Oh the stress that comes with PCS orders..
Orders come in and you think you’re headed to Hawaii, but then two weeks later you find out that you’re headed to Antartica.
When you wrap your head around wherever you’re headed, then check out this list of 10 things to do before you PCS!
PCS is an acronym for permanent change of station. The military loves to shorten up phrases and replace them with acronyms. Essentially a PCS means it is time to pack up your life, ditch your friends, and travel to a new duty station.
10 Things to do before you PCS
Downsize your belongings
Preparing for a PCS is the perfect time to downsize your belongings. The bigger the moving truck, the more expensive it is. More belongings means more that you have to pack and unpack.
See what I’m getting at here? It is time to let some stuff go!
It is much easier to move when you’ve thrown out all of the decorations you haven’t unpacked from the attic in the last 5 years. Do you need to move 5 boxes of Easter eggs? Nope! What about the Christmas tree with only one remaining string of lights that works? Nope!
Section your things into trash, donate, keep.
Confirm your orders
Before moving forward with everything that needs to happen to pick up your life and transfer it, you really need to confirm your orders.
The military LOVES to change its mind.. on a continuous basis. If there is anything the military life will teach you, it is to become accustomed to being let down. They prefer last minute decisions.
Don’t put in an offer on a house in Florida just to have your heart broken because you’re headed to Oklahoma.
COVID-19 has shown us that the only thing more unpredictable than the US military is society. There has been an extreme decrease in military movement thanks to the Corona Virus. Families that bought homes thinking they would be moving within the month have had to live out of a hotel room.
Confirm your hard orders before you dive head first into moving.
Organize transportation for your belongings
Now that your orders are confirmed, you can start thinking about the moving process and how you will get your stuff to your next location. You have 2 choices for transporting your things during a PCS.
Option 1- DITY move.
Option 2- HHG move.
Option 1 means it is even more important to downsize your stuff. You will have to decide whether to hire moving guys.
Option 2 means you need to organize your things to prevent the movers from taking things you want to move yourself.
If you are moving overseas, remember that you have to look into moving any vehicles.
Arrange transportation for yourself and your family
Transporting your family might be the hardest part of the moving process if you have children! Map out your travel plans ahead of time and decide where to take pit stops for bathroom breaks, fueling up the vehicles, and snacking.
If you’ve chosen a DITY move- will your significant other be tied up in driving a moving truck? Will you need to plan out hotel stays versus being able to switch drivers for naps?
If driving across the country with children or multiple pets seems like a daunting task, then you may choose to book a flight. The further out you can book your flight, the cheaper the cost!
You also have to decide how the family pets will make their move to the new duty station. Don’t be that family that ditches their animals because they’re moving. You made the commitment to be their safe place. Don’t you dare go back on that decision the second it becomes inconvenient for you. ANYWAYS– Moving overseas with pets normally requires a quarantine. Unfortunately, transportation for your pets is not covered by the military.
Decide on housing
Heading to a new duty station means you have to decide what to do about your housing situation. I put together a few questions for you to ask yourself and it should help you make decisions.
For people who own homes at their current duty station- Do you want to rent out your current home or sell it? Do you have money saved in the bank in the event you are unable to find renters? Do you have money saved in the event that you need to replace something during/ after renting out your home? Can you afford to have two mortgages if you want to buy a home at your next duty station? Do you feel like your current home could be your forever home or do you have any intentions of moving back into that home?
For people looking to make decisions about their upcoming duty station– Do you need to be in a particular school zone? Would the allocated BAH cover rent or mortgage if you live off base? Is there a waiting list for on base housing? Do you qualify for a house that is large enough for your family’s needs? Does on base housing take all of your BAH? Is the area around base safe enough for you to invest in housing? How is the housing market? Would buying a house at this station be a smart decision, or will you be movng again in a year?
Evaluate your finances
Moving is expensive, and moving from one state to another can cause a huge rift in your finances if you don’t look ahead.
Does BAH increase or decrease at your new duty station? What about the cost of living? If you’re moving from an area like Georgia to Washington State, then you’re going to face a huge increase in the cost of living.
Do you have enough in savings to move without being immediately reimbursed by the government? Uncle Sam doesn’t rush for anyone. If you can’t afford to front the money for a large move, then consider having the government move your things.
Do you need to pay for a storage unit until a house is ready, or for the entire length of your stay? If you can’t afford a storage unit, then consider selling any furniture that you don’t need within the next year.
How quickly will a house become available? Would you need to cover the cost of a hotel? Do you know anyone on the way to your new base or near the new base that would let you stay for a few nights?
Transfer all of your medical information
Technology is extremely advanced, and most medical records can be transferred with the click of 1 button.. I always keep a copy of my family’s shot records just in case.
If you have children with medical conditions, then you need to inform their doctors ahead of time so you are able to continue receiving the appropriate amount of care for your kids. You don’t want to waste any time waiting for offices to communicate when it comes to your children’s care.
Do you have the dates of your last eye and dental appointments? Tricare is extremely strict on the time periods for care and whether or not they will cover the expense.
If you have Tricare select, then you need to do some research on doctors in your new area.
Even with Tricare prime, I would still research care providers on base at your new duty station.
Assemble important documents
There’s nothing worse than losing something important during a move. If you’ve never heard of a PCS binder, then start doing your research! Having a PCS binder allows you to keep up with important documents along with any receipts that you accumulate during the move.
In order to be reimbursed by the military for moving expenses you have to have your receipts, so hold onto those with your life!
Other documents that you need to hold near and deer during your move are birth certificates, social security cards, shot records, military awards, and PCS orders.
Finalize your current assets
Owning a boat when you live on the cost or near a lake makes perfect sense, but if you’re moving from Florida to Tennessee, do you need to keep the boat? How expensive would it be to store the boat? If you plan on selling the boat, then you need to get things finalized before it is moving day to alleviate the stress you’re under.
A huge burden to off-load is selling your home. Is the market hot? If it is then you may sell your home within a week and need to find temporary lodging. If you’re experiencing a buyer’s market, then expect a wait time.
The bank that you currently use, are they popular at your new duty station? If not, then take care of switching things over before your move.
Don’t forget to place a hold on your mail, or forward it to your new address. Most accounts can be switched to paperless and accessed online, but you need to take precautions just in case!
One of the most important things you can do before your big PCS move is to breathe.
Moving is never easy. Things go missing. Things get broken. Accidents happen. Timelines don’t stick.
Take a big breath before the ball gets rolling.
If you have any questions, then join a Facebook page for your new military base. There are always seasoned military spouses willing to help.
Good luck with your PCS!
Suggested post: Being Stationed at Hunter Army Airfield
PCS- Permanent change of station. Time to move!
DITY- You move yourself.
HHG- The military moves you. They pack all of your things.. Even the trash.
If you have any awesome tips for things to get done before it is time to PCS, then please comment below. I’d love to be able to provide even more helpful information for first time PCSers!