Checklist for PCS Moves
For most military families, moving becomes second nature. From the pack-outs to the paperwork, it can be a very stressful time for everyone involved. A Permanent Change of Station (PCS) is a good way to get organized quickly and force yourself to get rid of that old lawn mower that has been collecting dust in the garage.
Some of the moves that families experience are within the same state or just a few hundred miles away. For other service members, the move could be across the United States or outside the continental U.S. (OCONUS). Knowing what to expect and how to prepare is a game changer in the short time you typically have in order to prepare for the move.
Military members and their families should understand that they are not alone in this process. With over 400,000 families PCSing every year, there are hundreds of different online groups that make it easier to map out the unknown and answer any questions you may have. Electing to move OCONUS, is a great opportunity to experience new cultures and adapt to a new environment.
Moving to a different country is a daunting challenge in itself. Different time zones make it hard to keep in contact with loved ones at home or friends at your last duty station. Foreign languages can pose the challenge of difficulty in communicating with locals out in town or contractors that work on the base. With many other challenges, it is important to get a head start on the moving process as soon as you know where you are PCSing.
Find out when and how much you can pack-out.
With different family sizes, the amount of weight you are allowed to ship out can vary heavily. Knowing how early and how much you can ship is crucial in determining what you plan on taking versus what you plan on leaving behind. Finding out the difference between the Household Goods and the Unaccompanied Baggage shipment, helps you to understand how fast your items will arrive and how long you may be waiting for them.
The expenses like travel and lodging will be reimbursed, but most of the time you will need to pay out of pocket. If you plan on moving your pets, plan ahead. On short notice your pets could cost upwards of $2,000 per pet, not including vet fees and updating vaccinations. If it is your dream to live off post, putting money aside for the initial deposits is critical. In Japan, renters will typically charge an agent’s fee (1 months rent) and a deposit (1-3 months rent) in addition to setting up utilities and internet services.
Speaking of pets…
Moving pets can be just as difficult as having another human in the mix. They do not understand why the whole family is acting weird and will know something is up. With additional vet visits, vaccinations, and travel health certificates, their PCS folder will be just as full as the service member’s. It is important to speak with your veterinarian at the future base, as well as your current veterinarian, as soon as possible to avoid any quarantine challenges or vaccine mishaps.
Have hard copies of everything.
With your family’s medical documents, school and dental records, it is important to have hard copies for a smooth transition. Being able to hand your child’s new school their old records will ease the check-in process and save having to write time-consuming emails. With a little advanced notice, the hospital, dental, and school offices will have them ready to go for you.
Take pictures of everything.
And I mean everything. From your 65 inch TV to your china hutch that has been in the family for generations, take pictures of every angle. Being able to identify dings and scratches that were done by the shipping company will save the money of having to buy new furniture in a brand new country. Having physical evidence will help you file your reimbursement claim. Packing items that are especially valuable to you like your fine china, musical instruments and family heirlooms yourself will ensure that everything will make the trip across the pond.
Being one step ahead, and ensuring that all paperwork is done and handed in on time will make a smoother transition. Making sure every family member is ready to go weeks in advance will help avoid mishaps that may pop up during the physical move. Additionally, having extra copies of important documents and favorite snacks will always come in handy to ensure peace of mind.