Moving to a new location is often an exciting adventure, but it can also be a stressful process. Military families, in particular, face the added complexity of making a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move. With so many details to manage, it's essential to have a PCS move checklist to help you stay organized and ensure a smooth transition.
Let’s take a look at what a comprehensive PCS move checklist includes to help your military family stay on track and minimize the stress of your next move. From pre-move preparations to post-move essentials, we'll cover everything you need to know to make your PCS move as seamless as possible.
Assemble a PCS Folder
Organization is essential when minimizing stress during a PCS move. Putting together a dedicated folder with your PCS essentials can help make the move process smoother.
Some essentials you should consider keeping in the folder or binder include:
- □ Passports
- □ Medical records
- □ Car titles
- □ Housing applications
- □ Personal documents
- □ Insurance paperwork
- □ Marriage license
- □ Travel reservations
- □ Household inventory
Of course, depending on your situation, you may need to add to these essentials. What’s important is that any crucial information relevant to your transition is easily accessible and organized.
Track Your Expenses and Maintain Receipts
All of the benefits associated with a move require supporting documentation when filing for them. Maintaining a travel journal or filling out vouchers during your travel will make the request for reimbursement much more hassle-free.
You can keep these expenses and receipts in your PCS folder for better organization.
Understand Your PCS Allowances
Every PCSing servicemember should first familiarize themselves with the various PCS move entitlements. These include Dislocation Allowance, to partially reimburse a member for the expenses incurred in relocating the household; per diem allowances; temporary lodging expenses; dependent travel, and more.
For a complete listing and more information, visit the Defense Travel website. Some of these allowances can be fairly significant amounts and, by understanding what they are, you can ensure you receive those that apply to you.
Consider Advance Payments or Advance Pay
Servicemembers can receive an advance payment for many travel-related expenses during a PCS move. DFAS states that “the purpose is to assist with the out-of-pocket expenses, not typical of day-to-day military living that precedes reimbursements in a member's change of duty locations.”
The amount of the advance depends on a number of factors, such as distance between the old and new permanent duty stations, weight of household goods, servicemember's rank, whether the servicemember uses their government travel card on their PCS, etc.
Additionally, servicemembers may receive an advance payment of their military pay. According to DFAS, “the purpose of this advance payment is to provide a member with funds to meet extraordinary expenses incident to a government-ordered relocation. It is intended to assist with the out-of-pocket expenses that exceed or precede reimbursements incurred in a duty location change, and are expenses not typical of day-to-day military living.”
While potentially very helpful, servicemembers must repay this advance, which also reduces monthly income over the repayment period.
Weigh the Pros and Cons of On-Post vs. Off-Post Housing
One of the biggest decisions you’ll make during a PCS move is choosing between living on base or off. Living off post provides benefits such as housing allowance, choice of schools and neighborhoods, and more. Additionally, servicemembers can retain any savings when costs come in under the housing allowance.
In contrast, when living on post one loses the housing allowance, but receives a housing assignment based on their family size. So, a servicemember may get “more house” than they could get with the housing allowance in the housing market off base depending on their family’s size.
There may also be other savings such as utilities and commuting expenses plus access to facilities such as commissary and exchange.
Plan for Transportation
Planning for transportation is another important element that should be on your PCS move checklist.
For example, if your PCS move requires you to move your family overseas, what will you do for transportation?
You can, of course, buy a car once you’re overseas, but it might make more sense to ship your car. The military will pay to ship it when you move due to a PCS, as long as your new base is in a different country. However, you will be responsible for finding a military shipping company.
Planning Airline Trips
Several airlines offer military discounts, including:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
Some of these airlines offer travel discounts that aren’t available to regular civilian travelers, while others offer baggage discounts. When purchasing airline tickets with a military discount, call the airline directly and speak with a booking agent. Keep in mind, however, that a ticket with a military discount may not be the best deal compared to another regular airline ticket, so you should still shop around!
Note Hospital Locations Along Your Travel Route
In case of a medical emergency, you will want to know where to access immediate medical care if needed. This is particularly important if you or your spouse are pregnant or if you are traveling with children. You may want to make special note of hospitals with dedicated pediatric care.
Determine Whether You Need Storage or Not
There are many reasons why you may need to consider short- or long-term storage as part of your military PCS move.
A handful of examples include:
- You’re moving to a different climate and no longer need certain clothes
- There’s a gap in time between your temporary and permanent housing
- You have items you don’t want to move but you still want to keep
- Your new home may be smaller than your old home
Whatever reasons you may have for needing storage, make sure you plan for that as part of your PCS move.
Lean on the Resources Available to You
Planning for a PCS move can be overwhelming if you’re navigating it on your own. That’s why AAFMAA is here: to offer specialized support for military families in all stages of life, including a PCS so you can ease your transition to a new duty home and place of work.
Speak with a Military Mortgage Advisor to discuss financing your new home.
Contact AAFMAA today to talk with us about the variety of ways we support military families. through our services and Membership!