Permanent Change of station (PCS) military members are all about that relocation life. With PCSing, everyone and everything in your household will be on the move soon after you get PCS orders.
While this can definitely be stress-inducing, you can make it a lot better if you lean into your permanent change of station and allow yourself to fully prepare beforehand. Hype yourself up to get really in the mood to move. This will help you get into planning and the inevitable PCS paperwork.
You are probably heading somewhere new, right? Perhaps somewhere you’ve never lived before? Get excited and take command of your relocation!
We’re ready to help answer questions such as “What does PCS mean in the military?” We’ve got tips from the experts, too! So whether this is your first time PCSing or your fifth time, or whether you are traveling alone or with family, we’re here to guide you through this process.
Alright, future PCS experts, let’s do this! Know what you’re looking for? Click the corresponding link to jump right to the section.
1. What Are PCS Orders?
2. When Do You Receive PCS Orders?
3. Important PCS Military Acronyms
⚬ Full PCS Process Guide
⚬ PCS Move Checklist – Pre Move
⚬ PCS Budget Planning
⚬ PCS Calculators
4. Scheduling a PCS Move
⚬ During the Move
⚬ Post PCS Move
5. PCS Move Tips
⚬ PCSing with Pets
⚬ PCSing with Family
⚬ PCSing by Yourself
⚬ First PCS Move
What Are PCS Orders?
If this is your first PCS move, you may be asking yourself, “What does PCS mean in the military?” Military moves all start with orders that are influenced by your rank, the length of the job or training and where you are assigned to help the DoD experts.
All of this will help determine your move’s details. Permanent Change of Station orders means you are assigned to a location for a lengthy set of time for either training or job fulfillment. As such, a complete household move is part of a PCS.
When Do You Receive PCS Orders?
Every two to four years is the usual rotation for receiving PCS orders, with May 15 through September 30 being known as peak PCS season.
If you don’t have orders yet, purge or donate any household items that you no longer use while you are waiting. The less you have to move when the time comes, the better! You can also take inventory of your items, so you know what you’ll have to move when orders arrive. An accurate and detailed list will also help you file a loss or damage claim if an incident occurs.
Important PCS Military Acronyms
Once you’re prepared with the where and when information of your PCS orders, you have everything you need to know to begin planning your PCS move!
Before we launch into the specifics, here are some PCS-related military acronyms you’ll need to know. Don’t be surprised if these abbreviations appear in everyday conversations or across the information you research for PCSing.
CONUS & OCONUS
Continental United States (CONUS) moves are the most common PCS moves. Interestingly, Hawaii and Alaska are not considered CONUS as they are labeled outside of continental boundaries. Similarly, OCONUS stands for Outside the Continental United States, referring to military members and families heading overseas for their PCS.
PCSing military members are entitled to have their household goods (HHG) moved on the government’s dime. During your HHG move, your belongings are packed and transported to your new location.
A personally procured move (PPM) means you will be packing and moving your belongings to your new home. Or, you will be hiring a commercial mover such as POD or U-Haul for your PPM. The government will pay a large chunk of the cost to hire a mover. In some cases, you will be able to save some of that money by completing the move yourself for less.
Don’t worry, you start to memorize and recognize these acronyms as you move through the PCS process!
More like this: Enjoy a Military Move: An In-Depth Guide & Expert Tips and 7 Expert Tips for Your Upcoming PCS Move to help you understand more about the packing and shipping process involved with PCSing.
Full PCS Process Guide
Your orders give you the go-ahead to begin building your PCS moving schedule.
- Make an appointment to take your orders to your new transportation office.
- Visit Move.mil to set up your Defense Property System account.
- Visit MyBaseGuide to download the base or post guide, including maps, a telephone directory, and a military buyer’s guide for your new assignment.
- Check out our Automated Housing Referral Network and explore homes for sale or rent in your new area!
PCS Move Checklist
It’s too easy to lose track of stuff when you’re on the move. Do yourself a favor and create a custom move checklist designed by the DOD’s experts at Plan My Move. The printable PCS checklists below will help you to stay on top of your family’s move. Click here to download your free PDF copy of our budget estimator sheets!
More Like This: Protect Your PCS With A Home Inventory Tracker & Sheet and review The PCS Prohibited List.
PCS Budget Planning
The DoD provides allowances for housing and moving to ease the expense of moving. Go to the Defense Travel Management Office for allowance tables, per diem rates and tools to help you successfully plan your PCS budget.
For a CONUS PCS, the government will reimburse you for mileage and toll expenses to drive your car to your new location. Be sure to save receipts as proof of just how far you drove!
Your PCS weight allowance will depend on your rank, dependency status, and type of move. This number will determine how much of your HHG the government will pay to be moved to your new location.
You can use the United States Transportation Command’s online Weight Estimator to calculate the total estimate for your household relocation. Compare the estimate to your allowance, and plan accordingly to ensure all essential items can make it to your new location. Beware that overweight fees can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars!
For the best results and moving savings, split your moving allowance into both PPM and HHG moves. The PPM will allow you to keep control of your irreplaceable and daily-use items. The HHG will be especially helpful for packing up the bulk of your move as well as moving heavy stuff.
More like this: Discover What is the Current PCS Weight Allowance? In-Depth Guide & Expert Tips.
