We’ve PCSed four times now as a family and are planning for our fifth PCS next summer – back to the States.
We’ve done a partial DITY, two OCONUS moves, and driven across the country. Bonus points for overnight flights with babies and toddlers!
PCS is always stressful, no matter how organized you are.
There are always surprises. There are always snags in the system. There’s always something forgotten or lost.
How to plan for PCS:
Clean the house.
Organize everything in its place to make the next step easier. Involve everyone in the family. Make it a game.
Straighten the lesser-used areas like the garage, shed, basement, attic, wherever you only visit a couple times a year, so you don’t miss something and have to scramble last minute. I like to put almost everything in plastic storage bins. Most movers check the bins and then just tape them shut for extra protection.
Discuss with your landlord or real estate agent any repairs or updates to the house as soon as possible so there aren’t any last minute surprises.
Inventory everything you own.
Make lists. Take pictures or video. Color-code the lists. Inventory DVDs. Inventory books in a spreadsheet with ISBNs. Make note of all jewelry, valuables, and collectibles. Record serial numbers of electronics.
Gather personal records and keep in a binder – birth certificates, SS cards, medical and/or shot records, school forms, insurance policies, warranties, pet documents.
Items lended or borrowed need to be returned and retrieved. Make sure to return all library books!
Make a note of all items that need to be repaired or sold or donated. Then separate it and make sure it gets done.
Only purchase as much as you need so you can consume items before the move.
We don’t have the storage space to buy in bulk anymore, but we buy even smaller amounts of items so we’re not left with too much and have to throw it out, mail it, or figure out how to pack it.
The goal is to have an empty pantry, fridge, freezer, and bathroom cabinet before the move!
Many movers won’t pack up any liquids, gels, or food items – even if they’re unopened and brand new, especially in summer months when items can melt, explode, or go rancid during the transition.
Sell or donate items you no longer need. We had a huge yard sale one year.
We have some almost-new 220 appliances to sell.
We have some German items that most likely won’t work out in an American house.
Anything broken beyond repair should be thrown out.
I’ve listed some organizing and packing suggestions in my other PCS post.
Most of us know to expect a PCS in a certain season. We know our tours in a location are only so many years.
As soon as possible, begin saving for non-reimbursable moving expenses. Expenses always seem to just pop up on both sides of the move.
Pets are your responsibility and have been our largest expense with vet records, shots, agriculture forms, and plane tickets.
Request or update tourist passports if needed.
Plan vehicle shipments if needed.
Order new credit or bank cards if expiration dates are soon.
Update ID cards if expiration dates are soon.
Discuss the move with children so they can prepare themselves for the transition. Research the new location.
Discuss that you’re moving with your landlord, and plan for any repairs or updates to ensure you receive your security deposit.
Fill out change of address forms with IRS and USPS.
Check and update auto maintenance. Ensure you have up-to-date car insurance information.
Make vet appointments for pets to ensure microchipping and shots are up to date.
Most OCONUS contracts must be terminated at least 30 days out.
Research education options, procedures, and dates for enrollment for children.
Determine which items are professional, unaccompanied, household goods, and non-temp storage.
Make reservations with TLF or hotels.
The military member should receive hard orders by now.
Request dislocation allowance from finance.
Most CONUS contracts must be terminated at least 30 days out.
Military families can terminate contracts with no penalty with a copy of PCS orders. Cable/satellite TV, Internet, cell phones, utilities need to be cancelled or transferred. Request security deposits!
Cancel or transfer memberships and subscriptions. Request a letter of transfer from local church and clubs, like Scouts or other national organizations.
Alert or transfer banking information to new location. Let them know you are traveling.
Renew medical prescriptions.
Clean drapes and rugs.
Store needed computer files on CD, disk, thumb drive, or portable hard drive.
Confirm transportation details with movers. Schedule pickup and delivery dates with movers and arrange for storage if needed.
Contact housing at new location for on-base options or begin house hunting online.
Separate items and/or label: professional, unaccompanied, household goods, or non-temp storage.
Last few days
Set aside cleaning supplies for after movers clear out.
Remove wall items like pictures, curtain rods, racks.
Have plastic zip bags of all sizes to put smaller items into to make life easier on the other side – silverware, utensils, junk drawer items, craft supplies, bathroom drawer items.
Remove items from attic or crawl space. Yes, it’s a big ole mess.
Place original boxes beside items.
Label items not to be packed or moved. Put them all together if possible.
Drain garden hoses and all oil/gas from lawn machines.
Get rid of all flammables and return or give away propane tanks.
Pack suitcases and items to carry with you and put aside.
Make sure kitchen is clean. Take out the trash!
Remove all laundry from washer and dryer!
Have pets restrained, with friends or neighbors, or in kennels.
Have snacks and drinks for the movers. We usually have pastries and snacks available with sports drinks and water, and ask what they want for lunch each day.
Have a place clearly labeled for trash items so it’s not packed.
Have colored stickers to label moving boxes. Write labels on boxes for each room.
Communicate! Be available for questions. Don’t hover, but be aware of packers and movers. My husband usually has the big checklist and I’m observing.
Vacuum and clean the house once it’s empty or hire a PCS cleaning.
After the move
Register cars in new location. Update insurance and licenses.
Register children for new schools or file for homeschool exemption.
Find a new home! You typically have 30 days in TLF to find a new residence.
Update all your information with your new address.
You can often request temporary furniture items until HHG arrives.
Register for utilities and TV and/or Internet services.
Schedule delivery of goods with transportation office.
Plan for where furniture and boxes should go. Label doorjambs or lintels with colored stickers to match box stickers. Place sticky notes at each room to match box labels.
Movers should reassemble items and can unpack boxes and remove packing materials. In some places, movers can return to remove packing materials within 30 days.
Find a new place of worship.
Meet new friends!
Some moving expenses can be filed on tax returns!
Get the printable PCS Timeline Checklist!