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19 Must Know Tips for an Army PCS Move

If you’re going to be an Army wife, you are going to be very good at packing your things and being able to set up a new house to feel like a home in a matter of days. Here are some tips to help you along on your next move.


If the movers are doing everything…

1. Take pictures and document.

The day before the movers arrived, I went around the house with the digital camera and took pictures of everything. I also made sure to write down the serial numbers of all of our electronics and the computer. You cannot document your belongings enough. As an Army wife, you’ll get very good at this.

2. Protect your valuables.

If you have valuables or collectibles that you would be heartbroken if something happened to them, pack them yourself. Be sure to leave room in the car for a few of these items.

3. Shift responsibility for contents.

If you’re like me and already have a lot of things packed when the movers arrive, make them responsible for the contents. To do this, don’t seal the boxes or if they are already sealed, break the seal on the boxes. When they seal the box, they become responsible for the contents of it.

4. Stay with them while they pack!

Watch them as they are packing your things especially when it comes to the breakables. If they seem to be clumsy with your items, then speak up but do it nicely. They are being paid to do a good job and to get all of your household items to your new Army home in one piece.

5. Offer to buy them lunch.

This will go a long way with them if you make small requests along the way or ask for favors. My husband was still in training when the movers came so they unhooked my washer and dryer for me. That’s something they are normally not allowed to do. I went out of my way to be sure they had plenty to eat and drink while they were packing.

6. Be sure they list your items in detail.

There will be a packing list that you must sign off on before they leave. Be sure your items are listed in DETAIL. Don’t let them just write television. It should say 32” JVC with the serial number. Otherwise, you could end up with a 12” television and you won’t be able to prove they packed a 32”.

7. Check everything before you sign.

Once you have signed, you have agreed to the inventory list. If it’s not on the list, it doesn’t exist. Be sure to thoroughly check the list before you sign it.

8. Be sure the boxes are labeled.

The movers should number the boxes and the numbers should correspond to the inventory sheet. Also be sure they mark each box with your last name. Some people even attach their own label with name and address in case someone else ends up with their box.

9. Layout your new Army home for move-in day.

When it’s time for them to move your stuff in, make sure it is easy on them to know where to go. Some people color code their boxes; others mark the door for each room in the new place. Any way you want is fine but it’s a lot easier when the boxes are divided up in the rooms they are supposed to be in. This is particularly true if you’ll be unpacking by yourself.

10. Check off the inventory list as they bring items in.

Do NOT sign the final inventory until everything has been accounted for.

11. Put it back together.

If the movers took it apart, then they should put it back together for you. If you know you want they TV cabinet against the wall by the fireplace, don’t let them leave it in the middle of the room. Make them put it where it is suppose to go.

12. Assess any damage quickly.

Try to go through all of your items as soon as possible so you can note anything that is broken. The movers should leave you with instructions on what to do if this happens. These instructions should be followed to a “t” to be sure you’re reimbursed.

What to take with you:

13. Important papers

His official orders, birth certificates, marriage license, social security cards, etc. should all go with you in your vehicle. Do not pack these items or let the movers pack them. In all likelihood, you’ll need them before you find the box they are in. These papers should be with you at all times during your move.

14. Pictures

If you have pictures that cannot be replaced, take them with you. The last thing you need in the stress of moving is to find out your wedding pictures have been ruined.

15. Medications

Sometimes the movers are delayed for a variety of reasons. Take all of your medications with you and be sure you have more of a supply than you think you will ever need. Better safe than sorry!

16. At least one phone

It could be days before your things arrive and you need to have communication. Don’t forget your chargers!

17. Toiletry items 

Most importantly – toilet paper! It’s also not a bad idea to at least take the shower liner with you (with hooks) and a few towels. Make sure you also have pillows and blankets in case you have to camp out on the floor for a few days.

18. Everything for pets

You will need their food, bowls, litter and any medications. Also try to bring a favorite toy so they have something familiar.

