Moving OCONUS: What do I pack in unaccompanied baggage?

If you’ve received orders OCONUS, you will generally receive a small weight allowance of items that will be sent via expedited methods to your new duty station. These are items to help you set up house until the rest of your household goods arrive via slow boat. 

Moving OCONUS what to pack in Unaccompanied Baggage

For me, it was a lot of pressure to pack exactly the right things and stay within our weight allowance. My family needed extra clothes for the changing seasons and the baby that outgrew her wardrobes every couple of months. The kids needed toys and familiar items to make the empty new house feel like home. I needed household items so we weren’t eating out every day or running to the PX all the time to buy things we couldn’t live without. 

Here’s my list of items I packed in our unaccompanied baggage from our most recent OCONUS PCS. Use this list as a guide to come up with one specific to your family’s needs.

For Each Adult

  • Extra clothes/clothes for the next season
  • Winter jackets/hat/gloves/scarves/boots
  • Extra shoes
  • Bicycle/helmet (check size limitations with Transportation)
  • Books
  • DVDs
  • Hobby/entertainment items

For Each Child

  • Extra clothes/clothes for next season/clothes in next size
  • Winter jacket/hat/gloves/scarves
  • Extra shoes
  • Favorite toys
  • Favorite blanket
  • Favorite picture/room decoration/stick-on wall decals
  • Outdoor play items: soccer ball, baseball equipment, etc.
  • Bicycle/helmet (check size limitations with Transportation)
  • Favorite Books
  • Favorite DVDs

Military Gear

  • Uniforms
  • Boots
  • PTs
  • Running shoes
  • Dress uniform
  • Dress shoes
  • Ruck/duffel
  • Specialized gear/field gear

Baby Gear

  • Pack ‘n Play or portacrib
  • Sheets/waterproof pad for Pack ‘n Play
  • Extra blankets
  • Portable booster seat
  • Sippy cups, snack cup
  • Stroller or baby carrier
  • Portable baby seat, bouncer, swing, etc.

 Household Items

  • Laundry basket
  • Hangers
  • Mini ironing board
  • Mop/bucket
  • Broom/dust pan
  • Folding camp chairs
  • Bath rugs
  • Small area rug (foldable)


  • Twin sheet set, blanket, pillow for each child
  • Queen sheet set, blanket, pillow
  • Towel set for each person
  • Shower curtain, curtain rings
  • Dish towels, sponge

Kitchen Items

  • Plates, bowls, cups, coffee mugs, silverware for each person
  • Chef’s knife, paring knife, spatula, serving spoon
  • Can opener, wine/bottle opener
  • Mixing bowl, colander
  • Skillet, sauce pan
  • Casserole dish, cookie sheet
  • Kitchen spices


  • Hammer
  • Tape Measure
  • Level
  • Screw drivers
  • Hex wrenches
  • Pliers
  • Utility knife
  • Markers
  • Baby-proofing items
  • Drill

These items are not necessities for me but if you have space, they might be useful! You may also be able to find some of these easily in thrift stores at your new destination. (Especially electronics in the local voltage!)

  • Small television (about 19” due to space limitations)
  • DVD player
  • Fans
  • Coffee pot
  • Toddler or twin air mattress for each child
  • Queen air mattress

That’s my list! Any OCONUS PCSing pros have other tips on what to pack in unaccompanied baggage to ease your family’s transition?

Posted by Jennifer Herbek, Volunteer with the National Military Family Association


Add yours
  1. 1
    Col Patricia Halsey-Munroe

    AND, if service member has orders OCONUS for year or more, the Military spouse who is not yet USA citizens, can immediately apply for citizenship, and have test and interview expedited! Does not matter how short (or long) you have been permanent resident. This is the one time, the waiting period to citizenship is waived.

  2. 2
    J Huffman

    So glad to see bicycles on the list! I included them in our shipment to Japan it made such a difference in our ability to get around and explore our new home!

  3. 3
    M Blake

    If the base you’re headed to has a loan locker, you won’t need the kitchen stuff. Most overseas bases also have temporary furniture to lend. Check with your sponsor, some units have a set or two of bed linens/towels that are loaned out to incoming families. Also, we have mailed boxes (priority mail) to our sponsor. Save the receipts; the postage (but not the insurance) can be reimbursed as long as you haven’t gone over your total weight limit (it’s kind of like doing a partial dity move in CONUS), just be sure the weight of each box is listed on the receipt.

  4. 8

    After 7 PSC’s, I also include:

    Ice cube trays
    Laundry soap (new, unopened, powered detergent)
    Dishwasher soap (smallest box of powered detergent)
    Crock pot & box of disposable crock pot liners
    New, unopened toilet brush
    Kitchen hand towels
    Oven mit/pot holders

    • 12
      Branching Out: A blog by the National Military Family Association

      Hi Sherry! A tip some of our own military spouses have used is to use space-saving bags that allow you to remove all the air from the bag when packing clothes, sheets, etc. Also, putting a box in each room allows you to set aside things you know you might not need prior to the move. Once the box is full, tape it up and place it in an area that doesn’t get much foot traffic (like bathtub not being used) or a guest room!

  5. 22

    When we moved OCONUS last summer, they told us not to bother with unaccompanied baggage because it would be going over on the same container ship as the regular household goods.

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