Every military family has thought about doing a Personally Procured Move (PPM) or DITY move at some point along the way. Was it the time the screws to the crib were lost, or you had to sleep on the air mattress for the 14th night in a row? For our family, it was when only half of our HHG arrived at the new duty station. We had a dining room table with no chairs, office chair without a desk, box springs sans the mattress. It took another two weeks to get the issue resolved. Two weeks! And after hearing PCS horror stories from other military families, we realized how lucky we were!
We vowed to do a full DITY move, ok fine PPM (Personally Procured Move), the next time. It went so well we have never looked back. Here are our tips to maximize preparation time and minimize move time.
Prepare for a DITY move: collect boxes
Summer isn’t the only time military families PCS. If you know orders are coming in the next year, it’s helpful to start collecting free supplies sooner rather than later. We all see the posts on the local spouse pages advertising free boxes, so go pick them up! Mattress and wardrobe boxes are the best. If you get “surprise orders” you can still put out a PSA on the same pages and see if anyone has any boxes left over that they are willing to unload. Liquor stores have lots of boxes they will let you take off their hands, and they frequently come with dividers in the wine boxes. Can we say makeshift dish packs? You can also check the Exchange or Commissary to see if they have leftover broken down boxes near their loading dock. Gathering your own packing supplies can mean major savings on your PPM!
Dedicate a space in your house where you can put all the packed up boxes. A garage is an excellent option if you have one! Pack up one room at a time starting with the least used room and work backward towards the kitchen, which will probably get packed in the final days before the move. It’s also a good opportunity to donate any items you haven’t used for an extended period. Military families don’t spring clean; we PCS clean! Label the boxes with the items inside and their destination at the new house. (i.e. “Christmas Decor- Storage Room” or “Books and Awards-Office”) Stack your boxes in your dedicated space as you go.
Getting to your new duty station
You have a few options here and can decide what works best for your situation. Some families choose to use a service like U-Pack and have their HHG shipped for them. This is a great option! If you want to haul the load yourself, Penske and U-Haul offer military discounts. We suggest renting a dolly and some moving blankets with your truck. Your larger furniture items are better off covered, and the dolly is a life saver on moving day. You can also elect to tow your car behind the truck. The inside of the car being towed doubles as storage and can be packed with last-minute boxes, suitcases or even houseplants. The DoD typically only covers mileage reimbursement for one vehicle during CONUS moves, and no shipping fees for extra vehicles, so you will have to decide as a family who is driving cars or moving truck to the next location.
Loading day for your DITY move
Have your boxes neatly organized in the garage so you can back the POD or moving truck right up to it. It will take less time to load with everything organized and a few feet away. Ask your friends for a solid 3 hours of their time to help lift and load. Heavy appliances should be loaded first, against the truck’s back wall, and evenly distributed rather than all on one side of the truck. Heavier and sturdier boxes should go on the bottom of a row, with the lightest or most fragile boxes near the top so they won’t get crushed. Try to pack your truck into sections going all the way up to the roof. Every 5-10 feet, secure the section either using tall pieces of furniture, mattresses, a tarp, and/or bungie cords. This will help prevent things from shifting or falling while you drive, and will allow you to maximize your space in the truck.
After the truck is packed, feed your friends as a thank you like you would the military movers. Also, make sure to put a good lock on the back of the truck to prevent anyone from breaking in. It is sad to say, but a packed truck is sometimes too tempting for some.
The truck is loaded, the house is cleaned, and all things not in the truck are packed into the car being towed, or a secondary vehicle. If you are as OCD as we are, you have mapped out your route to be a door to door military move!
Things to consider when traveling include: the speed governor on many moving trucks doesn’t allow the truck to travel much over 60 mph, so it’ll be a nice steady drive. Traveling with kids can be a challenge so make sure to find the fast food restaurants with indoor playgrounds. Stop at parks along the way for some much needed time outside of the car. If it’s an option along your route, hotels on military bases add extra security which is a consideration since your entire life is in the moving truck. Many hotel chains offer military discounts and pets stay for free at La Quinta. Don’t forget that kids eat free at many places. Sure, you get a daily per diem, but free meals are a great way to save money on food!
Unload and Relax!
You’ve traveled smart and have arrived at your new duty station! Since you probably don’t know a ton of people yet, you could look into hiring some hourly movers to help unload. Maybe you’ll end up with neighbors who come over and offer to help with the heavy furniture like we did! Your boxes are clearly labeled with where to put them, so it’ll be easy to offload. Now you can unpack at your speed and not have to worry about what is missing or broken.
File all receipts
All branches, except the Navy, are encouraged to use the Government Travel Card for PCS expenses. We recommend still filing away the receipts for proof of purchase or in case of any discrepancies with finance or transportation. If you have a service member like mine, an After Action Report (AAR) will be in order to see how we can do better and maximize our money next time.
Treat yo self!
Once you get the reimbursement for the move and per diem, do something fun as a family as a reward. Military moving is hard work, and you deserve to celebrate your accomplishment. Put some money in savings or maybe replace the one item that you broke along the way. The sky is the limit with your extra cash!
Moving your entire home by yourself is not easy, but you CAN do it. If you love to control every aspect of everything, you might even enjoy the process!
Jenah Wieczorek is an Army spouse, mother of two boys, dog mom, and professional volunteer. She currently resides in Fort Stewart, GA with her family.