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How To Prepare For Your First PCS Move

Understanding how to prepare for your first PCS move can feel like navigating uncharted territory. This major life transition, which stands for Permanent Change of Station, is an integral part of military life. It involves moving from one military base to another, sometimes even across continents, and often at short notice.

The key to a successful PCS move from one duty station to the next lies in detailed planning, organization, and leveraging resources available at your local transportation office. In this blog post, we will guide you step-by-step through this often overwhelming process.

We aim to provide you with all the necessary information to make your first PCS move as smooth and stress-free as possible. Remember, a PCS move is not just about physical relocation; it’s about adapting to a new environment, embracing a new community, and making a fresh start.

Deciding the Best Move Option for Your PCS

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When it comes to planning your PCS military move to your future duty station, understanding your available options and deciding which type of move best suits your needs is crucial.

Your choice will significantly impact your moving experience, costs, and logistics. Here, we will delve into the three primary ways to complete a PCS move and their corresponding pros and cons to guide you in making the most informed decision.

1. Traditional Military Move

The first and perhaps the most straightforward option for service members is the traditional military move. In this scenario, the military will arrange a moving company approved by them to manage your relocation process.

What Happens in a Traditional Military Move?

In a traditional military move, professional movers will come to your residence, pack up all your belongings, ship them to your new location, and deliver them to your new home. This service is fully covered by the military, so you won’t have to worry about significant out-of-pocket expenses. This option can be especially beneficial if:

  • You prefer a hands-off approach to moving.
  • You do not have enough time to pack and load your items.
  • The thought of managing the logistics of moving feels overwhelming.

However, as convenient as this option might sound, there are several potential downsides to consider. It’s not uncommon for items to end up lost, damaged, or stolen due to negligence from the moving company. Moreover, you may have less control over the packing and moving process, and scheduling can be challenging during peak PCS seasons.

How to Choose a Reputable Moving Company?

Choosing a preferred moving company, backed by positive feedback from other military families, can make all the difference in your journey from one duty station to another. Reading moving company reviews from fellow military families can be extremely helpful in making an informed decision.

2. Personally Procured Move (PPM)

The second option is the Personally Procured Move or PPM. This used to be called a DITY (Do-It-Yourself) move. In this case, you forego the military moving company and instead take the move into your own hands.

How Does a PPM Work?

In a PPM, you are responsible for hiring a moving truck, packing and loading all your boxes and furniture yourself, and driving your belongings to your new location. This type of move can be beneficial if:

  • You prefer to have full control over how your items are packed and moved.
  • You are moving a short distance.
  • You want to make some money off the move.

When you opt for a PPM, the military will reimburse you 95% of what they would have paid professional movers. This gives you an opportunity to potentially earn money, especially if you can keep your moving costs low. However, this option also comes with significant responsibilities and challenges.

What are the Challenges with a PPM?

The logistics of packing everything yourself and driving a moving van across several states can be quite daunting. It requires a significant amount of time, planning, and physical labor. Additionally, you bear full responsibility for anything that gets broken or lost during the move. Also, any costs that exceed the amount the military would have paid for a traditional move will come out of your pocket.

3. Partial PPM / DITY Move

The final option is a hybrid of the two previous ones – the partial PPM or DITY move. This option allows you to enjoy the benefits of both professional moving services and a personal move.

What is a Partial PPM?

In a partial PPM, a moving company transports most of your belongings, either in their truck or in a packing container that you load yourself. Meanwhile, you transport some items in your own vehicle. This type of move can be an excellent choice if:

  • You have certain valuable items or family heirlooms you want to transport yourself.
  • You want to save some money but not handle all aspects of the move.
  • You have items you’ll need immediately upon arrival at your new home.

For many people, a partial PPM offers a good balance between maintaining control over certain belongings and entrusting the bulk of the move to professionals. With this option, the military covers the cost of the moving company, and they reimburse you for the weight of the items you transport in your vehicle.