19. Kitchen essentials

Be sure to leave out paper plates, napkins, plastic utensils, etc. so you can still eat while they are packing your things. This will also make it easier and much cheaper when you get to your new place until you find all of your dishes. Try to pack a cooler with sandwich meat, condiments and drinks. Have snacks and bread ready so you don’t spend a lot of money eating out.

The most important thing to take with you…

Your sense of humor

In fact, as an Army wife, this needs to be a permanent package that goes with you everywhere! In all likelihood, something is going to go wrong. Try to take it in stride and just smile and move on. Getting angry and upset will only make the move harder. Try to laugh and make the best of it. It will make for great stories later down the road. “This one time, in the Army….”

What would you add to this list? Do you have a crazy moving story to share? Let us know in the comments!

When you’re done with the move, review this checklist to see what you should do AFTER the PCS.

About the author: Stacey is an Army wife of a soldier who joined in 2003. He has since been medically retired but she continues to provide information to Army wives and families to make their adjustment to the Army lifestyle easier. Connect with Stacey: Facebook Twitter Pinterest

{ 29 comments… add one }
  • Jamie August 19, 2010, 9:59 pm

    Grr! We are moving tomorrow, just from off post to one. I have been telling my husband for weeks that even though we are not moving our things ourselves, we still need to do some stuff ahead of time. I am only one person and with four kids I can only come up with so much energy. So he will see tomorrow what I have warned him about. He has CQ tonight and has to stay up all day tomorrow after CQ when the movers come to get our stuff. I will be at work, the kids will be at school, so he is on his own. Serves him right!

    • Jody Golemon September 26, 2010, 5:01 pm

      Stacey, thank you so much for this. I’m am printing this right now. I have literally been trying to wrap my brain around “how to move with movers”. This clears up a lot. Awesome:) Thank you.

  • Rachel November 27, 2010, 8:49 pm

    We are moving to Germany in a few months. I’m on edge bit bc there will be lots of work to be done. ay tips?

    • rayelin November 30, 2010, 1:51 pm

      Im in germany about to pcs back to the states. Each post is different here but the biggest advice I have for you is do not be scared to go off post. Don’t be scared to try to shop at the german stores especially for household items and food. Many times people say do bring this and don’t bring that. You won’t know if you do or don’t need the item until you arrive. Many govn’t housing has 110v and 220v plugs so all your american things will work if you don’t live in private rental. I loved being here and hate to see it end so soon. I can’t wait to get the chance to come back.

  • Liesl January 23, 2011, 7:02 pm

    i’m marrying my fiance` in august and then plan to move on base with him. I am brand new to marriage and to the army life. I am a little scared and excited. Can you tell me if there is any paperwork we should have completed so I can move with him, and what to expect? Do I need to bring all our own furniture?

    • Stacey January 26, 2011, 8:21 pm

      You won’t be able to complete any paperwork until after you are married. Yes, you will need to provide everything for your household as far as furniture, etc.

  • Danielle April 24, 2011, 3:40 pm

    So it is possible to pack things up yourself? Can I have everything boxed up and ready for them to seal up and move? Or do they have to go through each box and note what’s in there? For some reason I’m not too thrilled about strangers packing up all my things!

  • kate June 29, 2011, 10:46 pm

    im moving from US to germany and my husband is not the least bit helpful i want to pack some of my stuff myself do i need unmarked boxes or can they be used ones i got at the grocery store

  • Tiff R July 26, 2011, 12:39 pm

    I was wondering if we PCSed to our base last year but we knew he was deploying in less than a year so we decided to not move our stuff there but got gas money paid back from the army will the army still pay for our household goods to be moved since hes coming home from Afghanistan soon? or will we have to pay for it? And if we do have to pay for it since we will be PCSing 7 months after he gets back could we leave our stuff back home and have the army pay for it to all go to our new duty station?

  • Shay October 22, 2011, 2:07 pm

    My boyfriend is in the process of joining the Army. We are in our mid 20s and have been living together for 3 years. We are planning to get married, but our plan was to save up and have a really nice wedding. However, the more I read about military life as a girlfriend vs. a wife, the more I realize getting married at the JOP before he gets his PCS orders is the best way for us to stay together.
    Any advice? I have been reading blogs, books, articles… anything I can to prepare myself for what lies ahead.

