Our Guest: Jessica Pullig, Army Spouse. I’m an active duty Army spouse, my husband has been in almost 15 years, we’ve been married for 14, and this is move #9 for us. We have 3 kids, and always move with 2 dogs and 2 cats. We never thought we would do a PPM until a few months ago, so can’t wait to talk about it!

DoD Updates: Pet and pet expenses are not covered in a PCS, but each of the branch Aid Societies offer a grant or loan to help families offset those expenses. The SPCA also has a grant to help cover the cost, so this should make it easier to keep you pets with you when you move.

It’s still too early to tell what the PCS season will look like later this year. Try to build a few extra days of wiggle room into your schedule so you can handle a short delay. Consider doing a PPM and planning for that, if that will give you more control over your PCS. 

What influenced your decision to do a PPM this year?

We knew coming out of our last cycle that we were coming back to Fort Leavenworth. We had been here 5 years ago and put our stuff in storage, and it took 9 weeks that time to get things delivered after storage. I knew I didn’t want to be fighting and waiting to have our stuff delivered. Most of our belongings had been with us for 15 years, so if we didn’t have to move all our big stuff, then how hard is it to move the little stuff? I did a lot of pre-packing into bags anyway, (for a military move), so it made sense to do the next step ourselves and have more control of our timeline and our possessions. We needed to sell our house and find a new house in this crazy market, so we knew the timeline would be challenging already. 

When we decided to do a DitY (PPM), we weren’t trying to make money. We just wanted to not spend any more money than we were allotted. 

Which type of move do you like better–the military move or PPM?

We have done eight military moves, and only ever had a claim on two of those moves, and were only delayed on one of those moves. I have no issues letting the military move us, if it meets the timelines and allows us to remain in our home. We have house-camped before, but six weeks is a long time. 

We took on this PPM, and I decided to hire out large portions of it–I focused on hiring someone to move the heavy furniture, load the truck, etc. We got new furniture and we have been busy putting it together here. We are both open to doing it again, but it isn’t our first choice, especially in this stage of our lives. 

What did you hire out during your PPM?

First I called and researched anyone who would pack and move things from point A to B– Pack Rat, PODS, ABF (U-Pack), etc. We always had to call, and we asked if they would give us weight tickets (essential to getting reimbursed for a PPM), then also told them what region we were moving to and verified if they could deliver our goods onto a base housing location. That got us to PODS and U-Pack. Since PODS couldn’t confirm weight limits and had timing challenges of dropping off multiple PODS, we went with ABF because they allowed us to book a particular date with only one delivery. Their charge per linear foot was lower than PODS. We settled on using one truck, and filled 27.5 feet of the 28 foot truck! We were charged exactly for that distance. We usually do a partial DitY pulling a small U-Haul behind our truck with heirlooms. Near the end of packing day, we realized we needed a larger trailer than usual since everything didn’t fit on the truck. We had to exchange the trailer into a drive-yourself U-Haul. So we drove that to Missouri, then flew back to finish packing the rest of our house. You need to be very good at packing, visualizing, and calculating distances. 

How did you make the packing process more cost-effective?

The fastest way to make a pack-out less expensive is to pack yourself instead of hiring a crew. I packed the entire house myself– four bedrooms, 2400 square feet, approximately 15,000 pounds. We knew in February that we were doing a PPM, and got hard orders in March, so I had three full months to pack. I started with the things we wouldn’t need–Christmas and holiday decorations, wall art, things we don’t use every day, etc. The bedrooms, kitchen, and my husband’s Pro Gear were the last few things. It got hairy at the end, because instead of packing 3-4 boxes a day, you have to do entire rooms at once. I was dreading the kitchen, but we ended up doing it with lots of packing paper and bubble wrap. I will say you need a good tape gun.

I also ordered customizable room kits from U-Haul, so it shows you suggestions on what to add or subtract for each room. I had lots of book boxes, extra medium boxes, and fewer wardrobe boxes. They ship it to your door for free in 2-4 days. I ordered dish packs for all my mugs and glasses, and one for my Fiestaware plates. We packed everything else in regular boxes. We keep original TV boxes, but you can get those from U-Haul too. 

If you don’t unfold box flaps, you can return un-used boxes to U-Haul for a refund before the move. 

How did the Load and Unload days look for your PPM?

