By Rebecca Alwine, Army Spouse

Halloween is quickly approaching, and coupled with a full moon, this year is perfect for all things scary and creepy. Ghosts, goblins, last-minute costume catastrophes, buying too much candy or not enough candy (because you ate a bag already) are some of the things we experience each year around this time. Ironically, it’s not the craziest or scariest time of the military family life cycle. That spot is reserved for the PCS move. As creepy and scary as Halloween can be, we think there are things about the process of moving due to military orders that could scare the pants off of the toughest military member or seasoned spouse around.

5 Ways a PCS Move is Scarier than Halloween

1.       The Drive

Come on, what isn’t scary about 36 hours in a car with two kids under the age of 5, the dog, the cat, and lots of luggage? Oh, while your spouse drives the other car, equally loaded down with stuff, but with no kids or pets. What isn’t petrifying about traveling through Texas in the summer? Or in the winter during an ice storm? The drive is one of those things that military families tend to toss to the back burner while planning. Once the house is packed, the truck loaded, and the goodbyes said, then the realization that you’re driving cross country hits. AH! No matter if it’s five hours up the road with a trailer behind the pick-up or a full cross-country move in two cars, the drive is a nightmare.

2.       New Neighbors

Most houses are the same. Bedrooms, bathrooms, backyard, fence, garage, good kitchen, bad kitchen. The oddities and changes you can live with for a few years, but the scariest part about a new house is the unknown part: the neighbors. What are they like? Do they have kids the same age as yours? Or maybe an older kid that babysits? Do they have a yappy, annoying dog or a loud car? Do they like late night parties or demand observation of quiet hours? The neighbors clearly make or break the house. And they’re the one thing that isn’t included in any tour, description, or photo. That’s some scary stuff, folks.

3.       Boxes, Boxes, and more Boxes

There is just something about boxes and the darn packing paper overtaking your house. It didn’t bother you in the old house, since it wasn’t there for more than a day or two. But it seems like everywhere you turn in the new place there is another box to be unpacked and yet another box half-full of packing paper. Why do they use so much paper? Do my sweaters really need packing paper wrapped around them? Anyway, the boxes go bump in the night, they jump out at you to trip you in the dark, and, we are quite convinced, that they multiply while you make a Wal-Mart run. Boxes. Moves are made infinitely more terrifying by all those boxes.

4.       The Sectional 

You knew when you brought it home, it may cause trouble in the next house. But seriously? There couldn’t be another house in the whole of the world that fits this darn couch? And if that wasn’t bad enough, the same thing happens with the California King sized bed you knew you shouldn’t purchase. And the TV that just doesn’t fit right if it’s not mounted on the wall. Placing furniture in the new house is torture, frustrating, and when you’re holding up one side of the couch and your husband is on the other, asking him to move it for the tenth time, you can hear the horror movie sound track playing in the background. Seriously, if you haven’t bought new furniture lately, don’t go crazy. Buy something reasonable and versatile and that will fit even the weirdest shaped house. Trust me. Promise.

5.       Claims

Typing that word is enough to have us hiding under the covers. When it’s all said and done, the drive is over, the neighbors prove themselves to be normal enough, the boxes are (finally!) gone, and the furniture fits well enough… you get to start the paperwork. The dreaded process of filing claims for the missing, broken, and damaged items that became victims of yet another cross-country move. Paperwork that takes every bit of the 75 days you’re given (or whatever the blasted number is that keeps changing.) Paperwork that usually ends up in more paperwork, or scarier yet, the letter that says: We have no record of ever packing these things, sorry about your luck. Really, each PCS can last 6 to 9 months from beginning to end, which makes it way more frightening than any Halloween evening we could ever imagine.

Luckily, we have started the process of holding moving companies accountable so that, perhaps, this word doesn’t have to instill fear and loathing in the hearts and minds of military families going forward. How can you find out more? We are so glad you asked! Check out ”Are Moving Companies Hurting Military Families” for more information. And as always, check out PCSgrades, get registered for free, and start submitting reviews! Help us as we continue to build the most trusted resource for your next PCS move by joining our community of military, veterans and family members sharing information about all of the many places they have called home over the years. is a community of military and veteran families helping each other with our biggest relocation needs through trusted reviews. Help us help each other and submit your reviews today.  Together, we can truly make a difference!

packing outPCSgrades AuthorRebecca Alwine is a freelance writer, army wife, and mother of three. She’s also a contributing writer for ARMY Magazine, a regular contributor for several publications including to Homefront United Network, PCSgrades, ESME, and has also been published in Ms. Magazine and The Atlantic. You can follow her online at