How to Make a Successful Military Move


By Sonia Garza

foothills family furnitureMoving is one of the most stressful life events one can go through, and for most military families, moving every few years becomes routine. Whether you’re moving across town, making a PCS (Permanent Change of Station) across the country, a TDY (Temporary Duty) move, or even a OCONUS (Outside the Continental United States) move, moving is stressful. Believe me. I’ve been there. Four cross-country moves have not made me an expert, but pretty close I would say.

Here are some tips to ease your transition from one home to another.

Moving list
Making a list is a sure way to make sure you won’t forget important items during a very stressful move.

Connect Before You Move
This might be easily overlooked but has proven to be so useful for many other military spouses I know. You’re moving to a new place, after all, and research is key. But more than that, it’s important to start networking and connect with others before the big move. Will you be living on base or off? Research neighborhoods and walkability to restaurants and activities. Do you have kids? Find a local mom group you can join. Are you job hunting? Research the local newspaper, lifestyle magazines and businesses and other organizations for job openings. Start talking to people who are there now for tips on best local places to shop and eat. I have found that by doing this I instantly feel a part of a local community, before I even move.

Essentials Box
Before you begin to pack, write a list of all of the items you would absolutely need with you. On one of our cross-country moves we loaded the car up with all of our “must haves” like the coffee machine (first and foremost), toilet paper (because you never know when you will need some), our electronics and important files. We made sure to have the car DVD player and DVDs for our son in the car, as well as his stroller and pack ‘n play for hotel stops. We also packed pillows, an air mattress, toiletries and snacks in case we had to “camp out” in our new home before our belongings got there.

Pack and Have Fun Too?
When I found myself moving 30 miles across town, pregnant and sans husband, a good friend of mine suggested a packing party. I let my friends know that I was moving, needed help and would provide pizza and drinks in return for their muscles and busy hands. To my surprise, the response was overwhelming. A group of my husband’s friends came the morning of the move, did the heavy lifting and even drove the U-Haul, while another group of friends stayed behind, busily helping pack the boxes and clean.

Use a U-Haul to make a military move
U-Haul provides a great do-it-yourself alternative, allowing you to pack and move at your own pace.

Don’t Pack What You Don’t Want
It can be daunting going through your house, room-by-room, packing up your life in boxes. Rather than pack every single item away, decide early on before your move whether you want it or not. Find a local organization that can benefit from your used items and make a donation, rather than bring unwanted items with you to your new home.

Military Movers
In my experience, the military has done a top-notch job moving our goods. They come in and pack up your house for you, move it all out and send it on its merry way. Nine times out of ten, your items will show up on the other end, unharmed. Just be aware that they will pack everything in your home — and I mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Make sure you empty your trashcans before they arrive, as well as find a secure spot for your pets. One military spouse said having a closet with a sign that said, “DO NOT PACK,” was helpful in making sure hazardous materials or precious heirlooms weren’t tossed in a box. With all that being said, this was the easiest way for us to move. They do the dirty work for you. You can still supervise and take notes on boxes. I suggest keeping your own record of how many boxes are being packed and number them, knowing which items are in each box and labeling the boxes accordingly.

Make Money with a DITY Move
The Do-It-Yourself (DITY) move is a voluntary program that allows you to be reimbursed by the government for moving your own belongings. With some planning, you can even use this program to make a little profit!

Moving boxes
Labeling your boxes and keeping your own personal inventory can save a lot of hassle down the road.

We used PODS to assist us with this. The POD was our saving grace when we needed to move household items out quickly to stage our home for sale. The way it works is the POD is delivered to your home, you fill it up, and they haul it off to a storage facility. When you’re ready to reclaim it, the POD is delivered to wherever it needs to go — even if that means across the United States. We received a 10 percent military discount as well. U-Haul also provides another reliable way to move on your own at your own pace.

Free Boxes
Who wants to pay for boxes when you can get them for free? Call your local grocery store in the morning and ask if they have apple boxes available. The JBLM Recycle Center carries free boxes as well.

Have fun on your travel journey and be a good military steward by paying it forward. Find a friend who’s moving next and contribute your boxes and packing supplies to them.


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