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5 PCS packing hacks


Tis the season to be PCSing and whether you're feeling super ambitious and flying solo with a DITY move or you've lined up some questionably trained movers to come pack up your life, we want to make this move your easiest.

Take it from someone whose movers packed the leftover Chinese food from the night before that was in a plastic bag next to the door to take to the trash chute (super fun to unpack that nastiness in Guam three months later), packing is essential.

Here are five of our best packing hacks to help you live your best PCS life.

Day one box

Imagine all the things you really need on your first day. Thinking you might want to actually cook a meal after days of takeout? Put a pan in there with some paper plates, silverware and paper towels. Maybe you like pillows and sheets on your bed? Check, check. Do you generally prefer that your shower has a curtain in it? Yep, grab that.

Spend a few days taking stock of the things you actually need in your life and put those together for a "day one box." Make sure it's labeled as such so you can easily identify it, and once you're at your new location you'll be able to get through the first day with just that bad boy and a cocktail or two.

Sort your stuff

Take a page from the Marie Condo book and sort all your things. There's nothing more frustrating than opening 27 boxes and finding six books in each one. It's like a horrible birthday surprise that just keeps on giving. We can promise present you that future you will be so grateful you took the time to sort your things.

What does this look like? Put all your clothes in the same room. All your books in a pile. All your tools. The obscene amount of Christmas decorations. Your crafts. Baseball cards. Any grouping you can make, do it. Sort, my friend. It will make unpacking so much easier on the other side. Plus, we imagine that once you see the unreasonable amount of stuff you have, you're going to want to donate at least half of it. So, you're welcome.

DIY disassemble 

Anything that needs to be taken apart to fit in the truck will be, and we can more or less guarantee you that the screws needed for that one bookshelf in your office will somehow end up with your forks.

Save yourself a giant headache and 19 trips to the hardware store at your next duty station by taking apart anything that can be, ahead of time. Then, put the hardware in a labeled plastic bag so you know what it goes to. You can either duct tape that plastic bag to that piece of furniture, or store all of your hardware together in a tackle box to put in your "day one box."

While you should be taking pictures of everything you own before it goes onto that black hole that is your moving truck, we also recommend taking pictures of how the assembled furniture is supposed to look once it's put back together for easy reference.


Speaking of taking pictures, this moving hack will save you hours of frustration, Googling and potentially electrocution. Take a picture of the back of your television, appliances, electronics… really anything with multiple wires.

Sure, you think you know know that the red cord goes in the plug on the left, but wait until you've spent six days in a car with toddlers asking every five minutes when you're going to be there. You're not going to remember your middle name, let alone where the cords go. Save yourself the headache and take a picture of anything that's hooked up for easy reference of how to re-hook-it-up (technical term).

Egg carton jewelry

Your jewelry somehow survived the trip without finding its way into a pocket or spilled on a sidewalk, and now you have the next five hours of your life that you'll never get back to spend on untangling it.

Or, skip the hassle and put necklaces and bracelets into the compartments of an egg carton. Bonus points for the fact they'll have a nice little cushion. If eggs can make the trip from the farm to the grocery store, so can strands of pearls.

Moving is hard enough as it is. Packing doesn't need to be. Use our five hacks and visit PCSgrades to learn how to simplify your PCS life. From how to move to how to find a realtor and everything in betwee, PCSgrades has you covered.

This post is sponsored by PCSgrades.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Ryan Zeski

7 airplane travel hacks with kids


Yeah! You got orders to (insert foreign country overseas)! You can already picture your kids in the international school, speaking with cute little accents and wearing local garments. Adorbs. You've got your housing picked out, adventures planned and passport photos taken. You're ready for your epic move ... except for that 13 hour plane ride. Have you wrapped your head around that yet? Before you grab for a paper bag and start hyperventilating, use our travel hacks to help make the emotional turbulence you're experiencing a little lighter.

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We've all said it: "We'll drive. It won't be that bad." We picture the adventure, the memories, the nostalgia of car trips when we were younger.

But if we're really being honest with ourselves, think back to those car trips. Someone was crying. Someone was puking. Someone was whining. That person very well may have been your poor mother. True story, my mom once got out and walked along the highway when all six of us kids wouldn't stop fighting. A long car trip can be daunting, but with our tips and tricks they don't need to be.

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Nordwood theme, Unsplash


Name the most disgusting item erroneously packed by your movers… for me it was used coffee grounds and of course, trash. For others, I've heard everything from wet towels to dirty diapers. I've caught movers raiding my fridge, lounging on my mattress in my front yard, and throwing out items that they've broken. Raise your hand (or have a drink) if you ever had packers show up late (or not at all). Ever had packers get into a shouting match among themselves as they were packing your china? Or have you caught your movers throwing boxes down the stairs to the basement? That would be me!


