When it comes to military life, moving is a given, regardless of branch, rank, or personal preference. You may not be able to choose where or when you and your family will move, but you do have choices when it comes to how to move your household goods to your new home. Unfortunately, there is no one best way to move, but when it comes to moving in the military, you do have several options!
Option #1: Have the Military Move Your Household Goods
This is pretty straightforward. Your service member coordinates with your base Transportation Office, and schedules the movers. They may come a few weeks or days in advance and walk through your home, noting any special items that may require special arrangements, such as: shipping a vehicle, moving a piano, taxidermy, antique furniture, etc. The packers will come to your home and package up all of your household items, and the movers will load it into the moving truck and either take it directly to your new home (if you have an address), or put it into storage until you have a home to deliver it to (usually they will temporarily store your goods for up to 60 days). When you find your new home, the movers will deliver and unpack your household goods-usually within a few weeks/months after you arrive. If you notice items that are damaged or broken when the movers unload, you can file a claim through www.move.mil within 75 days of delivery to receive reimbursement or repairs.
Option #2: Partial DITY (Do-It-Yourself) or PPM (Personally Procured Move)
This seems to be one of the more common ways to PCS. If you have certain documents, furniture, or other items that are precious to you that you don’t want to be lost, damaged, or stolen during your move, this may be the right option for you. Just as in option #1, the military will come, pack up your household, and ship it to your new home- EXCEPT they won’t move the items you have designated. You will be responsible for moving the items that are precious to you, and the Army will pay you by weight for moving those items. For example, if your family is allotted 14,500 lbs and the Army moves 13,000 lbs and you have 500 lbs of items that you move yourself, the Army will reimburse you for the 500 lbs you moved yourself.
Option #3: Full DITY ( Full Do-It-Yourself) or PPM (Personally Procured Move)
In this option, you and your family are responsible for packing and moving all of your household goods to your new home yourself. Your service member will work with the Transportation Office at your current duty station to obtain all the information. The Army will reimburse you for your weight allowance costs, as well as give you a partial payment up-front, so if you can accurately estimate your household good shipment weight, you may even make a small profit when you do a full PPM. On the downside, if you overestimate your household good weight, you will be required to pay back the excess money, so use caution when declaring your weight to the Transportation Office!
On our most recent PCS my Mr. S and I decided we would do a PPM from Fort Bragg, NC to our new duty station in Fort Leonard Wood, MO. We knew the movers had about a 1-2 month delay in delivering household good shipments, and we were moving in August and spending the month of September on vacation in Europe, so we decided a full DITY was the best option for us.
We booked the largest moving truck available, a 26 ft. Penske Truck (Side note: Penske is about $300 cheaper than U-Haul for the same size truck AND offers a military discount!) and started boxing up our house about a month and a half before our move. We had previously done a Partial DITY, and knew about the mover’s trick of wrapping furniture with moving blankets and then saran-wrapping over the top. This made a huge difference-only 1 piece of furniture had a scratch when we unloaded! Pretty good for a couple of newbies! I collected cardboard boxes from work, and we got free boxes from friends who had recently moved. We went to U-Haul and bought dish saver kits, foam dish sleeves, mattress covers, and duct tape labeled with “office” “kitchen” “bedroom” etc. as well as specialty wardrobe, picture frame, and television boxes. We have 3 vehicles, and decided to drive them all ourselves- (Note: I would not do this again!) so we had to make two trips from NC to MO. On our first trip, Mr. S drove the Penske truck and I followed behind in our Traverse with our cat. We bought walkie-talkies which were a huge help, and made the trip a little more fun. We made the trip in 2 days, staying overnight at a pet-friendly La Quinta Inn & Suites before arriving at the IHG in Leonard Wood. We found a house, signed a lease, and unloaded the truck before flying back the next weekend to NC to clear our on-post housing and drive our Suburban and U-Haul trailer (No, we didn’t get everything in the truck-we have too much stuff!), our car, and dog-back to MO!
Sound exhausting? It is. If I ever have my way, we will NOT do a PPM again! We thought at the time it was our best option, and it might have been, but later we found out that Mr. S missed an important bit of information at his Transportation brief, and we could have had the Army pack and move all of our household goods to MO and keep it in storage for us for 60 days while we went on vacation and found a house, and then they would have unloaded and unpacked everything at our new address. So. Live and Learn.
SO, that being said, if you DO decide that a Full DITY/PPM move is right for you, here are some suggestions:
*Book your moving truck early! I price-checked Penske, U-Haul, and Budget trucks, and if I had booked my truck 3 months instead of 2 months before our move date, our rental would have been $500 instead of $1,000! Penske does not charge your credit card to make the reservation, you are charged the day you pick up the truck, so there’s no reason not to reserve it early if you have a move date!
*Get insurance on your moving truck/trailer! Even if you or your spouse is an excellent driver- aren’t we all?!- the other drivers on the road are not. You never know what will happen on the road when you move cross-country, so better safe than stranded!
*Use walkie-talkies! Yes, everyone has cell phones, but walkie-talkies were a HUGE lifesaver on our drive! Use your cell phone for music, gps, or to chat with your mom on your drive, and use the walkie-talkies to coordinate lane changes, stops along the way, etc. Besides, you’re driving 2 separate vehicles so you don’t have to hear your spouse swearing at other drivers, right? 😉
*Go look at the moving trucks before you reserve them! We went with Penske as it was a lot cheaper for the same size of truck, but U-Haul’s truck is built much lower to the ground with a lower ramp, which would have made it easier to load and unload heavy furniture and the piano. I’m still glad we rented through Penske, their customer service is amazing and it was a completely painless rental process, but it would’ve been nice to have really seen and compared the different types of trucks.
*Check and double check your routes before you get on the road! Yes, this seems to be so obvious, but we actually forgot to do this. We ended up taking a completely different route than we expected between our Garmin GPS, Google Maps App, Waze App and my trusty Rand McNally Atlas, but it ended up being a lot easier to drive through the mountains. It also took us 3 more hours. Just trust me on this one and check your route.
*Look for pet friendly hotels in advance! We left a day earlier than expected and just planned to drive until we got tired, but it was no fun to be sitting at Cracker Barrel at 9 pm in the middle of nowhere Tennessee trying to find a hotel that allowed our cat. IHG hotels on military bases allow pets, but if there’s not one along your route, just make sure you plan in advance. Most La Quinta Inns & Suites are also pet-friendly but some hotels may charge a pet fee.
*Take advantage of packing and loading/unloading services! When you make your moving truck/trailer reservations you have an option to add on loading/unloading or packing services. Make sure you really consider this before clicking “Skip This Step”. You may regret it when you’re heaving a massive upright piano up the loading ramp!
*Research, Research, Research! There’s tons of information about military moves online, and some sites dedicated specifically to PCS moves. Check them out! There’s a lot of good packing tips. Some of my favorites are www.move.mil , www.ditymovers.com , and www.military.com.
*Explore your other moving options! Option #1 and #2 look pretty good after you’ve moved yourself. Make sure you really understand how you can PCS before you try a full DITY/PPM!
Have you had experiences doing a PPM yourself? Leave a comment with your best tips and tricks below! Happy PCS’ing! 🙂