    • Stacey October 23, 2011, 6:38 pm

      If you’re planning to get married soon anyway, I would personally do it before he joins. It will be easier in a lot of ways to already be married.

    • Danielle October 23, 2011, 9:20 pm

      I agree w/ Stacey. Dealing with the Military as a Girlfriend is like pulling teeth. There are several things that you’d be restricted from until you are legally married. I say do JOP now, save up and then you can do your nice wedding later on. I know a lot people who have done that. But just so it’s easier on the both of you, I’d get married before his orders come down.

  • Shay October 29, 2011, 4:48 pm

    I was afraid you guys would say that. Military was never in my plans for us, having a courthouse wedding was also never in our plans. I’m 100% supportive of him and what he wants to do (and what we’ve decided to do) as far as joining, I am just having to swallow a lot of my dreams. I’m afraid we’ll go to the JOP and then life will get in the way of us ever having a real wedding in the future. Adjusting to a lot, reading even more. Thanks ladies.

  • Jess L. November 11, 2011, 4:01 am

    My husband & I have been married a little over 4 months. I live at home with my parents right now because he is stationed in Germany & will be PCSing out of there this coming spring. I’ll be going to live with him then because he will be stateside this time & it will be easier to move me there then to Germany. The thing is we have never moved in together & out of our parents house since he was only home about 2 weeks after the wedding. So I’m wondering what will happen when they need to move our things to wherever he gets sent to next. He has stuff that he couldn’t take with him living in the barracks at his parents house & everything I own is here at my parents. Do you know if the movers will go to both houses or just one? I’m guessing they’ll only go to one place which means one of us would have to have all of their things packed already to take it to the other house. We don’t have a lot to move since we don’t really own anything to start a home yet. Or do you think we’ll have to move ourselves, which would seem easier to me in our situation. We have some time yet to figure out what we need to do but I’m trying to figure out whatever I can ahead of time since this is new to both of us yet (he went from basic/AIT to Germany to deployed & back to Germany since he joined almost 2 years ago). Any advice or info would really help! =)

    • Stacey November 12, 2011, 2:09 pm

      I know people who have had movers go to their house as well as a storage unit so I don’t really know why going to two different houses would be any different. Transportation can tell you for sure though.

  • Julie November 17, 2011, 6:08 pm

    Is it REALLY guaranteed to be THAT bad??

    Our first move was a DITY and now my husband is off on training the whole time, I’ve got to deal with the movers and get me & the kids to the new post (in the winter)…EVERYONE is freaking me out!! From friends, to the web, to the JPPSO people themselves, says that the movers WILL steal, break, lose, and destroy our stuff! Claims are inevitable! Don’t let them touch it if you care about it! But…I care about all of our stuff, or at least an awful lot of it. I’ve got collectible things, family heirlooms, signed band memorabilia, let alone my kids’ treasures…and no way can it fit in my van. I’d get a trailer except I’ve never hauled a trailer & this move will be perilous enough due to weather, so I don’t want to try that. I don’t have a home picked out yet, just a list of numbers to call on active rentals in the new town, so I can’t mail stuff to my new place…actually can’t afford to be shipping a bunch of boxes anywhere anyhow…

    So seriously, I want to ask spouses who are like “oh, you’ll get real good at this” (I’m assuming you already are)…should I just learn not to get attached to anything anymore, since it’s all a write off the minute any given set of movers touches it?? Is it a certainty that it’s going to be THAT awful?? I know there are bad anecdotes, but people act like a smooth move with no property loss is just something that doesn’t occur, is not possible. I’d like some truth…thanks!

    • Stacey November 18, 2011, 7:01 pm

      Our first Army move we didn’t have to file any claims. With our 2nd, geez, we had a damaged mirror, ALL of my office furniture and a few other smaller things. So I’d say it just depends.

  • Thomas August 15, 2012, 10:07 pm

    My Fiance and I are getting married while we’re both in AIT (we knew one another well before we enlisted, so no worries) and we’re both VERY green around the gills about what all needs to be done for out first PCS. I have no idea what all I need to have done in order for all of her things to be moved as well as mine. I am in serious need for tips…???
    I’m active duty and she’s National Guard, if that matters..

