During my husband’s long Air Force career, our family lived in 18 different homes, overseas and stateside, both in military housing and off base. Although I felt myself to be quite the pro at making a PCS move by the time he was approaching retirement, I still was often surprised to learn about resources and organizations I hadn’t heard about before, even after so many years of moving.
So whether it’s your first PCS move or your tenth, there’s always something new to learn and better ways of doing things. After all, military families are experts at adapting! If you’re about to make a military move, scan this list of resources that are designed to make your PCS just a little bit easier.
Before Your PCS Move: Time to Get Organized!
While the military has systems and checklists in place (they’ve done this PCS thing a few times!), it’s time to organize and gather all the information you need ahead of the move. Here are a couple of places to begin:
- Military OneSource’s Plan My Move: The official DoD source for all things PCS-related. Learn how to schedule your move, connect with DPS, keep track of all the tasks you need to complete, create custom checklists, and find customer service contacts.
- PCS Checklists: From military relocation experts, you’ll find checklists to plan ahead and keep on hand for the months, weeks, and days leading up to your move.
Once you’ve perused the above, it’s time to jump into action and get organized.
Your PCS Binder
While so much of our personal information is digital these days, it’s important to create a file or binder to hold important documents like copies of orders, Powers of Attorney, marriage and birth certificates, child custody paperwork, and even a written list of important phone numbers (Especially when moving overseas! You may find your phone doesn’t work temporarily, and how many of us actually know phone numbers anymore?). Place this file in an area where it won’t get packed and you can access what you need quickly.
Before the PCS Chaos
- Before the flurry and busyness of the move sets in, take time to go through your belongings and decide what’s worth moving, what should be stored, and what you can sell, donate, or throw out.
- This is also the perfect time to assess your finances and create a budget.
- Schedule any required medical and dental appointments, allowing plenty of time for overseas medical clearances or appointments for EFMP family members.
- Schedule veterinary appointments for your pets and check due dates for vaccinations, especially overseas requirements. (More on moving with pets in a minute.)
- If you’re in a lease, notify your landlord of your upcoming move when orders are official. It’s not recommended to do this until you have orders in hand, just in case of a last-minute change.
Research the New Location
This is the fun part! Take a look at neighborhood reviews, research schools online with your kiddos, and start making your bucket list now of all the exploring you want to do after you arrive. Take a look at:
- Military Town Advisor: Neighborhood and area reviews written by military families. Learn about on-base and off-base housing, schools, area Realtors, and things to do.
- MilitaryByOwner’s Regional Base Guides: Extensive guides compiled by military spouses that cover info about the area, activities, military spouse employment outlook, and much more for selected military installations.
- Military.com Military Base Guide: Search by service branch and installation for information about bases around the world.
- Facebook groups and pages: Jump into the base’s official Facebook page and also search for local groups you can join and ask questions. Keep in mind that the negative voices can be the loudest and most inclined to share, so take opinions on an area you’ve never been to with a grain of salt!
- School Digger: If you have school-aged children, this is a great site to research schools based on rankings and location. Get a feel for the educational environment even before you arrive,
- Your overseas sponsor: If you’re moving overseas, you’ll be connected with your own “sponsor,” another military member trained to help you with information about the country and installation, along with specifics about living there, such as info about housing. A sponsor’s purpose is to help make your adjustment to overseas living easier. Make the most of having a sponsor and ask questions. During two of our overseas moves, sponsors even sent us photos and floor plans of the housing we’d be living in!
If You’re Making a PPM (Personally Procured Move)
Also known as a “DITY Move” (do it yourself), in a PPM you’ll move all your belongings yourself and be responsible for the move from start to finish. The government will reimburse you what they would have paid a moving company. You can also choose a “partial DITY” or partial PPM and move a portion of your household goods on your own. (Some people choose this option to move high-value or sentimental items or to have the items they want immediately on hand.) There is no option for a PPM during an overseas move.
If you’re considering doing a PPM, start with a visit to your transportation office and get the most updated information and paperwork. You’ll want to dot all your i’s and cross all the t’s, submitting proper documents so that you’re reimbursed what you’re due. Don’t rely solely on info from friends, no matter how well-intended they may be. As you know, regulations and guidance can change without notice in the military, and someone’s experience from even a year ago may be different than what’s currently happening.
Thinking of making a PPM? Start here: DPMO Personally Procured Move Fact Sheet.
