Moving to a new duty station can be a really fun and exciting time for many families. Military moves overseas are challenging, difficult and stressful, even if you are truly excited about your new duty station.
We just PCS’d to Okinawa, Japan and it was a whirlwind to say the least. Preparing emotionally in the months leading up to our move was an understatement to say the least.
There is so much we overlooked and wish we would’ve done differently looking back. The good news is we made it in one piece.
The other good news is I am going to share our mistakes with you so you can avoid them if you are preparing for future military moves overseas.
1. Store your vehicles if you cannot bring them.
If you maintain your vehicles well and they are paid off, I would recommend storing your vehicles, even though you need to pay storage insurance while overseas. Moving overseas kind of puts you in an awkward predicament when it comes to selling a vehicle.
Typically, you need your vehicle up until very close to your move date, which is a less than ideal situation when it comes to negotiating a good sales price. Time isn’t on your side and you are more likely to sell your vehicle for less than it is truly worth. I vote for storing your vehicles.
2. Evaluate how much you REALLY need to bring.
One of the things that we really overlooked was what we should and shouldn’t bring. The fact that the government would issue us furniture during our tour in Japan slipped our mind. I don’t think we would’ve brought nearly as much stuff had we remembered that.
Even items like beds and mattresses, the government provided us with what look like a brand new bedroom set to use until our own items arrived. When we saw that it made us wonder why we shipped our own stuff halfway around the world.
3. DO use non-temporary storage.
When moving overseas the government will usually move items you don’t want to take overseas to non-temporary storage and keep it there until you return to the states. They move it and store it at no cost to you. We opted to use our enclosed trailer and drove it back to the Midwest to store at my in-laws house.
Government storage is not climate controlled, and we were concerned the hot and humid summer would have a negative impact on our furniture. At any rate, moving our stuff back to my in-laws was a lot of additional work on our part, and we have to move it to our new home once we return to the states.
I’m not sure that it is worth the additional work. Non-temporary storage seems like a much simpler, practical plan.
4. Read the informational stuff.
Being stressed about the move, it seemed our brains turned to mush. To add to the mush, we also did read our Welcome aboard Package and other information as closely as we should have. We definitely looked at it, but I would say re-reading it several times is well worth it.
5. Don’t bring your garage shelves.
Seriously. Who does that anyway besides us? Probably no one. I think that’s just the truest sign that we were so stressed our brains turned to mush. I put this here, hoping to get a few laughs. Cause really, I’m pretty sure we were probably the only ones who were absent minded enough to bring our garage shelves.
6. Set aside a good amount of money.
Like I said in my post, The Hidden Costs of PCS Moves, moving isn’t free in the military. Loss of money over the sale of a vehicle, throwing away all liquid cleaning supplies and toiletries, and buying new things for your new home that the government doesn’t supply are just a few examples I explore in that post.
Having a good amount of cash on hand to cover expenses will eliminate financial stress during the move. This is one thing we did right, and on top of everything we did wrong, I’m so glad money wasn’t contributing to the stress.
7. A few words about pets.
We did not have pets, but if you do, be weary of hefty expenses creeping up on you. If the government books you on a flight and there is no room for your pets, you still have to take the flight. This means you will need to find a way to get your pets overseas (if you choose to do so) and you will be responsible for paying all expenses.
This can run thousands of dollars. Seriously. I’m not saying don’t get a pet or bring pets overseas. Just keep this in mind if you have pets or are considering getting a pet.
Read: How to conquer a PCS move with pets (and not regret it!)
Want more on Military Life?
- 20 Must-Have Documents for Your Next PCS Move
- The Hidden Costs of PCS Moves
- Are DITY Moves Worth It for Military Families?
- Best Overseas Moving Checklist for Military Families
- 10 Books That Will Help Military Kids During a PCS
We’re preparing to PCS this summer FROM Okinawa so it was interesting to see your tips and tricks coming here. Are you all still on island?
