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Surviving Holiday Deployments and Military Moves

by D'Antrese McNeil - August 8th, 2022

Surviving Holiday Deployments and Military Moves

Let’s be honest: military deployments and military moves can stink, especially during the holiday season. I have experienced two deployments without my service member, and next year, we will PCS smack in the middle of the holiday season.

I had to find ways to be creative while he was gone to help fill the void. Here are a few tips to help you survive the holidays during a deployment or military move.

Reduce your "to-do" list

I love the holidays. I make a grand feast: gumbo, turkey, seafood dressing, ham, greens, macaroni and cheese, yams, pound cake, rice - you get the picture. When he’s gone, it’s just me. If we aren't stationed near family, I improvise. I start early and ask my circle of friends if they have plans to stay in town for the holiday. If so, we start planning a potluck.

Next year, since we will be PCSing during the holiday, I won’t cook at all. Instead, I will focus on finding a nice restaurant that is open on the holiday. That way, we can cherish the time together as a whole family, even if we are PCSing away from the home and friends we’ve known for the last few years.

Consider a visit to see family

While not an option (or desire) for everyone, I do enjoy going home for a visit over the holidays. It’s not always perfect, but sometimes it is just what you need. Being around family makes you feel a little less alone, especially when your spouse is so far away. It is also a great distraction for kids who will miss daddy or mommy being there to open gifts and share in yearly family traditions.

When moving during the holidays, make it a quick trip home if possible. If you can't make it home during the holidays (we all know military moves are enough stress), consider putting holiday gifts in your express shipment. Should you arrive at your new duty station during the holidays, those gifts will arrive soon after.

You may also wish to decorate your hotel room if you’re staying there for a while or pack some décor in your express shipment. Keep a couple of small gifts on hand for the trip. Even though you may not be in a familiar space, there are still plenty of ways to make the holidays feel festive during a PCS.

Include your deployed spouse

Yes, your loved one is many miles away, but they can still celebrate with you. Send them a care package with their favorite things and do a gift swap with them. We used care packages and video chatting during deployments, especially during the holidays. It kept us connected, and the kids were happy to spend some “time” with daddy.

When planning a holiday season PCS, you can include your spouse and other family members in the research. Teenagers can look at schools, you can find local hobbies and groups, and your spouse can look at local traffic to figure out where to live.

Pro tip: Read reviews about local schools, housing communities, and installation housing, all written by families like yours, on

Communicate well

We all know the holidays can be extremely stressful. During a holiday deployment, it's important to encourage your kids to express themselves and their feelings. It might be hard to feel joyous when they are down about their parent being gone. Talking through it will help you all.

Remember, kids pick up on your vibes, so while it’s great to keep a positive attitude, it’s also helpful for them to see you expressing your emotions appropriately as well.

PCSing during the holidays can also bring up complicated emotions, especially for children. There is the excitement of the holidays, but also fear and sadness over leaving your current location. A military means new friends and a new school for the rest of the school year - all of which can be a lot to process.

Give your children, your spouse, and yourself plenty of time and space to process and express their emotions.

Plan your move

Planning a military move over the holiday season is hard. You have a PCS checklist and plans. But then, half of the installation goes on block leave, and the other half is only working a few hours a day. It can be incredibly frustrating to get anything done during the holidays.

If possible, start planning your military move early. As soon as you receive PCS orders, contact the appropriate offices and get everything scheduled. Waiting until the last minute will result in a stressful holiday season PCS.

Ready to learn more about your next duty station? Read more about where to live and what to do when you get there by checking out our area guides and other blog posts.

D'Antrese McNeil

D’Antrese McNeil is a proud military spouse. She is a stay at home mom, as well as a photographer and vlogger/blogger. She is also the Pax River Military Spouse of the Year 2017. D’Antrese is a proud Houston, Texas Native. She enjoys Hip Hop, R and B and country music and is a big Foodie! Check her out on YouTube: D’Antrese Le’Chelle and FaceBook: D’Antrese Le’Chelle.