PCS stands for “Permanent Change of Station”. How many MilSpouses have experienced a real “permanent” move in the Military? Most likely, very few of you.
If you’re experiencing your first PCS move, you may be apprehensive about the process and how you’ll get everything done in time. It’s true, there’s a lot to do and a lot to learn. But, don’t worry — we’ve rounded up some of the best PCS 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
Some Military Families know where they’re relocating up to five months in advance, and for others, it’s just weeks. Although MilLife is unpredictable, there are ways to prepare for unexpected moments.
If you know your servicemember’s time in one location is coming to a close soon, you should start planning for a potential move. You’ll especially want to be on top of things if your relocation is occuring during peak Military moving season — May through August. Secure a moving truck and packing and storage services as soon as possible so you don’t get stuck without any help.
If your budget allows, it’s also wise to set aside a few hundred dollars each month in anticipation of moving expenses. 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 are comprised of hundreds of little details, from paperwork and pre-approvals to weight requirements and moving logistics. Visit move.mil 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.
If you have a sponsor, take advantage of it. He or she can give you information about your new home and advice about the moving process. Utilize this individual as a resource as much as possible, and 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.
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, pitching, or giving away heavy or bulky pieces, old appliances, items that you or your children have outgrown, and any malfunctioning electronics or broken furniture. 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.
You may also want to check out Colonial Van Lines tips on what not to pack.
4. Don’t pack all your belongings
Yes, you read that correctly. PCS moves mean that the Military will pay you to relocate. They 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.
Many MilSpouses recommend packing any fragile items in clear tupperware bins with cushions or padding, as movers most likely won’t touch those. You’re also responsible for taking everything off your walls. Store all hanging hardware in a plastic bag or bin so you can reuse them once you arrive at your new home.
Keep in mind, the “don’t pack everything” rule only applies to MilSpouses who are not doing a Do-it-Yourself Move (DitY move, also called PPM). In that case, you are responsible for packing and moving your items. The Military pays based on the weight of your items and the distance you’re traveling, so some families do this to make a little extra money. It’s not always worth it, though.
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 DIY route a try.
“We did a DitY move where we packed and moved ourselves. It was an opportunity to pocket extra money. But we will never do it again!” she explains.
Moving is a lot of work — don’t be afraid to utilize the resources you have.
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.
It’s also wise to put bedding, sheets, curtains, and any other fabric in vacuum storage bags so they don’t get dirty or wet during the move.
6. Communicate with your moving manager
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. He or she will 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 the moving inspection
If you want to pass your Military housing inspection, everything needs to be buttoned up. 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 with extra charges!). You’ll also need to have both the inside and outside of your home cleaned. If it’s in the budget, you can hire a professional cleaning service — otherwise, it’s time to whip out your cleaning gloves and get dirty.
Some offices offer a pre-move inspection where they tell you what and how you should prepare. During this time, they should clarify what the movers will and will not move. For example, most movers won’t transport half-opened food, flammable items such as candles, and even small household items such as batteries. Ask your moving manager for more details about the moving inspection so you can best prepare.
8. Show your movers some 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 who is 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 make a request at 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 in to 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.
It can take nearly a year before your home is completely furnished, you’re back into your regular routines, and your budget is normalized. In the meantime, it’s important to put yourself out there and enjoy the ride.
We understand that moving frequently can be stressful. On the brightside? You’ll be a moving pro by the end of your first PCS.
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