Sunday, February 17, 2013

What Goes into a Military Move

I've moved quite a few times in my young life and every time I move, I learn something new.  I'm sure the spouses of service members who have been in the military for years make it look easy, but I always learn something valuable in every new place.  Some tips are fairly solid and I thought I would share with you, because they're valuable for any move, regardless if you're in the military.

Stage 1: Receiving Your Orders
Although sheets of paper, orders are quite literally what their title stands for- military orders directing you on where you will be stationed.

This is key to the process because you need orders to do anything with a military move.  This verifies to whomever you're renting from that you'll need to end your lease.  It tells cable/internet/phone that you're canceling or moving it to a new city.  It also allows you to put a down payment or reservation on a new house/apartment or live in base housing.  You're able to work with the Traffic Management Office (TMO) and get your household goods moved from point A to point B.  You can also do a DITY move or a partial DITY, where you move your household items on your own.  Usually since

With your orders, you're able to go around and accomplish aspects of out-processing, which is a necessary aspect in moving.
Stage 2: Planning Your Move
At this stage in our lives, many of us have accumulated furniture sets, so we'll be working with a few moving companies.  There is a company from the town you're living in and the company they'll switch to at your new residence.  There may even be an additional company thrown in the mix for the drive between point A and B.  They will contact you and do a brief walk through of your existing home.  This gives them an estimate of how long it will take them to pack and how much weight they're actually packing.  What was wonderful about my first military moves was that I had a moving representative in contact with me the entire time.  I can call or e-mail the representative if I have any questions or concerns and they call me on days that anything is happening with TMO to make sure all is well.  It's really awesome customer service.

The movers spent a day at our house packing up our items and then came back the next day to load them on a truck.  It was always a tip given to me to provide food and drinks for the movers.  Because of this, I always have water bottles and snacks but every time, the movers already bring their own lunches and snacks.  Anyways it's still good to have.

Stage 3: Staying in Hotels
Base hotels are some of the best deals you can find when it comes to hotel accommodations.  They have pet-friendly rooms and are often priced at 50% the cost you could find on sites like Expedia.  When I make reservations to stay at base hotels and it's part of a PCS, make sure that they know that.  During your move, you can be reimbursed for your stay at base hotels (TLFs) and are given a per diem allowance to stay at hotels during your move.  Based on the route we took, I looked on Expedia for hotels in those areas.

