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PCS Checklist: The Ultimate Guide For Military Families

When preparing for a Permanent Change of Station (PCS), having a comprehensive PCS checklist is paramount for military families. The process of moving can be stressful, particularly when it involves traversing long distances, possibly even overseas.

However, with a carefully structured PCS checklist, the daunting process can be streamlined into manageable steps, reducing anxiety and ensuring nothing gets overlooked.

This checklist is a strategic approach to managing the various aspects of a military move, including understanding the Defense Personal Property System (DPS), such as coordinating with moving companies, arranging travel logistics, managing documentation, and setting up at the new location.

A PCS checklist can serve as a cornerstone of a well-planned move, transforming it into a more organized, less strenuous experience. In this article, we will provide an ultimate guide to assembling and utilizing a PCS checklist, aiming to make the PCS move a smoother journey for military families.

Conduct Thorough Research on Your New Home Before Your PCS Move

pcs checklist, school records, own home inventory

The first step in a successful PCS move is researching your future base and community, including the local transportation office and the resources available for family members. Armed with knowledge, the transition can become significantly less daunting for you and your family.

1. Leverage Military-Based PCS Resources

The military is a rich source of valuable information that can guide your PCS move. From relocation assistance to online planning tools, make the most of these resources to familiarize yourself with the moving process.

2. Utilize Google for Extensive Information

The internet is an invaluable tool in getting to know your new location. Utilize Google to check the walkability scores, proximity to schools, local grocery stores, and gas stations. It’s beneficial to be aware of these details as they can impact your daily life. The Street View feature on Google Maps can also help you familiarize yourself with your new neighborhood, providing a sense of what to expect when you arrive.

3. Connect Through Social Media

Social media can offer personal insights into your new community that you might not find elsewhere. Look for Facebook groups of military spouses in your new location, connect with them, and ask questions. Social platforms like these can be a goldmine of local advice and insights. Additionally, following your new command station’s social media channels will help you stay updated with local news and events.

4. Reach Out to Your Family Support Center

Most military bases have Family Support Centers that offer resources and guidance for families undergoing PCS moves. They can provide specific information about your new base and its surrounding community. Contact them early in your research process for personalized advice and support.

5. Explore Local Community Resources

Community resources such as local newspapers, community websites, and even local government resources can provide a wealth of information about your new home. Use these to explore local events, community programs, and local amenities to help you settle in more comfortably.

Start Saving for Your PCS Move

household goods arrive, packing materials, drain garden hoses

Moving always incurs costs that may not be covered by military funding. Planning and saving for these expenses ahead of time can reduce stress and ensure a smoother transition.

1. Budget for Moving Day Expenses

When the movers arrive on the day of your upcoming move, remember that while they are professionals hired by the military, it’s also considerate to factor in the cost of meals and refreshments. Providing your moving crew with lunch and water is a nice gesture and helps maintain a positive atmosphere during a long and potentially stressful day.

2. Plan for Potential Gaps in Employment

If you or your spouse work, there may be a gap in employment during the move. Will you be transferring to a new job immediately, or will there be a period of unemployment? Planning for these scenarios helps ensure you’re financially prepared.

3. Set Aside Funds for Emergencies

Emergencies happen, and when they do, it’s better to be financially prepared. Setting aside funds to handle unexpected costs such as emergency medical care, vehicle repairs, or other sudden expenses can provide peace of mind during your move.

4. Account for Travel Expenses

Don’t forget to consider travel expenses to your new location. This may include gas, meals, hotel stays, and any recreational stops along the way. Include these in your budget to avoid any unexpected financial stress.

5. Consider the Costs of Settling into Your New Home

Once you arrive at your new location, there may be additional costs such as deposits for utilities, new furnishings or housewares, or unexpected repairs. It’s wise to plan for these expenses in your moving budget as well.

Read More: 10 Tips for Military Moving You Should Know

Choose Your Preferred PCS Moving Method: Military Move vs. PPM

non temporary storage, housing office, trash cans

The military offers two options for PCS moves: a military-coordinated move through the Defense Personal Property System or a Personally Procured Move (PPM). The right choice depends on your specific situation and capacity.

1. Opt for a Military-Coordinated Move

In a military-coordinated move, the military handles the packing, moving, and storage of your household goods. Local movers pack and transport your belongings. This process typically takes 1-2 full days, so preparing in advance by grouping like items together and removing artwork from the walls can help expedite the process.

2. Consider a Personally Procured Move (PPM)

In a PPM, you handle the moving arrangements. The military provides an allowance for this option. While it can be more time-consuming and require more effort on your part, it also allows more control over the moving process.

3. Weigh the Pros and Cons of Each Method

Each moving method has its benefits and drawbacks. A military-coordinated move is less work for you, but you have less control. A PPM requires more effort but allows more control over the move. Consider your family’s needs, time constraints, and personal preferences when choosing the method that best suits you.

4. Discuss Your Options with Other Military Families

If you’re unsure about which method to choose, consider discussing your options with other military families who have experienced both types of moves. Their insights and personal experiences can provide a clearer picture of what to expect from each option.

