Whether it's your first move or your 13th, you may be looking for some tips from the experts on making it a bit easier.
So we checked in with some of the real experts — troops and spouses — for ideas that have worked for their families. You might have perfected the art of moving, but you also may find some new tips in the mix.
"We used moving as a great opportunity to throw a spring cleaning party," said Brandy Schantz, who was medically retired from the Army in 2007. "What had we not used in six months? You accumulate stuff."
Friends would help them in their spring cleaning, deciding whether to throw away or donate some things. And in many cases, they gave things to friends who could use them, she said. Ordering out for food was part of the deal, too.
Get rid of stuff you don’t need. Sure, the packers will pack up the clutter, but ask yourself if you want to spend the time to find a spot for that item in your new place. Why not make a fresh start? Also remember that it might help keep you under your weight allowance limit.
There are A lot of laws and regulations that apply to Permanent Change of Station permanent change-of-station moves, so it can be overwhelming. But Navy wife Libby Jamison, who is an attorney, has found that reading up on the regulations ahead of time has helped her in negotiating with the moving company, or and getting benefitting from some of the services to which military families are entitled. For example, she said, "You need to know the guidelines for moving things like grills, candles, and wine — what’s allowed, or if it’s within the mover’s discretion," she said.
So when movers told her they wouldn't take wine or candles, and she knew it was within their discretion, she was able to work it out with them.
"Read the fine print. Negotiate," she said.
Contacts on both ends
Jamison also suggests getting phone numbers of the office in charge of household goods moves at the location you're leaving and the installation where you'll be moving. In their move in March from Newport, Rhode Island, to the Washington, D.C., area, "the crew didn't understand they had to unpack. There was some debate," Jamison said.
While she understood that it was the end of a long day, she knew that unpacking the boxes was part of the benefit. She had to call the household goods officials so that the crew understood their responsibility, she said.
The research that military families do on every aspect of their new duty station could fill a book, but Kathy Roth-Douquet said she also used Facebook to find schools and families with children around the same age when she could. "When we moved to Germany, we had met some expat friends already who we could visit when we arrived," said Roth-Douquet, whose husband retired from the Marine Corps in April, 2015.
If you'll be driving for a few days to your next duty station, consider some questions you might need to ask for your particular family's circumstances. Jamison said her family discovered last summer when they were driving across country for vacation that they had to have their dogs' shot records to stay at a Navy Lodge in Tennessee. "I was unaware of that. I'm glad I found out when we weren't in a PCS move," she said.
Whether you’re renting or buying at your location, ask for help from a trusted professional at your current location one. "A lot of retired military and military spouses are realtors. Almost all of us will call and interview real estate agents for you at the new place," Schantz said. "I wish I’d known that before. So many realtors out there are willing to take a few hours out of their day to interview people to make sure you have the right person helping you."
Before your belongings start getting wrapped or packed for the moving truck, think about proof — proof that you own them, and proof of their value. Gather receipts that show what you paid for the item, if possible. Take pictures and/or videos. "It's hard to take pictures of everything. It's easier to take videos. You might take a video of a cabinet open, showing what's in there," Jamison said. Take the receipts (or pictures of them), your pictures, videos and other proof along with you.
Take some time to organize your belongings starting two weeks or so before the movers arrive.
"Think about it ahead of time. Know what your preferences are. The movers aren't going to care about that. You have to do it yourself," said Jamison. She puts some belongings together by category. For example, she takes all the pictures down from each room and puts them all together. "When I unpack, I know they're all in one place," she said.
Military families can find all sorts of uses for resealable zippered plastic storage bags of all sizes. Put your silverware (in the silverware tray) in a large one. "I've even Saran-wrapped the silverware tray," said Army wife Corie Weathers. "I got tired of unrolling individual pieces of silverware" from packing paper. She also bags the contents of individual drawers together. "I put so many things in drawers that aren't breakable. It's easier to unwrap, and it makes it easier to unpack."
Weathers said her family put some toys in the plastic storage bags, too. But they tape shut some containers of toys — such as Legos — before the movers arrive.
"We seal things we wouldn't want them to open," she said.
Separate the things you want to carry with you such as orders, birth and marriage certificates and other important documents, pet shot records, expensive jewelry, medications, external hard drives and zip drives. Some people place them in a closet or separate room. As it gets close to the day, Jamison puts those things in her car as her "safe space."
"We've tried putting 'Do Not Touch' signs, but sometimes they get rolling and can't resist the temptation" to pack it, she said.
Set aside all the things you'll need immediately, such as sheets for each bed, a towel for each family member, a coffee maker, toilet paper, pillows, essential kids' toys and other items. Have the packers pack them, and label them "Open First — Necessities."
This is one of the tips from a spouse in the National Military Family Association's campaign last year around PCS moves, said Navy wife Kelly Hruska, government relations director of the association. When you get to your new location, you have the basics and can open the other boxes at your leisure.
Also, put together a box of cleaning supplies that has everything needed to wipe up, dust and sweep out the new place, she said.
Make a return address labels and stick them on each box, just in case something gets lost or mixed into someone else’s shipment.
Schantz suggests color-coding the packed boxes for each room. Then when you get to the new location, put some of that color-coded tape on the doorway of the room where those boxes should go. It makes it easier for the movers.
Weathers allows her two boys, ages 11 and 8, to draw and color on any of the packed boxes in their room. "They immediately recognize that it's the same box that was in their previous room," she said, and it's comforting for them to see that their belongings have arrived.
Karen Jowers covers military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.