If you are tagging along during the summer, wait until late-August.
The summer is prime PCS season, and when we go with my husband on these trips, we stay in the Temporary Lodging Facility (TLF). TLFs are 1-2-bedroom suites with kitchenettes for families that are PCSing or retiring as a temporary place to live. It allows the family to stay there until their household goods are delivered or moved to their next home. They are cheaper than hotels and you can cook in the kitchenettes to saves money on eating out. There are some downsides to staying there. TLFs are space available, so you might end up downtown anyway. Also, they are sometimes not the best places to stay. This last TDY, we stayed at one in Oklahoma City at Tinker Air Force Base. It was infested with bugs and the air conditioning broke twice. It was also very small and difficult for four people to move around in.
You are responsible for all your own travel costs.
When you go along on a TDY, unless it’s a move, or the family is on the orders, you are responsible for your airfare, food, and lodging. The government gives a flat rate for your spouse for food and lodging, anything extra is on you.
Even though it is a vacation for you, your spouse is still at work.
Be prepared to go exploring a new city by yourself (or with your kids in tow).
This is not a vacation for your spouse, unless he/she takes leave en route. Your spouse’s schedule may not be ideal for a family vacation, so it would be in your best interest to make sure that the TDY is one that he/she will have time off to spend with you. Be prepared to go exploring a new city by yourself (or with your kids in tow). You might need to be independent when your spouse is working or cannot take leave. This is particularly important if you are tagging along during an extended TDY or non-combat deployment (I’ll address those a little later on).
Before I go anywhere when I tag along, I will go to my local social media site and ask if anyone has been stationed at the base I am about to explore. Being in the military, chances are there are people at your current base who have been stationed at the base you are visiting. They will know the best restaurants, things to do with kids on a budget, or just cool things to see around the base.
Ask about military discounts (politely).
When you arrive at your destination, don’t be afraid to ask for military discounts (and be sure to ask politely). One of the biggest benefits of tagging along during a TDY is that most TDYs are near military installations, and most places near military bases will offer small discounts for military families. If you are trying to penny pinch during a trip, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Some bases have cool things to do on base.
At some bases and installations, it’s not even worth leaving the base. At Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, Louisiana, there is a really nice 18-hole golf course. There are historic antebellum houses along the parade field. There is the 8th Air Force Museum which documents the history of military bombers. The base pool also has a really neat water slide and it only costs $3.00 per person. Why go off base when you can stay on base, and do all that? Other bases have facilities for cross country skiing (Air Force Academy), hiking trails, and world-class beaches.
Be aware of logistics of longer TDYs, deployments, and overseas TDYs.
Besides combat deployments, there are really no limits on where you can go while your spouse is TDY; I have tagged along on a deployment to Guam. (You must have a passport and/or visas for all travelers when leaving the United States.) The rules may be different if you are going unaccompanied versus accompanied. If you are traveling unaccompanied (meaning not on orders), you do not fall under the Status of Forces Agreement. This simply means that you have to follow any and all local laws with regards to your traveling, and different countries have different rules on how long you can stay in country without the appropriate visa. You may also not be protected by the United States military when it comes to local laws. In some deployed locations, you may not even be granted base access, and staying outside of the base may be a considerable expense. You may need to acquire an international driver’s license if you would like to drive in a foreign country. If you go shopping, you will have to claim purchases made overseas and there are limits on what you can bring back stateside with you. Schooling may be another issue when accompanying a spouse on a long TDY with school-aged kids. Districts have strict absence rules, and you have to withdraw your child(ren) from school and re-enroll them once you return. Some parents opt to homeschool instead.
One of the benefits of being a military spouse is the ability to live and see some of the best locations in the world. If you and your children are given the opportunity to travel with your spouse take it, you won’t regret it!
Many Kind Regards,
Thinking of flying with your kids? Rebecca shows how to embrace flying with kids in tow, here.
Original image credit: Emiliano