Tag Archives: PCS

These 4 Everyday Items Helped Me Conquer 15 PCS Moves!

When summertime comes, all military families know PCS season will be in full swing. As I read through the multitude of posts on various military spouse-related Facebook groups, there are several recurring themes: recommendations (hair stylists, medical staff, etc.), links to homes for sale or rent, frustrations about moving, and requests for tips when it comes to preparing for a move, just to name a few.


I’m no expert when it comes to PCSing, but in my 22 years as a Marine Corps spouse, we’ve conquered 12 moves, 15 houses, and 3 OCONUS moves (two of which were back-to-back overseas moves!). I’d say I’ve learned a thing or two about how to make military moves less stressful for me and the movers. Yes, less stressful for me. I didn’t include my family here because they know when I’m in “the zone,” it’s best to wait for me to assign them a task, instead of trying to get involved. There’s a method to my madness; one that has evolved over the years as we progressed from no kids, to one kid, then two kids. And each move is different, not just because of location, but because I am continually tweaking my process.

Our first move was without kids. We lived in a furnished apartment, so labeling the items that were staying and not getting packed up was quite important. The items we would move ourselves (photographs, valuables, and sentimental items) were locked in one of the bathrooms – a trick many use to make sure packers don’t touch the things behind that door. When the packers showed up, I walked them through our apartment and explained what was/was not to be packed and, fortunately, they paid attention. My very first PCS move went very smoothly.

As our family grew and we began to accumulate more and more household items, my process of preparing for moves evolved. My moving essentials became my holy grail, and I still use them for every move. If you’re moving soon, here are my suggestions to make life a little easier. Grab yourself a spiral notebook (I’m up to a 5-subject notebook these days), plastic zipper bags (all sizes–snack size to 2 gallon), duct tape (a variety of colors and patterns), and plastic tubs. And here’s why they’re magical during our PCS moves:

4-items-to-conquer-pcs-moves-pinterestSpiral Notebook: The spiral notebook is for my lists: the to-do list, the take-with-us list, the give-away list, etc. It’s also great for jotting down notes and questions. And since this was before everyone had cell phones, I kept one page strictly for phone numbers—a tip that, surprisingly, is still relevant, even with cell phones!

Plastic Zipper Bags: These bags are lifesavers when it comes to moving! How many times have you unwrapped 10 sheets of paper and discovered one pen? Or a single fork? It’s both frustrating and time-consuming. Place all small or loose items into a bag. This could be your junk drawer items, utensils, small toys, puzzles, and tools. You name it, I put it in a bag! I even place my unmentionables in plastic bags (do you really want the packers touching them?). The bags are reused move after move, saving money and the environment! In fact, I have bags that have made it through at least 10 moves!

Duct Tape: Duct tape is used to mark items not to be taken by the movers (these items are already placed in a box). Red duct tape is my color of choice for “not to be packed” boxes. My daughters each choose a color or pattern for their boxes. And for my husband’s professional gear? Camouflage duct tape, of course!

Plastic Tubs: Holiday decorations, outdoor toys, miscellaneous garage stuff all go into plastic tubs. Just tell the packers to leave them packed and, most times, they’ll just tape around the tubs, and load them up in the truck!

My final, and sometimes most important, tip for making PCS moves go a little smoother, is that I always take the time to organize the house prior to the packers arriving. I place like items together: photographs/wall hangings, books, breakables, electronics, or professional gear. Organizing in this manner cuts down on random items being placed together.

I know what you’re thinking, “Doesn’t doing all this work make it too easy for the packers and movers?” Maybe. But I do it for me. Taking the time to prepare and organize for moves before the packers arrive makes it much less stressful at the other end when it comes time to unpack, which I do myself (but I do delegate!).

And, yes, I do have a particular method for unpacking as well!

What are your go-to items to help ease the stress of PCS moves? Leave us a comment!

anna-nPosted by Anna Nemeth, Marine Corps Spouse and National Military Family Association Volunteer

Hybrid PCS Moving: 10 How-to Tips for Your Next Set of Orders

When Army Sergeant Major Paul Leckinger received a permanent change of station (PCS) for a move from Orlando, Fla. to Fort Hood, Texas, he opted to take on the challenge himself. “I had a two-bedroom apartment in Orlando, and it was easier for me to undertake a PPM than a full-blown PCS move,” he writes in an e-mail.


