10 Tips To Help Make Your PCS Military Move Easier
May 18, 2022
400,000 people make a permanent change of station every year, which means every year service members have to uproot their entire lives and move to a new duty station. PCS moves can bring on a lot of stress for service members and their families, especially if it’s their first time. Between packing up all of your belongings, finding a new place to live, and figuring out how to transport the kids or pets, along with all of your concerns with the new duty station, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Although, PCS moves don’t have to be overwhelming. With a little preparation and the right information, you can make your first PCS move a lot smoother. This blog post goes through 10 tips to help you prepare for your first or tenth PCS move, but first let’s define what a PCS move is.
What is a PCS Move?
PCS or permanent change of station is when members of the military are given orders to change their duty station. PCS orders are usually given every 2 to 4 years and include vital information regarding the service member’s new station like the rank, length of the job or training, and of course, the new location. The location for the PCS move can either be CONUS or OCONUS.
CONUS – In The Continental United States
OCONUS – Outside of the Continental United States
PCS military orders are usually given around the summer from the middle of May to the end of September, otherwise known as PCS season. Each order will have a “Report No Later Than Date” or RNLTD that specifies the latest date that service members HAVE to be at their new duty station.
Different Ways of Completing a PCS Move
The PCS orders are mandatory, and since there is no alternative to them, the government is obligated to cover the expenses for the move. There are three main ways that PCS moves can happen.
1. Government Contract
Traditionally, the government pays for a military-approved commercial moving company to take care of the packing and unpacking of belongings along with the shipping and delivering for your next home. The government contract is one of the most popular options that servicemen and women choose. It provides a lot of benefits and less hassle but there are downsides to using this option. Letting a commercial moving company pack away all of your things can make it easy for things to get lost, damaged, or even stolen. Sometimes the moving company can leave before all of the items are packed away as well.
2. Personally Procured Move (PPM) or Do It Yourself (DITY)
This option allows servicemen and women to pack up their belongings themselves. So instead of a military-approved moving company showing up with a big truck to pack your belongings away in, the service member would rent a moving truck to pack their things in alone or with the help of family and friends. The military would also pay you 95% of what they’d pay the moving company traditionally which could be a great way to make extra cash. However, moving on your own may be extremely stressful, particularly if you have a lot of stuff. On top of that, you are liable for any items, belongings, or furniture that get damaged in the move.
3. Partial PPM or DITY
A partial personally procured move is a combination of the government contract option and a PPM. A government-approved moving company is involved to transport most of your belongings in their truck or in a moving container that the service member packs themselves. The serviceman or woman also packs belongings in their personal vehicle to transport. The military still covers the expenses for the moving company while also paying you a small sum based on the weight of items in your vehicle.
Does PPM Work For OCONUS Moves?
For OCONUS moves, PPMs are not an option. Service members can only have the government transport their belongings in the same way as the government contract option for CONUS moves. The government will ship your belongings overseas in freight and they are willing to transport up to two vehicles to the new duty station as well. Service members will get a flight to the specified location also paid in full by the government.
Learn more about OCONUS PCS moves here.
PCS Travel Reimbursement
The military also has dedicated financial benefits for PCS military members traveling to their new duty station. These are called PCS entitlements. When a service member travels from their current station to their new one, they will generally drive there, which may result in a number of costs depending on how long and how far it is. The military offers three main ways of reimbursing service members for travel fees: Dislocation Allowance, Per Diems, and Mileage.
Dislocation Allowance is a flat sum of money given to PCS military members to cover any extra expenses that can arise during a PCS move.
A Per Diem is a daily sum of money that is meant to cover the daily costs that come with moving to a new home. These costs include food, sundries, and lodging.
The military provides a reimbursement to PCS military members based on the distance they have to drive to their new duty station. The reimbursement is supposed to cover gas, vehicle wear, and any other fees like tolls.
Read more about the PCS travel and transportation reimbursements on the Defense Traffic Management Office website.
10 Tips For A Successful PCS Move
Now that you have a better understanding of how the PCS military move process works and the options you have available for your move, here are some tips to help you avoid making common mistakes and to make your PCS move as smooth as possible:
1. Get rid of nonessentials. Packing and unpacking are two of the most tedious and time-consuming aspects of PCS moves. The more stuff you have, the more time it will take to get everything packed and unpacked at your new duty station. To save yourself some time and hassle, get rid of any nonessential items before you start packing. Think of it as a way to purge yourself of anything old or outdated.
2. Pack before the movers get there. Movers are not familiar with you or your belongings so they will pack up anything and everything as quickly as they can. To avoid misplaced items and misorganization when you are unpacking, take some time to pack and organize your belongings yourself ahead of time. It helps to label boxes so that the movers know how to pack things away.
3. Start preparing immediately. The time frame that service members have to get to their new duty station can vary between months and weeks. As soon as you get your PCS orders, you should immediately start making plans to move. If you don’t have your PCS orders but you know you will be moving this year, then you can prepare by starting to pack, clean, and get rid of any items you don’t plan to take with you.
4. Keep track of important documents. During a PCS move, it is easy to lose track of important documents and those documents could be essential to your new duty station. Be sure to keep all your important documents in one place so that you can easily access them when you need to. Some service members use a binder to keep all of their documents in. Make sure to also keep your documents with you.
5. Take pictures and inventory of fragile or expensive belongings. Movers can work at a fast-pace and in the process, things can get broken or lost. You’ll want to make sure that you can get compensated for any damages or losses by being able to prove what you had and the condition the items were in. Before the movers arrive, take pictures and make an inventory of any fragile or expensive items that you have. That way, if anything does happen, you will have evidence to back up your claim.
6. Take a direct route to your new station. The military typically doesn’t reimburse PCS movers who take an indirect route to their new station. When you are planning your route, make sure to take the most direct route possible so that you don’t end up having to pay out of pocket for your travel expenses. Make sure to also keep receipts so you can prove the lodging or mileage that you paid for.
7. Use the temporary lodging if need be. Not all service members find a place to live by the time that they get to their new duty station. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t worry, the military has you covered. On-base temporary lodging is available for service members who need a place to stay while they search for their new home. The military will also reimburse you for up to 10 nights in a hotel while you are searching for a place to live.
8. Keep your pet in mind. Moving is not only stressful for humans but for pets as well. If you have a pet, you’ll want to make sure that they are prepared for the move. This means getting them microchipped, updated on their vaccinations, and sometimes a lot more. For the dog lovers out there in particular, check out this blog post that gives advice on how to move with a dog.
9. Update your address. The last thing you need after moving is sensitive information going to your old address. Be sure to update your address with companies or institutions that send you mail. Here’s a quick list:
- Friends and family members
- With your employer
- All of your creditors
- Car insurance
- Social security administration
- Tax agencies
- Bank and credit card company
10. Visit your local Transportation Office for more information. The Transportation Office is a great resource for service members who are preparing to move. They can explain the PCS process to you along with the entitlements and options that you have when it comes to your move. Ask any question you have because they are there to help make your move as smooth as possible.
For more online information about PCS moves, try visiting the Military One Source website.
Need To Find a New Home? We can help!
We’ve discussed a lot of the things you need to do in preparation for your PCS move, but one of the most important things is finding a new place to live. Finding a new home brings its own set of challenges, but with a real estate agent’s expertise and wealth of experience at your side, finding a new home can be a lot less stressful.
Luckily, we have a real estate agent organization that streamlines your search for a high-quality real estate agent. These agents are called Negotiators and they have all proven themselves to be top performers in their respective real estate markets.
Contact your local Negotiator if you want to work with a great real estate agent.