PCS 101 Military Moves Must Do's


In this article: 

Getting the notification that you have orders for a military move, or Permanent Change of Station (PCS), is exciting! But it can also be overwhelming to consider the laundry list of what must be accomplished. Of course, the military will let the servicemember know what’s expected, but it doesn’t hurt to have a streamlined list to help you think ahead. 

Whether it’s your first move or your tenth, getting organized and knowing what to expect will only help ease some of the stress of PCS!

What Kind of Move Is It: CONUS or OCONUS?

First things first, what type of move will you be making?

Whether it's CONUS (Continental U.S.) or OCONUS (overseas), many factors will remain the same as far as preparation, paperwork, and other details. But it’s important to understand the differences involved with an overseas move, other than the obvious one of location. 


Overseas and CONUS moves are similiar in many ways


There are some major details that are different with an overseas military move. Military personnel or civilian travel offices will provide counseling and checklists (including information regarding passports, travel, customs, and medical clearance). Be sure to check out the It’s Your Move document offered by TRANSCOM and Plan My Move from Military OneSource.

PCS 101 Quote 1

Some extra concerns you’ll need to be prepared for with an overseas move:

  • Obtaining passports and/or visas for your family
  • Travel arrangements
  • Medical clearance for family members
  • Pets: travel, vaccinations needed, possible quarantine depending on location
  • Military spouse’s overseas employment
  • Children’s school situation

We give you more details about all of this in our free ebook created specifically for your overseas move, Overseas PCS Survival Guide


Will You Move Yourself?


If you’re moving in the continental United States (CONUS) rather than overseas (OCONUS), then you’ll need to decide whether you’ll use the military’s contracted mover or do it yourself and receive reimbursement later for moving costs by doing a Personally Procured Move (PPM) or DITY (“Do It Yourself”). Note that a PPM can only be executed for a CONUS military move. 

And then to make matters more complicated, there’s a "partial DITY" wherein you move part of your household goods yourself and are reimbursed for that portion. This is often accomplished by transporting part of your HHG in your own vehicle(s).


what to know about a DITY move


Some tips for your PPM move

  • Make an appointment with your installation’s transportation office. You may be able to complete counseling online through the DOD website
  • Decide which rental equipment and packing materials you’ll need. Professional companies often offer partial moving assistance. 
  • Determine if temporary storage is required at either end of the trip.
  • Update your insurance policies. PPMs require up-to-date insurance policies for vehicles, trailers, and accident coverage.
  • Get accurate vehicle weights, fully loaded and unloaded. This is crucial for reimbursement. 
  • Assemble all necessary receipts to submit for reimbursement. Costs that are paid includ payment for rental vehicles and packing materials, moving equipment such as hand trucks, gas and oil expenses, weight tickets and highway tolls.

For more info about a DITY move, see these resources: 


Get Organized!

Create a PCS Binder

For the visual types among us, having printed checklists can be helpful. Your PCS binder should also contain copies of orders, moving documents, and Powers of Attorney. See Bloom Where PCS Plants You for checklists for the weeks and days leading up to the move, moving week itself, and the days following. 


set your budget for a PCS move


Set Your Budget

"Well, at least the military moves you, and it won’t cost you anything!" 

I’m sure you’ve heard these words before, or will in the future. And yes, you’ll receive travel and dislocation allowances, but you should also be prepared to cover extra expenses that could crop up, including: 

  • Maintenance and repairs if you’re selling or renting out your home
  • Extra mortgage payments on said home if you’re unable to sell or rent it immediately
  • Shipping pets and extra vehicle (the military will pay to move one vehicle overseas, and pet moving costs are your responsibility)
  • Any extra travel costs: the military pays for a set number of days of temporary lodging whether the move is CONUS or OCONUS
  • Costs for restocking food and other household items at your new home. 

Take time to take a look at your finances and create a budget. Learn more in our posts, Don’t Forget These 5 Expenses in Your PCS Budget and How to Save Money on Your Food Budget During a PCS Move. 

