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Should you do the DITY move?

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Every military family has thought about doing a Personal Procured Move (PPM) or DITY move at some point along the way. Was it the time the screws to the crib were lost, or you had to sleep on the air mattress for the 14th night in a row? For our family, it was when only half of our HHG arrived at the new duty station. We had a dining room table with no chairs, office chair without a desk, box springs sans the mattress. It took another two weeks to get the issue resolved. Two weeks! And after hearing PCS horror stories from other military families, we realized how lucky we were!


We vowed to do a full DITY move, ok fine PPM, the next time. It went so well we have never looked back. Here are our tips to maximize preparation time and minimize move time.

DITY MOVE: COLLECT BOXES FROM FELLOW MILITARY FAMILIES

Summer isn't the only time military families PCS. If you know orders are coming in the next year, it's helpful to start collecting free supplies sooner rather than later. Mattress and wardrobe boxes are the best. If you get "surprise orders" you can still put out a PSA on the local Facebook pages and see if anyone has any boxes left over that they are willing to unload. Liquor stores have lots of boxes they will let you take off their hands, and they frequently come with dividers in the wine boxes. Can we say makeshift dish packs?

GET ORGANIZED

Dedicate a space in your house where you can put all the packed up boxes. A garage is an excellent option if you have one! Pack up one room at a time starting with the least used room and work backward. It's also a good opportunity to donate any items you haven't used for an extended period. Military families don't spring clean; we PCS clean! Label the boxes with the items inside and drop off location at the new house. (i.e. "Christmas Decor- Storage Room" or "Books and Awards-Office") Stack your boxes in your dedicated space as you go.

GETTING TO YOUR NEW DUTY STATION

You have a few options here and can decide what works best for your situation. Some families choose to use a service like U-Pack and have their HHG shipped for them. This is a great option! If you want to haul the load yourself, Penske and U-Haul offer military discounts. We suggest renting a dolly and some moving blankets with your truck. Your larger furniture items are better off covered, and the dolly is a life saver. You can also elect to tow your car behind the truck. The inside of the car being towed doubles as storage and can be packed with last-minute boxes, suitcases or even houseplants.

LOADING DAY FOR YOUR DITY MOVE

Have your boxes neatly organized in the garage so you can back the POD or moving truck right up to it. It won't take much time to load with everything organized and a few feet away. Ask your friends for a solid 3 hours of their time to help lift and load. After the truck is packed, feed them as a thank you like you would the military movers. Also, make sure to put a good lock on the back of the truck to prevent anyone from breaking in. It is sad to say, but a packed truck is sometimes too tempting for some.

TRAVEL SMART

The truck is loaded, the house is cleaned, and all things not in the truck are packed into the car being towed, or a secondary vehicle. If you are as OCD as we are, you have mapped out your route to be a door to door military move!

Things to consider when traveling include: the speed governor on many moving trucks doesn't allow the truck to travel much over 60 mph, so it'll be a nice steady drive. Traveling with kids can be a challenge so make sure to find the local Chick Fil A's with indoor playgrounds. Stop at parks along the way for some much needed time outside of the car. If it's an option along your route, hotels on military bases add extra security which is a consideration since your entire life is in the moving truck. Many hotel chains offer military discounts and pets stay for free at La Quinta. Don't forget that kids eat free at many places. Sure, you get a daily per diem, but free is free!

UNLOAD AND RELAX!

You've traveled smart and have arrived at your new duty station! Since you probably don't know a ton of people yet, you could look into hiring some hourly movers to help unload. Maybe you'll end up with neighbors who come over and offer to help with the heavy furniture like we did! Your boxes are clearly labeled with where to put them, so it'll be easy to offload. Now you can unpack at your speed and not have to worry about what is missing or broken.

FILE AWAY ALL RECEIPTS

All branches, except the Navy, are encouraged to use the Government Travel Card for PCS expenses. We recommend still filing away the receipts for proof of purchase or in case of any discrepancies with finance or transportation. If you have a service member like mine, an After Action Report (AAR) will be in order to see how we can do better and maximize our money next time.

