This post originally appeared on The Seasoned Spouse

When you live on base, it can be tricky to invite family to visit. They will want to know if you are allowed to have visitors in base housing. The short answer is yes, but you must prepare paperwork in advance. And you might have to rearrange your space. But follow these steps for a successful family visit!

Military families don’t always have the luxury of living close to family members. Sometimes they live several states away, or on the other side of the country. Either way, visiting you can be very costly and time-consuming for them. So staying in a hotel during their visit is usually not a good option, especially if it’s just one or two people coming to help you out for a little while.

But since base housing is not known for being spacious or having bonus rooms, how can a military spouse make space in their already cramped quarters? Here are some easy and affordable ways to make your house fit a few more. If you can make a comfortable space for visitors, they are more likely to spend time with you!

Fort Carson, The PCS Homegirls, Colorado, Army

Step 1: Apply for paperwork for visitors in base housing

If anyone will be staying with you in your government quarters (on-base housing), you should apply for a guest pass in advance. This will let the base know who they are and how long they plan to stay. In most cases, visitors are not allowed to stay in base housing longer than 30 consecutive days without specific approval. So if someone is moving in temporarily to help you out during deployment, you may need an additional pass for that.

Each base has their own paperwork for this, so the best thing is to call your installation’s Pass and ID Office or Security to get the details. Apply for this as soon as your guests’ visit and travel dates are confirmed. It may take several weeks to get all the paperwork approved. Here’s what you need to host visitors in base housing:

  • You may need to get a letter of approval from the service member’s command.
  • Fill out an application for a background check. You will need the legal name, birthday, and drivers’ license or passport number of each guest.
  • The Security Office will run a background check before they arrive, so anyone with a criminal record or who is not a legal U.S. citizen may not be allowed on base housing.

When this paperwork is complete, you can pick up their passes either from the base Security Office of Pass and ID Office. This paperwork allows your visitors to be in your car and in your house, but you are responsible for them everywhere on base. The visitor pass does not allow them to have privileges like making purchases at the Commissary, or to drive through the base gate.

Step 2: Get a pass for your visitors to drive onto base

When your visitors are near, make sure you give them the address and directions to the base’s main gate. They will not be able to drive onto base to get to your base housing address. You will need to meet them at the gate (possibly go into the Security Office there) and give them their passes to be accompanied onto base. Visitors should keep passes with them their entire visit, and be prepared to show a photo ID each time they approach a gate.

Then you will need to drive ahead of them to escort them onto the base, and tell the gate guards that you are escorting the car behind you.

Typically, visitors are not allowed to drive on and off base without the hosting service member or military spouse present. This is frustrating, because your visitors in base housing can’t run errands, go for a jog, or take kids to school without you meeting them at the gate to escort them on each time. If they were coming to help support you during deployment, this can be limiting.

At some bases, you can apply for an additional pass that allows your visitors in base housing to drive on and off base unaccompanied. These policies are different on each base, and are up to the base commander, so they can change. Call the Security Office at your specific installation to get their exact guidelines. Again, do this several weeks ahead of their visit, so the paperwork will be completed when they arrive. Here’s what you may need to get driving passes for your visitors in base housing:

  • Drivers license number for the person receiving the pass. Only this person may drive through the gate. (Another spouse or family member cannot use their pass in their place, so decide in advance who would be driving off base.)
  • Vehicle license plate and registration information. If it’s a rental vehicle, you won’t know this in advance, but you may be able to put the rental company info on the form.
  • Drivers insurance information for the person receiving the pass. Vehicles must be insured to be driven on base.

Step 3: Make space for your visitors in base housing

OK, you did it, you got through all that visitor paperwork, and now you’re ready to enjoy some time with your guests. But ummm… where will they sleep? Since base housing is assigned based on family size, it’s rare to have an extra guest bedroom, especially if you have kids. Don’t worry, I have learned some pretty creative ways to make space for visitors in base housing–even with a large family! Try these tips:

1. Use bunk beds

Even if your children have their own rooms, consider investing in bunk beds for at least one child’s bedroom. Not only will it come in handy for sleepovers and such when they are older, but it can also be used to accommodate an extra sibling or cousin when family comes to visit.

2. Invest in double beds for kids

Again, your child might not need a double bed, but if you have the space to put one in their room instead of the small twin-sized bed, then they will be able to share with someone as needed during visits. This also gives you the option to make the double mattress bedroom the “guest room,” and move that child into the bunk bed room for visits.

3. Get an air mattress

A double air mattress is not very expensive, and is an easy way to create a sleeping area when guests are around, but then collapse it for storage later. It can also be an investment for camping trips!

4. Family members can sleep in your bed

If your spouse isn’t home during a deployment, there is at least half of your bed available. If you feel comfortable, ask a family member if they mind sharing. Or, if a couple is coming to visit (like both Grandparents), invite them to take the Master bedroom while you set yourself up in a smaller space.

5. Consider sleeping in the baby’s room

When my babies were still nursing at night, I sometimes gave my bed up to visitors and set up a cot for myself in the baby’s room. I could usually sneak into bed without waking up the baby, then when baby woke up in the morning, we could nurse for a while quietly so no one else would be disturbed.

6. Borrow cots from base housing

This may not work at every base, but some bases have a Self Help center, a Housing office, or a Recreational Issue building where you can rent items like a cot or extra mattresses. Sometimes you can even sign them out for free! The cots aren’t fancy, but I found them very convenient when hosting a lot of guests. I could also place 2 cots together, then put a double air mattress on top of them. Voila! It makes a fairly comfortable double bed.

7. Kids can use sleeping bags

If it’s not a very long visit, consider letting the kids use some sleeping bags or blankets to ‘camp out’ in one bedroom together. Kids don’t mind sleeping on the floor, and making a visit into a sleepover can make some great memories! This is best for children who are old enough not to need naps. You don’t want to exhaust young children so that they become too tired for activities with their guests!

8. Rent a cabin on base

If you are hosting several people at once, consider renting a cabin or beach house on your military installation. MWR or the Outdoor Recreation Center often has rental units with low rates. These are only available through military sponsorship, so your guests would have to let you make the arrangements, but they could always repay you for making the reservation.

Whatever arrangements you choose, try to make your visitors in base housing comfortable by cleaning up their guest space. Remove necessary clothes so that your kids won’t be running into the guest bedroom to get dressed. Put away large toys. Any toys that are played with regularly should be moved to a new temporary location, so kids won’t go through your guests’ things to look for their favorite toys. Provide fresh towels, washcloths, soap, and maybe even a snack, so your guest will feel like they are in a hotel!

With a little bit of planning, you can make almost any guest comfortable, which will certainly increase the number of visitors you have while living in base housing!

the pcs homegirls

Lizann Lightfoot is an experienced writer, editor, and speaker for the military community. After two decades with her Marine—which included seven deployments, six PCS moves, five children, and three years overseas—she specializes in sharing resources and encouragement with families through the many challenges of military life. As an interviewer and storyteller, she helps others share their stories, so their experiences can help fellow service members and spouses throughout their military journey.

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