What to Consider in a Partial PPM?

Just like the other options, a partial PPM comes with its own set of considerations. While this option gives you more control over some of your items, it still involves dealing with a moving company, which could lead to potential issues such as scheduling conflicts or damaged items. Additionally, you need to be organized enough to separate items you’re moving yourself from those being handled by the moving company.

Read More: The Responsibilities of a Military Moving Company and How to Find the Right One

Preparing for Military Movers for Your First PCS Move

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Despite the common notion that you don’t need to do anything to prepare for military movers, taking time to sort out your belongings and organize your space can significantly streamline the moving process. This section outlines detailed steps you can take to ensure your moving day goes as smoothly as possible and prevent any frustrating issues.

1. Understand the Role of Military Movers

Firstly, it’s essential to understand what military movers will do and what they won’t do when they come to your home. The movers will pack your belongings and load them into their truck, but they won’t pre-sort or organize your items.

Role of Military Movers

Military movers are professionals who will come to your house to pack your belongings, load them onto a truck, and transport them to your new home. However, their primary responsibility is to ensure the safe and efficient packing and transport of your items, not to sort or organize your belongings.

Packing Your Own Boxes

Although the movers will pack your belongings, you may prefer to pack certain items yourself, such as Christmas decorations, children’s toys, clothing, and other personal items. If a military member or military spouse chooses to pack certain items, these boxes should be left open and unsealed for inspection.

The movers need to verify the contents of each box for their inventory for insurance purposes. However, they won’t repack boxes you’ve already packed. They will typically just seal your boxes with tape.

2. Creating a “First Day Box”

A crucial step in preparing for your move is creating a “First Day Box.” This box should contain all the essentials you will need immediately upon arrival at your new home.

What to Include in Your “First Day Box”

This box should contain items such as towels, a shower curtain, toilet paper, basic cooking supplies, and cleaning supplies. These items will make your first night in your new home more comfortable and less stressful, especially if your other belongings are delayed.

3. Purging Unwanted Items

An important step for military families preparing for a move to a new duty station is purging unwanted items. This includes items you no longer need or use and those the moving company won’t pack.

Conducting a Yard Sale

One efficient way to get rid of unwanted items is to conduct a yard sale. This will not only help you declutter but could also give you some extra cash for your move.

Donating to Thrift Stores

Alternatively, you can donate your unwanted items to a thrift store or local charity. Not only does this help declutter your home, but it also helps those in need.

Disposing of Unpackable Items

Military movers won’t pack certain items, particularly liquids and chemicals. These items should be properly disposed of according to local regulations.

4. Preparing Your Professional Gear

When it comes to packing, it’s important to correctly prepare and label your Professional Gear (Pro-Gear) for military movers.

What is Pro-gear?

Pro-Gear refers to the items related to your military service, including uniforms, books, and awards. These items do not count against the overall weight limit of your move, but they must be packed and correctly labeled to be subtracted from the total weight.

5. Documenting Your Valuables

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Taking an inventory of your valuables and electronics is an essential step in the preparation process for military members and their families, ensuring that everything arrives safely at the new installation.

Taking Photos of Valuables

A photographic inventory of all valuable items, electronics, and their corresponding product ID codes is crucial. They will serve as proof of their condition before the move, which can be essential if something is lost or damaged when moving from your current to your future duty station and you need to file a claim.

6. Creating a PCS Binder

For service members and their spouses, a PCS binder will be an invaluable tool during the transition to their next duty station. This binder should contain all the necessary paperwork for your move.

What to Include in Your PCS Binder

Your PCS binder should include documents required for housing applications and school registrations, your orders, birth certificates, passports, and any other essential paperwork. This binder should be hand-carried with you during the move to ensure it doesn’t get lost.

7. Preparing a “Do Not Pack” Area

Preparing a “Do Not Pack” area in your home is a vital step in avoiding confusion during the move.

