I remember the day well. My mom was watching my 18-month-old son and I was waiting at my apartment for the movers to come. It was moving day for our very first PCS. We were headed to Germany and the day had finally come for the movers to start packing up all of our belongings overseas. It would be about six weeks before we would see our stuff again.
I was not a stranger to moving. By this point, I had probably moved about 12 or 13 times in my life, most of them before having kids or even being married. I would take a few weeks to pack up my stuff and then friends would come over and help me move. Then I would spend a few weeks unpacking.
This was different. We were moving to a new country and the Army was going to do it for us. I would not have to pack up all of my stuff. I would not have to look for boxes. I would have movers come over to my house and do it for me. Bliss.
We have done two military moves and a move of our own since then. Moving is for the birds! I would rather not but as a military family you sometimes don’t have a choice. You will pcs and you might do so every 3 years or so.
There is a lot of stress associated with a PCS. You will have a lot to do and a lot to decide about. You will need to see if you want to do a DITY move or have the military move you. People are divided on this. Some want to do the move themselves, others don’t mind if the military does it for them. After moving myself so many times in my life I would always be happy for the military to move me. We have always had a good experience. That being said, not everyone does. There are reports of things being damaged, things being lost and things being stolen. You really have to decide what you want to do and what you can deal with.
After deciding how you actually want to move, you have to do all the rest of the things to get ready for your PCS. You need to plan, even if you are not a planner. You need to know what is going on and what dates things need to happen.
Here are 21 tips for a better military PCS:
1. Declutter. Get rid of stuff you don’t want or don’t use. Plan a day or two to go through your whole house and donate or sell as much as you can. You don’t want to go over your weight limit. We did once and had to pay about $250 for that mistake.
2. Feed the movers. If you have movers, make sure to offer them food and water. They will usually appreciate it. We did have movers once that didn’t want the pizza we got for them but they did love the Oreos so you never know.
3. Prepare to be without your stuff. When we moved 2 hours away we only had to be without our stuff for a few days but overseas moves can take six weeks or even longer. Sometimes moves within the US take time too. And there could be reasons why your stuff will need to be stored for a while. Make plans for this. Especially if you have kids. There are certain things they will need.
4. Label everything. It’s a good idea to label which room everything goes in. Some people get really into this and color code every room. I love this idea. That makes it so much easier to unpack later on. You can put notes up where you want your things so they end up in the right spot. If you want you can also have them put together your furniture such as beds and dressers. This will save you a lot of time.
5. Make a binder.You should have a binder or folder with everything you need for your move. You should keep your to-do lists in there as well as any important documents. You want to have everything with you at all times, no matter where you are moving to.
6. Put aside what you don’t want to be packed. Make sure to clear out one room and put all the things you don’t want to be packed in that room. Then lock the door. That way the movers can’t accidentally pack anything.
7. Save money. Save as much as you think you will need and double that amount. No really. Moving always costs more than you think it will, even if it is a military move. You will need to eat out more often, you will need to buy things at your new place, you will need to have that extra in your bank account.
8. Take the important stuff with you. If you are driving to your new duty station, take all your most important things with you in the car. When we moved overseas it was a bit harder to do this and I was so worried about a few things but if you can take them in a car, do so. Then you know they will be safe.
9. Take a House-Hunting trip. If you can, go out to your new duty station for a house hunting trip. It is so helpful to be able to see where you might live in person first. If you can’t do this and you know people at your next duty station, see if they wouldn’t mind going by potential places and taking photos for you. That way you can get a better sense of your choices. Sometimes you don’t get a chance to look until you actually get there.
10. Take photos before movers come. Take photos of everything important before the movers get there. That way, if there is any damage you have a record of what it looked like before the movers came.
11. Research schools. One mistake we made moving here is we did not double check on which school our house was zoned for. In some areas, the most logical school isn’t always the correct one. Even though there was a school in the neighborhood we were renting in, we were zoned for another one.
12. Rent vs Buy vs On post. You will probably have to decide if you want to rent, buy a home or live on post at your new duty station. Sometimes you have to live on post as there is no off-post housing. Other times on post is booked so you have to go off. You should think about if you should buy a house or not and base that on if you want the responsibility or if buy a house makes sense for your situation.
13. Empty your trash. If you don’t, the movers will pack it. Trust me, they will. And who wants to find 6-week-old trash in their new home?
14. Have someone watch your kids. If you can, have someone watch your kids when the movers come. This will make life easier for you, especially if you have toddlers. You can watch the movers and just chill and not have to worry about kids getting in the way. If you do have to have your kids home, keep them in a separate cleared out room while the movers are doing their thing.
15. Book your hotel. Once you know when you will be getting into town, book your hotel. That way you won’t have to worry about having a place to stay.
16. Use good materials. If you are moving yourselves, use the good stuff. You don’t want your boxes falling apart on you.
17. Keep all bedding together. That way when it is time to get your new bed set up, everything you need is all right there. You don’t have to go searching for it.
18. Don’t go crazy at your new duty station, especially coming back from overseas. When we first got to Ft. Campbell from Germany we wanted to go to all the places we had missed. This adds up and you simply can’t afford to do this. Remember, you will be at your new duty station for a while, you don’t have to see and do everything that first week.
19. Ship your car. If you will be shipping your car, make sure you understand what they want you to do to get the car ready to ship. The car needs to be very clean with very little gas. I have heard of people having to drive around the shipping location to get the gas amount low enough to turn in.
20. Plan for your pets. If you are taking pets with you on a PCS, make sure you plan for them too. Think about how they will get to your new location and what you will need to do. If you are going overseas shipping them can be complicated but people do PCS overseas with their pets. You can too if your location allows for you to do so.
21. Enjoy the journey. It is way too easy to get stressed out about a PCS and you will probably break down in tears a few times. Think about where you are headed and what the experience has been like for you. Think about all the memories you have made at your current location and all the fun things you can do at your new duty station. As hard as a PCS is, as difficult as the process might be, you will get to your new duty station and be able to enjoy your new home.
You can learn more about the area you are moving or find a realtor by checking out PCSGrades. They are such a great resource for anyone that is PCSing and getting ready to move to their next duty station.