It’s often said that the only constant in military life is change. Over the span of a career, the average military family experiences a permanent change of station (PCS) every two to three years. Whether you are embarking on your first military move or your fifth, these handy tips from seasoned military spouses help you handle your PCS with as little stress as possible.
If you’re not yet familiar with a military PCS move, the name says it all: it’s a permanent change to a different duty station. When you receive PCS orders, your relocation costs are covered by the military. Using stats like rank and number of family members, the military calculates a weight limit for your move. As long as your family stays within that weight limit, you won’t pay a dime. The military will pay and arrange for a Transportation Service Provider (TSP) to pack your things, load them up, deliver them, and assemble everything in your new home. While these types of moves can take the stress of organizing, paying, and packing off your shoulders, you won’t get to have much of a say in the timeline.
You do not need to use a TSP if you’ve received PCS orders, however. You have the option to do a PPM, or a personally procured move program. The government will still reimburse you for your moving expenses (as long as they fall within your calculated weight limit), but you’ll be in charge of the logistics. You can pack and load yourself, use a POD, rent a truck – the details are up to you, as well as the timeline. You’ll receive a lump-sum reimbursement from the military, so if you manage to move frugally, you may get to pocket some money. There are pros and cons to both using a TSP or doing a PPM, so it really depends on your personal circumstances.
Regardless of the moving method you choose, there are certain things that need to be done. This military move checklist will ensure you don’t miss a thing.
1. Build a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) Binder
The best way to stay organized during military relocation is to build a PCS binder. Military spouse Bridget Carlson has a great tutorial on her blog, “The Nutty Hiker.” Include sections for military family housing, utilities, travel arrangements, and temporary lodging. Use it to keep children’s immunizations and school records and pet vaccinations readily accessible. Add a master calendar of important dates and pockets to keep track of receipts and business cards.
2. Research Your New Location
As soon as you have a location, research housing in the new area, both on and off base, and list the pros and cons of several options before making a decision on where to live. Consider everything from traffic and commute times to schools and shopping. Compare the cost of renting versus buying if you expect to be there several years. If time and money allow, take a trip to the new location to scope out some possibilities. If that isn’t possible, take advantage of the numerous online resources for military members to get a clear idea of what to expect in the new locale.
4. Talk to Your Children About Your Upcoming Move
It might feel like talking to your children about the big move far in advance will only increase the period of time that they feel anxious and fearful. However, the heads up can help them productively prepare for the journey ahead. Explain what is going to happen and when, and then look for ways to help them cope.
Give your kids plenty of time to visit their favorite spots, say goodbye to friends, and accept the idea of the move. Talk to them about the new school, new activities, and new friends waiting for them on the other side of the move. Make sure that they see your excitement about the move and speak positively about the change.
5. Purge the Excess
The military imposes a weight limit on your household goods shipment. If your shipment of goods exceeds the weight limit, you must pay the excess costs. For specifics on this and other military moving regulations, check out the brochures on Move.mil.
Be willing to let go of unnecessary belongings to prevent these additional charges. Clean out closets, basements, garages, and attics, and have a garage sale or donate items to a local charity for the tax write-off.
6. Look into Renting Furniture
The name “permanent change of station” can be a bit misleading, considering the average military family receives PCS orders every two to four years. Even though the military covers moving costs, lugging around furniture from home to home can cause excess wear and tear, and dealing with the logistics of storing furniture while you navigate short-term leases or temporary housing can be a massive headache.
For military families, furniture rental can be a true gamechanger. Pick a CORT rental package or customize it to make your place feel even more like home. Then, simply pick a delivery date and a CORT team will deliver and set up your new furniture. Military families have enough on their plate, and PCS moves can be stressful. With furniture rental, you have one less thing to worry about.
7. Prepare for the Packers
Prepare for your packers and movers to arrive ahead of time. Reducing the number of missing or damaged items can help expedite the packing and unpacking process. Before the packers arrive, go through the house, room by room, to make sure all like items are together and where they belong.
Use zippered plastic bags to keep small items like kitchen utensils, toys, and remote controls from getting dirty, damaged, or lost in the shuffle. Pack linens and clothes in large tubs with lids to keep them clean. Put shoes in plastic shoe bins to protect them from damage in transport.
8. Get Your Family Involved in the Packing Process
The process of packing up, moving to a brand new place, and starting at a new school can be overwhelming for children. By getting them involved in the moving process, you can help your little ones feel involved in — and hopefully excited about — this major change.
Young children can pack their special moving bags, organize their toys for the movers, create artwork for their new bedrooms, and help you with other miscellaneous chores around the home.
Older kids can pack up their own rooms, help scope out rental homes online, and look into fun activities and attractions in your new city or town. If your children feel like they have some input and control in the situation, the move can quickly transform from a scary change to an exciting adventure.
9. Prepare Your Pets
In the chaos of planning and packing, pets’ needs are often overlooked. However, our sensitive and observant pets are often frazzled and upset by the disturbances in their space and routines. Let them sniff and investigate moving boxes and other supplies, and offer them plenty of praise when they do. Keep their belongings (like beds and water bowls) in the same place, and pack them last so that they have a sense of normalcy until moving day. When the movers are in your home packing and loading, keep your pets in their crates or confine them to one room. Because they may be scared by all the commotion – and because the movers will be coming in and out – this is a prime time for pets to get loose.
10. Find Temporary Housing
Permanent housing may not be available as soon as you arrive at your new duty station. You could opt to stay in an extended stay hotel for several weeks or sign a short lease on a furnished or unfurnished apartment. If the temporary housing is unfurnished, rent furniture for a short period and let the military pay the cost of storing your household goods.
11. Get in Touch with Other Military Families in Your New Location
There is nothing quite like bonding with people who know exactly what you’re going through. Other military families can give you the lay of the land when you arrive and help you feel less alone in your new home. Your children can benefit greatly from spending time with other children familiar with the military lifestyle, and ideally, they’ll know a few friendly and familiar faces before beginning school.
12. Connect to Kids’ Programs
It might not be your #1 priority in the midst of unpacking and settling in, but carving out time to get your children involved in local youth activities is hugely helpful. The sooner they have some fun and make friends in your new home, the easier the transition will be.
Take the Stress Out of Military Relocation with CORT Furniture Rental
Permanent housing may not be available as soon as you arrive at your new duty station. You could opt to stay in an extended-stay hotel for several weeks or sign a short lease on a furnished or unfurnished apartment. If the temporary housing is unfurnished, CORT can help. CORT is committed to serving the needs of military families. Our services are available in all 50 states and more than 80 countries around the world. Our Military packages are designed to help active-duty military personnel furnish their entire home down to the essentials, like towels and linens. Browse online today or visit your local CORT Showroom to find a package that suits your style.