickly.
PCSgrades is here to help! When you are looking for a hotel during your PCS move, use these tips to make the most of your journey.
Make sure your reservations are reimbursable
When you’re travelling under PCS orders, certain travel expenses can be placed on the Government Travel Card or reimbursed afterwards on your Travel Claim using receipts. However, it’s important to note that not every lodging expense can be claimed and reimbursed! You can always be reimbursed for staying at a military hotel or inn on base. If the base hotel is full, get a Letter of Unavailability, which will allow you to be covered for hotel stays off base. Major hotel chains are all covered and valid for reimbursement, but reservations through a travel site like AirBnB or VRBO are not covered. Always call ahead for a reservation and mention that you are travelling on military PCS orders to get the best compatible options.
Choose a hotel based on comfort and convenience
Sure, the base hotels are affordable, but most don’t offer suites, a dining table, or work spaces. You get a standard room with two double beds, and you may have access to a kitchenette. If you’re just passing through an area for a day or two, it’s worthwhile to see if there are any military bases along your route that will give you a discounted reservation. But if you’re in for a long-term stay at a hotel near base, you want to get the most space you can for your family.
Many military families prefer to stay at hotel that offers family suites with a kitchenette. Not only does this give you a larger room, and sometimes a separate sleeping area for children, but it also allows you to cook simple meals in your room. During PCS season, take-out food gets old really quickly, so the opportunity to prepare fresh meals in your room or eat breakfast before getting back on the road is a big deal.
If you’re a military spouse who is taking classes or working during a PCS move, then quality wi-fi will be essential to you. Many base hotels don’t offer steady wi-fi, but this is standard for larger hotel chains. A hotel suite will usually include a desk or designated workspace, so you can continue being productive during your move.
Look for military discounts
You’ll get the most out of your stay when you find the best rate. Always ask for a military discount when making reservations. Many chains will offer a 10-15% discount, but they may not advertise it on their website. You will need to show a valid military ID card when checking in.
Thankfully, Radisson hotels are working with the USO to make hotel stays more affordable for military families this PCS season. Since 2017, their Military 1st program has automatically upgraded service members to the best available room at the time of their check-in. So if you reserved a standard room, but a larger suite isn’t being used, your family can stretch their legs and enjoy extra work space, without the extra cost. The room upgrade is on top of their military discount, which is 15% at most locations. The program is available at all Radisson hotel brands: Radisson Blu, Radisson RED, Park Inn by Radisson and Country Inn & Suites by Radisson.
Catherine Higgins Whiteside, the VP of Marketing Americas, says the Military 1st program lets the hotel chain “show our heartfelt appreciation to our military members with the best room in the house when available. We understand that a PCS move is a period of instability. We have a long-standing relationship with showing support for military families.” The hotels also offer extended stay discounts, which are useful to military families during an uncertain PCS move.
Choose a hotel that is pet-friendly
Finally, don’t forget about you pets when making your hotel reservations! Many military families PCS with their four-legged family members. Always ask about pet accommodations when you first contact the hotel. Some chains are more pet-friendly than others, and the rules about crating animals in rooms differ at various locations.
Get the best PCS resources
We know that this PCS season is crazy, and PCSgrades is here to help you, with resources by military families, for military families–just like yours. Visit our main site to see reviews of base housing, neighborhoods near your new base, schools, moving companies, realtors, and more!
By Lizann Lightfoot, PCSgrades