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10 Helpful Tips for Your Next Military Move

Military life often means being constantly on the move.

Service members are typically transient, spending a few years in one location before packing up to head to a new installation. Moving can be an exciting time, but it also requires careful planning, time and money.

Preparing for a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move can be a daunting task for military members and their families. This article aims to simplify the PCS process by providing valuable tips for a stress-free military move.

How often do military families move?

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, military families move about every two to three years. This timeline can vary based on the military branch and the needs of the military at the time of service.

Before Your Military Move

It’s important to properly prepare before you start the military moving process. The sooner you start, the more time you will have for moving dates, packing and housing. Here are some things to consider soon after receiving your military move orders.

  • Understand your moving entitlements: These vary based on rank, family size and the nature of your move. Check with your installation's transportation office for specific details.
  • Research your new location: Learn about your new duty station, including housing options, schools and local amenities. It can help you make informed decisions about where to live and what to expect.
  • Create a budget: Moving can be expensive, even with allowances. Make a budget that includes travel costs, temporary lodging and any potential out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Secure important documents: Organize personal and family records, including medical, dental, school and employment records. Keep these in a secure place that you can easily access.

10 Military Moving Tips

Whether you're embarking on your first PCS or are an experienced mover, relocating always presents its hurdles. Below are 10 tips to make your move as seamless as possible.

1. Declutter and Organize

Before packing, it’s necessary to sort through your belongings and declutter. Donate, sell or discard items you no longer need. This not only makes packing easier but can also reduce moving costs. Also, organizing your items by category when packing will streamline the unpacking process once you move to your new location.

2. Keep an Inventory of Your Belongings

Document all of your belongings, especially valuable and essential items. This inventory will be invaluable in the event of loss or damage during the move, especially if you are using a moving company. Use a spreadsheet or a moving checklist to keep track of everything you’re taking with you.

It’s extremely important to take pictures of the items you are moving. If you end up needing to make a claim, photos are great evidence.

3. Prepare for Temporary Lodging

If you need to stay in temporary lodging, plan this well in advance. Military installations often offer temporary housing, but availability can be limited. Explore off-base lodging options as well, and make reservations early to ensure you have a place to stay.

4. Coordinate with Your Transportation Office

Stay in regular contact with your installation’s transportation office. They can provide valuable advice, help resolve issues and keep you informed about the latest regulations and entitlements related to your PCS move.

5. Pack a First-Day Essentials Box

Pack a box with essentials you’ll need for the first day or two in your new home. Delays can happen during your move and it’s important to be prepared if you do not have all your belongings.

Pack a separate bag to take with you, including toiletries, a change of clothes, basic kitchen items and any immediate necessities. If you plan to get to your new location late, pack another bag with sheets, towels and an air mattress. Having these items easily accessible will ease your first night in your new location.

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6. Contact Service Providers and Set Up in Advance

Before arriving at your new location, arrange for essential services such as electricity, water, gas and internet. Make a list of all your service providers and contact each to inform them you are moving. This preparation will help you avoid delays and ensure a comfortable start in your new home.

7. Document Expenses and Save Receipts

During a military move, it's important to keep track of all your spending and save every receipt. Many moving-related costs might be eligible for reimbursement by the military, so keeping detailed records of expenses such as lodging, fuel for travel, and packing supplies can significantly simplify the reimbursement process.

Additionally, some of these expenses may qualify for tax deductions. Organizing receipts and keeping a log of all expenditures not only ensures financial accuracy but also provides a clear record in case of any discrepancies or queries from the military’s finance office. This can help you get the most money back and reduce your out-of-pocket costs for the move.

8. Understand Your Insurance Coverage

Knowing what your policy covers in terms of loss or damage to your belongings during the relocation can provide some relief. Before the move, review your insurance to check the extent of coverage and any exclusions. This might include government-provided insurance during the move and your personal insurance.

If your current policy doesn't offer sufficient coverage for the move, consider purchasing additional insurance. Despite the care taken during military moves, accidents and unforeseen circumstances can occur, potentially leading to loss or damage. Having the right insurance ensures that you're financially protected against such risks, providing peace of mind throughout the moving process.

9. Connect with Military Support Networks

Connecting with support groups at your new location can be incredibly beneficial. These groups, often comprised of fellow service members, civilians and their families, offer several resources and personal experiences that can ease the transition. Whether it's getting insight about local schools, healthcare facilities or even tips on the best places to dine and shop, these communities are invaluable.

They also provide emotional support during what can be a stressful time. You can find groups through the base's Family Support Center, online forums or social media. This social connection is particularly crucial for families who frequently relocate, ensuring a smoother adjustment to each new chapter of military life.

10. Take Time to Settle in

Once you arrive, give yourself and your family time to adjust to the new environment. Explore your new community and establish routines to feel more at home. Allow yourself and your family time to say goodbye to friends and familiar places. You may even host a farewell gathering or visit favorite spots. This emotional preparation is an important step in transitioning to a new chapter in your military life.

Should I use a military moving company?

Deciding whether to use a military moving company for a PCS move can be a challenging decision.

The primary advantage of using a military moving company is convenience. The military handles packing, loading, transportation and unloading your items, which can significantly reduce the stress and effort involved. Additionally, the moving costs are usually covered by the military, minimizing out-of-pocket expenses.

However, there are some downsides. Military movers often have rigid schedules, which can be inconvenient. The quick pace of these moves might lead to less careful handling of items, increasing the risk of damage. There are also a handful of military moving scams out there, so make sure to do your research beforehand.

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