Perfecting Your PCS

Preparation For Your Next Relocation

Periodic moves are a basic fact of military life. The Department of Defense estimates that one-third of all military members make Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves each year. It’s not just a one-time thing either. Most service members, while active, average one move every two years. Military life is hectic enough, so it’s vital that you prepare yourself to handle the added stress. It’s also important that you prepare yourself financially for the wide range of issues that will inevitably arise.

When PCS orders are received, your family is confronted with many significant changes. But proper planning will help avoid costly out-of-pocket expenses.


Thirty days in advance is a good time to start preparing your house, family and furnishings for the movers. Be sure to contact the local transportation office if there are any last-minute changes to your orders.

While the carrier is responsible for packing and preparing your property, they must mark each box with a brief description of content and provide you with an accurate, legible inventory of your household goods. It’s also a good idea to do an inventory of your valuable items. You could start a spreadsheet online to catalog everything from jewelry to furniture. For electronics, be sure to record the serial numbers in case anything is lost or stolen. You can even capture it all in video or pictures, just so long as everything is easily identifiable.

If you have recently purchased anything, be sure to keep the receipt. This could save you leg work if it is lost or damaged. Carry them along with small items and necessities like medical and dental records, pictures, etc.

Prior to the Transportation Service Provider (TSP) arriving, you should also do the following:

  • Unplug all appliances.
  • Have original boxes near the item if available.
  • Dismantle all outdoor equipment.
  • Drain water from fridge, washers and other large appliances.
  • Drain all fluids from lawn equipment.
  • Detach any brackets, curtain rods or storage equipment.
  • Take down pictures.
  • Remove personal property from the attic, crawl space, etc.
  • Remove satellite dish.
  • Unplug all electronics.

Secure the items that are not being moved to another room and mark them as such.

Keep an eye on all the packing that goes on to ensure nothing is forgotten.


You’ll also want to plan out accommodations for your pets well in advance. Your TSP will not ship any live animals on your behalf. All expenses related to pet travel are your responsibility. Here are a few steps you’ll need to consider:

  • Microchip your pet if you haven’t already.
  • Make sure your pet is caught up with all vaccinations, including rabies certification, and collect documents that prove it.
  • Ask your veterinarian about getting a health certificate or acclimation letter.
  • Check with your new duty station about any additional requirements or expectations.
  • For OCONUS moves, rules and regulations for quarantines and breeds allowed will vary between different countries, so check with your new duty station.


The military will use an estimated weight of all your possessions (excluding professional materials such as books, papers and equipment for work) to determine its cost. From a fiscal fitness perspective, moving weight that exceeds the authorized allowance can cost you out-of-pocket money. These charges could range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. In addition, the charges could come due months after your move.


Check with your local transportation office, but in many cases you can save a little money by watching what you throw out. While aerosol cans and liquids cannot be moved, spices and canned goods can, which can save you upwards of $100. So if weight is not an issue, you may want to move these to your new home and save some money. And for things that cannot be moved, give them to a friend, or donate them to someone in need.


Planning for your move also includes a thorough knowledge of the many entitlements that your family may be able to receive. To get a feel for what entitlements and allowances you qualify for, visit and enter your details – the results will depend on your rank, whether you have dependents, and whether the move is CONUS or OCONUS.

If you receive an overweight notification, check to make sure professional items were credited to your total weight allowance. It’s also very important to keep all paperwork pertaining to your move; you may not be eligible for any reimbursements without the proper documentation.

This story is presented by Pioneer Services, the military division of MidCountry Bank, which has provided award-winning financial education to the men and women of the Armed Forces for over 30 years.

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