When you move within the United States, you can let the government handle your move, or plan a personally procured move (PPM). Previously called a DITY (for do it yourself) move, this choice might seem like deciding on a whim to get a root canal. Who even likes moving, right?

Actually, it’s not too shabby. If you apply and get approved for a PPM, you’ll receive 95 percent of what it would have cost it to move you. If you spend more, it’s on your dime. If you spend less, you get to keep whatever is leftover. Play your cards right with a hybrid move, and you could earn some pocket change and still not have to do any of the heavy lifting.

Hybrid moving takes advantage of the painlessness of a full-service move, for a fraction of the cost (around 30%). You’ll get a crew of movers to load/unload the vehicle or moving/shipping container. All you have to do is rent the moving truck/shipping container yourself. Here’s a step-by-step guide to a hybrid PPM:

Plan early. Once you receive your PCS orders, visit your Personal Property Shipping Center. From there, they can tell you exactly what moving costs the military will cover, and for what programs you are eligible. For instance, in many cases, the military will prepay moving allowances early in the process. Also, ask about a dislocation allowance, which may cover expenses not normally covered by other programs.

Sell furniture/have a garage sale, and donate what doesn’t sell. Not only could you make some money, but you also save money. The fewer things you have to move, the cheaper it is to move (small moving truck/shipping container and fewer moving hours).

Track your expenses. Receipts are important for reimbursements and also because many of the moving expenses that are not covered by the government are tax deductible.

Decide on a vehicle. Hybrid movers have a few options when it comes to how they are going to transport stuff. You can go with a traditional rental truck, a shipping container, or a freight truck that will rent out a portion of its space to you and others (transport options comparison chart). You’ll have to drive if you go the traditional moving truck route. But professional drivers usually haul the shipping containers and freight trucks to your final destination. Pick the option that is best for your family and you, and don’t forget to check out special offers. Many of these companies offer discounts to military.

Research your movers. This may be the most imperative part of planning a hybrid move. No one wants to get hoodwinked, and unfortunately many fly-by-night moving companies have given professionals in the business a bad rep. To avoid that, look for well-established, legitimate companies that have received good reviews from clients.“I recommend soldiers do what I did,” adds Leckinger, who found movers through the HireAHelper site. “Search everywhere and find a company or website that fits your family’s needs. I searched for movers who were licensed, insured, and bonded. This limited my available pool of movers significantly and cost just a little bit more, but I knew they were covered in case of an accident or damaged furniture.”

hybrid-moving-pcs-military-pinterestHave a plan for moving day. Most movers are paid by the hour. The more you can have done before they arrive, the smaller your bill will be. If you’re having them load and unload, which is usually the best use of their time, then you should have all the boxes packed, labeled, and ready to be put into the vehicle or container when the movers arrive. If friends and family are going to be pitching in, too, then give everyone a clear-cut job and make sure no one is getting in the way of the movers. Keep to a schedule and you’ll be rewarded at the very least with a more relaxed move.

Know your responsibilities. You are going to have to weigh your shipping container or truck before and after loading it with your stuff. Get all the specifics on making that happen. Also, learn about various laws. For instance, you might need to know the ordinances both in the town where you currently live and where you are moving for truck parking to avoid tickets and towing. Also, state laws regarding liability for accidents during a PPM move vary, so if you’re in an accident, you need to contact the legal office at the military installation closest to the accident site as soon as possible, according to Military.com. Figuring this all out beforehand is a big help.

Be efficient. The government grants those making a PPM move permissive travel time, so the quicker you get the move out of the way, the more time you’ll have for R&R. “I was able to work on my own schedule before, during and after the move,” writes Leckinger, who works in G3 Operations in the 310th Sustainment Command in Fort Hood. “So, I did everything at my convenience and was able to sightsee during my move without worry about deadlines.”

See! A move that turns into a vacation and can actually make you money is a far cry from that root canal!

Would you ever try a hybrid move? Tell us in the comments!

francescaGuest Post by Francesca Di Meglio, full-time freelance writer and editor who’s joined forces with the moving insiders at HireAHelper.com to spread her knowledge across the web, and is a major contributor to their Moving 101 project.

MyMilitaryLife App: The PCS “Holy Grail” Tool You Should be Using!

When it comes to a Permanent Change of Station (PCS), there is always another question needing an answer.


