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Relocation Tips for Military Families

Tue, 04/26/2011 - 12:49pm | by Katharine Swan

Moving is a way of life for many military families.  Nationwide, most families only move about every 6 years, but for military families it's usually two or three times as often.  For someone who is single this may not be as big a deal, but for families a move can be a daunting task, especially when it so often comes with only a few weeks' notice.  Here are a few tips to help make your move as easy and smooth as possible.

  • Travel light.  When you know you are going to have to move frequently, it's a good idea to try to avoid accumulating too much stuff.  But if you've found you have accumulated more than you need, be sure to shed the excess weight before you move.  You can do this with a garage sale or moving sale, or list bigger items on
  • Pack important items so that they are easily accessible.  When you pack for your move, be sure not to pack away anything you might need.  Instead, keep these things with you in your suitcase.  This includes not only your children's blankie or favorite stuffed animal, but also things that you might need access to when you arrive in your new home, such as military orders, birth certificates, marriage certificates, wills, and other important documents.
  • Consider the benefits of a DIY move.  Instead of letting the government handle your move, the DIY (Do It Yourself) program pays you to move your own belongings.  Essentially, the government will cut you a check for 95 percent of what it would have cost them to move your stuff, and you get to keep whatever of that amount you don't need for moving expenses.  So if you pack your own boxes, use your own vehicle, and load and unload your own possessions, you could walk away with a tidy profit.  In addition, you still are given the usual per diem travel allowances for you and your family.
  • Keep your receipts.  You may be reimbursed for some or all of your travel and/or moving expenses, so hang onto your receipts.  So that you can find them quickly and easily later on, create a special place for them, such as a file folder or an envelope.
  • File a change of address with the Post Office.  Make sure you take this important step in plenty of time, so that your mail won't be caught in limbo for days or weeks after you move.  If you file the change of address early, you can set a date for the change to take place.  Just schedule it a few days early so that your mail will be waiting for you when you arrive at your new home.
  • Research your new home online.  It's good to know a little something about where you are going before you arrive.  One great tool at your disposal is Google Maps, which shows the locations of many businesses, allowing you to scout out your nearest grocery stores, post offices, gas stations, and other places you will be frequenting.  Community websites are another great resource to help you learn what your new home will be like.  If you have kids, be sure to get them involved in this task, as it will help get them excited about their new home.
  • Be open with your kids.  If this is the first or second time your children can remember moving, the idea of leaving their home and friends can be difficult for them.  Talk to your kids about why you have to move, and try to involve them in the process.  Helping to get rid of stuff they no longer want or need or researching their new home on the Internet can help them adjust to the idea of moving.
  • Don't procrastinate.  When your PCS orders come town the tube, usually you don't have very long to get organized and move, so don't procrastinate on getting things done.  Doing things at the last minute tends to invite problems, so take care of your moving truck rentals, housing arrangements, school enrollment, and changes of address as soon as possible. 

After a couple of moves, most likely you will have it down to a science, and they will stop being as difficult -- especially as the children get older.  Remember, the key is to stay organized and take it all one step at a time!

Katharine Swan is a former preschool teacher and a full-time freelance writer who specializes in writing about child development, family issues, and Killeen TX real estate.

Photo by TheMuuj

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