DoD updates: The green light list for PCS moves is 39 states and several countries that are now open for PCS moves. Each installation is still up to the local commander whether or not an Exception to Policy is needed. Each service will list their own guidance and green light instructions. The Marine Corps has already released theirs, and the Army is expected to later this week. 

Time savers: some people pre-pack their home. How does it help them?

It helps keep you organized when you are preparing to move, and also when you are unpacking. If you use flex totes for your clothing or wardrobe boxes with clothes on hangers, you can get things in the closet faster and get those boxes out of your home. It saves you time on the back end once you are trying to get settled. It also limits how much the movers have to touch all your things. They won’t individually wrap as many things. 

You were always able to pre-pack by wrapping things with saran-wrap. It used to be if you packed a box yourself the company wouldn’t be liable. The rules changed last year, and the moving company is now responsible for every box, even if the owner packed it.

Best pre-packing tips for military families preparing to PCS:

You can probably save a few days of time during unpacking. Yes, there is an investment up front, but it ends up saving a lot of time. Use Ziplock Xtra Large or Jumbo size for clothing, sheets, linens, etc. They fit well into the moving company boxes, so you can take the flex totes out of the moving box, and get the boxes out of the house so the movers can take the boxes away right away.

Use garment bags or trash bags for hanging clothes. Pull up from the bottom, then tie at the top, and use zip ties to hold the hangers together. You can even color code the ties for different parts of your closet so it will set up right away.

Stuffed animals can get thrown into a trash bag and packed into a large box, so you can pull the trash bag out and keep them together until you are ready to unpack. Then get rid of the cardboard box immediately.

For knives and silverware, use saran wrap to wrap around the knife block or silverware drawer to hold everything in place.

Use a large ziploc bag for the contents of a junk drawer or for kids with small toys. Keeping small items together means they won’t be jumbled around or lost.

Be detailed about box labels. You can hang a sign on each bedroom door with the label you want to use for that room (Girls Room 1 rather than Bedroom #3). Include acceptable labels like “Girls Room Decor” or “Kids Books” so that things aren’t just marked “miscellaneous.” Print your last name on the sheet so the boxes all have your family name spelled correctly.

You can use color coded labels on boxes after they have been packed, which will help with delivery stage. 

How soon can you begin pre-packing?

It depends on the items. If it is winter clothes or holiday items, I can bag those up once the season is over. Stuffed animals or some toys can be bagged a few weeks in advance. But of course things like silverware are just packed up the night before. 

Delivery time is crazy. How can you make it go faster?

Use room labels and signs to help “direct traffic” for you, so you don’t have to answer all the questions. List major furniture pieces for each room, and clearly label the doorway so they know where to put things.

You want to spend your time checking the delivery sheet. Use a clipboard, write down numbers as they call them off, then take a break later and cross them off on your inventory sheet. 

Let the moving company take as many boxes with them as possible. One adult should be opening boxes and getting big stuff out of the way quickly. Focus on getting high value item boxes open so you can check those off and verify contents before they leave. Focus on unpacking the kitchen too, which is usually the most boxes and takes up the most space.

What do you do with toddlers and babies when you are moving in?

It depends on your options. Either use outdoor toys or sidewalk chalk where you can help them play outside in the front or back yard. Try to wear your baby in a carrier so you can still use a clipboard and pen. If possible, try to drop them with grandparents or at a friends’ house. You can also use electronics to distract kids: put a toddler in an empty bathtub with an iPad so they will be out of the way and safe. If you are able to get into the spouse group before you arrive, you may see a former friend is stationed there and might be able to come over and help. 

Let’s talk about saving money. What are your best money-saving tips?

We all play the game of purging the house and trying to get under our weight allotment. If something no longer serves a purpose or you haven’t use it for a few years, get rid of it! Things that have just been in boxes for years are probably not needed. You can have a garage sale and make extra money. (Let the kids set up a lemonade stand during the yard sale too!) Yes, you can apply for advance DLA and use the government travel card, but moving is still expensive, so start saving money as soon as possible. Once you PCS and get stable, start saving up again for the next PCS. You will need some cash flow during the move.

We have all come to expect the claims process, but we know we won’t get the full value of things replaced. Pre-packing can help reduce your claim because you have grouped appropriate things together, or to wrap some things in bubble wrap before the move to make sure they are protected.

The moving inventory is the binding document of your move. If it isn’t on that inventory, then it basically doesn’t exist to the moving company. Verify that boxes are labeled correctly. Have your own inventory of any special collection: electronics, games, valuables, etc. Don’t just leave boxes and inventory labeled “kitchen items.” Instead, it should say “small kitchen appliances–blender, coffee grinder, bowls.”

What can families do to avoid a large claim after a move?

