In All, Military Life, Tip & Tricks
Overseas PCS

If you’re reading this right now, you have either a) received OCONUS PCS orders or b) are curious as to what an overseas PCS may look like. While an overseas PCS can be an exciting new adventure for you and your family, there are some things you should know – and prepare yourself for – before you move. Here are our top ten tips to execute a successful PCS move to an overseas location:

Do your research!

When it comes to getting to know an area, the first place you should go is our old pal Google. The Internet is a great resource to get to know where you’ll be going. You can find information related to places to see, things to do, where to live, and – this is important – the food! You should also join all of the spouse groups available so you can ask other spouses about their experiences. You can learn best from them about all of the above as well as more of the military related stuff, too.

Take an inventory of all of your belongings

This should be one of the first things you do to prepare for your upcoming PCS. A lot of times in a move, we don’t remember everything we pack or had in our previous location, so things can get lost, so we can’t file claims on said items. And if we find them later and they are broken, we can’t file claims because the deadline may have passed. There are a few ways to take an inventory, such as:

  • Write a list of every single thing you own (this one is the most labor intensive)
  • Take pictures of all of the things you own and save them on a USB drive (less labor intensive and still gets the job done)
  • Take videos of everything you own (may have to be done in batches, will take up more drive space)

Bear in mind that you should also probably downsize, as you will be required to do a Household Goods move, which has a weight limit!

Start saving money now

As surprising as this sounds, an overseas PCS move gets expensive. Oftentimes, the budget exceeds the allowances provided by the military, and much of the move ends up coming out of the member’s pocket due to hidden fees. Be sure to save for general expenses, such as food, lodging, gas, and anything else your family may require. Amounts vary, but it has been suggested that you should have between $5,000-$10,000 saved, if possible.

Make sure you have all of your important documents BEFORE you leave

When you PCS overseas, everything costs more. EVERYTHING. This includes things you will need to get from your home country in order to register for school, for your spouse to get a job, and anything else that requires legal documentation. In addition to passports, make sure to have at least three copies of your orders, everyone’s birth certificates, marriage certificates, and updated state and government identification. If someone in your family is on EFMP, make sure to have updated testing done to ensure that you have the proper documentation  you will need to receive proper care overseas, as well!

Get a (good!) sponsor

This is a given at most installations. The active duty member is assigned a sponsor that will introduce them (and sometimes, their families) to the area once they arrive, and arrange all of the necessities required upon arrival, such as lodging. However, sponsors work a little differently overseas. Your sponsor should not only arrange for your lodging, but they should also arrange for your shuttle to the station from the airport, and food once you arrive. Make sure you have a good sponsor that will help you not only when you arrive, but before. You are going to need all of the help you can get.

Treat your movers

You will have no other option other than a household goods move when you PCS overseas. That being said, the government will hire a company to come move you. These companies have people that come and help you pack up your house. You are not required to do anything for them, but you should consider “treating” them – whether its a case cold water, pizza, or both, it will be appreciated!

Take the “Household Goods Ahead of Time” option, if you can

Taking this option will allow you and your family to decide where you want to live. Even though it is rumored that houses go fast overseas, take the time to research an area and live where you think you and your family will thrive. This is a whole new adventure for your family, and you should take advantage of everything that adventure offers!

The Family Readiness Center will be able to loan you basic furniture and necessities. Use them

An overseas move generally means that families have to downsize a LOT to meet the weight limit. This can mean selling belongings, or leaving them in storage. Often, the easiest way to reduce your moving weight is to reduce the amount of furniture that you are taking with you. In cases like this, the Family Readiness Center at your overseas installation has “loaner” furniture and electronics, such as beds, couches, tables and chairs, and television sets. They also have pots and pans. Be sure to check them out once you find a permanent home to see what yours has to offer. 

Expose yourself and your family to the local culture

Going to new places can offer new ways of looking at the world. Exposing yourself and your family to the local culture can have a profound – and positive! – effect on you all. If you have children, allowing them to learn the culture and language will not only enhance their education, but allow them to learn to be more tolerant of others. If you want to broaden your worldview, this is a surefire way to do it!

ITT is your friend!

Your local ticket office will have tons of info on places to see and things to do. They will also be able to offer you discounted prices on some of those things – just like at any other installation! Be sure to check out your local ITT office when you’re settled to plan your next trip!

Here are a few more things to keep in mind after your move:

  • Make sure to download some apps to make communication with family and friends back home easier (and affordable!). Whatsapp, Skype, and Facebook Messenger (if you don’t already have it) are great options.
  • Moving to another country is a HUGE change. Thus, like all changes, there will be an adjustment period for everyone. It’s okay to be sad and even feel a bit resentful of the changes for a little while. But, this is also why it’s important to get plugged into your new community and find your support system. Give yourself some time to settle, then check out what the local community has to offer through your local spouse’s group.
  • MAKE MEMORIES! Living in a new place means not just somewhere else to live, but somewhere to make some once-in-a-lifetime memories! Cherish this time and do and see as much as possible!


If you liked this post about PCSing overseas, visit our blog page to read other similar articles.

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