BY JENNIFER WOODWORTH, PSY.D
Permanent Change of Station (PCS) season is about to begin. Along with the excitement of traveling to a new place come stress and a lot of organization. The planning of the move actually begins the moment you hear the words,
“We’ve got orders,” and doesn’t end until every box is unpacked on the other end. Here are some tips to keep your sanity as well as all of your household goods.
HOUSING Notify your current property management as soon as you have official orders to PCS. Usually you need at least 30 days which will include pre-inspection and inspection of your property. If you own a home, you will have to make some decisions of whether you plan to sell or rent out your house. Cancel your subscriptions to internet, landlines, cable, satellite, and any utilities that you may have.
If you plan on moving into military housing, put your name down on the list as soon as you have your official orders. This will increase the chance that you will have a house ready for you when your moving date arrives. If you plan on buying a house, taking a trip out to the location and using a local realtor can assist in the transition and can be included as a moving expense on your taxes.
MOVING YOUR HOUSEHOLD GOODS You have two choices when it comes to moving: letting the government
hire professional contractors, or doing it yourself (now called Personally Procured Move Program, formerly known as DITY). There are pros and cons to both, so let’s take a quick look at your options.
Letting the military handle your move means no packing, no physical labor of moving furniture, and minimal out of pocket expenses. This means saving a lot of time spent on moving preparation and time spent enjoying the last few days before you move. Even though the packing company is supposed to inventory what is in each box, random items might be put together to fill the spaces. As long as you leave furniture, pictures, or other items in the rooms you want them to be moved into; they will for the most part be packed together. Put aside and label items that you do not want packed, or remove them from the house. Be aware of what items the movers are unable to pack, utilize the list from your DMO/TMO. You might be without your items for a longer amount of time than it takes you to travel to your new duty station which may mean you are sleeping on air mattresses and eating out for a couple extra days. However, scheduling your delivery of goods can allow you extra time to make any stops or visits along your way. Any item that gets broken or damaged in the move can be documented and submitted for reimbursement; though the amount of time before you receive the claim is variable.
If you decide to do a Personally Procured Move, you are responsible for hiring the moving company or rental vehicle
which will include packing your items, physical labor to move furniture, and driving it to your new duty station. Remember that all of your items that you are traveling with will make all of the stops with you, possibly causing longer travel time due to slower speeds on the roads. On the other side, you will have all of your items with you when you arrive; there is no waiting for delivery, and you can unpack at your own pace. You will have to pay for all of the costs up front, even though you will receive reimbursement based on rank and allowable weight load for your family size. More information can be found at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) website.
You are encouraged to write down all contact information relating to offices and staff that handle your household goods and car transport. Do this from the point of shipment to the end destination and include the telephone number, fax, email, mailing address and names of staff that pack, drive, and unload your shipment.
TRAVEL Whether you have your household goods with you or not, traveling long distances in a car can be challenging. It can be additionally challenging if you have children that will be traveling with you. An important part of planning how long your travel will take includes taking into consideration the frequency and length of each stop based on the ages of your children. Some suggestions include packing pillows, comfortable clothing, plenty of snacks, water, toys, reading material, and special reward gifts. Personal game systems, iPads, and music can assist in creating a smoother drive. Keep track of how much you and your children are eating and drinking while on the road because this will influence the amount of times you stop. Some families find it easier to do some traveling at night when the children are sleeping which leads to less stops and the ability to travel farther at one time. Signing up for a hotel rewards program and planning your travel to stay at those hotels can assist you in accruing points/rewards
for future travel. Make sure you have a first aid kit along with medications that you may require during your trip, including anti-nausea medication.
SPECIAL ITEMS/DOCUMENTS Carry with you important documents (and multiple copies) including birth certificates and immunizations, marriage certificates, military ID cards, military PCS orders, pet immunizations and
records, medical, dental and parental powers of attorneys, and passports. You may want to invest in a small locked fireproof safe that can travel with you. You might need these items to set up utilities, register children for school or childcare, or health care.
Don’t forget to submit change of address forms with the post office, cell phone carrier, magazine subscriptions,
newspaper, and any websites (Paypal, Amazon) that you may use.
SCHOOL Talk with your child’s current school if you are going to be PCS’ing before the end of the school year to see if the amount of days will count as a full year of completion. Ask for any records that would be appropriate when registering in your new location. If your child has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 educational plan, obtain a copy and contact information for the professionals involved in your child’s education plan. Contact the School Liaison Program at your new location to assist with the transition.
Research the school district your child will be attending in your new location, especially if you will be living off of the
base assigned to. If possible, speak to district staff or the principal of the school your child will be attending prior to your child beginning their attendance.
EMPLOYMENT Provide adequate notice to civilian employers when your family will be PCS’ing to allow time to fill
your position and train the new employee if necessary. Update your resume and if you plan on working in the new location, research job opportunities by browsing local employment sites or contacting companies in the area prior to
FINANCES Always budget for extra expenses. Unexpected costs can cause stress and financial strain on your family. Start saving money as soon as you know you are going to be moving. Include hotel stays, meals, gas, and other expenses for your travel in your budget. Items that you might need in your new home should also be considered; such as rugs, lamps, or curtains. If you will be switching banks, be sure to go in and close your account or transfer to another branch at your new location.
SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS If someone in your family is registered with the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) or has other special requirements, inquire if the duty station you are being assigned to will have the
appropriate services. Your EFMP worker should assist you once you have orders, and make sure you follow up with the resources. Research and call listed services in order to see if there are availabilities or a waiting list for your needs. If your needs cannot be met, let your EFMP worker know as soon as possible.
PETS can also feel the stress of moving. They might exhibit unusual or hiding behaviors if they detect stress or
changes in your routine. Before you leave on a long road trip, try shorter trips with your pet to test out if they get carsick; and if so, consider the option of anti-nausea medication for your pet. Give your pet some extra attention, stick to a routine as much as possible, and make a plan for moving day so that your pet is not in the way.
WORKING TOGETHER Moving is a family affair where each member can contribute to the planning. As an active
duty personnel, keep your spouse up to date with any changes in the plan, assisting with researching schools, encouraging them to browse programs, groups, schools, or employment at your new duty station before you arrive. While you, as active duty, will be kept busy on arrival, it is just as important for the other members of your family to feel a part of their new community and connected with resources.
Children look to their parents to gauge how to feel about the move; therefore if you are excited or overwhelmed, they
will notice. Talking to children about their feelings regarding the move can be helpful in validating their emotions and concerns. Working with them to create memories with their current friends, taking pictures, and spending quality time with their peers is important. Keeping in touch via Skype, text, FaceTime, and letter-writing can be beneficial in the transition time; however, signing for activities at your new duty station can assist your children in creating new friendships.
NEW ADVENTURE Moving can be stressful whether across the state, country, or world. However, having realistic
expectations about the above-mentioned categories can assist in maintaining a balance between stress and excitement. Make it a positive experience for you and your family by having a sense of humor and being flexible, as things can change quickly or not turn out as expected. Remember, the perspective and outlook you have about moving is going to guide your process and emotions about the adventure. •
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Woodworth is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Vista, CA. She
has worked in the mental health field for seven years, Her husband is retired from the Marine Corps and she has three children ages six, eight, and ten.