Uprooting the family to live a few months or years on a new base is nothing new for long-time active service members. The military relocates families and individuals all the time. But don’t think that the military’s experience in logistics makes this process much easier.
You can run into the same problems as a civilian when PCSing to Alaska. Army relocations (as well as with other military branches) take time, are stressful, cost money, and can have various unexpected complications. But you can make life easier for yourself and your family if you prepare thoroughly in advance.
Alaska Military Installations
If you’re PCSing to Alaska, you’re likely going to one of the following military bases.
- Clear Air Force Station
- Coast Guard Air Station Sitka
- Coast Guard Base Ketchikan
- Coast Guard Base Kodiak
- Coast Guard Sector Anchorage
- Coast Guard Sector Juneau
- Eielson AFB
- Fort Greely
- Fort Wainwright
- Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson
Fort Wainwright has the largest training facility, and many Army personnel end up there for long stretches.
But whether you’re planning to PCS to Fort Wainwright, Alaska, or another military installation, there’s a lot you need to know about relocating to the coldest region of the North American continent.
Know the Methods of Transport
You can move to Alaska by car, ferry, plane, or a combination of all three. It depends on your departure location and destination. Another factor influencing transport is the time of the year. The weather can make PCSing to Alaska difficult between May and August.
While this may not matter much to you, the weather also affects moving companies. If you have to ship your belongings during severe winter conditions, it’s best to pay a premium and hire the best moving company in the region.
Due to the weather conditions, moving furniture and household goods to Alaska demands enclosed trailers or shipping crates. This alone means that shipping costs are higher compared to other destinations.
Prepare for the Weather
Active service members are usually physically fit and can adapt to new environments easier than civilians. That doesn’t mean PCSing to Alaska is a walk in the park. For example, central Alaska has some of the worst weather due to frequent temperature fluctuations.
You can get snow in the middle of May, have summer days with 90 degrees, and walk outside in -50 degrees weather during the winter. Adapting to these conditions can take a toll without mental and physical preparation and the right supplies.
Know What Supplies to Take to Alaska
When PCSing to Alaska, Army personnel and military families realize that they must pack differently than for other domestic or international relocations. First, you need quality winter clothing. You can’t go everywhere in just your winter military uniform.
Secondly, it’s best to stock up on winter clothing before arriving in Alaska. The state usually has higher living costs. Therefore, buying essentials, including weather-appropriate clothing, will save you more money.
Then, you should consider any household essentials and appliances. Getting merchandise to Alaska is hard, especially during the winter. You may find that many supplies are in limited inventory and the most essential comfort items sell quickly.
You must winterproof your vehicle if you’re driving the family to Alaska and shipping your belongings with military movers. Take it to a shop and get a professional mechanic to inspect every nut and bolt.
It’s vital to have a battery in good condition, plenty of antifreeze, working wipers, fresh oil, windshield fluid rated for Alaska temperatures, etc. You should probably get a set of tire chains and learn how to use them. You might need them by the time you make it to your new home.
Figure Out Your Entitlements
PCSing to Alaska comes with some perks courtesy of the military branch you belong to. Part of your moving costs will be covered by the military. You can get reimbursement for lodging, mileage, transportation expenses, etc.
But figuring out your exact travel entitlements is crucial to plan an efficient budget. Not every member of the military has the same cargo weight allowance. In addition, weight allowances are per family, not for each dependent relocating with you.
Here’s an updated list of PCS weight allowances for different ranks.
- Academy Cadets – 350 pounds
- Midshipmen – 350 pounds
- Aviation Cadets – 7,000 pounds
- Privates – 5,000 pounds
- Corporals – 7,000 pounds
- Sergeants – 7,000 pounds
- Staff Sergeants – 8,000 pounds
- Sergeants First Class – 11,000 pounds
- Master Sergeants – 12,000 pounds
- Sergeant Majors – 13,000 pounds
- First Officers and Academy Graduates – 10,000 pounds
- First Lieutenants – 12,500 pounds
- Captains – 13,000 pounds
- Lieutenant Commanders – 14,000 pounds
- Lieutenant Colonels – 16,000 pounds
- Colonels to Generals – 18,000 pounds
Remember that weight allowances can always change, and some branches may give extra weight allowance when PCSing with the entire family or dependents. But the increase in allowance is usually small.
However, getting clear on your weight allowance gives you a good idea of how much money you may have to pay out of pocket.
Updated weight allowance information for every rank is available on every official website of the four military branches. Alternatively, you can ask questions at the information office on the base.
Consider Hiring Movers Yourself
Many military installations work with military movers. Alaska relocations can be managed by the military. That means you don’t have to do anything other than pack, be on time, and report for duty. The military hires movers, arranges a schedule, and pays for the service.
It’s often called an HHG move and is managed by a branch of the Department of Defense (DOD).
But that may not always be in your best interest when PCSing to Alaska. It’s less stressful, but it can be expensive, rushed, and not always ideal.
Normally, you can get your weight allowance in hand and perhaps even an advance payment. This is more common when relocating over long distances.
