While some stress is unavoidable from the time you get your PCS orders, your move does not have to become a nightmare. These 5 tips will help you maintain your sanity, get everything done on time, and preserve your pocketbook.

1. Start working on your move as soon as you get the order.

You may not have all of your dates yet, but you know the inevitable is coming. Starting early will make you feel far more in control. It also means avoiding an awful scenario where you’re losing your mind trying to accomplish 300 last-minute tasks before the movers arrive.

Here are a few things you can do even before you’ve got dates to work with:

Start decluttering. You don’t want to take all that stuff with you, do you? Now’s the perfect time to get rid of those clothes that don’t fit anymore and those toys your kids don’t play with anymore.

Make your appointment with the base transportation officer (see below).

Do research on your new home (see below).

Gather important documents into a new moving binder—see Tip #2 on the link.

Start saving money. Moving is expensive, even with military reimbursements…and you don’t want to wind up in dire financial straits while waiting for the reimbursement check to arrive.

Pack the non-essentials (artwork, books, etc.). You can do this even if you plan to hire a packing service, since it’s not very hard to do and it will save you some money.

Start your local friends with the news so you can plan to spend time together before you have to leave.

Start using up items in your pantry. Make freezer meals so you’ll eat out less in the days leading up to your moving day.

2. Do your research.

Fear of the unknown can be a big reason why moving is so stressful. Take the time to look up your new area. If you’re not going to live on base, take the time to research school districts so you can choose a home in an advantageous one. If you’re going to be working, start looking for a new job. You’re going to have to make a lot of decisions. The more you know about your new home the more confident you’ll be about making them.

You should also plan your route. The amount of planning and research will depend on whether you’re moving in the Lower 48, or overseas. Will you need a passport? Will you need power converters? Do you have pets? If so, where will you need to stop on the road in order to access pet-friendly hotels, and how much will they cost?

3. Decide on a packing strategy.

If you’re going to have a moving company pack most of your belongings for you then you’ll want to get an estimate. Otherwise, you’ll want to make a plan. Create a plan for which rooms will be packed and in what order.

For example, bedrooms can usually be packed first, followed by the living room and the dining room. Kitchens and bathrooms come last, though you can pack kitchen non-essentials (like that panini maker you never use) right away. 

4. Don’t try to pack everything at once.

Packing an entire room is exhausting. Instead, think about devoting 30 minutes a day to the packing task. You can ramp it up if you have to when you get your final orders. Moving is a marathon, not a sprint.

This goes for just about every moving task. Break everything down into chunks and do a little bit at a time. Don’t get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the move itself. Nobody does an entire move in a day. They just do the next thing, whether the next thing is securing housing at the new duty station, packing a box, gathering up records or making the drive.

5. Take advantage of every assistance resource that’s available to you.

Military families don’t have to go through this alone, so why would you? According to, you’ll want to contact a few more places after you get in touch with your base transportation office, including:

The family center at your new location.

If you’re on base now, the housing office at your current location.

The finance office so you can get all the financial help you’re entitled to.

The online Plan My Move tool.

Of the three, the financial office is probably the most important. You need to know your options. You need to know what you can get reimbursed and when it can be reimbursed. If you don’t have enough money saved for your move, you may need to look into a pay advance.

Bonus Tip: Keep a Positive Attitude

You’re leaving behind friends, your favorite restaurants, and a dozen features you loved about your current duty station. But there are bold new adventures to be had in your new home. There are new friends to meet, new taste sensations to enjoy, and there will be new places to take the kids. Try to focus on what will be fun and interesting about the next destination instead of focusing on your sadness at having to leave. You can always come back and visit, and the electronic age makes it easy to keep in touch with friends from around the world.

If you have kids, they will be looking to you. If you can stay positive and upbeat the move will be easier on them.

Need more information on how to have a smooth move? Check out some of these resources.

Moving Resources for Military Families

10 Stupid Moving Mistakes That Put Us in the Hole

50 Tips You Need Before Your Next PCS Move

Good luck in your new home, and remember…this, too, shall pass!



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