15 June 2013

Moving, from a Military Wife

We've been transferred 5 times with the Coast Guard, but we've moved ourselves about 7 times in between transfers. You read that right.  Buying and selling, needing more space, going from civilian housing to living on base. When it comes to moving locally and across country, we have been there, and done that for sure. I thought I'd share my process for any new military wives out there, or people preparing to move.

Obviously everyone's needs are different; our friends without kids transfer very differently from those of us with children and animals. When I moved to Hawaii years ago, I packed a few bags and got on an airplane. I didn't even have bedding, but who cares when it's just you? You can run to Target after your plane lands. No biggie. Throw a couple of dependents in the mix and your flexibility decreases drastically. 


You get orders

  • Are you required to live in base housing? Yes - pray for decent conditions and get your name on the list. Also, be super friendly to the housing staff. It can only help you! No housing - check the housing allowance for your rank and city, and decide whether or not you want to live on base or in civilian housing. You can do this here: BAH Rates . Consider your husband's job. Is he going to be underway/deployed a lot? If he is, you may want the security and community of living on base.

  • Use social media to your advantage. Almost everyone has a Facebook page these days: from military spouse clubs to specific local units. You can get the scoop on the area from people currently living there. Don't be afraid of negative information. It can be just as helpful as the positive.

  • If you have school aged children, look for the good schools via this site: www.greatschools.org  There are benefits to your kids going to the same school as the kids living on base, if it's an option.


Find A House

  • I use everything from Facebook, to Remax, to Hotpads.com to www.AHRN.com and www.Militarybyowner.com to find housing. Realistically you won't be able to lock in a home until 6-8 weeks before the move, but I start looking early and keep an eye on favorable options.

  • We've put a deposit on a home way in advance and lost money because of orders changing, and we've moved without housing ready and spent a fortune on hotels while house hunting. There are benefits and downsides to both. Obviously renting site unseen is a risk, but it's not always an option to fly there to house hunt beforehand. If you can, rent from people you know through the grapevine (military families), talk to current tenants as a reference, and if possible ask someone from the new unit to drive by the property and give it a once over.

  • Have someone else look over the lease - a lawyer, a parent, a friend... especially if it's wordy. Ask about property maintenance, especially if you're a military spouse who will be alone a lot. Who is going to be mowing the lawn, fixing the dishwasher, etc? Yea I know we're all super women, but I don't want to deal with that crap if the Sailor is away, do you?

  • This is a personal opinion - do not buy unless you plan on retiring there. We know far more families struggling to rent/sell their home, or that have to live in separate states now because of a home they can't offload, than those that were happy with their decision to buy. Not only will you be moving often, but your finances will change often. There's no guarantee that your husband can bounce around a certain geographic location, no matter how many units are there.

Getting On The Road

  • Find out the required documents for your kid's schools, doctors, and dentists, so you can have the paperwork finished ahead of time. They're usually online anyway, and getting internet set up at your new home can take several days. Get everyone's check ups up to date, to avoid lengthy Doctor and Dentist wait times at your new location.

  • Start budgeting. Gone are the days of profiting from military transfers. The budget cuts mean they nickle and dime your allowable weight, your per diem, and even COLA and BAH are low these days.

  • Get rid of anything you don't need. At each location we tend to acquire new furniture, toys, STUFF. You're only allowed a certain amount of lbs. before they start charging you. Have a garage sale and lighten up!

  • Organize, and even pack a little early. If you're packing yourself, start with all of the things you don't use daily. If the government is handling your entire move, organize your belongings, remove decor and window treatments, and separate the things you want to take with you. And remember, when the movers show up to pack you, if there are coffee grounds in your coffee pot - they'll get packed. That's not fun to unpack.

  • From the Sailor: If you can, take your cleaning gear, some tools, and painting supplies with you. This is why we finally bought a trailer this time. Movers won't take any chemicals or paint supplies. It's expensive to constantly re-buy this stuff, and while you're waiting on your movers, you can be painting/cleaning your new place.

  • Take your important documents, pictures, jewelry, etc. with you. We even go so far as to take our CG memorabilia. If the movers lose or destroy the certificate that states you crossed the equator and prime meridian on your first ship in the Coast Guard, how crushed will you be? Take it with you.  

  •  If you can, take what you'd need to be without furniture for a few days. I can't tell you how many times we've spent a few nights in an empty house waiting on movers. Things you may not think about...

- shower curtain
- pot, and basic cooking utensils
- air mattress
- towels
- some toys if you've got kids
- dog bed

  • Whether or not you book hotels in advance when driving across country is personal preference, but the last two times we tried to do that, thinking it would save us stress on the road, we cancelled every reservation. I find it's easier to stay flexible on the road, especially with kids and a dog. We use our GPS now to locate hotels when we get close to stopping. A good GPS will also list nearby restaurants, gas stations, etc. Great feature! 

  • Keep in touch with your movers. We call our contact person every couple of days after they leave, to keep track of their progress and stay updated on estimated arrival time. You have to be pro-active.

Your New Home


  • This is just my opinion - make it a home, fast. Military families move so often. Painting (if allowed), decorating, and unpacking quickly will help everyone acclimate a little faster, especially children. 

  • Learn where your closest hospital, post office, fire station, police station, and grocery store are. If you're on an island, learn the evacuation process (they'll have a plan in place). Look on Facebook for a local city/town page. They'll post things like seasonal family activities, deal days, and news updates. It's a good way to get to know your new town! 

  • Make one friend quickly. I'm not a "friendly" person, meaning I don't run out and join clubs or collect a large group of new girlfriends. But I try and find at least one person, preferably another military wife, that I can trust to call if there's an emergency. 
 
  • Remember that each unit is temporary. Whether you're geo-bachelor, he's deployed a lot, you don't like the Command, you're in a large city, or 60 miles from the nearest Target...it's temporary!

I hope this is helpful for someone out there! Fair Winds and Following Seas! 



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6 comments:

Amber Marie said...

I.hate.moving. Actually, I love moving for the highlights-an adventure, a new beginning, endless possibilities. But the actual moving part? Boxes, packing vehicles to the brim, all the "little things" that have to be done...end this service, turn on this one.

However, you sound like you got it down to an art! Nice post with helpful tips!

Jessica Orlowicz said...

Funny you mention that, ending and starting services and changing all of our mail is the part I hate MOST.

Katie Smith said...

"Gone are the days of profiting from military transfers."

YES!!!!! Tell my husband that! We PCS'ed in 2011 and 2012 and my husband said we barely broke even both times. I am pretty sure we lost money both times.

With gas prices being so high and the fact that it is impossible to find a decent hotel for $77 a night - you are in trouble already if you are going far. Even if you ate fast food the whole way!

I'm not saying we should make money from moves, but we should at least break even and maybe get a little extra to set up the new household.

Jessica Orlowicz said...

Katie - we always go in the hole when we transfer. I agree, it's impossible to break even when you're moving a family. The pet fees at each hotel add $100 a night alone! Not that the Gov. should pay us to have pets, but $77 a night isn't even close to what it costs for a family.

Kelly said...

Thanks for the great info! We could be transferring as early as January and it will be my first so this will definitely come in handy!

Anonymous said...

My husband usually tries to arrange ahead for advance travel pay. Makes it easier. We know what we can spend and dont have to stress that we usually dont have extra money for traveling. We've never had to repay for going over any budget.

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