PCS 101: Military Move Must-Do's

PCS 101 for Military Families 

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 military member know what’s expected, but it doesn’t hurt to have a streamlined list to help you think ahead.


What type of move is it?


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 with a Personally Procured Move, or DITY.


And then to make matters more complicated, there’s a "partial DITY"! Explore the pros and cons of a DITY from a military family who’ve accomplished multiple moves this way.


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 a Dislocation Allowance, but you should also be prepared to cover extra expenses that could crop up, including:


  • Maintenance and repairs if you’re selling 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 on you)
  • Any extra travel costs: the military pays for a set number of days of temporary lodging both CONUS and OCONUS
  • Costs for restocking food and other household items at your new home.

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


Understand the differences involved with an overseas move.


While much will be the same about an overseas military move, there are also crucial differences. Some extra concerns you’ll need to address:


  • 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

Get more information in MilitaryByOwner’s free ebook created specifically for your overseas move, Overseas PCS Survival Guide.


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


Of course, you’ll want to list your home for sale or for rent on MilitaryByOwner.  The right time to list your home will depend on whether you’re selling or renting. Quick and Easy Steps to Prepare for Your PCS Move breaks down the details of what you need to do before listing your home.


Research the new location.


This is the fun part! Check the installation’s website and social media to learn more about the reas, schools, and more. Read neighborhood reviews from other military families on Military Town Advisor, and then check in with MILLIE for advance information.


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


Start purging 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!


Create a PCS binder.


For the visual types, 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.


Help your military family prepare.


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.


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 more details about helping kids through a PCS, and the information in A Pre-PCS School Checklist will be invaluable.


For networking and possible friendships, it’s common for military spouses to connect with other spouses at the gaining installation through social media or friends who’ve lived there. Continued employment is also a top concern. Connect with programs and organizations like the following, and then check out MilitaryByOwner’s Ultimate Guide for Military Spouse Employment.



Whether it’s your first PCS or your tenth, a little planning beforehand can help alleviate much of the stress that goes along with a military move.


Download MilitaryByOwner’s complete set of PCS ebooks for further resources!


By Jen McDonald