It was a surprise call from my husband’s commander, asking me if I would rather go to Hawaii than to Altus, Oklahoma.
The year was 2007.
I didn’t have a smartphone.
I had just begun blogging, more as a scrapbook for our homeschooling journey.
I didn’t know what MySpace or Facebook even was.
Sometimes, I long to go back to a simpler time, before Pinterest and Instagram. Just to live a life of uncurated online perfection.
PCS to Hawaii Guide
My husband is active duty Air Force, so I assume Navy and Marines and Army might be a little different.
We flew from San Antonio, Texas, to LA for a short layover, to Honolulu, Hawaii. It was a long travel time.
I had an infant, toddler, young child, and a cat. It was pretty stressful.
We arrived in July and the air smelled like plumeria and the ocean.
PCS= Permanent Change of Station. Relocating from one duty station to another.
What to Do First
Look for social media groups.
Facebook is a great way to connect with families who already live in the area you’re moving.
There are local groups for online yard sales, pet tips, jobs, hobbies, homeschooling, parenting, travel, shopping, meetups, hiking, and more!
Have a PCS fund.
It’s always wise to have some savings for PCS time. Pet costs, travel, meals, illness, surprises, and refreshments for the movers can soon deplete funds. We usually use our tax return that year.
Organize all medical, school, and personal paperwork in a binder.
We have a big zipper binder with lots of pockets for passports, birth certificates, social security cards, pet vet reports, kids school reports, PCS forms.
Close accounts and cancel services.
Contact companies like utilities, cable or satellite TV, and cellular phone service to cancel. Most accounts require at least 30 days’ notice with PCS orders.
Request Your DLA (Dislocation Allowance).
Discuss with finance if you will be responsible to pay back any moving costs. Usually, the government credit card is used for airfare and hotel – and that will be covered with filing a travel voucher, but make sure it’s paid before you spend your DLA on new curtains or something! Anything above and beyond your daily allowances (per diem allotment), you will be held responsible.
Contact and update auto and home insurance to make sure you have enough coverage or the right plan for the area you’re moving to. Some countries require extra policies.
Update financial info.
Update banking information with a travel alert and update the new address when you get it. When PCSing overseas, you have to open a local account to pay local bills.
We have huge yard sales and purge, purge, purge every time we PCS.
To avoid confusion and make it easier: schedule unaccompanied baggage, household goods, and temporary storage packing and pick-ups on different days.
Keep valuables and important documents with you at all times.
We opted not to put anything into storage, but I would go back and do that if I had known more. Everything fit ok, but we really didn’t need some items and I would have stored them for safety had I known.
It took several weeks for our goods to arrive. Our temp and HHG actually arrived at the same time.
They have “Aloha Furniture” for temporary use until the goods arrive. It was super helpful and convenient for us to get settled into a routine with beds, a kitchen table, and a dish/cookware pack.
TLA (Temporary Lodging Allowance)
Request a TLF (Temporary Lodging Facility) assignment as soon as you know the dates. Keep all travel receipts. Get on the base housing list ASAP.
Depending on availability of on-base lodging, there’s a chance you’ll be authorized for TLA, which can be extended up from 30 to 60 days.
We didn’t get into a TLF unit on base because it was all full during primetime PCS season.
They booked us up in the Hale Koa Hotel.
The Hale Koa is one of four Armed Forces Recreation Centers around the world run by the Army. AFRCs are resorts that were built for the military and are exclusively for use by military members, retirees, DoD civilians, and other authorized guests.
Housing in Hawaii is smaller than most places. Property is premium. We lived on base. I don’t know how people can afford to live off base. Utilities were included and we only paid for cable TV/internet/phone. Apparently, utilities aren’t included anymore, as of 2013.
Our base house was pretty small for our growing family. We only qualified for a three bedroom because our girls were so young. Our toddler and infant shared a room.
BAH is very high. Sacrificing some living space or commute time in traffic, you might find something affordable off-base to your liking and pocket some BAH money with the VA loan while building some equity.
PCSing to Hawaii with Pets
The state of Hawaii is rabies-free. They like to keep it that way.
