There are some situations you simply can’t prepare for when facing a military relocation. A few family memories come to my mind: a final sports-related ER trip hours before leaving the country, movers showing up on the wrong day, an entire shipment of household goods erroneously put into storage instead of delivered, dealing with an overseas move alone while my spouse was deployed.
If you’ve been connected with the military for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve got your own PCS war stories as well! There are few things certain about military life, but relocation is almost assuredly one of them. If your family is due to move with the military soon, perhaps a few moving "hacks" will help you through the process.
1) You can’t be too organized, so plan ahead.
Plan, plan, and then plan some more. If you’re like me, having it written down and out of my brain gives me a strange comfort, so create checklists of what you need to accomplish at each step of the way: several months’ out (if you have that luxury), one month out, week of the move, and so on. Check out MilitaryByOwner’s series of PCS ebooks for more lists and help.
2) Get acquainted with the new location ahead of time.
Schools: Use resources such as the Pre-PCS School Checklist and sites like Great Schools and SchoolDigger. If you’re homeschooling or using a private school, research state laws and options and see our post Options for Military Kids When Your Neighborhood School Isn’t Ideal.
Your new neighborhood: Check out neighborhood reviews and the installation’s website and social media. If you have children, connect with the military’s Youth Sponsorship Program: Children can be assigned their own same-aged "sponsor" who will connect with them before the move, answer questions, and show them around on arrival!
3) Make time for goodbyes.
While this can be the hardest part of a move, make time to throw a goodbye party, take photos in front of the old place, and arrange final get-togethers for your children and their friends. Put all of this on your calendar, so you don’t leave town with regrets!
4) Create a "don’t pack" closet or room.
This is where you’ll place the things you don’t want the movers to pack: luggage, jewelry, electronics, medications, pet food and medications,and other personal items you want to hand carry.
5) Have your beds packed last.
Ask your movers to leave your beds and bedding until the last possible moment in case you can squeak in one more night at the old place. A chair or two will help as well. On that note…
6) Ask the movers on the "move in" end to put the beds together first.
That will help for naptime for small children and for you to fall into after the moving truck rolls away!
7) Make sure pets are in a secure area or at a friend’s.
It’s doubtful your pet will be a welcome distraction on moving day. Aside from that, there’s also the risk of your pet accidentally getting out. For instance, while living near a busy street on base, I spied a little dog happily trotting towards the road. I managed to grab him and began looking for his family. As I walked through the neighborhood, I ran across a couple frantically searching for him. Turns out, he’d made his escape through a door the movers had propped open. Even if your pet fusses at being in a kennel or a room with a closed door, better safe than sorry!
8) Feed your movers.
And offer sodas or at least water. A fed mover is a happy mover! Offer tips at the end of the job if it’s customary in your area or you feel it’s warranted. Opinions are varied on this, but we’ve found after numerous moves that erring on the side of generosity seems to be a good policy.
9) Mark an "unpack first" box.
Fill this with items you’ll want right away at the other end: bedding, towels, toilet paper, paper plates and plasticware, cleaning supplies, a few pots and pans, wine glasses, sippy cups, or whatever else you consider an essential.
10) Keep your sense of humor.
The best laid plans WILL come unglued! One memorable move for us included me incredibly pregnant with our third child and just coming off doctor-ordered bed rest so I was not much practical help. With two other small children, I’m not sure what possessed us to do a DITY or PPM (Personally Procured Move).
Moving day found my husband loading the moving van between bouts of stomach flu, while I frustratingly wished I could be more help. At one point, we were both laid flat on the carpet of the empty living room. Thankfully, friends rallied to save the day! There was a point I realized I could either laugh or cry. If you don’t yet, you’ll have your own moving stories to laugh about one day.
While there’s no way to prepare for every possibility, planning ahead will go a long way towards a smoother PCS. Please share YOUR best moving hack on MilitaryByOwner’s Facebook page.
By Jen McDonald