Active-duty military personnel make permanent change of station (PCS) moves about every two to four years, according to Military.com. That can add up to a long list of moves over a relatively short period of time. What’s more, the changes may be abrupt.
“The period of time from when you receive orders to when you move can be anywhere from six days to six months,” said Babette Maxwell, founder of Military Spouse magazine.
Fortunately, a little planning can lead to a successful transition, rather than a headache-inducing one.
Here are seven tips for making a military move go smoothly.
1. Know Your Limits.
If you’re going through a PCS move, the military usually will pay for your household goods to be transferred to the new location, up to your authorized weight limit (visit this website to find your weight limit). If the shipment exceeds this amount, you’ll have to pay to move the extra pounds.
Bring as many things with you as you can, said Maxwell, who grew up in a military family and has moved 29 times. Once you get to your next home, you can decide whether you want to keep items like furniture and curtains; sell them; or put them in a storage unit and retrieve them later, such as when you move again.
2. Think about Housing.
In most cases, your housing choices for the next location will include living on base, or buying or renting a home nearby.
While searching online may be your only option because time and money constraints, you should visit the place where you’re moving, said Sharon Gran, co-owner of MilitaryByOwner.com, a website that lists homes for sale and rent near U.S. military bases. If you aren’t able to set up housing before you go, take along your items and put them in a self-storage unit while you find the right place.
3. Get a Power of Attorney.
If you have a spouse who is deployed and ordered to move, you may need to relocate on your own. To do this, you’ll need a power of attorney, Maxwell said. A power of attorney is legal, written permission for one person to act on behalf of another.
Obtaining a power of attorney will let you schedule the move, open bank accounts, and ship and receive household goods while your spouse is away.
4. Prep for an Overseas Assignment.
You may not be able to send a big shipment when going overseas. Also, certain locations, such as Korea and Japan, might not accommodate large furniture, said Erica McMannes, director of promotions at Call Dibs, a free online marketplace for military families to buy, sell and trade personal items and household goods.
Military families often need storage options when moving to another country, McMannes said. If you’re going to store items at a storage facility near a base, check for military discounts. For instance, All Star Self Storage 2 in Killeen, Texas, near Fort Hood, offers a set percentage off rent each month for military customers. The percentage of the discount, as well as those who are eligible for the discount, can fluctuate.
5. Search for Schools.
Finding a school often tops the relocation to-do list for military families, McMannes said.
SchoolQuest.org, a site geared toward military personnel, lists school options in every state. Also visit GreatSchools.org, MilitaryChild.org or Oh, the Places We Go, a Facebook page listing resources for military families.
6. Streamline Your Packing.
Start packing as soon as possible, said Manuella Irwin, relocation expert at MyMovingReviews.com. Group small toys and parts into zipped bags to keep them organized. Do the same for remote controls and for furniture casters and legs.
Keep an “open first” box with things you’ll want right away, Irwin said. Include breakfast-related items like cereal bars, as well as paper plates, plastic spoons and forks, napkins, cups, cooking utensils, and tools needed to reassemble furniture.
7. Maintain Perspective.
During one summer move, McMannes arrived at a rental house in Louisiana that had sat vacant for six weeks and had black-widow dens in the living room. Regardless of the ups and downs, it’s important to make the best of each experience and learn from it, said McMannes, who has moved seven times in the past 11 years.
“Moving in the military is one of its luxuries,” Maxwell said. While you may be living in one place while most of your belongings are stored in another, she said, “you get to live an adventure and see the world.”