By Carla Olivo, USMC Spouse

Military families all have that closet or bathroom where come Moving Day,” we stash those items we will be transporting ourselves.  We make sure the packers know not to pack anything from our special holding place. It could be a bathroom, closet, spare bedroom or your porch. Here is a list of some of the things that might end up in the “Do Not Pack Zone.”

How to Pack for a Move – What You Should Pack Yourself


Pack all the things you need for a few nights on the road: a change of clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and medications. If you have kids still in diapers then having several changes of clothing can be a lifesaver. On a PCS from Florida to Virginia, my infant wet through two sets of clothes! Luckily, we had a waterproof cover for the car seat.

My husband’s uniforms are also hand carried because on at least two occasions, he had to start work before our household goods arrived.

Important Documents & Irreplaceables

Hand carry any important documents that you do not have downloaded onto your computer or a thumb drive. This would include education records, other school-related papers, medical files such as vaccination records, pet records/vaccinations, and financial records.

I always pack my jewelry.  It doesn’t take up much room and its easy to transport. I pack a special watch of my husband’s and other items that are irreplaceable. My kids each received an item made from my husband’s BDU’s when he graduated from the Army War College.  My son’s wallet and my daughter’s purse made from his uniform are always hand carried to the next duty station.

Electronics and Toys

For little ones, a container of favorite toys can keep them occupied in the car or the hotel. It’s also nice to have those comfort items come bedtime in a strange bed. I used to purchase some new toys, many times from a consignment store, which I would pull out once we got to our new duty station. It’s a good way to keep the kids busy until we get the house set up and the cable turned on. For older kids and adults, you would want to pack laptops, phones, handheld game consoles and all chargers.

Bed Linens & Towels

I always snag one of the packer’s boxes, and I pack a set of sheets for each bed and towels for each family member. If your new shower requires a shower curtain and hooks, pack those too. We once arrived at our new house, and it took four days for me to find the box with the shower curtain and hooks that had been delivered by the movers. So this is one box I pack and bring myself.

Miscellaneous items – Toilet paper, paper towels, Ziploc bags, aluminum foil, plastic utensils

These items come in handy if you end up in a hotel for a few days or if it takes longer than expected to unpack your HHG. That left over pizza can be wrapped in aluminum foil and saved in your hotel mini fridge. Some like to bring a crockpot with them to break up the monotony of eating out. I stopped once at a friend’s house as their house was being packed and her son came out of the house holding a plastic spoon from his frozen yogurt. Holding up the spoon he said, “Hey, Mom do we need to save this?” I thought, only a military kid would ask that!

What are your tips for how to pack for a move and what are your ‘must-haves’ to pack yourself during a PCS?

Carla Olivo has garnered numerous TV industry awards including an Associated Press award for Spot News Reporting and Documentary Reporting. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, a retired USMC Lt. Colonel and their two kids.

Carla Olivo

PCSgrades Director of Strategic Communications