Theoretically, you can keep any money left over from the move if you can arrange a moving deal that doesn’t require your full allowance. Military bases typically don’t have time to bargain hunt, negotiate, etc.
They usually find a good moving company and stick with them as long as they provide an efficient service. It doesn’t mean they’re always the best or cheapest. But no military branch will force you to move with a specific company.
Nor will they deny you your weight allowance for choosing to hire movers yourself. Therefore, you could find a better deal and pocket some change to spend on other things after your relocation.
What to Do When PCSing to Alaska With a Spouse
The relocation of military spouses is covered by all military branches. But there’s something you should know before your PCS to Fort Wainwright, Alaska, or wherever you’re final destination may be. The military only covers transportation and other relocation costs if you and your spouse live together and leave together.
If your spouse lives elsewhere or they’re on a trip, the military won’t cover their relocation expenses. Your spouse can still join you in Alaska but must finance their trip themselves.
Furthermore, you must ensure your paperwork is in order. Many military personnel get married before getting PCS orders. But if the marriage certificate isn’t filled and registered in time, the spouse won’t have a relocation allowance during the PCS move.
These regulations mostly affect newlyweds, unmarried couples, and couples living apart. That said, the military does a good job of controlling spending regarding PCS. And neither rule is too extreme. They’re mostly common sense guidelines.
Get Information From Military Movers
If you’re PCSing to Alaska for the first time, there’s a lot to learn about the process. Not even active service members who relocated multiple times know all the ropes, especially those who used HHG moves.
Therefore, there are a couple of things to know about what you can and can’t move.
You can take pets with you to live on base, except if you’re living in the barracks. However, you can’t have more than two pets, and some bases restrict ownership of pets to certain breeds.
In addition, there’s no military allowance for PCSing with pets. You must pay out of pocket. That’s why handling your own move is a good idea. It can save money under the right set of circumstances, and that money can go toward relocating your pets.
Military movers approved by the DOD are generally licensed to transport firearms. However, owning specific guns and ammo is restricted even to active service members outside the base.
Your movers can tell you what they can and can’t transport across state lines and how you must pack your weapons for safe and legal transport.
There’s a long list of hazardous materials you won’t be able to take with you when PCSing to Alaska. Gasoline, paint, and select cleaning supplies make a list. Surprisingly, batteries are also considered too hazardous for moving with other cargo.
Appliances and machinery that runs on gasoline must be empty before loading onto a moving truck. Motorcycles and vehicles should also have empty tanks if shipped on trailers.
Shipping Your Personal Vehicle
Fortunately, an OCONUS move like PCSing to Alaska entitles you to reimbursement on shipping a personal vehicle. However, the military doesn’t cover expenses for more than one personal vehicle, so you must choose carefully.
Some military movers offer exclusive discounts to active service members, military spouses, veterans, etc. It’s worth learning if you can benefit from this before choosing a moving company.
Since the military doesn’t cover PCSing with pets, you need to set aside enough money to ensure your pets arrive safely and comfortably in their new home. If you don’t go past the weight allowance limit for your rank, you can save some money to use on pet relocation.
However, if you’re strapped for cash, you can try applying for a grant from the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). The SPCA operates a non-profit department that helps military families relocate with their pets domestically and abroad.
Military movers can provide guidance on these topics and help you prepare more efficiently for PCS.
Before You Get Your Quote
Pricing can differ significantly between military moving companies based on weather, time of year, weight, distance, and special cargo requirements. But don’t let pricing be the only deciding factor when picking a moving company.
First, make sure it’s licensed and experienced within the state of Alaska. Secondly, ask for proof of insurance and find out how much liability coverage it has. You’ll want to know your belongings are safe and covered in case something goes wrong.
Next, it’s worth reading some online reviews and checking complaints made by previous customers. You want to get a sense of a mover’s customer service and customer interaction.
Ask for a full list of services offered and how much you can personalize your move. For instance, you may not need packing, unpacking, and installation services.
Lastly, you should ask for an estimate before scheduling an in-person or video inspection.
These are steps you should take before every move, even when hiring a company with a good reputation within your military branch. As previously mentioned, DOD-vetted companies aren’t always the best or most affordable. If you’re taking matters into your own hands during your next move, you might as well do a bit more research and get all the facts.
Work With Professionals to Make the Process Easier
Whether choosing an HHG moving service or taking matters into your own hands, you must always work with professional movers. Relocations can disrupt military families more than they do civilians due to the added pressure and often short notice.
Adding to that disruption is moving to a base that isn’t in the most hospitable environment – Alaska – and the pressure can get the better of you.
But systematically preparing your move and learning about your destination should help you manage the logistics and budget accordingly for the trip.
And sometimes, getting help makes a big difference. During our 30 years in this business, we’ve worked with countless military personnel at home and abroad. If you want immediate assistance or support, don’t hesitate to call Military Movers at 866-226-1441. Or reach out online for a no-obligation quote and additional information on how we can help.