Large amount of boxes piled in a driveway with a large moving truck in the background

There and Back Again: Five Things I’ve Learned About PCS Moves

Once again, it’s PCS season — a time when thousands of military families find themselves as temporary nomads, moving from one duty station to the next. Some drive, others fly. We pack up kids, dogs, cats and all our furniture. We sleep in hotels, RVs, friends’ houses and sometimes in tents at campsites. But no matter how we choose to PCS, there are some experiences that will be the same with every move.

During my husband’s military career, we have completed most types of PCS moves. We have moved cross-country and overseas, do-it-yourself moves and moves with children in tow. With each experience, we’ve learned a lot and made plenty of mistakes. All these learning experiences helped me become the seasoned spouse that I am today. Now I’m able to share our moving tips with you. Here is some advice that rings true no matter what type of move your family is going through.

  1. Start early. You can begin months ahead of time to prepare for a big move. It’s true that you can’t do anything official without hard copy orders. But even before you have them, you can think ahead about what you need to get rid of in your house. Clean out and get rid of old clothes, toys and furniture. Either donate it or host a yard sale. If this is your first move, you should attend a PCS class on your base that will walk you through the steps of a government move or speak with your relocation assistance point of contact at the Military and Family Support Center. Don’t forget about your budget for the move. You’ll want to start saving money and to cover household expenses and non-refunded moving expenses.
  2. Get organized. Moving can be hectic, but don’t let the responsibilities overwhelm you. Make lists and create a schedule to spread out tasks so you won’t be rushing during the final week. Your Relocation Assistance Program specialists can help you with this. You can talk to them about your moving location and date and they will help you plan out everything—from job and house hunting, to government paperwork, to deciding how to move your POV (your vehicle). They can help you locate and think through checklists of travel plans, items to hand-carry and official paperwork the service member needs to complete. It takes the guesswork out of a PCS move and helps you stay on track.
  3. Do your research. You can learn a lot about a new base before you move. Look into housing options to see if there is a waiting list and how to get on it. Know the school options for your kids. Look for jobs for yourself and start making professional connections in the area. All this can happen before the move. MilitaryINSTALLATIONS will show you what is available at your new duty station and connect you to their website, so you can easily find numbers for important offices like base housing and the base school. The more you learn ahead of time, the better you can prepare your family for the move. Also, if you have little ones and need child care, don’t forget to register by visiting
  4. Work together. The whole family moves, so things will be less stressful when the whole family works as a team. Make time to talk to your kids and answer their questions about the move. Find ways to take breaks or make the moving process fun. Let older kids be involved in some of the planning and decision-making. Communicate with your spouse so you are working together, not against each other.
  5. Ask for help. Ask friends to help you pack and move if you are doing things yourself. Accept offers from neighbors to watch your kids or share a hot meal. Borrow bedding or sleeping bags for the last night when you are sleeping on the floor of your house. When you are planning your PCS trip, consider staying with friends or family along the way to save money.

Whether you are moving within the same state or relocating overseas, any military family can follow these moving tips to have a smooth PCS experience. Share your tips with us!

Lizann Lightfoot
Written By Lizann Lightfoot
Marine Corps Spouse

Lizann is the Seasoned Spouse – a Marine Corps wife, mom of four and published author. She loves writing, exploring new duty stations and chocolate!

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