When my husband and I embarked on our first move 13 years ago, we loaded up our Jeep, our two dogs, and started our road trip west from Fort Benning to Fort Lewis. We were young, and there was little thought about settling into Fort Lewis. A friend at Fort Benning told us about an apartment complex close to post and, with no research and no hesitation, I called ahead with our intent to lease a place. At the time I remember thinking, “This is quite forward leaning of me–I’m so on top of it!” I don’t think the complex even had a website, I just went on the word of some guy that lived next door to us.
Fast forward to 2017. I now spend a lot of time thinking about how much PCSing has changed. In fact, I am a part of that change with my role at MILLIE, and I can’t help but think how much better it is now…how much easier. PCSing used to be a total gamble; listen to the advice of the guy next door, or show up at your new duty station then start looking for a place to live. Anyone remember the days when choosing to live off post meant showing up, doing your own on-the-ground research while juggling kids and pets crammed in a hotel room?
This old method breeds lots of bad decisions, all of them made in a rush just to get settled again.
As I think back to the way things were “back in the day,” I can name at least six ways PCSing is smoother (I said smoother, not smooth) thanks to the world wide web and our handy smartphones.
Years ago, it was virtually impossible to research your next duty station from afar. Your best hope was finding someone at your current duty station who lived at your new duty station in the last decade. Now, instead of relying on faulty and out-of date information, we have so many ways to explore the next location without ever leaving our homes. First, there are helpful Facebook groups with lots of willing participants to answer questions. Second, sites, like MILLIE, have compiled pages upon pages of information on installations, neighborhoods, schools and more–and it all comes from current military spouses stationed there!
2) Finding Your New Home
Many people consider “house shopping” a fun pastime, but not everybody gets to do it as often as military families. Thanks to sites like Zillow and MilitaryByOwner, military families can find their next home before they even arrive. And now shopping from afar is much less of a gamble with services like Scout (that can vett rental properties for you) and AgentHero (that can help you connect with a local real estate agent). Making a property commitment is a big deal and it’s important to have the right team in place!
While some people may not consider this an improvement, it still makes the list because Move.mil leverages technology for the moving process. Now instead of a servicemember (or a lucky POA-carrying spouse) having to attend briefings to set move dates, it can be done online allowing you to get your paperwork in order beforehand.
4) Staying in touch with friends
I often think about how military spouses of the past kept in touch after PCSing. I imagine they sat down to write letters to their closest friends, with whom they spent the most time. But what about their other friends, the ones just outside the inner circle of friends? Did they lose touch altogether? Would they be cruising the commissary aisles one afternoon to all the sudden run into a friend from a past duty station? I imagine this happened a lot. At least the “see you laters” are a touch easier now, knowing you can still keep up with these friends online. And if you really need that wine date you can still have it… it just may be through a computer screen.
5) Preparing to leave
While the post-wide yard sale never fails to offer an opportunity for entertainment and to get rid of junk, now you can pop that stuff on one of the many online “yard sales” through Facebook, Craiglist, LetGo, Tradesy, and on and on. It is a huge help as you prepare to PCS and people moving to the area can look for items they may need before they even get there.
6) Leaving your duty station
Also gone are the days of pulling out the Rand McNally road map and cruising towards that new duty station, stopping at motels along the way. Sites like Roadtrippers and TripAdvisor allow users to plan the routes they want to take and research the best place to stop. And don’t forget, you can even make a hotel reservation while you are in the car navigating via GPS.
7) Settling into your new duty station
Once you finally arrive at your new duty station there is so much to do to get settled. Where is the Target? Where are good pre-schools? Is there a daycare nearby? Where is a good off-post gym? What are some fun things to do in the area? At least with modern technology we aren’t flipping through the yellow pages trying to discover the area. Spouse and Unit Facebook groups make finding the right information and resources so much easier. And with GPS on smartphones, now if you get lost driving off-post, you don’t have to worry about asking strangers for help getting back! One list tip, if you need temporary lodging, instead of a cramped TLF, consider Bridgestreet or an AirBnB.
While PCSing is always a bit of an exhausting adventure, I think it’s safe to say that we might have it a bit easier than a few decades ago!
How do you use technology to help you through your moves?
Posted by Lauren Rothlisberger, Director of Marketing for MILLIE