Pets may be quarantined up to 120 days.
Pets with uptodate vaccinations may be eligible for 30-day, 5-day, or direct release from the Honolulu International Airport, if requirements are met. See the Hawaii Animal Quarantine info page for more.
Even though we thought we followed the pet travel and moving checklist to a T for immediate release, we had to put our cat in the quarantine kennel for 30 days.
He was fine and we visited him and he seemed happy in his big outdoor private fenced in kennel.
Shipping a Personal Vehicle
Military members are authorized a shipment of 1 POV (Privately Owned Vehicle) at government expense.
We chose to sell our Sante Fe SUV before moving and purchase a Dodge minivan in Hawaii.
We didn’t know any better. I did worry about shipping a brand new vehicle and not having a car for six weeks. But, everything is more expensive in Hawaii because they’re islands.
Just like PCSing overseas anywhere, a POV must be cleaned and inspected before shipment. I recommend shipping the POV as early as you can so it’s ready for you as soon as possible after you arrive.
We only needed one car while we were in Hawaii. We lived on base where my husband worked and he walked or rode his bike everywhere. Occasionally, he needed the car for meetings or something, but it was usually fine for us.
Expenses and Shopping
The Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) is given to government employees stationed overseas (including Alaska and Hawaii) to offset the higher cost if living in those areas. The amount received ranges from $500 to $1500 per month and is determined by a number of factors like rank, years of service, and number of dependents. COLA is not taxed by the federal government, but it may be taxed by the state of Hawaii. My husband’s state of residence is Illinois, so we were not taxed.
I transferred my driver’s license to Hawaii since I am a nonworking spouse and don’t really have a state of residence. As a resident, I got Kama’aina discounts at some places we visited. Many tourist attractions offer great rates for military and Kama’aina and free kids tickets.
Since Hawaii are islands, we realized pretty quickly that if I saw something at the BX, commissary, or in a local store, I better snatch it up immediately because it wouldn’t be there next time.
The commissary ran out of sugar and Cool Whip during the holidays. Canned pumpkin was seasonal and only available during November.
Shopping in local grocery stores was very expensive. Everything is cheaper at the BX and commissary. Gas on base is cheapest.
There’s a big resale business. Lots of yard sales, swap meets, online sales.
We didn’t think about the things we might miss in Hawaii. There weren’t as many commercials stores and restaurants as there are now. No Chick Fil A or Target. I learned not to care so much and I shopped less often than I used to.
Shopping online has extra shipping charges. We learned to live without many things I wouldn’t purchased unless it was available locally.
The Honolulu City Council just passed a bill that allows the City to fine you if you are texting while walking across a street ($15-$99 fine).
Talking on a cell phone while driving is also against the law in Hawaii.
Everyone (including back seat passengers) must wear seatbelts.
Motorcycle helmets are optional (until you go on base) but advisable for safety.
Hawaii is very strict on firearms. You have a short grace period upon arrival, which is 3 days. You’ll need to register your firearms with the Honolulu Police Department. Take the unloaded firearm to the Firearms Division of HPD for inspection along with proper identification and proof of ownership. You will be fingerprinted ($16.50 fee) and photographed. Also, register with base security if living on base.
You’ll hear Aloha a lot. It’s hello, welcome, love, a way of life.
Mahalo means thank you.
While driving, people say “thanks” with the shaka sign which is the same as the ASL sign for play. Make sure to return it!
Traffic is awful. There’s only like two or three highways. We quickly learned to deal with it and when to go places.
Leave your shoes outside or by the door when you visit someone’s home. You’ll probably soon be living in flip-flops (“slippahs”) anyway.
On Oahu, there’s the windward side (east), the leeward side (west), town (Honolulu), Central (Pearl City, Mililani, and surrounding areas), and the North Shore. Mauka (mow-kah) means on the mountain side of the road in the context of directions. Makai (mah-kigh) means on the ocean side of the road in the context of directions.
Learn to make friends with geckos. They come in your house and eat the bugs and they’re noisy at night. Don’t go near the feral chickens. They’re mean and carry bugs. Avoid the humongous centipedes. Many people and pets go to the ER with centipede stings.