PCS Move Resources for Military Kids
There’s so much to consider when moving with kids, from finding childcare and schools to helping them navigate being the new kid. Thankfully, much work has been accomplished in recent years to help military children through the relocation process, with non-profits and other organizations springing up to support our nation’s littlest heroes.
The Youth Sponsorship Program
Military children are eligible to have their own “sponsor” who can help make their adjustment to a new school easier, whether you’re moving stateside or overseas. The YSP matches children with a child already living at the new location, and they usually connect ahead of the move. Youth sponsors are meant to welcome new children, give them a tour, and show them the ropes at their new school. Youth Sponsorship Programs are administered at the base level, so check in with your receiving installation’s MWR, Child and Youth Services, or Fleet and Family Readiness Programs to learn more and sign up.
MCEC’s mission is “inclusive, quality educational opportunities for all military-connected children affected by mobility, transition, deployments and family separation.” Their Student 2 Student Program connects military and civilian children, with the goal of easing transitions for military kids.
Created by Military OneSource, an official DoD site, Military Kids Connect provides interactional resources for military kids of all ages (and their parents!). You’ll find info and help for PCS moves and other topics like deployments.
Moving with Pets
Military families love their fur babies! But moving with pets, especially overseas, can be a stressful time. Thankfully, there is a myriad of official government resources along with other organizations aimed at helping military members and families moving with their pets.
Flying with Pets
Due to some unfortunate tragedies that occurred with pets on aircraft during recent years, all commercial airlines have revamped their guidelines for flying with a pet. If you’re moving overseas with a pet, check well ahead of time with your specific airline for the latest guidance for kennels, fees, and other requirements. For example, here’s a checklist for transporting pets with American Airlines.
You may be eligible to ship your cat or dog for a PCS move via a military flight, also known as the “Patriot Express.” These spaces are limited and available on AMC flights for overseas PCS travel from Baltimore/Washington International or Seattle/Tacoma International airports. A limit of two pets per family applies, and the owner must accompany the pets and pay any fees. Learn more at Air Mobility Command’s Pet Travel Information page.
Pet Transport Companies
Numerous companies have sprung up recently that specialize in helping you move your pets. If you’re thinking about this option, it’s vital to use a legitimate service to protect your pets. A pet transport company can deal with all the details of transporting your pet either CONUS or OCONUS, including flight details, immunization and quarantine paperwork, and airport delivery and pick up. Put your mind at ease and choose a pet shipper that’s already been screened through the well-respected International Pet and Travel Association (IPATA).
Financial Help for Moving Your Pets
Moving with a pet can be expensive, between required pre-move lab work and visits to the vet, quarantine fees, transportation, and boarding. But you may not realize there are ways to offset some of those costs.
If you’re moving to an area with mandatory pet quarantines (for instance, Guam, Japan, and Hawaii), you may be eligible for reimbursement up to $550. Here’s the regulation from the Defense Travel Management Office:
“Mandatory pet quarantine fees, incurred ICW the mandatory quarantine of a household pet, are reimbursable not to exceed $550 per PCS move for pets in, or entering into, quarantine on and after 28 December 2001. There is no reimbursement (nor any allowance) for ‘transportation’ of a pet. See JTR, par. 050106. Only quarantine costs associated with dogs and cats are allowed.”
Other organizations have stepped up to help with the cost of military members moving with a pet, including:
- The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Air Force Aid Society, and the Army Emergency Relief offer either no-interest loans or grants for transporting pets during an overseas assignment.
- Dogs on Deployment: grants for travel costs associated with a PCS move (generally for E-6 or below).
- Operation Military Pets from the SPCA: apply for a grant to help offset pet relocation costs.
As you face your next PCS move, go forward with confidence knowing there’s wide support and resources for you to tap into from not only the military itself, but from others who’ve done it before, along with supportive agencies, non-profits, and companies. And before you know it, you’ll be on the other side, unpacking your boxes!
For more tips on moving and housing, visit our blog at https://militarycrashpad.com/blog/.
About the author: Jen McDonald is the author of You Are Not Alone: Encouragement for the Heart of a Military Spouse and the host of the Milspouse Matters podcast and the Christian Milspouse Podcast. An experienced writer and editor, she’s been published in numerous books and national publications and featured on major online sites. As a military spouse for 30 years and the mom of four, including one son serving in the military, Jen is passionate about strengthening and encouraging military families in the unique challenges they face. Connect with Jen and get resources for your military life at her site, Jen McDonald, and find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram as @jenmcdonald88 and @milspousematters.