‘Tis the season to be moving. Yes, summer is approaching, and military families all over the world are preparing to pack their bags and PCS. Are you one of those families? While I can't claim to be an expert on the subject after only three PCS moves, I do have a list of "PCS don'ts" that I wish someone had shared with me 10 years ago. Here it goes ...
1. Don’t forget to take pictures before, during, and after the PCS. For practical purposes, you need to take pictures of your valuable items before the movers pack them up. But don’t pack up that camera just because the movers arrive. Snap fun photos of your house and your family throughout the process of packing. One of my favorite pack-out pictures is the one I took of my baby sleeping in her Pack-N-Play with a Post-It note stuck on her chest that said "Do Not Pack!" Priceless.
2. When traveling with children, don’t forget to have at the ready baby wipes, antibacterial gel, a change of clothes for everyone in the family (yes, that includes you), reading material, food, drinks (but not too many drinks unless you like public restrooms), toys and gadgets, a cell phone charger, a sense of humor, a whole lot of patience, and possibly a set of earplugs.
3. Don’t wait until you reach your final destination to research the area you will soon be calling home. I have to admit I’m horrible at this, but thankfully my husband is a research guru. By the time we reach our new duty station it seems he already knows the ins and outs of the entire city -- including the best schools, hotels, parks, neighborhoods, routes to work and things to do on the weekends. You name it, he’s researched it. And knowledge truly does make life a little easier.
4. Don’t decline offers to help. When my neighbor invited my son over for a playdate on our pack-out day, I jumped on it. Whether friends offer their babysitting services, a hot lunch, a place to crash, an air mattress or a stiff drink, take it! This is no time to prove how skilled you are at multitasking.
5. Don’t hold your breath that your shipments will arrive on the estimated arrival date you were given. They won’t. So be prepared for long hotel stays, picnics on the floor, and elevator music while you sit on hold with the personal property office.
6. Don’t leave things lying around your house that you don’t want packed. The movers can’t read your mind. If you don’t want your underwear packed, hide it in your suitcase. If you don’t want the diapers packed, put them in your car. If you don’t want to find a trash can filled with trash on the other end, make sure all garbage is at the curb. I learned this one the hard way as the very patient mover dug through three boxes of meticulously wrapped kitchen items to find the baby bottles I had carelessly left sitting on the counter. If you can’t find a place to hide stuff? I’m a big fan of Post-It notes with big X’s. Even movers in foreign countries know that that means hands-off.
7. Don’t let friends see you off on departure day. It’s just too hard. Say "goodbye" and shed your tears the day before. Then make a clean getaway on departure day. You can’t make a fresh start with mascara dripping down your face.
8. Don’t expect your husband to be there to help. Whether he misses the pack-out or the pack-in or the travel in between, you should prepare yourself to deal with any and all portions of the PCS by yourself. But that’s no problem. After all, you’re a MilSpouse. You’re used to doing things on your own by now, right?
9. Don’t be too hard on yourself. PCS’ing is stressful, and exhausting, and frustrating and makes you want to poke your eyes out with a fork. You’ll forget to pack something that should have been packed. You’ll get lost the second you pull away from the airport. You’ll mortify the Japanese moving men by nursing your newborn because no one told you that in Japan public breastfeeding isn’t as acceptable as it is in the States. But it happens. Life goes on. And you'll have a funny story to break the ice with the new people you meet at your next duty station.
And, most importantly ...
10. Don’t panic! I promise you’ll reach your destination in one piece, even if your grandmother’s china doesn’t.
What would you add to the list?