Find more information and PCS budgeting checklists in our ebook, Quick and Easy Steps to Prepare for Your PCS Move

back to top

Organize Your Belongings

Now is the time to get rid of things you haven’t used in a while, so they won’t count against your household goods weight allowance. Donate, hold a garage sale, and throw away! 

See: Get the Most Bang for Your Buck from Your Pre-PCS Garage Sale




Some tips for organizing before the packers arrive:


  • Remove batteries from electronics.
  • Empty your gym locker and bring your belongings home.
  • Ask for items to be returned that were loaned to family and friends.
  • Find a new home for your potted plants.
  • If you have a small animal such as a turtle or hamster that you’re not able to bring on this move, find it a new owner well before moving day.
  • Collect various owner's manuals and put them all in one large Ziploc bag.
  • Return library books and other materials on loan.
  • Move professional items (“pro gear”) into one area, clearly identified. Don’t forget that military spouses may be eligible for allotted pro gear, too. (Up to 500 pounds of items needed for employment or community support activities. These items must be declared at origin.)
  • Use zip ties to wrap cords of electronics. Tape matching cords to items. Keep remotes with items, batteries removed.
  • Scrub clean and dry out any trash cans or recycling bins you plan to move.
  • Check under beds and furniture for stray items. 

In the day or two before the actual pack-out date, move these items to the space you’ve identified as the “do not pack” area (you can designate a space or even a closet or bathroom):

  • Remotes, cable boxes, modems, and routers from your local cable provider
  • Luggage
  • Clothes and toiletries
  • Prescription drugs
  • High value jewelry
  • Cash
  • Wallet or purse
  • Keys
  • Cell phones, laptops, and other electronics
  • Chargers
  • Firearms
  • Trashcans or bins you don’t plan to move
  • Supplies needed for cleaning before departure
  • Dirty laundry, any wet cloths or towels

More organizing tips: 

From Home Organization: A Beginner’s Guide:

What bothers you the most? Start there. Are you constantly searching for your keys? Is the mudroom overrun with everything except mud? Each home has at least one pain point for clutter. For some people, entire rooms may be the culprit, with the overflowing contents hidden by a closed door.


Leaving Your Current Home

If you’re currently renting, notify your landlord of your upcoming move. But don’t do this until your orders are firm, as orders can change and you don’t want to be without a place to live. If you’re living in military housing, check with the housing office ASAP for their move-out requirements. 


putting your home on the market


If you own your home, begin preparing to put it on the market. 

If you're a homeowner, you may be considering the question: should I sell or rent out my home?

As noted in our resource PCS Ahead: Should I Rent or Sell My Home?, there are several reasons to rent out your home when you PCS: 


  • Home value: If you’ll lose money by selling it right now, you may want to rent it.
  • Finances: You may find that you’re not financially able to sell at this time once you consider market conditions. 
  • Future plans: Do you plan on returning to this home? Will you buy another home? 

Conversely, if you think selling your home might be your best option, consider the following tips as you place your home on the market.

  • Housing trends: If the seller’s market in your area is favorable, you may choose to sell now vs. waiting. 
  • Convenience: You’d rather not deal with the details of renting out a house.
  • Your finances: You may not have the resources to provide upkeep on a home you’re not living in. 

Of course, whatever you decide, you’ll want to list your home for sale or for rent on MilitaryByOwner in order to reach other families near your military installation! We offer help for each step of the home listing process, including ad packages (whether you’re a homeowner or real estate agents), yard signs, helpful home selling articles, and frequently updated home selling blogs. Quick & Easy Steps to Prepare for Your PCS Move, gives you more details about preparing your house for sale or rent.

Research the New Location

This is the fun part! Check the installation’s website and social media to learn more about the area, schools, and more. Read neighborhood reviews from other military families on Military Town Advisor, and take a look at our base information pages to learn more details about where you’re headed (simply click the state, your base, then “more base housing details”). 

