Know Before You Go: Guam
by PCSgrades Staff - January 7th, 2022
“We’re moving to Guam!” It’s not just an awesome quote from the end of the classic kids’ movie “Matilda,” it might also be what the detailer just told your family. Every year, thousands of service members hear those fateful words.
When we got orders to Guam, the first thing I did was to pick up a book on travel in Micronesia. The chapter on Guam was just a handful of pages and I remember the opening lines almost verbatim: “Guam can be explored in a day or two.”
What on earth was I going to do there for three years? The irony wasn’t lost on me that the book was published by “The Lonely Planet.” Guam felt like the absolute furthest spot on the entire globe. It certainly may seem that way, but with the right attitude and a little bit of planning, it can be the greatest adventure of your lifetime.
What you should know before you go to Guam
Save as much as you can
First, moving overseas is always expensive, any way you slice it. Whether it’s because you grow impatient for your household goods and purchase a new TV, or you need a second car on island, or your per diem doesn’t quite cover three meals a day out, whatever it is, it adds up. Spoiler alert: That’s not why we’re telling you to save money.
You will have truly unbelievable travel opportunities from Guam. It’s a hop, skip, and a jump from some of the most exotic locations in the world: elephant rides in Thailand, white sand beaches in Bali, castles in Japan, scuba diving in Australia, you name it. Flights are affordable and so much shorter than if you were trying to go across the globe from CONUS. Additionally, the furniture available in the Far East is incomparable to anything you’ll find in the States. Save your money for the experiences and the family heirlooms you’ll collect.
See above! Plan as many trips as your leave blocks will allow, not just for the opportunity to see the world, but to nip any “island fever” you’ll have in the bud before it even starts.
Space A is your friend
Speaking of travel, do your Space A research. Space Available, or “Space A” allows travelers to hop on a military flight either for free or very little cost. Traveling on a commercial flight back to the United States is expensive, but you can frequently find a hop to Hawaii, and from there, it’s not terribly hard to get a flight to California. If you have a sense of adventure and a flexible schedule, it’s often far cheaper to Space A to the States and go from there, instead of a round-trip ticket from Guam. There are plenty of Facebook groups devoted to the inner workings of Space A, and once you’ve done it once, you’ll be hooked!
Talk to your sponsor - and ask these questions
Sponsors are assigned for a reason, and your Guam sponsor will be an absolute wealth of knowledge. Ask about housing, the current household goods delivery wait times (the on-the-ground truth is always more reliable than what you’ll hear through the official channels), and-- if having a second car is critically important to your family-- ask about available cars rather than paying to have a second one shipped. In Guam, “boonie cars” are generally sold by outgoing families to incoming families, for cash, at a discounted rate. It won’t be a Lamborghini, but it will get you from point A to point B. Usually.
Plan for your pets
Moving overseas with animals can be tricky, so stay up-to-date on what your pet(s) will need in order to move to the island. Animals have their own quarantine period, and that all needs to be coordinated through the Guam Department of Agriculture. Visit https://www.csp.navy.mil/Go-Guam/PCS-Information/Pets/ for more information.
Your express shipment is a lifeline
Your household goods can take months to arrive. You’ll have “boonie furniture” provided by the base/loan locker, but you’re going to want your own things to make it feel like home. For this reason, the military will give you an “express shipment” that will arrive shortly after you do. Your weight allowance is determined by things like the number of dependents and rank, but all humans need some of the same things.
Do as I say, and not as I did (it was our first PCS and we packed our entire master closet in the express shipment. Ski coat? Check. Flannel sheets for a humid tropical climate? Check. Textbooks from college we were hoarding? Check. Useful items like pans and pillows? Nope.)
Do yourself this favor and spend three whole days making notes of everything you use in your house. A shower curtain. A trash can. Pillows. Sheets. Towels. Pans. Silverware. Plates. Bowls. Golf clubs (there are so many courses on Guam!).
You’ll be able to check lots and lots of clothes in your checked baggage (you’re allowed extra weight on orders!), so worry less about your stash of jeans and worry more about basic amenities for your express shipment.
Attitude is everything
Guam is far - - there’s no doubt about it. The time change makes it more difficult to communicate with your people back home, and it can feel isolating.
Go into this PCS with a positive mindset. Make your Guam bucket list! There are countless hikes to do, beaches to explore, and historical sights to see. Take it from experience - - Guam can’t fully be explored in three years, and your “boonie friendships” will last a lifetime.
Embrace the adventure – Guam certainly is one!