Military Family Moves: Part 1

Camping KidsWhen you leave one military family, you’re sure to find another in your new assignment. You know there will be others there who have pulled up roots more times than they can count. No sooner will you receive your farewell gift from here than you’ll be sure to find someone on the other end waiting with a welcome gift. That’s the beauty of the military family and their network of thousands of others around the world.

In fact, one of the greatest bonds military families have amongst themselves is the idea that we are from “every where and no where.” While a precious few military families “homestead” or stay put in one area for anywhere from five to ten years, the overwhelming majority of us move more as much as a traveling circus.

In order to gather a variety of perspectives, as well a practical advice on the topic of staying connected while moving, I’ve compiled tips from all the branches of the service.  There’s so much good advice in the chapter that I’m actually looking forward to our next move!  (Did I just say that?)

In part one of our Military Moving blog series, here is a list of helpful ideas to consider for your next move from other heroes at (mobile) home:

  • Family Means “Home”: Home is where the herd is—the Kay herd that is! Whether we’re in some places three months or three years, it’s important to make that apartment, base house or civilian house look and feel like home. Don’t ever get into the misconception that you can live somewhere for a short amount of time without the touches of home. If you know you’ll only be in an apartment for three months, then make a point of setting aside at least a couple of boxes of your favorite photos, pictures or other household good to make it feel like a home to you and your children. Yes, you’ll have to repack them in just a few weeks, but during those weeks you are surrounded by a few of your things—and it makes it feel like home.
  • Code Two Move: A Code Two move is when your furniture is entirely bubblewrapped and crated. The couches are shrink-wrapped and it is usually reserved for overseas moves. However, if at the time you schedule the move with the moving office you request a bid for a Code Two, then it allows the local moving companies to bid on the move. If you wait until after you’ve already scheduled the move, then it will be too late for this request to be processed. If one of the movers will grant a Code Two move at a Code One price, then you have the advantage of greater care in the pack-up of your household goods.
  • Self-Moves: Before you decide to move yourself and make a little extra cash—count the cost! We had one move when we were first married and we only hauled about 5,000 pounds of household goods 100 miles to our new location and made over $1000 (that was many years ago). That was certainly worth it for us! However, the next move was 8,000 pounds and 1,000 miles and after all the expenses of the moving truck, gas and insurance, we would have only made $300. The additional stress on our family and the sheer physical energy it would have taken for that move was not worth it!
  • Agencies: It is an absolute travesty to have the wonderful (not to mention free) resources we have in our base agencies and not use them! Work closely with your military point of contact for the move. If you are going overseas, you need to be sure to read all the information and checklists regarding Visas, Passports and allowable household goods. It will vary from country to country. If you are moving CONUS (within the United States) or even if you’re moving overseas go to your local Family Support Center equivalent and request a SITES brochure that will give all the information you need to know about your new assignment.
  • Financial Compensation: Be sure that the military member gets all the straight information regarding en route compensation that is available for family members.  Because we’re such a large family and because we can be economical on the road, there was one move where we would actually make $300 more if we took 10 days to reach our destination rather than try and make it in only 7 days.  Compensation varies greatly according to a variety of factors so be sure you understand these matters before you hit the road.
  • Use It or Lose It: There are certain items that movers are not allowed to transport.  The reason is obvious for flammables, aerosol cans, and opened products.  So use all these items up as well as you can (i.e. don’t buy extra gas for the lawnmower gas tank if you’re just going to have to drain it before you move it, the same would apply to propane for your bar-b-que grill.) Also plan a strategy to use up food in the freezer and refrigerator.  The month before your move, take inventory of perishable items that you cannot move and make out menus accordingly. Usually glass jars cannot be transported, so keep pantry items in mind as you plan menus as well. You might even want to have a party if you just bought a side of beef and your assignment orders came two weeks later!
  • Stuff and Cram: Even if you don’t do a complete DITY (self move), what you take with you as “essentials” qualify for compensation if you are not over your weight allowance. For example, Bob is allowed 20,000 pounds (give or take a thousand) and the last trip we hauled 4,000 pounds (including a full travel trailer) of essentials for our family. The movers hauled 17,000 pounds, so we were compensated for 3,000 of the weight we hauled with us. But remember to not take more than you can carry!
  • High Value Items: Movers will not move other items such as some coin collections, guns, and other high value items. One three star general’s wife that I know (she shall remain nameless) told me that she let movers pack the hang up box (a tall box with a rod at the top of it for hangars to go on) the first day of packing. Then she’d untape it after they left and put some of these items down in between the clothing (guns were unloaded of course.) I’m not recommending this, it’s just something unique that she did!
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