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7 Things to Do While Waiting for Your PCS Orders

by PCSgrades Staff - August 19th, 2022

Waiting on military PCS orders is frustrating. You know you are a "mover" this year, but that’s all you know. You may not know where you’re going, or when. When your spouse attends a school, everyone is a mover. It’s not a question of “if” you will move this year, but “when.”

It’s difficult to prepare for a move when you don’t know where or when you are going. (How long does it take to get PCS orders, anyway?!?). But there is plenty of PCS prep you can do now to help things go more smoothly once you finally move.

What can you do while you wait? Here are 7 tips to get you started.

1. PCS prep: DIY packing for military moving

When I know there is an upcoming PCS, I don’t wait until we have orders in hand to start packing our items, especially if I know we will be doing a partial or full personally procured move (PPM, formerly called a DITY move). Instead, I start planning for a summer PCS in the late fall. One of the first things I do is pack up my holiday decorations right after the holidays. Packing ornaments for a move is different from just packing away your Christmas stash for a year. I individually wrap each ornament and then clearly label each box.

Another area that I pack myself (even with a full military move) is my scrapbooks, photo albums, and all my scrapbooking supplies. I start with items we don't use on a regular basis. Look for other items that you don’t use all the time – collections, books, mementos – and pack and label these items in advance. I also pre-pack my most valuable items and let the movers pack my packed boxes. Just don’t seal or tape these boxes shut; The moving company has to be able to look inside and verify the contents before they seal it, otherwise they won’t accept liability.

Looking for more PCS moving tips? Find them here.

2. Spring clean while you wait for PCS orders

You don’t need to know your next destination to start purging. An on-post or neighborhood-wide garage sale is a great way to purge and make a little extra cash. Go through those boxes that weren’t unpacked during your last move. Donate outgrown clothes and toys that are no longer played with. With every military PCS, there are things I know we don't need to take to our next location, so I give them away.

It’s never too early to start the PCS purge. Clearing out now will save you unnecessary weight in your upcoming move - and save you some sanity in the process.

3. The PCS binder

Organization is often the key to a smooth military PCS. A PCS Binder is a great place to store all the paperwork that goes with a PCS: your orders (when you get them), shipping documents, medical records, dental records, passports or other travel documents, and school records. You can also include a PCS checklist (like this FREE printable one from PCSgrades) and other to-do lists to keep everything organized and on schedule.

When you finally get your orders, you can start compiling information about your new duty station in your PCS binder, too. Keeping all your info in one spot makes things a lot easier during a transition.

You can check out potential on-base housing options, local neighborhoods, realtors, and even moving companies at 

4. Take photos

You don’t need orders to start documenting all your most valuable belongings. Start big with taking photos of all your furniture and electronics. Then, break it down and take photos of your Grandmother’s china, your antique radio, or your prized sewing machine. You want a photo record of your most treasured possessions so that in the event something does get broken or stolen during your military PCS, you have picture proof that you own it and what it looked like before the move. It's also important to take photos and videos of your electronics in working order to prove they were functioning properly before being packed by the movers.

The horror stories this past PCS season on the Lost During My PCS Facebook page are enough of a reminder to document proof in case the worst happens.

5. Complete that bucket list

Over your two or three years at this duty station, you probably had a list, even if it was just in your head, of all the things you’d like to experience at your current location. And chances are, you haven’t completed that list.

Now is the time to tackle all those things that you have put off or didn’t make time to do. It’s never too late to make your Bucket List and then act on it! You probably won’t be stationed here again so take advantage of the time you have left. Even those not-so-favorite duty stations have a few "can’t-miss" attractions or experiences.

Need some ideas? Check out the area guides on PCSgrades for travel ideas or search the blog for your current installation.

6. Start researching your next duty station

I know, your orders haven’t come yet, but that never stopped me from checking out those duty stations still on the list. I like to be prepared. So while my other people told me I was wasting my time, I didn’t see it that way. I checked them all out and made my lists and imagined life at each and every location.

Then when those PCS orders actually came in, I was ready. has info on schools, neighborhoods, what the installation has to offer, commute times…. just about everything you will want to know about your new location. All the reviews are left by our fellow military and veteran families.

PCSgrades also features Area GuidesDate Night articles, Bucket Lists, and Day Trip info on many of the major military installations across the U.S.

7. Continue friendships

Once we start the purging, organizing, and pre-packing in prep for a military PCS, there is a tendency to check out mentally from our current location. I’ve known spouses who stop going to Bunco or Book Club, or stop volunteering in the classroom. There is a natural tendency to avoid new friendships as a PCS grows near. But this early step back, while psychologically might seem like a good thing, just prolongs that unsettled period of time where we feel like we don’t belong anywhere.

It’s also not an option for our spouses or children. Our kids can’t mentally or physically check out of school without repercussions, and our spouses don’t want to risk getting stuck with a “short-timer” label at work.

Most of the mil-spouses I know work or volunteer right up until the move. It helps to keep a sense of order to your life. And I’ve met some great mil-spouses in my last few months at a duty station, so I’m glad I didn’t close myself off to new friendships during that time.

Gaining a sense of control while waiting for PCS orders

Life doesn’t stop just because you are a mover. Prior commitments, school, work, and community participation should all continue right up until the move. And while having PCS orders in hand makes you feel more in control over your move, you can gain control before they arrive. PCS prep helps you feel less helpless and gives your anxiety a place to focus.

Check out our financial recommendations here with budget decisions you can make now while you’re waiting for orders

This military life isn’t always easy. The more you can do ahead of time, the better. Enjoy your last few months at your current duty station and use these tips and ideas to start your PCS prep.

If you are eager to do location research while awaiting those PCS orders, start at where you can get a great feel for a potential new duty station. And while you are at it, help your fellow military families by leaving a review of your current duty station. Military families helping each other out and paying it forward can be especially comforting when you are stuck not knowing exactly where you will end up.

PCSgrades Staff