How to Set Up a “Do Not Pack” Area

This area should be clearly marked and could be a closet or small room. This area should contain items the service member or military spouse will hand carry during the move, like phone chargers, wallets, essential paperwork, toiletries, and any other items needed immediately upon arrival at the new duty station.

8. Preparing Your Electronics

Preparing your electronics for the move is essential to prevent damage and ensure they can be easily reassembled at your new home.

Unplugging and Packing Electronics

Ensure that all your electronics are unplugged, cords are neatly wrapped up, and each is placed in a bag labeled with the device it belongs to.

9. Taking Items Off the Walls

Another important step is removing all items from your walls.

Why Remove Items from the Walls?

Items left on walls could be damaged during the move, as movers are not responsible for removing them. This includes pictures, curtains, shelving, and any other fixtures.

10. Preparing Specific Items

Finally, service members and military spouses should consider grouping specific items together for packing to ensure a smooth transition to their new duty station.

Grouping Items for Packing

If you have items like books, toys, or craft supplies scattered throughout your house, gather them into one place for packing. This will make it easier for you to decide where to store them in your new home.

By following these steps, you can help ensure that your move goes smoothly and that you are well-prepared for the arrival of your military movers. Remember, for both the service member and military spouse, preparation is key to a stress-free and successful PCS military move.

Read More: Hiring the Best Military Moving Companies

Dealing With Challenges and Stress During a PCS Move

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Embarking on a PCS move can be an emotionally challenging and logistically complex endeavor, fraught with unforeseen obstacles and stressors. With careful planning, resourcefulness, and adaptability, you can ease the transition and make the journey a successful one.

1. Navigating the Maze of Bureaucracy

One of the first challenges you’ll face during a PCS move is dealing with the myriad of administrative and logistical details. From understanding complex regulations to filling out an array of necessary forms, it can feel overwhelming.

The key to managing this successfully is keeping all your documents well-organized and easily accessible. Maintain regular contact with your base’s transportation office, and don’t hesitate to seek their guidance when you’re unclear about procedures or documentation.

2. Managing Emotional Stress

Beyond the logistical complexities, a PCS move can also involve significant emotional stress. Leaving behind a familiar environment, close friends, and sometimes family members can bring feelings of sadness and anxiety.

It’s essential to recognize these feelings as a normal part of the moving process. Reach out to your support network, keep communication lines open, and don’t hesitate to tap into counseling resources that the military offers to help you navigate this emotional transition.

3. Handling Financial Strain

Even though the military covers many aspects of a PCS move, it’s not uncommon for unexpected expenses to crop up, which can contribute to financial stress. To mitigate this, create a comprehensive budget in advance, including potential costs such as travel, temporary housing, meals, and incidental expenses. Keep all receipts related to your move, as some costs may be reimbursable.

4. Overcoming Uncertainty

Moving to an unknown location, unfamiliar culture, or even a different country can cause a great deal of uncertainty. Alleviating this uncertainty involves proactive research and preparation.

Learn as much as you can about your new location, including its culture, weather, amenities, and educational options if you have children. Utilize online platforms, local guides, and your new command’s resources to arm yourself with knowledge and reduce feelings of uncertainty.

5. Adjusting to a New Environment

Once you’ve arrived at your new station, adjusting to the new environment is another challenge to confront. This involves everything from setting up your new home to forming new relationships and routines. Remember, adjustment takes time.

Be patient with yourself, stay open-minded to new experiences, and reach out to the local community and fellow military families for support. Avail of the resources provided by the military community, including welcome events and newcomer orientation, to integrate and thrive in your new environment.

Why You Need to Hire Military Movers: Your Trustworthy Partner in PCS Moves?

When it comes to maneuvering the many intricacies of a PCS move, Military Movers is a name you can count on. Our range of tailored services has been designed to cater specifically to military personnel on the move. With Military Movers, you’ll have a steadfast ally guiding you through each phase of the journey, ensuring you have the right tools, resources, and assistance at each step.