Luckily, with our MyMilitaryLife app, you get easy answers and resources wherever you find yourself. Plus, you see what other spouses are saying about their experiences, and even add your own thoughts within the app (goodbye Facebook groups!). With just a few taps, you can join the conversation and constantly be in the loop.

Simply download MyMilitaryLife, for your Android or Apple device, create a profile to get local and personalized information, and start navigating the Life Paths you are interested in! It’s that easy!

Still not convinced it’s that easy?! Check this out:

You received new orders, but you don’t know where to start with your PCS. And you’re not quite sure what the necessary items are to take with you. Start with this checklist. Each content item gives you a brief description and points you in the right direction.

Need to ship your car somewhere? We are all hoping for that smooth privately owned vehicle (POV) shipment, but MyMilitaryLife takes it a step further and has your back, in case anything goes wrong. You no longer need to look for the right contact information. It’s all in here!


What goes in our moving budget? Money, money, money…you want to make sure you have everything covered. What if you arrived at your new duty station before your personal property…hmmm…what to do? Check out the Loan Closet.


Where to live? Buy or rent? MyMilitaryLife puts the right resources in the palm of your hand. What about your career? Looking for new employment opportunities? The app connects you to the right organizations.


How can you prepare your children for the new school? Eliminate some of the pressure by contacting the School Liaison Officer. And what about the steps you should complete for health care? We took the guesswork out for the things you need to update.



MyMilitaryLife can even help with the little details, like moving with your 4-legged, furry ‘children,’ and even has tips to help your human children have a better PCS experience!


Don’t forget to share this awesome tool with your friends! It is the only military spouse mobile platform where spouses from everywhere can interact and get quick access to resources! Add your thoughts and keep the conversation going! With MyMilitaryLife, hectic PCS’s will be a thing of the past!

Happy moving!

Have you used MyMilitaryLife to help with a PCS? Tell us about your experience!

marlisPosted by Marlis Perez Rivera, MyMilitaryLife Program Manager

Military Advance Pay: Caution! It’s Not a Pay Day Loan

Another government ordered move and you are short on cash. You tried to save extra money in a moving fund, but these orders arrived quicker than you expected. You have a great job and your income is a big part of your family’s budget. What will you do?

A little-known provision of military pay is called “advance pay.”

Advance pay is neither an entitlement, nor a guarantee, but may be an option your service member can request, if there is a need, before, or shortly after, a PCS.

Advance pay is a type of pay available to help offset the cost of a move and cover extraordinary expenses such as: loss of a spouse’s income, down payment on a home, or cost of maintaining two households. Advance pay is just that – an advance of your service member’s basic pay.

DoD Instruction 1340.18 provides the nitty-gritty details about advance pay. A service member may be eligible to apply for 1-3 months of advance pay, and the repayment period ranges from 12-24 months. A service member can make a request to receive advance pay 30 days prior to a PCS, or 60 days after a PCS.

The service member’s administrative department can help process the necessary paperwork, form DD 2560. Remember, you must be able to demonstrate why the funds are needed. A shopping spree, or a new pool, does not count as an unmet need. Your service member may be asked to complete a budget, or financial worksheet, outlining the additional costs related to the move.

If your service member requests more than 1 month of basic pay, the request will need to be reviewed by the service member’s immediate command. Likewise, if you request a repayment period exceeding 12 months, the service member must justify the extended payback period.

Cautionary tips:

  • Advance pay is an interest-free advance of the service member’s basic pay and must be repaid. This means the service member’s pay will be reduced each month during the repayment period.
  • Advance pay must be repaid, even if the service member voluntarily or involuntarily separates from the service. You borrowed against your future earnings and must pay it back.
  • Your advance pay is taxable income, and may impact your income taxes. Be sure to consult with a tax professional to review your specific situation.

Personal stories from families who have applied for advance pay suggest having your justification and supporting paperwork ready. Many families are able to receive 1 month of basic pay with a 12 month repayment period. Anything beyond 1 month of pay and a 12 month repayment may require additional financial counseling and documentation. Be sure to fully understand the cautionary notes before your service member requests advance pay.

Have you requested advance pay? How did it impact your family’s PCS budget?

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

Making a House a Home: Military Family Style

Since ’05, when I first became a military spouse, we’ve lived in 7 different homes. I’ll admit, when I first started this life, I used to be jealous of my friends with their “forever homes.” I’d see their projects around the house, and their renovations and feel a little disappointed by my own four white walls.