5. Make a Decision and Stick to It

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information and considered all options, make a decision and stick to it. Both moving methods have their own set of challenges, so it’s important to prepare for them as soon as you’ve decided.

Compile a PCS Family Folder

identify items, pcs binder, unaccompanied baggage

Maintaining a PCS family folder is a valuable step in your PCS move. This folder should contain copies of all your family’s important documents, which should always be with you during the move.

1. Prepare Copies of Your PCS Orders

During your PCS move, you will need to provide multiple copies of your PCS orders. Keep several copies in your PCS folder to ensure you always have them when needed. They provide official proof of your move and contain important details about your relocation.

2. Include All Essential Identification Documents

Include original birth certificates for all travelers, marriage licenses, social security cards, driver’s licenses, permits, state IDs, or passports. These are essential identification documents that you may need during your move.

3. Organize Health Records

Medical, dental, and immunization records for all travelers should also be included in your PCS folder. They will be necessary when registering for new healthcare providers and schools.

4. Incorporate Legal and Property Documents

Include deeds and titles to all property, legal documents like wills and powers of attorney, and state and federal income tax returns in your PCS folder. Having these documents readily available will make the transition to your new home smoother.

5. Maintain Documentation on Household Goods

Keeping an inventory sheet of your household goods, along with any appraisals or receipts, can be extremely beneficial if you need to file a claim with the Defense Personal Property System in the event of loss or damage during the move. This documentation can make filing a claim with the military easier.

Read More: Relocation Tips & Resources For the Armed Forces

Lighten Your Load Before Your PCS Move

Each PCS move has a weight limit for household goods, including outdoor furniture, which is set by the Defense Personal Property System. Take the time before your move to reevaluate your possessions and lighten your load if necessary.

1. Evaluate Your Personal Possessions

Take an inventory of your household items. Consider what’s essential, what can be replaced, and what you haven’t used in a while. This process can help you determine what you truly need to bring with you and what you can let go of.

2. Organize a Yard Sale or Donate

Once you have sorted through your items, consider organizing a yard sale to sell items that are in good condition but are no longer needed. Anything that doesn’t sell can be donated to local charities. This will not only lighten your moving load but could also provide some additional funds for the move.

3. Dispose of Unusable Items

Properly dispose of items that are broken, worn out, or no longer usable. Clutter only adds to the weight of your move and can increase moving costs. Remember, your move is a fresh start, and it’s an ideal time to declutter.

4. Review Prohibited Items

Each moving company has a list of items they will not move, often including hazardous materials, perishables, and personal or sentimental items. Be sure to review this list so you can plan to move these items yourself or dispose of them before moving day.

5. Plan for Last-Minute Deliveries

If you’re expecting any deliveries close to your move date, make arrangements to have these items delivered to your new location instead. The fewer items you need to deal with on a moving day, the smoother the process will be.

Implement Safeguarding Measures

light bulbs, child care, school documents

Implement some safeguarding measures, like keeping an eye on high-value items and securing them with zip ties if necessary, to protect your belongings and prepare for any unexpected situations during the move..

1. Document Your Valuables

For high-value items, take photographs and note their estimated worth, and consider keeping them separate from the rest of your household goods when they arrive. This documentation will be crucial if you need to file a claim for any items that are damaged or lost during the move.

2. Secure Extra Prescription Medication

If anyone in your household takes prescription medication, speak with your doctor about obtaining an extra refill to cover the moving period, especially if you’re moving overseas and may need advance notice to secure necessary medications. It may take some time to find a new pharmacy or healthcare provider in your new location, so it’s important to have a sufficient supply on hand.

3. Maintain a Healthy Cash Reserve

Having a reasonable amount of cash on hand can be beneficial for any unexpected expenses that come up during your move. This could include anything from meals to emergency car repairs.

4. Take Pre-Move Photos of Your New Home

If you’re moving into rental or military housing, take photographs of the condition of the home before moving in your belongings. This will provide a record of any existing damages and protect you from being held responsible for them when you move out.

5. Secure Important Personal Items

For any personal or sentimental items that you will be moving, make sure these are securely packed and clearly marked. This will help ensure they are safely transported and easily found when you arrive at your new home.

Read More: Military-Approved Moving Companies

Checklist for Settling Into the New Home

Moving is a long process, and settling into a new home can be just as challenging as the move itself, especially with a military PCS move. Fortunately, with careful planning and organization, you can make your transition smoother. Here are some essential steps to ensure a successful transition into your new space:

1. Utility Setup

Upon reaching your new duty station, one of the first things you need to tackle is setting up your utilities, including electricity, water, gas, and internet services, as soon as your shipment arrives. 

This involves contacting local utility providers and scheduling installations or transfers if needed. Remember that some utilities might require an on-site visit, so schedule these as soon as possible to avoid any inconvenience.

2. Address Update

After moving, ensure you update your address for all necessary documentation and services. This includes your driver’s license, voting registration, banking information, and insurance providers. 

