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10 Tips for a Smooth PCS

Permanent Change of Station PCS

Embarking on a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) can be both an exciting and challenging experience for a military family. Whether you’re on your first PCS or your 10th, here are some tips to keep your next move as smooth as possible.

1. Determine the Type of Move

Understand whether your move is CONUS (Contiguous United States) or OCONUS (Outside the Contiguous United States), as this can affect your options for moving your household belongings and the documentation requirements for you and your family.

2. Research Your New Duty Station

When you know your next duty station, make sure to do thorough online research. Explore available military base PCS guides and official base websites.  Check out Facebook for community-based groups and pages as they are a useful resource to gather information and advice about local activities, housing, and to make new connections.

3. Cancel Your Contracts or Memberships ASAP 

Provide your PCS orders and cancel contracts and memberships as soon as you are aware of the move. Confirm cancellations in writing and save for your records to avoid future disputes.

4. Household Item Organization  

Declutter and organize your belongings well in advance before movers arrive. Consider using clear freezer bags to group small, related items together. Clearly differentiate items intended for unaccompanied baggage and travel luggage from the bulk of your household goods, as movers may not prioritize careful packing. Throughout this process, create a spreadsheet of items, especially high-value ones.  And don’t forget to empty household trash cans before movers arrive to prevent them from packing and shipping trash with your belongings.

5. Keep Track of Your Pets

Research and comply with pet shipping and health certification requirements for your new duty station. Update microchip registration and contact information, and if using a subscription-based microchip, consider activating automatic payments to ensure continuous coverage. Ensure your pets are secure during packing by using crates or keeping them in another secure location to prevent accidental escapes.  Use a leash whenever removing them from the secure location to further prevent a runaway pet situation.

6. Prepare Your Vehicle

For vehicle shipping, ensure all necessary documents are in order. Clean your vehicle thoroughly before shipping and remove any personal belongings in advance. Additionally, check the expiration date of your driver’s license and renew it if needed. Learn more about shipping your vehicle, or if you are planning to buy a car overseas, check out this guide.

7. Stay Actively Engaged and Communicate with Your Sponsor

Stay involved and on top of your PCS move and communicate with your sponsor. While sponsors are there to assist, take responsibility for your move. Clearly express your needs and seek their guidance, using them as a supplementary resource.

8. Document Organization Is Key

Create a dedicated PCS binder with additional copies of your orders and other essential documents so you always have them on hand for regular use. Additionally, you can scan everything into a digital or cloud-based format as well. To safeguard important original copies of documents such as birth certificates, social security cards and vehicle titles, avoid shipping these documents and keep them with you during the move, especially if flying. Consider purchasing a water and fire-resistant portable document folder to store and keep the original documents safe and with you.

9. Start a Designated Savings Account

Anyone who has experienced a PCS knows that the military unfortunately does not cover all expenses, often leaving you with out-of-pocket costs. To mitigate this, establish and regularly contribute to a savings account for expenses associated with PCS moves. This proactive approach ensures you have financial reserves in place, minimizing the need to rely on credit for unexpected financial burdens during the relocation process.

10. Notify Your Financial Institutions

Provide your financial institutions with your new address and contact information to avoid any communication or mailing address errors. Put travel notices on your accounts to avoid any disruptions to your ability to access your funds. Additionally, inquire about their policies for handling transactions and accessing services from your new location. This proactive step helps prevent potential issues related to account access, card usage, and communication, contributing to a smoother transition during your PCS move. 

If you aren’t already one, consider becoming a member of Service Credit Union! Service Credit Union is here by your side through every move, in the U.S. or abroad. We have products and services designed with you and your family in mind, and have more than 14 branches on U.S. military bases in Europe. 

Ultimately, the key to a successful PCS is to stay organized, communicate effectively, and take proactive measures to address any potential hurdles. With a lot of careful planning and patience, you’ll find yourself settled into your new duty station in no time. Safe travels and best wishes on your journey!