Moving for a PCS (permanent change of station) can be extremely stressful. The first time my husband got orders after we were married, we had to move from the US to Belgium. Talk about throwing me into the deep end and hoping I could swim! I am a bit of a research queen, so I figured it out. Now that we’ve done this for a while and I have learned a lot of lessons along the way, I thought I could share how I survived our last OCONUS PCS and am preparing for our upcoming one.
Understanding the Basics
You have to understand that if you are moving OCONUS (overseas) you will have different types of shipments.
Unaccompanied baggage – This is the shipment of essential items that can be shipped by plane. It will arrive much quicker than your regular household goods shipment. You will have size and a low pound limit to ensure it can still be sent by plane.
Household goods – This is your main shipment of all your household goods. The number of pounds allowed will depend on the service members rank and number of dependents. The moving company will come and pack everything then they load the boxes into wooden crates. The wooden crates will be transported to the port and put onto a boat for transport to your next location. This typically takes 60-75 days so plan accordingly.
Storage – If there are items that you do not want to take overseas then the military will pay for it to stay in storage while you are gone. Once you return from overseas, they will ship the items to you.
POV (Privately Owned Vehicle) – The military will pay for you to ship ONE vehicle overseas. They have streamlined this process and you can schedule it through PCSmyPOV.com. If you want to ship a second vehicle then that will be out of pocket and you will need to find the company/location/cost for that on your own.
Plan, Plan, and More Planning
Plan Your Luggage
Plan your luggage for your flight over. Each family member is allowed to have two checked bags weighing no more than 70 pounds each. When we moved to Belgium, I was able to have two bags for our one-year-old and I packed plenty of diapers, formula and her pack n’ play in a regular military duffle. I used another duffle to make sure we had cots (the camping ones like this one) air mattresses and sheets for them. The rest of the duffle’s I used for clothes because 75 days is a long time, and I don’t like laundry mats. I highly recommend using those standard green duffle bags for your move.
Plan Your Shipments
This is essential when moving overseas. If you plan to utilize unaccompanied baggage, then you need to section that off in one area as well as section off storage in a different area. These shipments need to be scheduled for different days and make your movers aware each day what items they are packing. Typically, you would schedule your unaccompanied baggage first, household goods next and save storage for last. Your packers will be going fast and planning your shipments out and sectioning them off will be important in making sure everything gets where it needs to.
Plan for No Vehicle
Our first overseas move we only took one vehicle and we shipped one. We shipped our POV forty days before we flew over and then sold our truck a week before we left. That allowed us to only need a rental for a week stateside. Our car arrived in Belgium a week after we did so it worked out well. This time we are shipping our POV through the military thirty days prior to our departure and then we are paying to ship our other vehicle but waiting until a few days before we leave to ship it. We can survive with one vehicle on either side but that is what works for us. You have to plan what works for your family.
The different bases overseas vary in how they handle housing. If you plan on living on base (if available) then contact the housing office and see what the process is for getting on the list. If you plan on living off base, then you likely can’t do anything for that until you arrive, so you need to ensure you have TLF scheduled.
Plan the Flight with Your Kids
While we were in Belgium we had to fly back stateside for multiple funerals and weddings. My kids became professionals. My biggest suggestion is making sure you have food. I have the pickiest eaters in the world, and they refuse to eat airplane food. I always make sure I have oatmeal (the Gerber Toddler readymade ones) because even though they are older, they will eat it. I also bring bags of dry cereal and granola bars. It’s a long flight so plenty of food is important. You also need to plan for activities. My kids love their Nintendo Switches, and they have iPads with movies downloaded on them. They will be in a seat for 9 or so hours, so make sure they are happy, and your flight will be smooth.
Plan the Flight for You
This isn’t the time to be cute or sexy. It’s a long flight and comfort is necessary! I am always cold, so I make sure I bring my own blanket (each of us has one) and we typically have pillows as well. I like to read so I download some good books (even though I prefer actual books over e-reader ones). Oh, and don’t forget to have all chargers on the plane with you!
Plan for Your Animal(s)
I won’t be much help in this area as my husband REFUSES to have a pet until he retires but there are a lot of Facebook groups that can help you navigate what is required. I do know there are a lot of things to do, and it definitely can be costly flying them over so make sure you plan for that and save up the money.