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Preparing For Your First PCS

Preparing for your First PCS? Here is what you need to do before your big move.

I remember my first real PCS like it was yesterday. My husband and I were preparing for a cross-country move to California from his first base in Missouri. We decided on a do-it-yourself move because we would have control over how our things were packed (and make a little extra money, of course). However, I also remember having to wait a long time for a house at our next base because we didn’t get on the waiting list soon enough, issues with the finance office that greatly affected my husband’s pay, and a list of other things we weren’t prepared for. Needless to say, we weren’t able to get settled immediately, and that made things even more difficult for us and our son, who was about to start school.

Preparing to PCS

While the experience wasn’t a pleasant one, I did learn a valuable lesson: always be prepared. Even if you can’t prepare for every scenario, being prepared for some is better than none. Here are some ways to prepare for your first PCS.

Research your new station. 

Once you find out where you are going, it’s time to learn about your new home. If you use social media, one way to get familiar with your new station is to join the local spouse’s groups and unit pages. These pages are usually a great resource for common questions about the area, to include where to live, which schools your children should attend, and what there is to do. If you don’t use social media (or would like an unbiased opinion outside of it), you can count on our old friend Google to point you in the right direction.

Get all of your paperwork in order.

This one is really important because when it comes to anything military, you know there is a pile of paperwork behind it. Important paperwork to have on your person for this move includes:

  • A hard copy of yours (or your spouse’s) orders
  • Your family’s legal documentation (birth certificates, IDs, social security cards, passports, etc.)
  • Power of Attorney (if you need one – especially if your spouse is deployed during the move)

You will also need to fill out paperwork regarding your household goods, which brings us to my next tip:

Attend a moving briefing at your station’s Travel Management (TMO) office.

TMO is a THE place to go to start seriously prepping for your move. Their whole job is to help you and your family move to your next station. Personnel at TMO can answer questions regarding your move, help you calculate your weight limit (i.e., how much you are allowed to move with you – this is usually based on the active duty member’s rank), and help you choose how you want to move (see my next tip). Think of TMO as the starting point in your PCS.

Choose how you want to move.

There are two standard options for a PCS move – a Household Goods (HHG) move and a Personal Procured move (otherwise known as a do-it-yourself, i.e. DITY, move). Each comes with it’s own list of pros and cons, but here are the basics: A HHG move is the one where the government takes care of moving you to your next station – to include hiring movers to pack up your belongings and ship them to your next station. A DITY move is just that – you take care of the move yourself and the government takes care of the expenses (and pays you extra if you did not exceed your limit – hence why my husband and I chose this route). You can rent a Uhaul or hire your own movers to move you, and you have a bit more control over how your personal items are packed. Be sure to ask TMO about Dislocation Allowance in either case so that your family is financially secure on your way to your next station.

Take an inventory of your belongings

This part is tedious, but worth it. Be sure to make a list of all of your personal items, to include furniture, decor, pictures, books, electronics, and everything else you will be taking with you. Take pictures, too! You may need this list and pictures for insurance purposes. 

Pack up your most fragile and non-essential items ahead of time.

The memories that we make are precious, and should be treated as such. Unfortunately, government-contracted moving companies are notorious for breaking items during moves (as well as for items going missing). So, it is best to pack up your most important non-essentials yourself. Start with the decor on your walls, shelves, etc. That way, you can be sure your items are carefully packed and labeled, and have less of a chance of winding up broken at your next station.

Choose whether your family will live on or off-base.

This should actually be one of the first conversations you and your spouse have about your upcoming move. If you choose to live on base, you will need to contact that station’s Housing office and get on a wait-list immediately because, depending on the station, some wait lists can be anywhere from one-six months. If you choose to live off-base, you will have the option to rent or buy a home. Should you choose to buy a home and contact a realtor…

Contact MilHousing Network!

If you’re looking for a less stressful way to PCS, MilHousing Network has your back. We connect families with realtors who are familiar with the needs of military families, and who can help ease the transition from one home to another. If your family is thinking about buying a home at your next station, use our Connect with a Realtor tool to get connected with a realtor today!

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