Pro Tip: Your local personal property office is where the PCS gurus are. Ask the experts for help determining how to move your household into various shipments.
Scheduling a PCS Move
To schedule your move in DPS, you need:
- Estimated shipping weights
- Pick-up and delivery dates and locations
- Specialty item list (boat, guns, R.V., large electronics, etc.)
- Professional books, paper and equipment list
- Your preferred moving company
When you take your Defense Personal Property Systems (DPS) forms to your transportation office, you will be assigned a moving company.
During the Move
When possible, keep kids and pets out of the house or isolated in a room during packing day. You don’t want to add the hassle of a spooked animal or distressed child to everything else you have going on. Also, if you have a pet or a child (or both), you are probably aware of how much of a mess they can make, even as you are trying to pack and clean up.
Move your PPM items into your locked car in the garage or driveway at the start of packing day. You don’t want to risk getting your valuables, such as laptops, medicines, car titles, family heirlooms, jewelry and move paperwork, tossed in an unmarked box. Now you will be able to see how much space you have left to keep clothing, favorite toys, pet kennels, bedsheets, and bath towels on hand in the car throughout your journey.
Pay close attention to the movers’ inventory documentation. Be sure your items include enough descriptive info and not just vague terms. This way, you can show exactly what items were shipped. Also, don’t forget to collect the driver’s phone number so you can stay in touch during the trip.
If something does happen to go wrong, call your transportation office. Do not attempt to negotiate or argue directly with the movers, as help is available to you in these situations.
Post PCS Move
You’ve moved! But there are still some final steps to take to ensure everything is in line. Update your address sooner than later to avoid complications. Here are a few starting suggestions to get you started with the long process:
- Social Security Admin
- Banks/Credit Unions
- Insurance Companies
- DMV & Voter Registration
- Subscription and Delivery Services
- Utility Companies
- Internet/Mobile Companies
- Credit Card Companies and Other Lenders
PCS Move Tips
As you are currently experiencing or have experienced in the past, moving is super stressful. As such, we’ve put together some insightful tips that other military members and their families have found helpful in the past.
Listen to Music While Packing
Make or discover a moving playlist or two! Music is proven to have a calming effect when you feel overwhelmed. Furthermore, music can have a let’s-do-this impact on your brain when you need the motivation to get moving. Get in a groove and get stuff done no matter where you are in your PCS process.
PCSing with Pets
- Make sure your pet is healthy with update-to-date immunizations. This will make it easier for you to quickly board your pet or have it cared for while you are packing or moving.
- Remember, pets can be unpredictable when they are in unfamiliar surroundings. Be prepared to recover a panicked pet! Microchips and current I.D. tags make it easier for people to help you reconnect with lost pets.
- Pack a travel bag for your pet’s daily needs, too. This should include food, water, bowls, leash, toys, bedding and any needed medication.
If you have pets and you’re scheduled for a PCS, CONUS or OCONUS move, we have tons of tips, advice, and information you need to know about moving with pets.
PCSing with Family
- Hold a family celebration to break the PCS news to your friends and extended family. Help your immediate family adjust by making it exciting, and explain there will be new places to explore and new friends to meet.
- Bring fun to the packing process! If you have younger children, buy some markers and let your child decorate their boxes. Use special tape or stickers for each family member to make it easy to know where the boxes go.
- If your family starts to feel stressed while unpacking, take a break to do something fun as a family. Take a walk. Ride bikes. Outdoor activities are an excellent way to reset and refocus.
PCSing by Yourself
- To pass the time, consider listening to an audiobook in the car. This will help the miles go by faster if you have a long drive ahead.
- Bring your pillow! You may not be able to sleep in your bed for a little while during your PCS, but your pillow will make you feel closer to home after a long day of traveling.
- Have you checked the expiration date on your driver’s license lately? Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of moving or changing an address to get this updated. Tickets for an expired driver’s license can be costly and unexpected. And you’ll want to be sure you can clear the gate guard upon arrival at your new base.
If It’s Your First PCS Move
- Know Who to Call for Help:
- Army: 1-(800)-762-7186
- Marine Corps & Navy: 1-(855)-444-6683
- Air Force: 1-(210)-652-3357
- Coast Guard: 1-(833)-551-0887
- USTRANSCOM: 1-(833)-645-6683
- Get an appraisal for the expensive items you’re moving in case they become lost or damaged.
- Use a video inventory to note the condition of your furniture, TVs, etc., when shipped. This is much quicker than taking images or documenting their conditions in writing.
- Are you moving with firearms in your car? Make sure you are aware of the firearms laws in the states you travel through during your PCS.
To save money, stay in lodging with rates negotiated for per diem. There are many resources such as FedRooms that can help you save on traveling costs.
Additional PCS Help
Now you are ready to begin your own PCS adventure! Make the best of your PCS by remaining optimistic and using the info provided to set up a successful permanent change of station for you and your family.
You can find tons of information on your new military community at MyBaseGuide. MBG has the up-to-date info you need to settle into your home, from the best restaurants to top schools and outstanding recreation options.
Furthermore, Military OneSource provides free, confidential non-medical counseling to discuss how to manage relocation stress. Here, you can schedule an appointment 24/7 via a secure online live chat.
The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.