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Expecting PCS Orders? 11 Things to Do Now

Wool socks and blankets may trick you into thinking summer -- and PCS season --  is a long way off. It isn't. Tackle these projects starting now for your smoothest move yet.

Don't know where you're going, but you can't stay here? Trust me, there's still plenty to do right now.

11 PCS Things to Do Now

1. Visit the vet. Heading OCONUS? Get thee to a base veterinarian. Dogs and cats headed to Hawaii, Guam, Korea and Japan will need a Fluorescent Antibody Virus Neutralization, or FAVN, test. It's a simple blood test required by some rabies-free countries or regions, but getting the results can take weeks. Without it, traveling pets may have to be quarantined until the test results come back clean.

2. Start Any Overseas Suitability Screening (OSS). Again for anyone moving OCONUS, begin this as soon as you have orders. OSS requires visits to the doctor, travel immunizations, and possibly trips to the dentist for the whole family. The goal is to catch any conditions that could hinder the service member's ability to work, like a medical condition that would require a family member to return to the States for surgery. Better to catch that before the plane takes off!

3. Organize Important Documents. Get a secure accordion file to hand-carry all your important documents to your next station. If a box gets lost in transit, you don't want it to be the one with the entire family's passports and birth certificates. Whether it's in a safe place in the car or packed tightly in your carry-on luggage, these documents are not worth risking: all passports, current and expired; birth certificates; Wills and Living Wills, including DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), if applicable; property deeds and car titles; marriage license; copies of current orders; awards and certificates; immunization records for children; and moving paperwork.

4. Organize Your Jewelry. Don't be an easy target. Sort your jewelry and plan to hand-carry anything of monetary or sentimental value. Those tiny bags that garment buttons come in work well to keep chains untangled.

5. PURGE! Now is the best time to get rid of stuff. Outgrown kid clothes, expired medications, mildewed outdoor items, and anything you didn't want to wear this tour: out it goes! Remember, exceeding your weight limit on your shipment will cost you money, so don’t get stuck paying to keep extra junk. Sell or give away anything you haven't used since it was last packed into a moving truck. Exceptions are seasonal items (no need to pitch the cozy warm coats just because you didn't use them in sultry Florida) and furniture you absolutely love that didn't quite work in the current floor plan.

6. Take Stock of the Food Situation. What's in the pantry? The deep freezer? Any canned goods in the basement? How old are the spices? Now is the time to come up with a plan to empty your stockpile of whole wheat flour before it spills all over the kitchen floor after the movers refuse to pack it on moving day. More planning now means less waste later. Some movers will move sealed containers, and some won’t move any type of non-canned good. So eat up, and save money at the grocery store now!

7. Pre-Pack. Watching movers unpack can be bizarre: a spatula, the hair-dryer, five books, Saran Wrap and the plungers. Who packed that box?! Help out by grouping like with like: all towels together. All linens together. All toys together. If clothes are already sorted by size, season and person, keep them that way. Toss them in giant zip-top bags or even garbage bags and label with a permanent market. Bonus points for space-saving vacuum bags! The movers may root around in the bags to see what's in there before packing, but they probably won't empty them out.

8. Look at Schools. If you're lucky enough to know where you're going, look at area schools. Ask around or post on military or region-specific groups to get recommendations. Kids too little for grade school? Preschools fill up fast. Registration may have already started. Giving kids some concrete information about where they're headed can help them visualize life at the new station and reduce stress. You also may want to factor school zoning into your housing search.

9. Look at Homes. Most homes won't stay on the market from now until your family gets orders, but it's helpful to have a few neighborhoods in mind to guide your home search once it's go time.

10. The First Box. Get a huge bin to create your Last Box On, First Box Off. This should contain the essentials you need for your first night in your new home: sheets or a sleeping bag for each bed, towels for everyone, a shower curtain, breakfast and the coffee maker, etc. You don't want to be ripping through every unpacked box at 2 a.m. looking for the towels. Trust me, I've done it.

11. Get Excited About Moving! OK, stay with me here. Come up with a list of fun things to do in your new duty station. Join spouse groups and ask questions online. Maybe you'll get a family pass to the San Diego Zoo or a Virginia Aquarium membership. Maybe you can touch the Atlantic and Pacific oceans within a couple weeks. Let older kids help plan the travel route and rest stops. Talk about all the things—and people—you'll miss about the home you're leaving, and take time to show appreciation for anyone who's made a difference in your tour.

Don't wish away the next few months; try to be thankful for what's behind and excited about what's ahead! After all, isn’t that one of the things we love about military life?

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