Walk around and take pictures, do your own inventory before the packing and move. This shows the condition of your things, and you can prove it if a claim is necessary. Photograph furniture, high-value items, any shelves with an important item or collection, etc. Make your own inventory of anything expensive: electronic games, books on a bookshelf, etc. Be involved with the process: this is your own move and your stuff! Walk around and talk with your movers. Get to know them as people. See how they are packing something, and speak up or ask questions if you think something should change.
A lot of issues come on moving day from the moving company codes. Know what the codes mean: scratched, bent, broken, stained, damaged, etc. It’s okay to write on there that you don’t agree with their assessment before you sign it. This protects you when you need to make a change. 

PPM and DitY moves: how can you make it a money-maker instead of a money-breaker?

The more you can do to move yourself, the more money you will make. Hiring a company will always cost you more than packing yourself and getting friends to help you load. Get packing materials for free–take them from other people who just completed a move. Use towels, blankets, sheets, etc as packing materials. Couch pillows can pad other boxes, etc. Know how much stuff you have and how big a truck you will need, or how many PODS you will need, etc.
If you’re hiring a company, read your contract. Know their business model and any hidden fees. Check the AMSA (American Moving and Storage Association) or IAM (International Association of Movers) websites to make sure they are certified. These are the two big moving associations that TRANSCOM deals with, so check their site for legit companies. Some measure by weight, others by space, so make sure you know the limits and the fees for going over. Have room in your budget to cover an overage. 

If you only have a small amount of stuff, should you move yourself?

If you can fit things in your car or rent a small trailer, you can move yourself as a PPM (Personally Procured Move) or you can get the military company to move you. Either way, you have to go to the transportation office or DPS and set up your details on Move.mil so that you can get reimbursed. Reach out by email if you haven’t heard back from your transportation office yet. Some are still not answering phones, but they can send your paperwork by email. 

How do you label or mark moving boxes?

I use the color coded labels for rooms, and I also walk around and ask details so I can label the box more accurately. If they are boxes I know I want opened at delivery for a partial unpack, I will put a special color tape on the boxes so they know which ones to open first on arrival.

I use trash bags for hanging clothes, stuffed animals, or throw pillows. You can use scented bags or dryer sheets to help things smell fresh. 

Get a personalized stamp with your name, cell phone number, and email. You can stamp it on every box, so if your box gets separated or sent to another family, it will be easy for them to contact you. 

How do you keep mattresses and box springs clean?

You can get a cheap plastic mattress cover from Walmart. The moving company should use a large bag or box to put things into, but this adds another layer of keeping them clean. 

Tips on stacking things in a moving truck without damaging items:

Soft things you can toss on top of another pile in the moving truck when you move yourself. If a military moving company is moving you, then every trash bag should end up in a box.

What about moving with gun safes or weapons?

Military moving companies can move those things. If it’s possible to move them with you (hand-carry) then you should absolutely do that so no one else will have control of them. If it is an empty gun safe, you will need to open it and show them it is empty before they pack it up. For most states, if your ammo is kept separate from your firearm and both are out of arm’s reach then you can drive across the state line. But some states, like New Jersey, are strict and don’t allow them in the car, so know the state guidelines before driving your own firearms across country. 

Do they offer full value on damaged items?

Yes, they should offer full replacement value, a repair process, or the cost of repairs. You have a choice which amount or process you request.

Tips for long moves with animals:

Know your pet and what will work best when you are driving or moving with pets. On packing days, board your pets (anticipate that cost and put it in your budget.) This means the pets are taken care of and won’t escape the house or be in the way. It lets us clean the house too.
When driving, we stop to walk the dog. Bring a water bowl in the vehicle with you and fill it at each stop. Tag team, only sending one adult into the bathrooms or rest stops at once so that the other adult can stay in the car with the animals and keep the heat or AC running. Set up a litter box for cats if they will use it during rest stops. Make sure to reserve pet-friendly hotels along the route.
At the gaining location, you may want to board your pets again, or keep them isolated in a specific room with a clearly-marked sign so the movers don’t go in that room or open the door. Animals can experience anxiety too, so sometimes it’s worthwhile to discuss travel with their vet, and ask about sedation or medication options. 

Can we get a pick-up from 2 locations (storage unit and our apartment)?

Yes, if it is clearly marked in DPS, then you can schedule the move from two locations. Make sure you explain whether the storage area needs to be packed up in boxes, or whether it is already good to go. 

Any tips for a short-distance move?

You could let the military move you and set it up as a door-to-door move, where they pack up on one day and deliver it that same day. Or you could do a PPM and move yourself. It all depends how quickly you can get into a house at your new location, and how much control you want to have over the move.

PCS Resources:

DTR is the Defense Travel Regulation. This is an important document for any move. Pay attention to Appendix B, which is the Tender of Service. This is the contract between the moving companies and the government, which spells out the expectations and responsibilities for the move. Attachment K1 is the “It’s Your Move” document. This is a TRANSCOM cheat sheet that shows you what you need to know, FAQ about different types of items like boats or firearms, your responsibilities, and your TSP’s responsibilities.

Liabilities Claims Business Rules addresses how the claims process works and what is considered high value.