Military families share their top 10 PCS hacks

April 01, 2019

By: Lauren Messina, PhD, LCMFT*

Prepping for your next PCS? Get ahead of the chaos with these tips.
    1. Purge your stuff. Are there boxes you never unpacked after your last PCS? Now’s the time to decide what’s worth bringing to your next duty station. Consider unloading unused stuff by donating it to other military families or thrift stores nearby.
    2. Color code your rooms and packing boxes. Pick one color for each room (for example, green for the kitchen and yellow for the master bedroom) and apply colored stickers to each box to ease unpacking upon arrival. Instead of trying to read what’s on the boxes, save time by sending them to their “assigned color” rooms. 
      •  Pro tip: Set a “do not pack” area in your home—for instance, a closet or bathroom—before the movers arrive. Use the space to temporarily store things you’ll need for quick access such as your wallet or purse, smartphone, car keys, and important papers.
      • Smartly pack unpacking supplies and things you’ll need in an empty house. Keep a pair of scissors, a box cutter, and plenty of trash bags with you while traveling, so you have access to these things upon arrival. Also, pack toilet paper, hand soap, paper towels, hand towels, and a toolbox to help make your new home livable right away.
      • Use plastic baggies for small stuff. Store pencils, small toys, buttons, and jewelry in baggies to make unpacking these things a breeze.
        • Pro tip: Use baggies to store screws and bolts for furniture. Tape them to the furniture, or label the baggies and then put them in one box you carry with you.
      • Empty all trash cans before the movers arrive. Movers are known to pack full trash cans or diaper pails, so empty all trash and recycling bins to avoid a stinky unpacking experience.
      • Wrap it up! Protect belongings by wrapping them in plastic wrap, bags, or newspaper. For example, keep bedsheets dust-free by storing them in plastic bags. And place forks, knives, etc., inside a flatware holder, and cover it with plastic wrap.
        • Pro tip: You’ll likely need towels, sheets, and a shower curtain when you arrive at your new home, especially if you get there before your boxes. Wrap or bag these things and carry them with you.
      • Tighten loose lids. Full soap dispensers can lead to a soapy mess upon arrival. So, empty soap dispensers, tape down lids, or securely wrap containers with food or other items to prevent spills during travel.
      • Be flexible on long drives. Especially if you have young kids, try to plan a few pit stops along the way. Then, check how everyone’s doing “in the moment” and decide when it’s time for a break—or if you can drive longer and cover more miles.
      • Scout around for free Wi-Fi. Look for free Wi-Fi at restaurants, coffee shops, and rest stops to help plan the next leg of your road trip. If you have a pet, check useful resources or online to find pet-friendly hotels along your route. 
      • Keep swimsuit(s) handy! If you’re staying in hotels, head to the pool to get kids’ energy out and enable everyone to relax a bit.
        Visit HPRC’s website for more packing and travel tips to help make your move a smooth one!

        Lauren Messina, of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, is a Senior Scientist for the Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP) at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

        * The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences or the United States Department of Defense.

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