Comprehensive Planning Assistance with Military Movers

At Military Movers, we believe that thorough planning is crucial for a seamless relocation process. Our seasoned team offers comprehensive planning assistance to help you navigate through your PCS move, from understanding your entitlements to choosing the optimal move type for your circumstances.

Our planning assistance includes:

  • An in-depth, personalized checklist specifically designed for military moves.
  • Expert advice on crucial paperwork and forms.
  • Help in devising a practical, effective timeline for your move.

Military Movers’ Trusted Network of Moving Companies

One of the cornerstones of our service at Military Movers is our extensive network of reputable moving companies. We’ve invested significant time in vetting and curating a network of moving professionals who are not only reliable but also have a strong history of handling military moves.

Choosing Military Movers ensures:

  • Movers with vast experience handling military relocations.
  • Assurance that your belongings will be treated with the utmost care and professionalism.
  • Prompt delivery at your new location, minimizing the stress of uncertainty.

Claim Assistance by Military Movers

We at Military Movers recognize that even the best-laid plans can face unexpected hiccups. To support you in such events, we offer comprehensive claim assistance to help you recover your losses if any goods are damaged or lost.

When you leverage Military Movers’ claim assistance, you can anticipate:

  • Detailed guidance through the claims filing process.
  • Support in monitoring your claim’s progress.
  • Assistance in negotiating and resolving any claims.

24/7 Support by Military Movers

Our commitment to you at Military Movers doesn’t stop at planning and execution. We are here to support you throughout your move. Our support team is accessible around the clock to answer any questions, address concerns, and provide the assistance you might need.

Our 24/7 support guarantees:

  • A ready and accessible team at all times.
  • A group of dedicated professionals who understand your unique needs.
  • Rapid and effective resolution of any issues that may arise.

By choosing Military Movers, you’re opting for a partner who understands the unique dynamics of military moves and is dedicated to making your PCS move as smooth and hassle-free as possible. We are excited to support you in this pivotal transition in your military career.


Undertaking your first PCS move can be overwhelming, filled with a myriad of tasks and responsibilities. However, with careful planning, informed decisions, and the right support, you can successfully navigate this significant transition.

Keep in mind the various types of moves available, prepare well in advance, stay flexible, and take advantage of resources specifically designed for military families. Remember, Military Movers is always ready and eager to assist you in this journey, making the process smoother and less stressful.

So, as you prepare for this major milestone, consider reaching out to us at Military Movers for support tailored to your unique needs.


What should I do if my belongings are lost or damaged during the move?

In the unfortunate event of loss or damage, make sure you have noted it in the inventory before the movers leave, and file a claim immediately. If you’re a customer of Military Movers, our dedicated claims assistance team will help guide you through the process.

How soon should I start planning for my PCS move?

The sooner, the better. Once you receive your orders, it’s beneficial to start planning right away. This includes researching your new location, deciding on the type of move, and beginning to sort and declutter your belongings.

Is it necessary to get rid of some items before a PCS move?

While not mandatory, sorting through your belongings and removing items you no longer need is highly recommended. This reduces the volume of items to be moved and can save on moving costs, especially if you’re considering a Personally Procured Move (PPM).

Can I move my pets with Military Movers?

Military Movers provides comprehensive information and guidance on moving with pets, but pet relocation services must be arranged separately. We suggest checking with your veterinarian and researching pet relocation services for the safest options.

What essential items should I pack in my “First Day Box” for a PCS move?

Your “First Day Box” should include essentials like toiletries, a change of clothes, important documents, basic kitchen supplies, medication, and any other items you’ll need immediately upon arriving at your new home. Plan for this box to sustain you and your family for a couple of days in case there’s a delay in the arrival of your other belongings.

Mia Miller

Mia Miller, a true wordsmith, documents the journey of Military Movers through her engaging blog posts. She ensures that our stories, mirroring our commitment and dedication to facilitating military moves, reach a broad audience.