What to do now for a successful PCS later

Assignment notifications can come with a variety of emotions like excitement, nervousness, or maybe even worry. In general, a PCS or permanent change of station comes with at least some level of stress, whether you’re a seasoned mover or this is your first time PCSing.

To minimize stress and maximize success, get started today on your moving checklist. This checklist is different from your official out-processing checklist that must be completed prior to your move. Instead, this checklist includes items you may not have thought of but need to consider to make your move easier on everyone.

Money to move

Many expenses related to your PCS will likely be reimbursed, but any time you face a major change, it can come with additional unexpected expenses. Start saving and setting aside money for your move to avoid being caught off-guard with the stress that sudden increases in cost can produce. Things like utility deposits, eating out while traveling and getting established in a new home, moving supplies, animal transport or boarding, housing security deposits, cleaning supplies, and many other small items all add up to additional money needed that might not be part of your typical monthly budget. For more information, click here.

Some expenses may be tax deductible. For more information, click here.


Whether you’re arriving or leaving, housing options are a staple and it is best not to wait until the last minute on this one.

If moving to a new location, you’ll need to determine whether you want to live on base or off base. On-base living may be favorable depending on housing costs in that area, as the cost can vary dramatically from base to base. The cost of living on base will not go up and down like the local housing market might. If selecting on-base housing, you may consider calling the housing office right away to get on their waitlist. If moving off base, it may be helpful to call the housing assistance officer, as every installation has one available to assist with rental properties and questions unique to that area.

If you are hoping to purchase a home, the current market throughout much of the U.S. is very competitive, so contacting a local expert may be the first step. With increasing real estate values and interest rates, purchasing may not seem like an option — but exploring the housing market with the help of an experienced real estate professional may bring to light some attractive options for securing living space for you, and your family, if you are moving with dependents.

If preparing to move out of your home, consider the timing. If renting, how much notice does your landlord require? Will you need to secure temporary lodging after vacating your house or apartment? Look into temporary lodging facilities on your installation for availability and the best fit for your family.

If looking to sell a home prior to PCSing, research the average time it takes to sell a home in your area. Some cities across the country are seeing homes sell in a matter of days, and other places may take weeks or months. If you are selling and left with more than the 10 days of allotted TLF lodging, you may want to consider short-term rentals through companies like Airbnb or VRBO, or apartments with month-to-month leases in your local area. The listings can vary dramatically, so read the fine print for each, to ensure it will fit your needs and the costs will not exceed the amount you have budgeted for the time spent living there.

For more information on housing options, click here.

Pet travel and housing arrangements

If moving with pets, several additional steps are needed. Travel with a copy of veterinary medical records. Look for a veterinary provider in your new location, in case care is needed upon arrival. Before moving out of your current residence, check with the temporary lodging facility for the availability of pet-approved rooms or schedule off-base pet boarding if needed. If traveling overseas, be sure to check flight availability, associated costs, and procedures needed among other things that go along with traveling with pets, as detailed at militaryonesource.com.

For more information, click here.

Address updates and mail forwarding

The military knows where you are, but do the other companies with whom you have accounts know where you’re moving? In addition to forwarding your mail, which can easily be setup at USPS.com, make sure to update your address with all individual companies you do business with. This may include banks, credit card companies, cellular service and internet providers, auto, homeowners or renters insurance, and more.

Schooling options

If moving with kids under the age of 18, you will likely be looking for a new school for them. A great place to start the process is with the installation’s school liaison. Every installation has a school liaison who can provide a list of schools in the area. Rural locations may only have one or two options, while other areas may have several public schools, public charter schools, private schools, home school co-ops and more to choose from. It may take more time selecting the right fit for your child. Start the search early and make sure to bring copies of their records, properly disenroll from their current program, and enroll in their new school.

And remember, whichever school you select means change for your child, so connecting with counselors or children in similar situations may be important for your child. Check with your installation’s military youth center or visit Military Kids Connect for more ways to connect with an online community of military youth.

Medical records and care providers

Begin by reaching out to your TRICARE Beneficiary Counseling and Assistance Coordinator to see what coverage you have, and what may be needed or changed when establishing care at your new installation. Transferring medical records may seem easy if you’ve only been seen by on-base providers, but if you have visited specialty clinics and other off-base providers, it may take more effort to transfer everything. Request your records in advance to avoid last-minute holdups.

Depending on your situation, if authorized, also begin the process of finding medical providers in your new location. Some areas may have few providers taking new patients, and wait times can become lengthy. Do your research now, to save yourself time later.

Spouse Employment

Find career information, resources, scholarships for continuing education, and more with the DOD’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program. Also connect with your gaining installation’s Family Readiness Center for additional support and information for the local area and available positions on base.

Lodging accommodations

You’ve moved and sold your house or have yet to find one, depending on your situation. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting to schedule lodging for the time period immediately before leaving your installation, while traveling, or when arriving at your new installation. While finding off-base accommodations isn’t always difficult if on-base lodging is full, every area is different. Trying to arrange a last-minute place to stay will only add unneeded stress to your PCS. Plan ahead!

Vehicle arrangements

While completing your official out-processing checklist, you will likely ship your car or drive it to your next destination. However, once you’ve arrived, you’ll also need to ensure you’ve properly registered your vehicle and updated any necessary documents.

For more information on shipping a privately owned vehicle (POV), click here.

Make copies of important documents

  • PCS orders
  • All personal identification documents: military identification/common access cards, marriage and birth certificates, passports, and Social Security cards
  • Medical records, including immunization records for family and pets
  • Leave and Earnings Statements
  • Proof of car insurance and registration (If you are returning from an overseas assignment, have proof from your overseas insurance company that you were insured during the time you were out of country. If you cannot prove insurance, you will be considered ìuninsuredî for that time period and will be required to pay much higher premiums when obtaining insurance domestically.)
  • School records
  • Inventory list of household goods shipment
  • Any bills of sale pertaining to vehicles, especially if you purchased the car overseas (You will need these to register your car.)
  • Your sponsorship package

Research fun in the surrounding area

Moving does not always leave a lot of room for fun, but be sure to include some recreation in your planning. Whether enroute to your new location or once you’ve arrived, complete the necessary in-processing, then relax a little and enjoy yourself. You’ve worked hard to get there, now it’s time to take in the scenery and find the fun. Reach out to your local travel and ticket office or the outdoor recreation office for enjoyable ideas and ways to explore without breaking the bank.

While this checklist is not all inclusive, these steps to plan ahead now will help with a successful PCS later. For everything else and everything in between, be sure to visit Plan My Move at militaryonesource.mil to create your own customized checklist tailored to meet your needs for where you’re leaving and where you’re going, and who is going with you.

BREAKING NEWS: Patriot Express to Japan now flying to and from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

Patriot Express is a DOD contracted commercial charter mission, which provides support for official-duty travelers and their family members to overseas locations. For flights to Japan, the Patriot Express typically operates out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Effective May 16, JB Lewis-McChord in Washington State will manage the overflow flights due to the high number of service members PCSing this year.

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