TREAT YO SELF!

Once you get the reimbursement for the move and per diem, do something fun as a family as a reward. Military moving is hard work, and you deserve to celebrate your accomplishment. Put some money in savings or maybe replace the one item that you broke along the way. The sky is the limit with your extra cash!

Moving your entire home by yourself is not easy, but you CAN do it. If you love to control every aspect of everything, like me, you might even enjoy the process!

This post was sponsored by PCSgrades

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lauren Matia Deal
Stephanie Wade/U.S. Transportation Command

In military life, there is really nothing more stressful than a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). Deployments are a close second, but a PCS takes the cake. Combine a PCS with a deployment and not only do you want to eat all of the proverbial cake, you want to guzzle copious amounts of wine, too. We see you. Cheers.

One company, PCSgrades, is trying to make the PCS process feel more like a three-letter acronym than a four-letter expletive. Founded by veteran Todd Ernst, PCSgrades is the epitome of the military community taking care of its own. "PCSing has an emotional connotation," said Ernst. "We use it as an adverb, adjective, a noun and even as a cuss word."

Ernst started PCSgrades in 2015 after seeing friends struggle with unethical real estate agents and being taken advantage of by moving companies who knew DoD would be a paying customer no matter how poorly the companies treated their clients - us.

Here are 4 resources PCSgrades provides that you need to make moving easier:

1. Housing reviews

Does it get any more stressful than finding out where you're going to be stationed, Googling base housing at that station and getting results from 15 years ago (if you find anything, at all)? Nope, no it doesn't.

PCSgrades is changing the game on that by having military families who live in an area provide honest, candid reviews of their housing so incoming families can benefit. With reviews of both on and off base locations, families can finally get the truth about housing, whether it has black mold or the best views in town.

2. Moving company reviews

Great, you've figured out where to live; that's half the battle. The other, larger, more complex half? Figuring out how your stuff is going to get there. Knowing someone else will be handling your personal property and driving away with it for the foreseeable future is stressful enough. But not knowing what that company's background is, well that's a whole different ball game.

PCSgrades has countless reviews of moving companies provided by military families who have used them. Let's be honest: You wouldn't try a new Chinese delivery place without looking at reviews … why should picking a moving company be any different?

3. Area guides

The giant Google machine can only get you so far in life when you're researching your new duty station. We know you're busy and you want one-stop shopping on the interwebs. What you really need is aggregate data of things like schools to attend, restaurants to try, day trips to take and neighborhoods to avoid.

Introducing Area Guides, which offer exactly that: a holistic view of where you're moving and what to do once you get there. The best part? These are written by military families who have done it, for military families who are doing it.

4. Network of realtors and resources

PCSgrades has a nationwide network of A-graded realtors who know and understand the military and veteran lifestyle. Many of the realtors are veterans or spouses themselves, which takes the empathy to a whole new level. Having a realtor who gets the pressures of PCSing and the challenges of a military move is key to finding the right home for your family.

"I have friends who are hundreds of thousands of dollars upside down after bad home choices," Ernst said. "Housing choices can be pretty limited. Our moves are way more expensive than the typical civilian move." This is why Ernst created a way to alleviate the pain points for military families through PCSgrades.

In addition to a network of realtors, PCSgrades partners with "HomeScout," which allows you to search up-to-date home listings nationwide. Simply create an account with PCSgrades and the realty world is your oyster.

Whether you're looking for a new neighborhood, trying to find a vetted realtor, need a PCS checklist (let's be honest, is it on your radar to look at the expiration date of your military ID card two months before you PCS? Yeah, we know the truth; download the checklists here), or you're just wanting to know more about where you're heading, PCSgrades is making moving easier for every military family. Pay it forward by leaving reviews and be sure to take advantage of their excellent resources, today.

This post sponsored by PCSgrades.

7 airplane travel hacks with kids

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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

WE ALL HAVE OUR SHARE OF HORROR STORIES WHEN IT COMES TO MILITARY MOVING!

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!

LESSONS LEARNED

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.

PROS TO BUYING

  • 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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