Tips for PCSing like a pro

Tips for PCSing like a pro

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

I can remember my first permanent change of station (PCS) vividly. My husband and I had been married six months and were about to uproot from northern California to the bustling metropolis of San Antonio. I had no clue where to start or what pieces of the puzzle I was responsible for.

Sixteen years later, with six moves under my belt (three of which were overseas), I’ve learned a few tips to make moving go more smoothly. While discussing this with friends recently, I discovered they also had great tricks up their sleeves. 

Start a binder

“I keep a binder with all of the online accounts I have, so I can switch addresses and not miss one. I also keep a copy of each utility bill to ensure I have account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. I also write down confirmation numbers, addresses and phone numbers of the hotels where we are staying, and the dates of each stay.” — Lynley Esposito

“It has important moving info, including the places we’re staying, dental and other medical records, pet records, birth certificates, marriage certificate, in-processing info, copy of the power of attorney, receipts and rental agreements on both the house we own and the house we’re renting. It’s our lifeline.” — Alicia Burrell

Inventory everything

“Video your whole house and take pictures of high-value items. If anything happens to your shipment, you have solid documentation. While a friend and her husband were waiting to move into their house in Germany, the warehouse storing their items burned down. Many military families lost everything. Their inventory video and pictures were key for them not getting short-changed on their reimbursement.” — Heather DeShone

Keep track of your paperwork

“When moving overseas, we had one carry-on bag with all of our important paperwork. It stayed with us at all times, so we knew where it was and everything was in one place.” — Diane Libro

“Scan and email a copy of all important documents to your email accounts. Having backup paperwork in our emails saved us at the airport with our cat.” — Kristi Adams

Ziploc bags aren’t just for snacks

“I put all of my silverware and kitchen utensils in large Ziploc bags. Best of all, I don’t have to re-wash themm and it makes unpacking a little easier.” — Coleen Cornell

“I bag all similar things together (pencils and all that stuff from your junk drawer, underwear, anything loose, etc.). It really helps the packers and makes unpacking a breeze.” — Melissa Carpenter

“We always place furniture parts, screws, etc. in Ziplocs and tape them to the pieces they go with. We’ve had the parts box go missing too many times.” — Amy Clark

Coding rooms and boxes

“I didn’t let a single box leave a room without being color coded. The movers were onboard after I explained what would happen at our destination. On the other side, I taped a paper on each door with the corresponding color. The movers loved it, and I found all of my stuff!” — Laura Hays

“We number rooms and boxes. We put the numbers on the boxes and hang the numbers on the rooms.” — Donna Hackett

“We like to label where furniture is going in the new house with Post-its stuck to the wall. The movers can deliver items right where they’re going.” — Kelly Curtis

Separate and delegate

“Put anything you don’t want the movers to take in a bathroom or closet, and put up caution tape, signs, etc. to keep them out. Or put those items in your car.” — Dave Castor

“Segregate ‘fast ship’ items for international moves. We put everything in one corner and grouped it together. We also used red duct tape to make  ‘Xs’ on items not going (i.e. a fridge staying with the house).” — Kristi Adams

“I stage rooms with what I want the movers to pack, such as all the bedroom stuff in one room, sewing in another, etc. It also helps you get rid of stuff.” — Amey Heath-Riley

Have a plan for Fido and Fifi

“Have a plan for pets on moving day … especially cats. We have always placed our cat in a large dog kennel in our ‘Do Not Pack’ room. Our dog usually hangs with one of us on a leash or in the same room as the cat. All pet paperwork and supplies are with the cat kennel.” — Valerie Van der Veer

"Check agriculture sites if going to Hawaii, U.S. territories and overseas. Call several carriers for costs, flying embargoes, etc." — Tyler Pitre

Open, open, open

“Open all boxes with electronics before the movers leave. We found our receiver box empty a few days later. It had been unsealed on the bottom and then resealed.” — Christina von Hahmann

“Get a box from the movers and label it in bold, ‘Open me first.’ Put in items that you may need (pots, pans, tools, sheets, etc.). Beds went together and spaghetti could be made the first night.” — Sara Mullen

“I prefer to unpack a box at a time, putting all in its place straight from the box. I always did my kitchen first. When the boys were still home, it was always their rooms next, so they had personal space that was familiar to them.” — Julie Kowalski

A few extra tips

“Do not leave money in your kid’s piggy bank. One mover stole the money out of my son’s.” — Anastasia Rogers

"Look into PCS financial allowances, such as advanced dislocation allowance (DLA) and an advance of one month's base pay to help offset non-reimbursable expenses. This is an interest-free option repaid in small monthly allotments." — Tyler Pitre

“Pack a pair of scissors in your luggage. You’ll need them in the hotels more than you ever would at home.” — Quinn Santillo

“I keep workout DVDs in my luggage. After many experiences with moving to a new place, no WiFi, no car and nothing to do but wait, a little cardio session or old-school abs of steel workout seemed to help.” — Jyl Jackson

“Moving is a nice time to be generous to one’s neighbors, especially with cleaning products. Use what you need, and donate the rest.” — Damon Renner

It’s all in the attitude

“Something will break or you’ll forget to do something until the last minute. If you go into the move flexible and realize you can’t control it, and that there is full replacement value on everything you trusted them to pack, you’re good.” — Alicia Burrell.

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