Being in the military is often a moving experience, sometimes in the literal sense. Many members of the military go through more moves in five years than the average civilian does in a lifetime. These base transfers and regular moves can be quite stressful, especially without the proper planning. It's common to hear horror stories about the moving companies the military hires to get your stuff from alpha to bravo. Most of those stories end with missing items or damaged furniture. But just like a soldier in his third tour of duty, veteran movers know what to expect. We talked to three military spouses who have gone through a combined 22 moves. Their tips and advice will ensure your next military move gets a "hooah."
There are two kinds of military moves—the do-it-yourself move, recently referred to as a Personally Procured Move (or PPM), and the ones where the military hires a moving company for you. If you’re on a PPM then it’s up to you to get your stuff from here to there safely. But when the military is moving your stuff for you there are a few things you can do to make sure your experience is a smooth one. We'll let the wives get you squared away.
Current Army spouse. Three military moves.
"Get used to the idea that you might not see your stuff for four to six weeks and plan accordingly. On our last PCS (permanent change of station) move, the moving company came and boxed all our stuff up on June 1st and we didn't see our stuff again until mid-July. This is especially true if you're moving in the summer, when most PCSs happen.
The night before, designate an area as OFF LIMITS and put all the stuff you don't want packed there (a bathroom works well, or just a corner of a room that's out of the way). This should include a generous amount of clothing for you and each family member, pet supplies, toys for the kids, toiletries, your complete Star Trek TNG DVD collection — anything that needs to stay with you through the move.
Donate all your food! Unless it's snacks for the kids or biscuits for the dog, you will want to buy all new stuff. Check around for local food banks and label it all as DO NOT PACK. You can donate after the movers leave.
Consider boarding your pets or leaving them with a friend the day of the move. All these guys running around packing your things can be pretty traumatic for your furry ones. Consider taking them to a boarding facility for the day or leaving them with a friend if possible. This will keep them from being underfoot (and stressed).
Have bottles of water for the movers. Snacks, too, if you're feeling generous. These guys are working hard, and it's a tremendous gesture to make sure they have water and something to munch if they need a break. This might help you more than just in the karma department—there's also a chance it might benefit you when they're boxing up grandma's stemware."
Air Force (retired) spouse. Six military moves.
"Video all of your electronics while they are on and working. That gives you all the ammo you need to file a claim if anything ever ends up broken.
Group all of your breakable wall-hanging items together—all picture frames, mirrors and the like. If a box isn’t labeled fragile, it’s probably going to get rough treatment. Packing all of your breakables in boxes that are clearly marked as fragile will at least give you a decent chance that your stuff will make the move intact."
Army (retired) spouse. Thirteen moves over 27 years.
"Pack one box with the things you will need right away: pillows, sheets, towels, coffee maker, plates, cups, etc., and label accordingly so that you know what to open first. You can live in those new quarters while you sort out the other 250 boxes!
Put your special personal items (photos, memorabilia, kids' toys, etc.) all in one room before the movers get there and watch them wrap and care for each one. It will be easier to watch one room than to try to be in every room in your house while things are being packed.
Most importantly, if you don’t like the way things are going say something! The packers are working for you."