We hired a crew on both ends to load and unload the truck. So in that sense, it compares very similarly to a military move. It’s a similar moving crew, but you are in charge of making sure they show up and get paid. With U-Pack, we scheduled a day for them to drop off the truck, and you can keep it for up to four days. We scheduled a crew to come the day after the truck was delivered, so they wouldn’t be waiting in our driveway for the truck to arrive. I struck out the first few calls trying to find a crew because everyone was booked. I found better options and reviews to go through U-Haul’s 3rd party scheduling site. For our house size, it was suggested to use a 3-4 man crew for 6-8 hours. I set up the date and times, answered questions about appliances and what was located upstairs. They showed up on the correct morning within 15 minutes of the time. They only had two people, so they were there for eight hours. They brought everything onto the main floor, then “played Tetris” to load everything onto the truck. They knew what could take weight and what couldn’t. I purchased moving blankets from Amazon, and large rubber bands to attach them to furniture, so I had all the furniture wrapped before moving day. We use ratchet straps to attach things into the truck every few feet. We fed them lunch so they didn’t have to leave the property.

It was similar on our unload day. We had them come out the day after the truck was delivered. They walked through the house first, and I had rooms labeled with what went in each room. They unloaded everything and had it in place with three people in six hours. They carried things upstairs, and placed everything where it belongs. 

What happens if movers cause damage to a home?

If it’s a military move, the TSP is responsible for any scrapes on the walls or damage they cause to the house. When I hired crews through U-Haul’s 3rd party service, you pay U-Haul and sign a contract, then you give the company a code from U-Haul before U-Haul can release the payment. The crew had to take pictures of the load, we had to sign off that we were satisfied, and we walked through the house together and verbally agreed that the house didn’t have any damage or issues. If there had been damage, it would depend on the contract we had with the movers and what was specifically covered in the contract. 

When using your own system, can you purchase additional insurance?

ABF’s contract states that there is a cap on the trailer’s worth. I think it was up to $60,000. This only pays out if there is a catastrophic loss like a fire, accident, the entire trailer is stolen, etc. I know from doing my high-value inventory that my stuff is worth much more than that. So we specifically got Renters Insurance through USAA during the time we were packing and in transit. We made sure ahead of time that this would cover what we needed it to. We did not cancel it until we made sure that everything had arrived safely and we weren’t planning to file a claim. We bought a home and now have Homeowners Insurance, but you can’t file a Renters Insurance claim if you have canceled it, and it won’t be included under your Homeowners policy if you have just moved it. So make sure you have your own home inventory and a separate renters insurance policy that you will keep throughout the move.

I could write as much as I wanted on the top and sides of the box, so I had full control of that. I had a separate list of all my electronics, with serial numbers, and I had a specific list of all my high-value bar items and board games. Because each box label was so specific, I took a photo of the top of each box, so I had evidence of what box went missing and what exactly was inside it. 

If you are moving overseas, you should get renters insurance before your things get packed up or put in storage. Make sure it covers you throughout the stages of transit and storage, including delivery in your new foreign country. It’s always good to shop around and see what policy best covers you through all stages of your move. 

PCSgrades lets you grade your moving company!

If you hired a company like U-Pack to help ship your goods, or hired a local moving company to help you pack or load, then please go to PCSgrades and leave a review! Whether it was a good or bad experience, we want to hear from you so fellow military families can help plan their moves. You can search specifically by your duty station–the one where you currently live or also the one you are moving to.

Overall, what have you learned from doing a full PPM?

I had a very specific idea of what I wanted from a PPM. I didn’t worry about doing it as cheaply as possible, because I knew I didn’t want to do certain things– I didn’t want to drive it ourselves, I didn’t want to carry things up and down stairs, and I didn’t want to load or unload the truck. So we calculated our costs and reimbursement for weight, then planned to move within that budget. 

The only things I wish I had done differently is having the crews stack the first two rows a little better. We used a lot of completely full plastic totes and tuff-boxes. If the boxes were full, they did well. If they were only partially filled, then they got crushed. So we crushed one box out of the 400-ish boxes that we moved! Don’t put boxes of paper on the top level, and don’t stack all the way to the top of your truck, since things will fall or crush boxes on the bottom. 

If you plan to use your Government Travel Card for moving expenses, make sure that 1) you call and verify it is turned on, 2) that you know the limit so it will actually be useful for moving expenses, and 3) know the zip code on the card so you can use it to get gas. 

When you move, wait a few days before you change any billing addresses and zip codes on your official information, because you want to be able to remember it and access your accounts throughout the time you are moving and in transit.