If you're traveling with a dog(s), or any other animal, it's important that you actually contact the hotel to ensure they allow your breed and size of dog.  Many hotels, like apartments, don't allow dogs over 25 lbs.
Notes on Expedia or Using Any Other Hotel Search Site: 
  • The numbers listed are usually the main line for the chain of hotels versus that specific hotel.  Plug in the name of the hotel and city in your search engine of choice to find the exact number.  At least three times I called the number that Expedia provided and had to talk to operators.  
  • Although hotels list that "pets are allowed" they all have their own policies that they inconveniently don't list on Expedia's site.  Call ahead and make sure your pet is allowed.  Most have a pet fee as well, which is not listed on Expedia's site.  We encountered two pet fees, one hotel was $25 and the other $10.
  •  By calling ahead, you can also check to see if there is a military discount.  I found that with a couple of hotels, the military discount was $10-$20 cheaper than Expedia's or any other search engine's site. 
  • If you do book your reservation online, make sure to include that you have a pet in the comment box.  I requested that our rooms be on the first floor with easy access to a useable exit.  This ensured that getting our dog outside to relieve herself was as easy as possible.  It's also convenient for moving your things in and out of your car.
Stage 3.5: Traveling with Pets
Not only are you moving yourself, your family, and your things across country, but your pets as well.  Woof, this can get tricky.  It's important to have your animals' documentation on you.  Hotels may require copies of their vaccinations, so it's good to have a few copies on you.  If you're staying in a base hotel, you will definitely need this.  You will also have to book pet-friendly TLFs in advance.  They are incredibly convenient, but bases usually have only a few pet-friendly rooms and they get booked up fast.
With Holly, we had a backpack designated solely for her things and we had her large, collapsible kennel in the trunk of the car.  That was probably the bulkiest item of our entire trip.  In her backpack, we had a large stuffed animal, a large Nylabone, a smaller bag of dog food, pig ears, her teeth brushing tools and ear cleaning solution.  Of course, we had her harness and leash because leashed pets are required everywhere.  Her dog bowls were also packed into our car.  What was nice about Nature's Variety dog food is that they have a smaller bag and this was perfect for the trip.  If your dog food brand, doesn't have a convenient zipper bag, I would highly recommend filling up zip-lock baggies with each day's amount of food.  Every night that we would get to a new hotel, we would establish this area as a new space for her by having her bowls out, giving her a pig ear (or any other treat), and making sure she had her bunny (the large stuffed animal).  Holly loved going to hotels because of it.  It became a treat for her.
We've also flown with Holly before and that's a whole other ballgame.  That requires having all of her documentation, a permission letter from the vet, contacting the shipping aspect of the airline, etc.  The travel kennel has to meet certain requirements, with the main one being that she can turn around in the kennel and isn't bunched for hours.  You also need travel dishes attached to the travel kennel.  We packed a gallon zip lock bag of her food on the top of the kennel and they would refill her food and water dish from the outside of the kennel.  The dishes have to be easily obtainable, without opening the kennel door.  She was only a few months old at that time and it wasn't a part of a move.  We had to drop her off several hours before her flight and she could not be sedated.  She did just fine, but each dog is different.
When you move, check the requirements.  Some cities require that you register with their counties and sometimes you have to register your dog with the base.  Although we lived in our previous city for less than half a year, we had to register Holly and it was pricey.  It's important to look into all of that and prices often differ between ages and whether they are fixed or not.
Stage 4: What to Pack
This is still a challenge for me because I often over pack.  Movers won't be at your new location as soon as you arrive to your new base, so it's important that you pack what you need.  They could show up a few days after you arrive or a few weeks. For me it was including military uniforms and warmer clothes for our new climate.  You may want to pack workout clothes and gym shoes since you may have time to workout.  We also packed pots, pans, and utensils so we could save money instead of eating fast food/restaurant-food.  It's a lot of calories, a lot of fat, and a lot of money if you don't take this route.  Although you will be reimbursed for several aspects of your move, you still have to pay for it all up front.  This can get expensive very quickly.  We traveled in a car, so we decided to send a box of our kitchen supplies to our new address via UPS.  This was perfect for us.  When we arrived, the box arrived at our house that afternoon.  We had forks, plates, cups, etc. all for our use right away.

I pack a lot of sweatshirts, yoga pants, sweatpants, and the comfier outfits for traveling.  I also highly suggest bringing one "nicer" outfit.  I didn't think I would need one and we ended up in several situations where I could have definitely used something more business casual versus jeans and a loose tee.  I packed a backpack, large suitcase, larger make-up bag, and a Vera Bradley travel organizer, much like the one pictured to the left.

I highly suggest condensing what make-up/hygiene products that you bring.  It felt like a lot of items and the car got less and less crowded throughout the trip by using items that could be thrown away but it was just a lot of schtuff.

Finally, I used an accordion folder to travel with all of my important items.  This allowed quick access to my orders, Holly's shot records, hotel reservation confirmations, and anything else that is important to carry with you.  

Have you done a military move or a move in general?  Feel free to comment and share your thoughts, tips, and advice below!

Thanks for Reading!

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  1. Hi I'm Emily! Please email me when you get a chance, I have a question about your blog!


    1. Hi Emily, I sent an e-mail earlier in the day. If you have any other questions, my e-mail is

  2. Hey! I am new to the blogger world and just happened to stumble across your blog. I especially love this post because My husband and I will be making our first military move together in August! We will be moving with a newborn and a dog so Thank you for some of your awesome tips!

    1. That'll be so exciting! If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me :)