How You Can Turn a Military Move Into a Worthwhile Trip with Preparation

Published: June 10, 2022

Welcome Vicki J., Army Veteran, active-duty Army spouse, and licensed social worker, to the Blue Star Families blog! 

As PCS season fast approaches and the stress of moving closes in, I would like to share some tips that have helped my family and I better navigate the relocation process. My husband just hit 20 years of service in the military, which means our family has had to move many times, including two moves in 13 months, taking us literally from one coast to the other and back again! There are some things you can do to make the road trip fun and worthwhile. I always have more fun when I know the family’s needs are taken care of, so I’ve also included some packing lists and tips. 


In our cross-country (and back again) move from South Carolina to California, we embraced it as an adventure and decided to make it a family road trip. Here are some of our preparation tips:

  • Mapped out our road trip in advance and looked for cool and unique things to see. Stopping at a Blue Star Museum is a free way to beat the heat and break up the driving time. 
  • Packed breakfast and lunch to eat on the road so we could have nicer dinners out. 
  • Booked our hotel rooms in advance using Airbnb and checked military installations along the way to keep our lodging costs low so we could afford an extra two days of travel time. 
  • Some of our accommodations offered separate bedrooms and a kitchen for very reasonable prices. We even got to stay in a cabin when we passed through South Dakota! 


Over the years, I have put together a moving box that consists of items that we might need after the movers have packed us and before the movers unpack us. In that box, I have placed:

  • Extra set of pots and pans
  • Silverware
  • Can opener
  • Coffee cups
  • Plates
  • Bowls
  • Knives
  • Cutting board
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Large spoons
  • Kitchen Towels
  • Potholders
  • Bath towels
  • Washcloths 
  • Shower curtain
  • Shower curtain rings

Once we arrive at our new destination and we have unpacked, I put the box of household items away until the next PCS move so I don’t have to stress out gathering all the items before our next adventure. I usually end up adding to the box each move. There was always something I needed but could not access because it had been packed away! I usually bring this box out about two-to-three weeks prior to the movers arriving to check and refresh.


I also make sure I either create a “do-not-pack” pile or place all items that I do not want packed in our car on moving day. Some bulky household items include: 

  • Air mattresses
  • Sheets
  • Blankets
  • Pillows

I pack bedding so we have something to sleep on if we need to move into our quarters prior to the arrival of our household items. 

When we moved to Virginia, our household items were delayed due to an impending hurricane, which we did not find out about until after we checked out of our hotel. The air mattresses especially came in handy during that move. 


I packed our clothes in stackable, plastic, see-through totes, with one tote for each family member. Not only were the totes easy to pack in our SUV, they were easy to stack on the hotel carts for moving in and out each day, and allowed us to see the items we needed each morning. 

While PCS season is definitely stressful and full of uncertainty, some smart preparations and embracing a feeling of adventure can go a long way to keeping you and your family sane. 

You can share your PCS journey with us, too! Remember, the Military Family Lifestyle Survey needs voices just like yours to help impact change. The 2022 MFLS is fielding now!

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