With each military move, there are "lessons learned". For instance, I won't go into great detail but let's just say after watching one packer go directly from using the restroom back to packing my kitchen without washing his hands, we now use gigantic ziplock bags to "pre-pack" all my kitchen utensils. A packers' bare flesh has never again touched one of my kitchen utensils.

My family's last military move was by far the shortest, only 1½ miles up the road. We were moving from a rental to a home we purchased. It was by far the worst in terms of damage and overall angst. I think because we were only "moving up the road" the pack job left a lot to be desired. I found one box of dishes which had not one piece of wrapping paper! Instead two throw pillows from my family room were used as a buffer! Amazingly, nothing was broken! Go figure!

When I heard glass shatter in the moving truck, I asked one of the guys what shattered.

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There are any number of reasons why in a given situation renting might be better than buying or vice versa. For military families, it might make more sense to buy at one duty station and then rent at the next. Up for consideration with each PCS is whether to buy or rent, to stay on-base or off. In making these decisions, there are numerous pros and cons to consider.


  • Purchasing the right home can be a great financial investment that can grow in value over time.
  • Tax deductions such as mortgage interest and property taxes can greatly reduce your overall income tax burden if you itemize.
  • Being a homeowner can give you pride of ownership and a sense of stability, rare in the military life which can seem nomadic at times.
  • A mortgage payment that is lower than your BAH can result in a boost to your savings.
  • You can decorate however you want! Goodbye white walls! Hello, Color!
  • Anyone can stay with you at any time. So it is not a problem when your Mom or sister comes for an extended stay during a deployment or following a PCS.
  • You can do (almost) whatever you want….host a late night party, plant a garden, knock a wall down!
  • There are no security or pet deposits when you buy a home.
  • You have the opportunity to become a landlord when military orders arrive and you have to move. Your home can become an investment property, providing a source of income which can partially or totally offset your mortgage, taxes, and insurance payments.
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While retired military Space A travel is a privilege, there are some retirees that do not have this privilege. There are different categories of retirees, some are eligible for Space A and some are not. But there are efforts to change the eligibility requirements.

For a retiree to be eligible for Space A travel they must possess a 'Blue' DD Form 2 (Military ID card). This includes those that are medically retired. Their dependents are also allowed to travel with them and must bring along their ID cards. All dependents should be enrolled in DEERS.


There are plenty of rumors out there saying that ALL retirees are eligible. This is not true. If you are 100% disabled and you only possess a DD Form 1173, or the new DD Form 2765 ID cards, you are not entitled to travel on Space A. Also, if you possess the brown ID card with DAVPRM (Disabled Veteran Permanent) in the bottom right, then you too are not entitled to retired military space a travel Space A travel privileges.

Dependents of retirees are not allowed to travel without the retiree. If the retiree dies, then the dependents no longer have Space A privileges.

If you are a member of the Guard or Reserves with a 'Red" DD Form 2 you can travel through CONUS (Continental United States), to, from, and between Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico. Also, if you are active duty for more than 30 consecutive days, Guardsmen and Reservists may fly anywhere that Space A flies.

Dependents of the Guard and Reserves are not authorized to fly on Space A until the member reaches the age of 60. At that time, they will be in the same category as a regular retiree, Category 6. Retired Guardsmen and Reservists who have completed their 20 years but are not old enough to collect their retired pay are considered to be in a "gray area".


There have been attempts to change the eligibility of all of the above retirees and dependents.

The first Bill to be submitted to the House of Representatives was House Bill 4164 aka Space-Available Act of 2012. This bill sought to authorize the Secretary of Defense to establish a program to provide transportation on Department of Defense (DOD) aircraft on a space-available basis for (1) active duty and reserve members holding a valid Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card; (2) retired members who, but for not attaining age 60, would be eligible for military retired pay; (3) an un-remarried widow or widower of an active or reserve member; and (3) certain dependents of members described above. Allows the Secretary to establish an order of priority based on considerations of military needs and readiness.

This Bill was sent to the Subcommittee on Readiness in March of 2012 where it has sat with no action.

Earlier this year, a measure to establish a space-available transportation priority for veterans of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected, permanent disability rated as total was introduced in the house. That bill HR 936 was referred to the House Subcommittee on Readiness.


How can you help? Write your Congressman. Make your voice known.

The Gray Area Retirees Facebook group was created to talk about these problems and to try to get the changes implemented.

Space-A eligibility is sometimes confusing and false information is passed around often. Check out the resources in this article for any updates.

PCSgrades.com is a review platform for military and veteran families. Leave a review of your prior duty station and read the reviews of where you are PCSing to. Home is where the military sends us and together we can make a difference!

This post sponsored by PCSgrades.