As time went on, and I became more comfortable with our lifestyle as a military family, I learned some tricks to help make our house a home, even if that home was a plain “loaner” apartment in Army housing.

Make your house a home

How to Make a House a Home

1. Decorate the Doorway

I read somewhere that the front door is like the “smile” of your house. You want to keep that corner of your home clean and inviting. Wipe off the cobwebs, and put out some decorations. At each duty station, I get a new welcome mat, often in bright colors. You can decorate the door itself with vinyl stickers or washi tape. Depending on housing regulations, you may also be able to put out potted plants, or even a colorful bench.

This way, every time you come home, you’ll be greeted by a doorway that makes you feel happy and at home, and visitors will easily be able to find your house when you invite them over for a meet-and-greet!

2. Dress the Windows

I know it’s cliche, but I really do have a Rubbermaid tote full of drapes and curtains that I made to fit each of our homes. After 10 years, I finally have found what works for me. Personally, I hang floor length drapes around all my windows, because I know I can bring them to any house and make them work. Then, I only have to find a couple odd shaped window coverings.

For rounded windows, you can make curtain rods out of PVC pipe. French windows, or strange windows in bathrooms can be “frosted” with contact paper.

3. Fancy the Walls

You can paint base housing in most areas, but the general rule is you have to be prepared to put it back the way you found it before out-processing housing. Which means priming, and tracking down the exact paint, and spending a good chunk of change.

If you don’t want to do that, you can try using vinyl stickers, or even using fabric and starch to make removable accent wall coverings.

One word of warning with the walls- I always hang pictures and put up decorations and don’t worry too much about using wall anchors and the like… but if you do, you need to be sure you know how to make the proper repairs so it’s back to the way you found it for the final move-out inspection (patching holes, fixing the paint).

4. Paint your Furniture

If decorating the walls isn’t your thing (it’s not mine) you can brighten your space by adding colors and patterns to your furniture itself. A container of chalk paint is not terribly expensive, there are a bunch of colors to choose from, and you can really make your furniture pop with it.

If you learn how to re-finish furniture with paint, you’ll be able to collect beautiful, old pieces from the thrift store and make them look new in your home.

5. Make the Most of Patio Space

You may not be able to have a traditional garden in base housing (check with the housing office), but you can plant container gardens on the patio, or in your yard.

Container gardens can be used to grow vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers- just about anything. Add a small table, and some chairs, and you have the perfect corner to relax in the summer.

6. Maximize Storage Space

When looking for furniture for your home, think storage as well as function. Tables with drawers, beds with drawers, sidebars with extra shelving- in a small house or apartment, you never can have enough storage space.

You can also take advantage of space on doors by hanging organizers, you can add shelving above doors, and take advantage of one of the many “small space hacks” online.

7. Make it Personal

When looking for decorations, don’t settle on just anything. Pick things that sing to you. Pictures that make you happy, knick-nacks that make you feel at home. Personally, I don’t own much that is high value, but I do have a box or two of decor that moves from home to home. These items make me happy, and they are always one of the first boxes I unpack.

The easiest way to get items you love is to make them yourself. You can find tutorials all over Pinterest for DIY crafts. I personally love string art, anything with a map, and anything with ocean glass. Making wreaths is very simple, too! Find a project you want to make, invite some friends over, and get crafting!

Enter to Win!

We’ve teamed up with a handful of military spouse bloggers who are moving pros, and want to share their best tips for making a house a home with you. You can check out their posts here:

The Military Wife and Mom
Jo My Gosh
The Reluctant Landlord
A Semi-Delicate Balance

But before you go, take a moment to enter to win one of five $100 dollar giftcards from JoAnn Fabric and Craft Stores, so you can make some items for your home!

Enter to Win Button

Looking for more resources?


Check our Facebook page for more PCS tips and tricks designed to help you #OwnYourPCS.

See more ideas for making your house a home on our Pinterest board!

A Tale of Two PCS Movers


It’s the height of Permanent Change of Station (PCS) season, and like many military families, my family recently moved. I’ve always felt fortunate to have packers and movers who pack and move all of our worldly possessions from one location to another, so I try to make them feel comfortable, keep them hydrated and ensure the items they are packing are clean and organized.

