The following is the fourth post in our miniseries covering Primary Change of Station (PCS) moves by guest blogger Janet McIntosh, Army wife.
Throughout this series I have been giving you great information and tips when conducting a DITY/PPM move, but I also wanted to give you some good general PCS tips, regardless of what moving option you choose to use.
Any type of PCS can be a stressful experience but I want to help ease the stress by giving you some great tips and resources that can help along the way. The best advice I could give any military family preparing to PCS is to plan ahead and stay organized. In this life we sometimes have to have a plan A, B, and C to ensure things proceed smoothly– a PCS is no different. Approach your move with a reactive mind-set and think about areas that things could go wrong and how you are prepared to deal with those situations, should they arise.
When you first learn of your PCS, you should create a PCS binder. I typically use this binder long after a PCS as a way of keeping information relevant to our new installation/community handy. I will walk you through the creation of this binder in order to ensure you have a head start on keeping your PCS organized.
One of the first things you will place in your binder is several copies of your PCS orders. I keep these at the very front of my binder. I suggest having a minimum of 10 copies as you will have to provide your orders at many times during your PCS move.
Once I know we will be making a PCS move, I begin researching my next installation, trying to soak up any information I can find. Some great resources to check out are Military Installations and Military Avenue.
There are many resources out there to help you find out more about your new community. A simple Google search will bring up even more helpful sites. Be sure to take notes or print out helpful information and include it in your binder under a “Research” tab.
Another great resource to check out is Military One Source. You can find the “Plan My Move” option which helps you create a customized calendar/timeline for your move. This will help you remember things such as turning off utilities in your old home and turning them on in your new home. Definitely a great tool to assist in remembering the small things that might get lost in the chaos.
The next tab in my binder is dedicated to “Housing”. This is where I create my plan for housing at our new installation. The first big decision that needs to be made is whether you will live on or off-post. This will again require some research on your part. You will want to check out the installation’s housing website. If you choose to live off-post you will want to begin researching neighborhoods in your new area and looking for possible homes that will fit you and your family. Some great resources to check out when looking for housing off-post are Zillow, Automated Housing Referral Network (AHRN), and Military By Owner. USAA also offers a great service if you are looking to purchase or rent a home with their Home Circle Program.
Next, you will want to begin your “Transportation” tab. Under this tab you will keep all paperwork and information pertaining to the transportation part of your move. This is also where you will want to refer to the other posts I have written in this series, where we have discussed DITY/PPM moves and Government Transportation moves.
Your next tab in your binder should be “Tricare”. This is something many military families may forget about until they get to their next installation. You will want to contact Tricare and let them know about your upcoming PCS. Remember, you want to be proactive and make sure you are not missing or forgetting anything. If you are moving overseas – visit here to contact Tricare for the country you are moving to.
The next tab should be dedicated to your fur babies if you have pets. This is another area of a PCS move that sometimes falls to the wayside. Be sure you pick up pet records from your local vet before a move. You also want to ensure that you choose a pet friendly hotel if you will be staying in one during your move. A fabulous resource to find pet friendly hotels is www.petswelcome.com, which provides you with a list of hotels across the country that allow pets to stay.
Another important tab in my binder is “Budget”. This is a crucial as you need to create a realistic budget for you and your family to follow throughout your PCS. Take the time to write down what your expenses will be and what entitlements you will qualify for, such as Dislocation Allowance (DLA), mileage allowance, per diem allowance, and Temporary Lodging Expense (TLE). Some entitlements you can acquire prior to a PCS and some you will have to apply for once you make it to your new installation. Be sure to educate yourself on your benefits. You can learn more about these allowances at the Defense Travel website.
Another helpful tab to add to your binder is an area for personal papers that we know we should keep on us and not have the movers pack. As I stated earlier, I use the binder throughout our time at an installation, adding tabs for restaurants where I keep take-out menus, notes on great places to eat, or places we would like to check out. I also keep a tab for places to see, where I keep pamphlets and other information on attractions my family might enjoy while stationed in the area. Another tab in my binder is for my kids. This is where I keep their personal paperwork such as shot records, school records, and other important information pertaining to my children.
I hope I have given you some helpful tips to get you started on your PCS journey. Keeping a PCS binder is sure to keep you organized as you navigate your move and ensures you have what you need on hand. Be creative and customize it to meet your family’s needs. You will find being organized will definitely take the chaos out of your next PCS.
Join me again next time when we will take a more in depth look at the PCS entitlements and benefits I spoke about earlier in this post. Until next time…