DoD Updates: Use the Move.mil website throughout your move. There will be updates from TRANSCOM, fact sheets, instructions for filing claims, great tutorials to walk you through setting up your move, and an FAQ section. Take the time to browse through it and read answers to common questions. The Customer Service tab shows you who to contact if you are having issues. You can type in your zip code to see the contact information for the nearest TMO, the nearest moving office, branch-specific details, a 24-hour TRANSCOM hotline, etc.
How do you prepare your pets for a move?
First consider checking that they are up-to-date on vaccines and shot records. Get an exam with your vet now, and get any medications refilled so you aren’t scrambling to find a vet at the next location. Bring a hard copy of their records with you.
If you will be driving with pets for several days, then start taking them on shorter car trips around town, bring them on errands, etc. This lets them know the car is a good experience and prepares them for the trip. Starbucks offers a Puppachino, which is basically a cup of whipped cream that is a fun snack for them.
If they will be crated when flying, then spend time practicing with the crate so they won’t have anxiety about it. Research the pet requirements for each airline ahead of time, so you know what to expect and when you can meet your pets and be with them during layovers or rest stops.
Bring a comforting blanket that smells like home, that your pet can enjoy in the kennel or in the car. It will help calm them.
How do you prepare kids for transit by car or plane?
With older kids, it’s easier to let them have access to their electronics and let them manage themselves. For younger kids, pick up some books and toys or activity packs from the Dollar Tree. Having a new coloring book or toy each day gives them something to look forward to, and helps distract them. Use a zip-up pencil pouch, and put the toys in there, so you can hand them a pouch at a time with different toys. This keeps them organized and not scattered all over the car.
Use an app like RoadTrippers to find interesting parks or locations along your route, just a short place to make a stop and break up the trip. On state lines, find a place they can straddle and stand in 2 places at once.
Choose hotels that have a pool to let them jump and swim at the end of the day. This will help them burn energy, get a good night’s sleep and give them something to look forward to.
When moving OCONUS, you get 5 days of hotel stays state side, and then additional hotel days on the OCONUS side. Yes, you can still get reimbursed for hotel stays, even if you use points to make the reservation.
What are your meal hacks when driving?
Everyone wants to save money on meals during a PCS. We try to eat breakfast first, before we get on the road. Many hotels offer a complimentary breakfast, but some stopped serving during COVID. You can always stop at McDonald’s for a quick meal before getting on the road.
For lunch, when my kids were younger, we would go to a drive through and then find a local park to let them play at a playground for a bit while the adults ate on a bench. Then when we got back in the car, we would give them their lunch in the car. Often, they fell asleep and took a nap after lunch.
I pack snacks into a gallon Ziploc bag, so each kid has one bag per day with a few different snack choices. Then they can each have their own bag and help themselves to a snack when they want it. They usually ask first, to check if we are close to stopping for a meal. This means I don’t have to fish out crackers while I’m driving.
How do you pack bags for a hotel stay?
I don’t want to unpack the whole for each night, so I pack one bag per night that contains everyone’s change of clothes and toiletries. Then I move the bag of toiletries into the next duffel bag, so we have clean things ready to go the next night. This is also good when flying in case one suitcase gets lost, so you don’t have one person missing all their clothes. You can roll individual kids’ clothes up into a bag so you can grab each child’s bag out of the suitcase without unpacking everyone’s things. Dirty clothes can go back in the same bag so you know what to wash.
What are your other travel hacks?
Take an extension cord and power strip with you. There are never enough outlets in hotels or airports, so a power strip will serve the whole family at once. Make sure everyone charges electronics each day, before getting into the car or on the plane. A lightweight, short cord is useful. Be careful about plugging into a USB because it could compromise your security and get hacked. You can charge off your own computer USB drive if you can’t find the wall charger block. Bring a device that has 2 or more USB ports to charge everything faster.
Have a car clean-up kit: paper towels, extra plastic bags, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, etc. There is always going to be some kind of spill or accident to clean up. Be prepared with a sick kit for car sickness, with Pepto, peppermints, and anything that will help someone who is car sick.
Start5 working on a grocery pick-up order before you arrive. As you clean out your refrigerator, pull up the Wal-Mart app and add to cart the things that you are cleaning out or throwing away. When you are in the hotel, you can work on planning meals and ordering groceries. When you arrive, you can just submit your order and go pick it up right away!
How can someone make their PCS trip more affordable?
Pick your favorite hotel chain or group, join their rewards program, and collect points throughout your trip to earn a free night. You can still be reimbursed with PCS money for those stays, because it is based on the charge on your receipt. You can use these free nights at the end of the PCS, or for a later vacation. Some rewards programs give you discounts on upgraded rooms too.
Always call individual hotels ahead of time to verify pet policies, whether the pool is open, if breakfast is being served, etc. Some hotel policies are now location-dependent, even if it is the official policy listed on the chain’s main site.