Don’t forget to inform your friends and family about your new address as well, and setting up mail forwarding with the postal service can ensure you don’t miss any important letters or packages.

3. Registering Children in School

If you have children, finding and registering them in a new school is a top priority. Begin by researching the local education system, then schedule visits to potential schools. After choosing the right fit, register your children and familiarize yourself with the school’s rules, routines, and calendar. Make sure your children have all the necessary supplies for their new school.

4. Exploring Your Neighborhood

Take some time to explore your new neighborhood. Familiarize yourself with the local grocery stores, parks, restaurants, and other amenities. Introduce yourself to your neighbors, which is not only polite but could be the beginning of supportive friendships, particularly important in military communities.

5. Healthcare Providers

Finding a new family doctor, dentist, and other necessary healthcare providers is vital when settling into a new area. Research local healthcare services, and if possible, seek recommendations from your new neighbors or colleagues. Once you’ve chosen providers, make sure to transfer medical records from your previous providers.

6. Vehicle Registration

If you’ve moved to a new state, you will likely need to register your vehicle and obtain a new driver’s license. Research the requirements for your new location, as processes and necessary documentation can vary greatly from state to state. Remember to also update your car insurance with your new address.

7. Home Security Measures

Lastly, don’t neglect the security of your new home. Ensure all locks are functional, and consider changing them if necessary. If your home has an existing security system, update it and familiarize yourself with its use. Also, be aware of the common security practices in your new neighborhood, like community watch programs.

What Services Can You Get by Choosing Military Movers?

As a company that is deeply committed to supporting military families, Military Movers are proud to offer comprehensive services to make your Permanent Change of Station (PCS) as smooth as possible. Our suite of services, designed with the specific needs of military families in mind, includes everything from move planning, logistics, support, and even settling into your new home. Let’s take a closer look at what we offer:

1. Comprehensive Move Planning

Firstly, we understand that every PCS move is unique, and so our planning process is tailored to your specific needs. We work closely with you to understand your relocation requirements, timeframe, and any specific concerns you might have.

We then develop a detailed moving plan that takes into account all your needs, offering guidance on the best moving method, packing tips, and even how to make the process less stressful for children and pets.

2. Logistics and Coordination

We provide end-to-end logistics support for your move. From arranging professional packing and moving services to managing the transport of your belongings, we handle all the details. Our team will work with you to determine the most efficient moving methods, taking into account your household size, the distance of the move, and any specific items that may require special handling.

3. Real-Time Support

Our team is available to provide real-time support throughout the move. We know that PCS moves can be unpredictable, and unexpected challenges can arise. That’s why our team is always on standby to answer any questions, resolve issues, and provide guidance.

4. Settling-In Services

Our support doesn’t end once your belongings have been delivered to your new home. We offer a range of settling-in services designed to help you and your family adjust to your new environment. This includes connecting utilities, assistance with school registration for children, introducing you to the new neighborhood, and even helping you find healthcare providers.

5. Post-Move Follow-up

Finally, we believe in maintaining long-term relationships with our military families. After you’ve settled into your new home, we’ll follow up to ensure everything has gone according to plan and address any remaining issues. We’re not just a moving service; we’re partners in your PCS journey, here to offer support and make the transition as easy as possible.

We’re honored to serve those who serve our country, and we take the responsibility of supporting your PCS move seriously. You can trust us to be with you every step of the way, making your move as stress-free as possible.


PCS moves are a significant part of military life, and they come with their unique challenges. However, with proper planning, research, and organization, the experience can be less stressful and more manageable.

It’s important to take advantage of all the resources available to you, including our services, which are specifically tailored to meet the needs of military families. We understand the intricacies of military moves, and our team is always ready to provide the support you need. Let’s navigate this journey together.

Contact us today and allow us to make your next PCS move a smooth and hassle-free experience.


What is a PCS Move?

A Permanent Change of Station, or PCS move, is a military order for a service member and their family to relocate to a different duty station. This move can be domestic or international, and the military usually covers the cost of the move.

How often do PCS Moves occur?

The frequency of PCS moves can vary widely depending on several factors, including the specific branch of the military, the service member’s job within the military, and the current needs of the military. However, a common rule of thumb is that military families tend to move every two to three years.

What are some important documents to keep handy during a PCS move?

You should keep copies of your PCS orders, birth certificates, marriage licenses, social security cards, medical, dental, immunization records, driver’s licenses or passports, and other important legal documents readily accessible throughout your move.

What is a Personally Procured Move (PPM)?

A Personally Procured Move (PPM), previously known as a Do-It-Yourself (DITY) move, is when you move your belongings yourself, and the military reimburses you up to 95% of what it would have cost them to move you.

How can I reduce stress during a PCS move?

Planning early, staying organized, researching your new location, and asking for help when needed can greatly reduce stress during a PCS move. Engaging the services of a trusted moving company that understands the unique needs of military families like us can also alleviate much of the stress associated with the moving process.

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.

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