If you’re moving overseas, you should be assigned an overseas sponsor who will be an invaluable resource about local information. 


start networking ahead of time to find your new home


Finding Your New Home

When it comes to househunting, you'll want to start networking as soon as you know where you’re headed! Military families are happy to offer their opinions on duty stations and neighborhoods. (Of course, Military Town Advisor is a great source of neighborhood reviews from your fellow military families!)

From Everything You Need to Know for Your First PCS: 

“People are very passionate about their housing experiences and especially love to share their best kept secrets. Along the way, keep an ear out for a veteran or military spouse real estate agents. If you make contact, they’ll probably already have a detailed strategy to help, whether buying or renting.”


We’ve put together so many resources for would-be home buyers and renters. Start here! 

Military Homebuyers:


Military Renters:



Preparing Kids for a Military Move

The Great School Search

Of course, if you have children, one of the largest factors of where exactly you’ll live has much to do with school options. Thankfully, there are so many research tools to make school shopping a bit easier for military families. 




No matter what you decide— public, private or homeschooling—here are a few resources to learn more about the schools where you’re headed. 

  • School Quest: Presented by the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC), SchoolQuest helps parents of military-connected children manage the process of school transitions more effectively.
  • Great Schools: Empowering parents with information. 
  • The Nation’s Report Card: Dept. of Education site, compiles testing scores, rankings, and state comparisons. 
  • School Digger: K-12 performance data. 
  • State Boards of Education: The U.S. Department of Education has compiled a list and info for each state’s board of education. 
  • Local school districts: Check your local school district’s website for details about your specific locale. 
  • Private School Review: Find private schools by state, city, or address search. See rankings and even compare schools. 

Ask for referrals. From A Pre-PCS School Checklist

“Personal experiences and referrals from your friends and their friends are invaluable. Begin networking and exploring. Read blogs, Facebook pages, and neighborhood forums relevant to your next city. Post a general inquiry about what the schools are like in the area, and the answers will pour in. Moms and dads love to talk about their kids’ lives! Examine the general trend and ignore the worst and best comments to formulate an opinion based on the overall tone of the reviews.”


Help Your Military Kids Through a Move

Kids will have concerns about all the upcoming changes. Allow them to help with logistics as much as is practical (helping sort and pack, deciding what to bring in their suitcase, etc). Help them say goodbyes and offer to set up last playdates and plans to keep in touch with friends. 

PCS 101 Quote2

Maintaining positivity about the move, while allowing time to process the change, will go a long way, as will maintaining familiar routines as much as possible. Avoid PCS Move Wipeout offers invaluable information about helping kids cope with a PCS move. And we’ve got more, of course! 

Take a look at the military’s Youth Sponsorship Program and MCEC’s Student 2 Student Program. Military kids can connect with someone their own age before the move who can answer questions and then be a point of contact when they arrive.  

back to top


Military Spouse Employment and Connections

For networking and possible friendships, it’s common for military spouses to meet other spouses before they even arrive at the gaining installation through social media or friends who’ve lived there. And if you haven’t yet, consider trying out your local spouses’ group!


continued employment after a move is a concern for military spouses


Continued employment is a perennial concern for military spouses. Connect with programs and organizations like the following, and then peruse MilitaryByOwner’s Ultimate Guide for Military Spouse Employment.

Plan for Moving Your Pets

It can be stressful to move with pets! If you’re moving overseas, plan now for possible pet quarantines, vet evaluations, and airline requirements. 




Whether stateside or overseas, research options for transporting your pet, pet boarding on both ends of the move, and pet-friendly temporary lodging and housing. 

You may be eligible to ship your pet on a military transport. There are also pet relocation grants and quarantine fee reimbursements you may be interested in. Get more details about these and other concerns in 6 Resources for a Military Move with Pets.

 Here’s even more help for moving with your pets:

Whew! There’s so much to do with a military move. But a little planning beforehand can help alleviate the stress by preparing you for what’s coming. 


Download our complete set of PCS ebooks below for even more help!

By Jen McDonald

Quick_and_Easy_Steps_PCS_ebook_cover_2020 Avoid_PCS_Move_Wipeout Bloom_Where_PCS_Plants_You Funny_PCS_Stories_cover




back to top