What to Hand Carry When You Move

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 or place in your luggage 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 keep with you.

Important documents

A smooth move requires all kinds of paperwork. 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 settle into your new home more smoothly. Here are some tips that will make things like checking into a new installation, registering for school and beginning new utility services a little easier.

  • Orders - You will definitely need orders before you leave and when getting settled in. Keep your original set of orders with you at all times. Having more than one copy with you is also 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 recent 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 and denomination 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 resume 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 child with special needs, 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.

Many of these items can easily be carried in a folder. You may want to take an extra step to ensure that virtual documents stored on your computer and other devices 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 important to have them backed up.

Essentials for your trip and your first nights in your new home

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 location. 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 few 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 - This might include clothing, a special toy or book and any other personal items that might make them feel more comfortable.
  • 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 - 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 transition into a new home as smooth as possible.


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