When we left our home on the East Coast, the crew of packers who came to our house were amazing–the best ever! They were funny, they were nice, they were polite, and they were actually lots of fun. They even played great music while they filled boxes and emptied our home! Having people pack all of your household goods, and being in your home all day is a very personal experience, uncomfortable, even. But this group made moving feel like a party! I was so grateful for the funny and kind crew filling their truck with all of our stuff.

When we arrived at our new home, I was excited to receive our household goods and get settled in. We had already signed a lease on a new house, but our delivery date meant our items were in storage for a few days. With a quick delivery date, we would have a new team delivering our things. I was sorry I wouldn’t see the first team again, but I was optimistic.

My optimism didn’t last long. The team who arrived at our new home were not excited about their job. They were very slow in unloading the truck, and weren’t very grateful for the soda, water, and Gatorade we provided. One member of the team even asked me what was for lunch…at 10:30 in the morning, when there were, roughly, 10 boxes unloaded. It was a disappointing and uncomfortable day.

I tell this story because customer feedback is really important during the moving process. I was in touch with our moving coordinator, who was wonderful, throughout our move. We spoke so often, she should probably be added to my Christmas card list! I updated her, and the transportation offices at our old and new installations on how the move was going. She reminded how important it is to complete the Customer Satisfaction Survey. This survey helps determine which companies are doing well, and will continue to receive moving contracts to assist other military families, and who will not. The survey is a way to let your voice be heard; if something isn’t going well, or you don’t feel comfortable with the way you or your items are being treated, it is okay to say so. If you are extremely happy, please be sure and voice this too!

Sometimes, the packing and moving process experience is a coin-toss–you’ll never know what you’ll get. Have you had a crazy PCS experience?

Ann HPosted by Ann Hamilton, Volunteer Services Coordinator, South Region

How to PCS with an Infant: 4 Tips You Need to Know!


It goes without saying that having an infant makes life exciting, yet chaotic. This statement is also true when taking on a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). But the fun really begins when you have a newborn AND you PCS.

A few tips and tricks from our family, to yours:

Request medical records as soon as possible. This was certainly a lesson learned the hard way. When you need to request medical records, they tell you this process takes the military treatment facility at least 30 days. I didn’t believe them because, hey, my daughter was just five months old and couldn’t possibly have that much in her file. I was wrong and was scrambling a day before her six month appointment to piece together her records. So, what I know now is to fill out the request form as soon as you have a new address and keep your own set of records just in case something happens before they arrive.

Stay away on move-in day. This was the best decision we made during our PCS. My husband met the truck with our household goods, while the baby and I bunked with family for an extra day. When your stuff is being unloaded, it’s a hectic, noisy situation not conducive for a baby. If you’re able to stay away and let someone else direct the movers, do it! By the time we arrived the next day, the house was partially unpacked and it was much easier to care for our daughter while settling in.

pcs-with-an-infant-baby-military-pinterestPack the essentials. When you PCS, you know it is going to be at least a week before your washer and dryer are set up, and your family is eating meals at the dining room table. I always pack an “immediate needs” box with essentials that we will need either in a hotel room, or in our empty house. The box includes paper plates, plastic utensils, paper towels, trash bags, etc…you know the drill. Since we were PCSing with an infant, I packed enough diapers and wipes for a week, most of her clothes and blankets, a portable bed, and all her feeding supplies. I purposefully chose things we needed, versus what would be nice to have. For example, I didn’t pack the infant bathtub, but did pack every sleeper she had so I didn’t have to worry about laundry for a few days.

Get local. As soon as we found out our new duty location, I immediately started researching the area. PCSing to a new place is an adventure and I wanted to get started. In addition to finding a new doctor, veterinarian, and hairstylist, I also wanted to know how to entertain and establish my family in our new home. I read local blogs, followed local businesses, and studied a map to know my way around before we even arrived. I also planned some fun excursions as a way to conclude our move.

Moving in the military can be challenging, but add in an infant, and you’ve got a little bit of extra planning to do! Our family managed to pull this off with, surprisingly, very few issues or tears. It was a tremendous learning experience for this military family, and I hope these tips can help your next move!

What would you add to the list? Comment below and tell us!

tomi-schwandt-headshotPosted by Tomi Schwandt, Active Duty Reserve Spouse and National Military Family Association Volunteer