We asked those in the moving industry who work with military families, and those in the Defense Department agency that oversees military moves, for advice on what service members and families can do to make their household goods move as smooth as possible.
Before outlining some of their tips, one point bears repeating: The most important thing you can do is start the official process as soon as you get your official military orders, either online through Move.mil or at your installation household goods/transportation office.
More for your pre-move to-do list:
1. Know your rights. Explore the information on Move.mil – items designed to help you make the move process as easy as possible. Read the new "Customer Bill of Rights" from the DoD Personal Property Program; it will familiarize you with your rights and responsibilities during a move, and what actions you can take based on your entitlements.
For example, did you know that you have the right to have the mover unpack items and reassemble items within your residence on the day of delivery? That you have the right to have the mover remove unpacked containers, packing materials and other moving debris on the day of delivery at no cost? Knowing some of these things ahead of time could make it easier when you're extremely busy with relocation-related tasks.
2. Get a head start.
If you’re in the window for a permanent change-of-station move this spring or summer, you can go to Move.mil and update your information even if you don’t have your orders. You can also set up your new account, said Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Jensen, personal property director
at Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, which manages the military move process.
Make sure they have the best contact information to reach you 24 hours a day throughout the moving process. You can change that information as needed and iron out any problems with the system ahead of time, even though you can't start the booking process until you get your orders.
If you know you'll be moving and you're a sailor or another service member who may get less than two months' notice before the move, talk to your household goods office to see if there's anything they want you to do before you get orders, said John Becker, director of military policy for the American Moving and Storage Association.
Also read: Military moves 2017: System concerns, mover shortages make early scheduling critical and Military Moves 2017: Doing it yourself? Tips for personally procured moves
3. Be flexible with moving dates. "This is especially true if they're planning to move anywhere from late May through mid-July," said Charles White, senior vice president of the International Association of Movers. That flexibility doesn't just mean Tuesday or Wednesday of a particular week – there
needs to be a spread of weeks.
It's tricky when you're trying to juggle giving notice to your landlord, or especially if you're selling a house, but if you lock yourself into a single move date based on decisions already made, you may put yourself in a bind if you can't get that date. Consider some options that the military offers to help you, such as lodging allowances.
4. Know your weight allowance.
You can find it here. Although not widespread, some service members have found out they’ve had to pay extra because they exceeded their weight allowance, Jensen said.
Service members also have a right to ask their moving company or military transportation office for a re-weigh of their household goods, and they have a right to be present when that re-weigh is conducted.
5. Get a history lesson. Check out your past moves in your Move.mil account to learn the weight of your previous shipments. That will help you prepare as you consider your current weight allowance and decide if you've added or subtracted stuff since your last relocation. Still not sure? Use the Move.mil weight estimator (it's anExcel file).
6. Don't move what you don't want. It's never too early to start culling items. Consider a yard sale, or donate some items to charity. Why go to the extra trouble and expense to move rarely used items?
7. Prep your car. If you're moving overseas, make sure your vehicle is ready, Jensen said. Document the condition of your vehicle and get any repairs
done that are needed to ensure the car is mechanically sound. If there are any outstanding recalls on your vehicle, take the vehicle to the dealer and get
those fixes done – otherwise, your vehicle may be turned away from the vehicle processing center.
8. Make a value assessment.
Start documenting high-value items and start gathering what you’ll carry with you – items such as passports, valuable jewelry, marriage license, birth certificates, medicines, and so on. It’s not just monetary value that counts, Jensen said – consider emotional worth, too, as well as how long it might take to replace things like birth certificates or other critical documents.
Start thinking about the clothes you'll take with you, and how long it will take your household goods to get to your new location. Before the movers come, you'll want to set those items aside in a closet or room marked off-limits to the movers, or maybe in the trunk of your car.
9. Get personal. And professional. Separate the professional items you're moving so that movers can note the weight. If these items qualify as
professional items, also known as Pro-Gear, they don't count against your total household goods items.
10. Film a documentary. Consider using your cellphone to document your items, and the condition of those items, by going room to room and taking video of what you find. Describe the items as you're recording.
11. Read the directions.
As you’re going through the process at Move.mil, don’t just click through the pages without reading the information, Becker said. There may have been changes that affect your particular move.
12. Read the inventory.
"Some people will just sign it on departure," Jensen said. "If you want something on the inventory, you need to tell the movers you want documentation reflecting what’s in a box or carton."
13. Ask away.
If you have questions about what the moving company is doing, or what they’re telling you, check with your household goods/transportation office. Go to the same office with questions that crop up while you’re requesting your move in Move.mil.
Keep the contact information for the office with you while en route – it's available at Move.mil and at MilitaryOneSource.mil.
Karen Jowers covers military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.