It never gets cold, but December is rainy season.
We were sad to leave Hawaii. We PCSed from Hawaii to Utah with another baby, two preschoolers, an older daughter, and two cats. It was a pretty stressful and long flight.
We loved living in Hawaii for three years and wish we could’ve stayed longer.
We have some great memories and the kids long to return now that they’re older.
You might also like:
- Homeschool Space in Hawaii Base Housing
- The Best and Worst of Hickam AFB
- Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
- Honolulu with Kids
- North Shore with Kids
- Kaneohe with Kids
- Oahu with Kids
- Big Island Hawaii with Kids
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Maui with Kids
- Kauai Weekend
- Niihau Day Trip
- Makahiki – Thanksgiving in Hawaii
More PCS Tips:
- 5 Stages of Grief PCS
- Preparing for a PCS
- PCS with Kids
- Third Culture Kids
- Homeschooling during PCS
- Homeschooling Where the Military Sends Us
- Real Food Cooking During PCS
- PCS OCONUS with a Vehicle
- Chance of a Lifetime
- When the Rhythm is Disrupted
- PCS to Germany
- PCS from Germany back to the States
- How to Make Your Move Less Stressful
- Military Life Stress
- 5 Things I Learned during PCS
- My Kitchen Essentials
Many thanks to your husband, and to you & your children, for all of the things that you have gone through as part of protecting the safety of our country. Moving a family at any stage is a process and an ordeal, but adding in all of these things that you have shared being a military family, is a great sacrifice! Blessings to you and your whole family!
Cheryl Gerou says
You and your husband have been through a lot! I am so grateful for all that you do for America. People so dedicated to our safety often go unnoticed. Thank you for showing us what this kind of life is really like!
Donna Reidland says
I, too, thank you and your family for your service. I was only a military wife for a few years but I know there are many hardships and challenging times. What a blessing to younger less experienced families to have a guide like this for a major move. Blessings!
Theresa Boedeker says
Yes, wouldn’t it be nice to return to the pre-social network days. Reading about moving to Hawaii sounds like a lot of hard work. Blessings to you and your family for serving for us and keeping our nation safe. So are you still in Hawaii?
Jennifer Lambert says
We are in Ohio now. I updated the post to reflect our move. Thanks for noticing!
Jeanne Takenaka says
Jennifer, what an informative, practical post! My hubs grew up in Hawaii (well, as much as an Army brat can call anyplace home), and he has a lot of family there still. I could picture so much of what you talked about because of our many visits. He was in the USAF and gave me lots of practice PCS’ing. :) I hope you’re enjoying Ohio . . . even though it isn’t Hawaii. ;)
Patsy Burnette says
Wow! Jennifer. What a wealth of information you’ve shared! My favorite part is, “…and a cat.” LOL I’m a cat lover too so I can understand. You’re a brave woman traveling with the little ones AND a cat! Hawaii is a lovely place, expensive, but very, very lovely!
Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!
Aletha Cress Oglesby says
I live in Oklahoma and have been to Altus. I’ve also been to Hawaii. I think you made the right choice. Thanks for your family’s service to our country.
I don’t know what all the acronyms meant but this post contains a wealth of information on Hawaii. I do alot of work with Hawaiian Charter schools, so getting additional insight into the culture is always helpful.
Mahalo for your service.
Jennifer Lambert says
I’m so sorry! I updated the meanings of the acronyms in parentheses.
Karen Friday says
Wow, I enjoyed going on this journey with you and your family on what it was like to be stationed and live in Hawaii. So interesting and great to get to travel to new places.
Cherelle | The Inspired Prairie says
Thanks for sharing your experience! I love Hawaii! My favorite things in Hawaii were the musubi and the fresh juicy mangos and pineapples. Yes, the geckos and everywhere, and kind of cute!! When we did our last trip to Hawaii, we had a couple encounters with cane spiders which terrified the arachnophobe that I am. I haven’t been back to Hawaii since!! Haha.
Thanks for sharing this with us on the Homestead Blog Hop!