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Tips for a Low Stress PCS

Family packing for move

The permanent change of station move is a process that impacts most military families on multiple occasions during a service member's career. There is no shortage of online advice about how to make it easier from packing tips to easy cross country travel to the pros and cons of living on the installation. 

All of these tips are incredibly helpful, and to be honest, you can never get enough of them. Despite all of this information, and no matter how many times you have completed a military move, there always seems to be one more thing you wish you had known before orders come, again. 

Here is a list of a few essential things that you need to know before your move, whether it is your first or final PCS adventure.

Anticipate Damage or Loss

Over the past few years, military families have come to expect damage or loss of property during their PCS. There was always this possibility, but it has become much more common in the last five years. There are still a few steps you can take to minimize the risk, though once the moving company starts packing, it's out of your hands. 

Consider a partial DITY and move all family heirlooms and pictures yourself. Some furniture, linens, dishes, and clothing can are replaceable. Antique china, your children's baby books, or the piece of furniture from your childhood cannot be, no matter how much money you receive in compensation. If you are moving overseas, you may wish to leave these behind with a trusted family member or in a climate-controlled storage unit instead.

Take pictures and videos of everything. Before your move, make sure you document the condition of your property by taking photos from multiple angles and by taking a video of appliances working. Video your washing machine in action, the coffee pot brewing, and the lawnmower doing its job, very close to the date movers arrive. 

Be vigilant when the packers and movers arrive. If you witness something breaking, make them stop immediately and document it in your paperwork. Also, for every single piece of furniture, ask them to show you where the damage is and mark it on the sheet. If they cannot show you where a "scratch" is on your dining room table or if it is not in the picture you took the day before, refuse to sign the paperwork before they correct the inventory sheet.

But You CAN Protect Yourself

Did you know that for less than $15 a month, you can protect your property while you are renting and during a PCS? You've undoubtedly heard horror stories of lost and damaged property, and subsequent stories of moving companies denying or underpaying claims for that property. Give yourself peace of mind during your next move with renter insurance from Armed Forces Insurance, the very best protection available for military families. 

Our insurance covers your belongings from theft, fire, vehicle accident, mysterious disappearance, and more during a move. We offer consistent premiums on Property Coverage from state to state, it is worldwide, and we offer Comprehensive Coverage to include flood and earthquake with low deductibles. Additionally, AFI offers Replacement Cost Coverage, meaning there is no deduction for depreciation on replaced items. The process is quick and easy. Visit to get your free quote today.

You May Need a Mental Health Check

Moving is not only physically taxing, but it can take a toll on your mental health. Leaving friends and family at one location, worrying about how the children are dealing with change, and stressing over finding a new home at your next duty station can all lead to anxiety and even depression. Admitting that you are not handling the move well and seeking help is important. You cannot help your family through this move, or be useful in navigating this life change if your mental health is suffering. Where do you seek help? Here are a few options you might consider.

Reach out to another military family for advice. Sometimes just venting to someone who has "been there, done that" can be incredibly therapeutic. Many times, another service member or military spouse can help you put things into perspective by sharing their own experiences, or just by lending a supportive ear.

Reach out for professional help. It can be challenging to seek medical care during a move, leaving your current PCM at one location, transferring Tricare benefits, then finding a new PCM you trust at the new duty station. Luckily, mental health services do not require a PCM referral. Visit for more information about professional counseling services.

You don't have to go to an office to get mental health help. Military One Source now offers counseling services online, by telephone, and even video. Visit for more information.

If you or anyone in your family has thoughts of harming yourself or others, please call 911 and get immediate help. No PCS move stress is worth the life of someone in your family.

Some Things Are Simply Not Worth Stressing Over

You can't deny that moving due to military orders, again, is stressful. But many times, it's the little things that are overwhelming. When you look back on them later, you realize they were not worth the amount of worry. Here are a few examples of things you can spend less time stressing over when you move.

Having a huge yard sale. Sure, getting rid of extra junk before the packers arrive is nice and can make things easier when you arrive at your new home. But going through every single one of your belongings, tagging, and sorting, and spending an entire weekend having a yard sale may cause more stress than it's worth. If you are starting to feel overwhelmed, have a yard sale with any big-ticket items you have to sell, donate the smaller things, and wait until you get to your new location to do the rest. The reality is that when you move, you may have some free time on your hands while you look for a job or before you get involved in your community.

Finding a house right away. It is nice to arrive in your new town and have a home that first day. But most families find themselves staying in a hotel for a while waiting for housing. If you find yourself in a holding pattern, take the time to get established in your community by finding a new church, volunteer opportunities, playgroups, or attending activities on your new installation.

Finding a new school for your kids. School selection is stressful, and as parents, we worry about the transition from school to school when it comes to our children. Federal law now helps families during this transition. The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children is there to eliminate many of the concerns families have when they move. 

Unpacking right away. It is nice to have everything unpacked, put away, pictures on the walls, and curtains hung as soon as possible. But it's not realistic to have everything done right away, especially when you have small children. Take your time, unpack one room at a time starting with the kitchen, and spend some time getting out of the house to explore your new area. In May, you might not need those winter coats for a while anyway, so letting them hang out in a box instead of a closet for a couple of months isn't the worst thing in the world.

Moving is an adventure; one military families get to experience every few years. Even if you have it down to a science, we're sure there's one area where you can eliminate some stress. Try some of the tips above, and you may just enjoy your next PCS.