Practice doesn't make perfect when it comes to military moves, because the rules are always changing. But here are a few things I've learned over the past twenty years of moves.
11 Military Moving Tips From a PCS Pro
1. Avoid storage whenever possible.
Of course, sometimes it's absolutely unavoidable, but a door-to-door move gives you the best chance of your household goods (HHG) arriving undamaged. It's simply because items put into storage are handled more and that increases the possibility that they'll be damaged, lost or stolen.
2. Keep track of your last move.
If you move frequently, keep your records so that you can tell the moving company how many packers, loaders, etc. that it takes to get your entire home in boxes and on the truck. I track that information, as well as the weights from our previous moves, in my phone and on my computer.
3. Ask for a full unpack ahead of time if you want one.
Many military spouses have no idea that a full unpack is included in the contract price paid to the carrier by the government. As the years go on, you'll find that your spouse may not have any time off in between jobs to help you unpack...this is when having the movers do it can save your sanity (and your marriage!).
You can also request a partial unpack; just tell them which rooms or types of boxes they should unpack.
4. Keep your original boxes
My husband has kept the original boxes for our flat-screen TVs, computer, gaming systems, etc., including the Styrofoam...and we've never had any damage to our electronics when packed in their original boxes. Just be sure that your packers label them "CP" for carrier packed so you're covered in case of damage.
5. Claim your "pro gear" for a military move
Pro gear is professional gear, and the weight of those items isn't counted against your total. Since the definition of "pro gear" seems to be constantly changing, you should look it up. Apparently, the 700 plaques that they're given when leaving various jobs don't count as pro gear. Seriously.
Spouses can claim up to 500 pounds of pro gear for their profession, too, as of this writing. Remember that if you're worried that you're not going to make weight, they should also subtract 10% for packing materials.
6. Be a prepper
Prepare by purging like crazy and putting things in their proper places. I used to throw all of our hardware in a "parts box" but what works best for me is to tape a plastic bag containing the screws, nails, etc. to the back of the item.
7. Put signs on everything.
I've started labeling everything for the packers...signs like "don't pack the hamster," or "please label all of these items Pro Gear."
I put signs up at the new house, too, labeling each room. Before they unload, Iive them a tour so they know where all the rooms are. So when I tell them to please take that giant, thousand pound armoire to the bonus room, they know where to go.
8. Keep essentials out and move them yourselves.
This is a no-brainer for things like medications, pet supplies, baby items, clothing and the like. A few other things that I always seem to need include office supplies, Ziploc bags, cleaning supplies, yard equipment, trashbags, kitchen items, cooler, Sharpie, boxcutters and whatever else you need to get from Point A to Point B.
I always move our silver, my jewelry, our tax forms and other financial records. And all of Sunny's tennis balls. If we lost the Penn 4, I'm not sure what he'd do!
9. Ask the movers to leave you extra boxes, paper and tape.
It's simply a fact that you are going to find additional items to pack after you think you're done (because it never ends!). Keep a few boxes to pack the "hazmat" items that you'll have to transport yourselves: candles, batteries, cleaning supplies, etc.
10. Hide essentials in your refrigerator
I realized long ago that the reason I own five corkscrews is because we move so frequently. Every time we move, the corkscrew gets packed, and I have to buy another one. By the way, moving time is not the time to become a teetotaller if you're not one already!! I solved the problem this time by putting the corkscrew in my refrigerator--the packers never pack things that are in the fridge.
11. Realize that all the planning in the world can't guarantee a smooth move.
12. Protect your Property and Belongings
Private insurance is also a good way to protect your personal property and covers you in case of personal liability. Get free quotes.
Sadly, this was our worst move ever--we're still finding damage almost a month later. Read all the ugly details here, plus a few more tips on how I might have avoided some of it.
Happy moving, and please share your best tips below!
-- Christy Black is a semi-professional mover after twenty years of wedded bliss to an Army pilot. She's also the proud mom of two awesome kids and spends her days vacuuming thanks to their two rescued golden retrievers. Christy blogs about life, DIY and home decor with her friend and college roommate, Amy, at www.11magnolialane.com.
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