  • Leyton February 27, 2013, 2:55 pm

    So, you can pre-pack boxes? On our DPS sheet it says to leave everything as is and if you have boxes you would like to use then place them by the items so the movers can do it. Honestly, I don’t want a stranger packing my underwear. And does this mean I have to unpack all my Christmas decorations I jam in a box every year? I’m a little confused about the process. This is our first PCS and we are going from Alaska to Florida. I’m just want all our stuff to get there. And thank you for all the good tips!

  • Alissa April 28, 2013, 10:12 am

    My fiance is currently in the National Guard and next month we are getting married. He is going Active Duty in September and I am just a little confused about the moving stuff. I already have more than half of our stuff packed because it was never unpacked when we moved into a new home. So do I have to unpack all of that for the movers to handle or can I just leave it alone and worry about packing up the rest of our stuff? Also, do we even get movers? Obviously this will be our first time having to move somewhere so I have no idea what to expect, or even where we are going.

    • Stacey April 30, 2013, 2:23 pm

      The Army will pay for movers or you can move yourself. If you choose to let the Army do it, don’t worry about the boxes you already packed. The movers should inspect them and either repack or deem they are ready to go.

  • Abby December 17, 2013, 4:06 pm

    Hello! We are moving to ft. Gordon Georgia. This is our first move and I have no idea how to go about housing and all that from here in Cali. Here are my questions if anyone can help.
    1. How long is it before you get a house on base?
    2. I’ve heard many things along the lines that On base housing is horrible bc if you have problems with matinance there is little to no help and the conditions of the house itself is bad. Is this true or it just depends on your base?
    3. Do u get to choose which community you live in? Or is it wherever there’s one available?
    4. Do they give priority to those with kids? Or rank? Or is it first come first serve? (He is an e-5)
    5. Is it better to live on or off post money wise? I want to live on post bc id feel safer there if that makes sense?
    6. If u do get on base housing do u get to see the house before? How do u do that if u live in another state? I heard you are entitled to see at least 3 houses?
    7. I like being prepared so aside from all the research I’ll be doing any other info or paperwork I need completed or on hand before I talk to the housing people?

    Thanks so much!

  • dani June 5, 2014, 11:59 pm

    The packers are coming Monday and I can’t find a list to go by what they won’t ship and store. I was told to go to move.mil and I can’t find any list there. Will they pack candles? We are moving to Miami, Fl and our stuff will be stored for about a month so I didn’t know if it was going to be temperature controlled or what? Does anybody out there know anything about this?

    • Stacey Abler June 7, 2014, 10:40 am

      I seriously doubt it’s temperature controlled as that would be an additional expense for the storage unit. If you have anything that could melt or otherwise be ruined in heat, I’d take it with me.

  • Scott Taft June 17, 2015, 4:48 pm

    Hi Stacey,

    Great post! I wonder if you’d consider adding our Moving discount offered to active duty and veteran soldiers to this post? You can access the discount page here: https://www.ozmoving.com/Military


  • Yvonne July 28, 2015, 4:56 am

    Although I have an experience, I forgot to label the boxes last time, as we were in a hurry and it made a real problem for me. I work in the sphere of moving and I still made this crucial mistake, so in case it does not go well don’t be too hard on yourself! Being too concerned about everything makes things only worse!

  • Amy July 31, 2015, 12:34 pm

    My husband recently joined the army and we’re moving next month. Currently we own a home two hours from base but just sold it to move closer. We have a place to move to and are getting movers. Since we’re going into a smaller place and it’s rental with appliances we’re not taking all of the items with us (fridge, washer, dryer, stove, ect). Any advice on marking/letting the movers know what not to take? Thanks.

    • Stacey Abler August 25, 2015, 8:45 pm

      I’d put a huge piece of bright paper on it that says DO NOT PACK. They will pack everything – including the trash – if you don’t tell them. Best bet would be for you to be there supervising.

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