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What to Hand Carry When You Move

Airman preparing to move

To help you get settled in as smoothly as possible after your move, important items should be carried with you for safe keeping and easy access. From important documents to items you need when you arrive, here’s what to keep close.

Important documents

The most important items to keep with you during a PCS are your vital documents. Check off each item in this list and make multiple copies, as appropriate. Electronic copies can be convenient, but make sure to have physical copies as well.

  • Orders – Keep your original set of orders with you at all times and make more than one copy.
  • Identification for each family member – Bring your military IDs and driver’s licenses, but also Social Security cards, passports and birth, marriage and naturalization certificates.
  • Vehicle documentation – Carry your vehicle title or lease information and proof of vehicle inspection, registration and insurance.
  • Financial information – Bring personal checks, any hard copies of recent bank statements, and all credit and debit cards – even the ones from department stores you never use.
  • Housing information – Carry the household inventory list your moving company provided, as well as lease or mortgage paperwork.
  • Legal documents – Bring divorce or annulment paperwork from a previous marriage, wills, custody or adoption paperwork, and any active power of attorney documents.
  • School or employment records – Carry all transcripts, report cards or grade sheets your children may need for school registration. If your child has an individualized education program, or IEP, it’s important to carry this with you. If you are moving with a child with special needs, learn more about support provided by the Exceptional Family Member Program.
  • Medical and physician information – Previous medical and dental records and vaccination records will likely be needed for school registration and for some employment.

You may want to take an extra step and back up important files on a flash drive, external hard drive or in the cloud.

(Pro-packer tip: Stay organized by creating a moving binder to hand carry. Having a binder gives you easy access to all of your important paperwork.)

Essentials for your trip and first nights in your new home

Because moving delivery delays can happen, it’s a good idea to carry essential items with you. Some items to consider carrying with you are:

  • Medication for each family member – Prescription medications for each family member should be close at hand. You might want to bring some headache meds for you too in case of a sibling screaming match on the way there.
  • Phones and chargers – Surviving without your smartphone and charger today is almost inconceivable.
  • Valuables – If you can’t imagine living without a family heirloom or treasured item, carry it with you for safe-keeping.
  • Home items – If you are doing a stateside PCS and you have your vehicle with you, pack a box with items you are going to need as soon as you arrive at your new house: toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap, cleaners, toilet brush, broom, mop, drinks, snacks, diapers, paper plates, etc. Then pack an extra bag with sheets, towels and an air mattress. Even if your belongings are scheduled to arrive “door-to-door,” it’s a good idea to plan for an extra day or two without your things because moving delays happen, especially in summer.

    If you’re doing an OCONUS PCS, you can include essential kitchen items, baby equipment, etc., with your “unaccompanied baggage.” For more information about unaccompanied baggage, contact your local transportation office.

Learn more about the array of relocation assistance available from your local Military and Family Support Center. You can also tap into comprehensive online tips, tools, resources and services from the Defense Department to help you master your move.

Still have questions or need help finding support? Military OneSource consultants are available 24/7/365 anywhere in the world to answer your questions and connect you to the resources you need. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS calling options, or schedule a live chat.

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