Preparing for a permanent change of station, or PCS, can be a stressful time. There are so many arrangements to make and possessions to organize that it isn’t uncommon to forget something. Perhaps one of the most inconvenient mishaps is packing something that you need to hand-carry for safety, security or convenience purposes. In order to ensure that your next PCS goes as smoothly as possible, double check that you’ve set certain documents and belongings aside to hand carry with you.
A smooth move requires all kinds of paperwork. In order to best keep important documents organized throughout the move, certain papers should be hand-carried. This isn’t just for convenience’s sake. Keeping certain items safely with you can help protect your identity, your assets and allow you to immediately settle into your new home by making things like checking into a new installation, registering for school, and beginning new utility service possible.
- Orders — You will definitely need orders for check-in, and you may find that you need to present proof of orders in several other aspects of getting settled. Having more than one copy with you is a good idea.
- Identification for each family member — Military IDs; driver’s licenses; Social Security cards; passports; and birth, marriage and naturalization certificates may be needed immediately by various organizations upon arrival.
- Vehicle documentation — If you’re driving to your destination, your vehicle title or lease information and proof of vehicle inspection, registration and insurance are a must.
- Financial information — For security purposes, personal checks, any hard copies of bank statements, and credit and debit cards should travel with you. If you anticipate encountering toll roads on your trip, you might also want to carry an appropriate amount of cash.
- Housing information — Carry the household inventory that your moving company provided as well as contact phone numbers and lease or mortgage paperwork.
- Legal documents — Any applicable documents, like divorce or annulment paperwork from a previous marriage, wills, custody or adoption paperwork, and any powers of attorney should travel with you.
- School or employment records — Carry any transcripts, report cards or grade sheets that your children may need for school registration. You or your spouse may need transcripts, a current résumé and letters of recommendation to look for or begin employment after a move. Also have contacts for new employers and schools on hand. If your child has an Individualized Education Program it will be important to carry this with you. For additional information on moving with a special needs child, please check out Military OneSource.
- Medical and vaccination records and physician information — Previous medical and dental records should be submitted to new physicians and dentists, and vaccination records will likely be needed for school registration and for some employment.
While many of these items can easily be carried in a folder, many files, like those stored on your computer, are seemingly safe during transit, but you may want to take an extra step to ensure those virtual documents are safe as well. You may want to back up important files on a flash drive, external hard drive, or even print hard copies of select documents. Your computer and the files inside may arrive safely, but for important files and documents, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Essentials for your trip and your first nights in your new home
Not everything you take along with you on your move will be a document. Depending on your situation, you may need a few simple items to make sure that each member of your family is comfortable and cared for throughout the trip and after you arrive at your new home. It is not uncommon to spend at least one night in your new home before you receive your shipment or begin to unpack, so be prepared for your time on the road or your first nights in your new home with the following items:
- Medication for each family member — Prescription medications for each family member should be close at hand. You may also want to pack a few basic over-the-counter medications, like pain relievers, allergy medication or antacids as a precaution.
- Overnight bag for each family member
- Food — Water and a few basic travel snacks may be all you need, but if you’re traveling with an infant or small child, be sure to bring any necessary formula, bottles, baby food or snacks appropriate for your child’s age.
- Bed and bath essentials — You may spend one or more nights sleeping on the floor in your new home after you arrive. Bring air mattresses, sheets and blankets for each family member and a portable crib and fitted sheet if you’re traveling with an infant. You’ll also need toilet paper, towels, a shower curtain and hooks in order to use the bathroom in your new house.
- Kitchen essentials — Depending on your situation you may need disposable cups, plates, bowls, flatware, a pot and pan, scissors, paper and a pen.
- Basic cleaning supplies — You never know what condition your new house will be in when you arrive. Be prepared with garbage bags, a basic disinfectant, paper towels and rags to help you sanitize highly used areas before your shipment arrives.
- Necessary electronics and chargers — Don’t forget your cell phone and charger to let loved ones know when you arrive and to help you make contacts at your new duty station.
- Comfort items for your children — Help your child feel safe by bringing night lights for your new house and a favorite blanket or stuffed animal. Depending on the length of your journey, you might also want to bring along a few small toys to occupy your children while en route.
Make sure to set all items and documents aside in a safe place before your packers and movers arrive so there is no confusion about what stays with you and what belongs on the moving truck. Ensuring that these items make the trip with you is a small step that can make your trip and transition into a new home as smooth as possible.