This is super helpful! I wish I had read it months ago. I didn’t know about Non-Temporary Storage. I’m wondering now if we could save money by storing our spare bedroom and renting a one-bedroom apartment while in Hawaii! No idea if it’s too late. So much to think about!
Yeah, good point. I would love to hear if you discover non-temp storage is available to military families PCSing to Hawaii. I have to believe that it would be, but since we haven’t officially PCS’d there, I can say for sure. I think it’s a great option for those unable to have such large home at their next duty station.
I laughed. I also brought our garage shelves. We are in a tower on Kinser… What was I thinking? Hahaha
Ha ha. I feel so much better knowing that!
Thank you for all the helpful info, i was wondering if you elaborate more on what patriot express is, i have never heard of it.
Just a few things. We also live overseas, and yes the cost of bringing pets is huge and should always be considered BEFORE you ever get pets in the first place when in the military. We paid about $8,000 total (shots, customs, paperwork, flight, etc.) to get ours here but for us it is worth it- we have three fur babies. However, we left about half of our things in military storage stateside, and it is climate-controlled. It was in our briefing and I was reassured multiple times (since I had read this in a few blogs)- so maybe that is different amongst the branches, I’m not sure? But, yes, I agree- leave everything you can. We also got rid of or gave away all liquid and cleaning supplies, because with OCONUS moves you are actually able to apply for a couple thousand (roughly about $2,000-depending upon rank) to help with resettlement costs and replacement items such as that.
Thanks so much for adding what worked / didn’t work for you. I know your experience is going to help another reader out there.
My husband active duty Navy and we have choices for our next duty station in Atsugi, Japan. It will be our first time living overseas. I’m feel extremely over whelemed and a little afraid. I’m doing my research about Astugi but I still feel no matter how much information that research I can never be prepared. I’m looking also opions of doing some studying/work over there. I just don’t know where and how to being. If anyone have any suggestion/advice it would so hepful. Thank You.
I would seek out a spouses FB group for that duty station and ask questions there. I think those spouses and families will serve as an invaluable resource.
Not keeping important documents with you. Hang on to important documents, so you can easily re-establish your lifestyle. These are needed at every stage of a move, from making travel arrangements, registering children for school and establishing new physicians using your prior medical records.
Great tip! Thanks for sharing!
My husband is in the Marines and we got orders for Okinawa, Japan for this August. We are super excited as this is our first military move but we are also nervous and have a million questions. We are taking our 2 large breed dogs, as of now we are planning on taking them with us on the military flight but we all know that’s not a guarantee. We started their process back in January as we saw about the 180 day quarantine. Hoping all goes well for us and our doggies. My question is on the storage… we have 10 years of accumulated stuff and while I’m having yard sales to get rid of as much as possible, there are still a lot of items that I will need when we get back and don’t want to invest having to buy new ones. Is there a weight limit or capacity limit on how much they will store for us in the non-temporary storage?
Hi cathy, I was just wondering if you did bring your Dogs in Okinawa? How was the process goes? we will be moving in a month in Oki and still waiting for the orders so we can get the authorization from Japanese Kennel. Thanks
Great post! May I add one more mistake to avoid. Avoid getting into phone or internet contracts with terms that are not reasonable to a military family. My husband signed up for Softbank cell service when we PCS’d to Japan. Little did we know that because of a malignant tumor in my husband’s chest that we would be moving back to California a year and a half later for his treatment. Softbank treated us so unfairly, eventually charging us over $700 to cancel our two phone plans and one wifi plan. We were already going through such a rough time and to have been treated so poorly by this company really pushed us to the edge. When you move, read the contracts you sign and be careful with which ones you pick. and for God’s sake, stay away from Softbank for your phone plan if you’re moving to Japan! Love the blog, keep up the good work -Sarah M.
These are some great tips, and I appreciate your advice to avoid leaving empty spaces in your boxes when moving. My husband and I are going to be relocating in a few months, so we’re starting to pack the things we won’t need before then. We’ll definitely make sure to pack each box all the way, and we’ll fill any empty space with clothes. Thanks for the great post!