Story updated 11 February 2022

If you’re experiencing your first PCS move, you may be apprehensive about the process and the journey that lies ahead. Don’t worry — we’ve rounded up some of the best PCS tips (including some PCS packing tips) that will help you plan and pack like a pro. Here are 10 tips that can help you make your first PCS move.

1. Plan in Advance

Planning is one of the most impactful PCS tips to set your move up for success. Some Military families know where they’re relocating up to five months in advance but others have just a few weeks notice. If you know your servicemember’s time in one location is coming to a close soon, you should start planning for a potential move.

Secure a moving truck and packing and storage services as soon as possible so you don’t get stuck without any help. Although most of it will be covered by the Military, extra expenses can come up and it can take a while to get reimbursed. Having a cushion of cash handy just in case can take the worry out of the equation.

Lastly, start thinking about your home and your possessions. What will go with you, what will you leave behind? What can you donate, what can you sell? It’s not a bad idea to get a yard sale on the calendar so you have ample time to notify friends and family.

2. Educate Yourself on the Process

PCS moves consist of hundreds of little details, from paperwork and pre-approvals to weight requirements and moving logistics. Visit to manage the process online. The site provides training videos, moving guides, FAQs, and more. You can also visit Plan My Move by Military One Source to access additional checklists and planning tools. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Different military bases have different policies. Your sponsor should know the ins and outs of your current base and the one to which you’re moving.

3. Downsize Before Moving

Remember that yard sale idea? Make the most of it while you have a chance. Moving means it’s time to downsize and simplify. As tempted as you may be to bring along every single item you own, keep in mind that you will have a weight allowance. The more you go over, the more expensive it gets.

We suggest selling, storing, or giving away any unnecessary items. Whether you host a yard sale or post items on sites like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, the more you’re able to give away, the lighter (and less expensive) your load will be. Plus, it wouldn’t hurt to make a little extra cash in the process, right?

4. Utilize Movers Authorized by the Military

Yes, you read that correctly: The military will provide you with movers who will pack and unpack your belongings. These movers are liable for anything that breaks, so if you decide to pack everything yourself, oftentimes they will re-pack your items to their standards.

Take it from Lizann, the talented MilSpouse blogger behind The Seasoned Spouse. Her first PCS move was from Virginia to North Carolina, and she and her husband decided to give the DITY route a try. She offers some PCS packing tips, explaining, “We did a DIY move where we packed and moved. It was an opportunity to pocket extra money. But we will never do it again!”

5. Organize Your Move

While it may not be necessary to pack everything, it is imperative to organize. Create a “PCS Binder” and then label and store away any items you don’t want movers to touch. If they’re clearly labeled and kept in a closed-off area or room, there’s a good chance that your movers will leave them alone.

You should also set aside any items you’ll need readily available upon arriving, including any important documents. It can be helpful to organize these in your PCS Binder so everything is in one spot. This includes passports, mortgage documents, birth certificates, Social Security cards, and any other important documentation that you may need.

6. Communicate with Your Moving Manager

The military offers a lot of services and housing options to make PCS moves easier. Did you know that the transportation company is supposed to assign you a moving manager?  Interestingly enough, sometimes it can be hard to identify this person. Most likely, this is the individual who called to schedule your pre-move inspection. They’ll also keep you updated on the progress of your move and will confirm when your items arrive at their destination.

Keep in mind your moving manager won’t be the one who is physically moving your belongings. So, if something gets damaged in the process, this person can help you file a claim but they aren’t personally responsible. Pro tip: You must file any claims within 60 days of when packing begins.

7. Prepare for Moving Inspection

As soon as your servicemember receives orders, start taking inventory of your home and look for any needed repairs. You can also grab a move-out inspection checklist at most housing offices to avoid letting anything fall through the cracks. Schedule any needed maintenance or repairs as soon as possible so you don’t find yourself in a time crunch (or extra charges).

You’ll also need to have both the inside and outside of your home cleaned. If it’s within the budget, you can hire a professional cleaning service — otherwise, it’s time to whip out your cleaning gloves and get to work!

8. Show Your Movers Appreciation

Once the movers arrive, your house is officially a work zone. As movers are coming in and out, hauling your belongings away to the truck, it might be tempting to micromanage and direct. Although it’s important to make sure you feel comfortable with the way the move is going, obsessing over every single detail will only cause you and the movers additional stress.

It’s also important to express gratitude to your movers as they help you through this transition. Some MilSpouses have bought their movers’ lunch, offered baked goods, or provided water. Don’t feel pressured to do anything too time-consuming, but it’s always good to be in cahoots with anyone responsible for your belongings.

9. Save Your Receipts

Although most expenses are supposed to go on a Government Travel Credit Card, there are cases where personal credit cards are used and you’ll need to get reimbursed. This process can take at least a month, so it’s important to save your receipts in case anything gets lost in translation.

If you’d like to receive some of the moving money in advance, you can request IPAC (Installation Personnel Administrative Center), although, if approved, this means that it will be paid back with automatic deductions from your servicemember’s salary.

10. Give Yourself Time to Settle in

After all of the chaos of moving is over, it’s time to settle into your new home. Remember that this can take time — and that’s okay. Over the next few months, you will find yourself making new friends, finding new babysitters, vetting schools, and choosing providers like doctors and dentists for your family.

After all of the chaos of moving is over, it’s time to settle into your new home. Remember that this can take time — and that’s okay. Over the next few months, you will find yourself making new friends, finding new babysitters, vetting schools, and choosing providers like doctors and dentists for your family.

We understand that moving frequently can be stressful. Hopefully, these PCS tips make it more approachable. Always remember to view things on the bright side: you’ll be a moving pro by the end of your first PCS move.

More Moving Tips & Stories:

Solutions for Your Military Family:

Life Insurance, Wealth Management, Home Mortgages, Survivor Services, and more. Learn more about AAFMAA.

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