We’re Moving Where?

PCS preference

A few months ago, my husband unexpectedly deployed to Japan. One night, when I was already fast asleep—we spoke earlier that evening—I got a surprise phone call from him that went a little something like this:

Him: The list came out.
Me: The list?….Huh? (slowly trying to wake up and figure out what the heck he’s talking about) Wait. THE list?
Him: Yes. So, where do we want to go?
Me: (still waking up) Well, what are our choices?
Him: Basically, there are a couple bases in Florida or one in California. There are a few other states, but I’d like to stick to those two if possible.
Me:  Well, Florida has hurricanes and California has earthquakes. We would know about a hurricane in advance, but the earth will quake out of nowhere. How long do we have to decide?
Him: About 15 hours. I’d like to be one of the first to submit this, so it will be in their inbox by the time everyone goes to work tomorrow.
Me: Well, let’s talk about it.

So that’s exactly what we did for the next five hours. We discussed all the pros and cons about each city and base, Googled the surrounding areas, and I even started looking into job opportunities and how feasible it would be to work wherever we got stationed. By the end of our conversation, my husband had a list in order of the places we’d be content on moving to. While I “slept” on our decision, he emailed the latest list to his boss. Before I went back to sleep he told me it could be a few days before he heard anything.

I got another phone call from him the very next day.

Him: Hi! Are you sitting down?
Me: No….?
Him: I think you should sit down.
Me: Um, is everything okay?
Him: Well, we didn’t get Florida or California…
Me: Oh shoot. (My mind starts racing with the other places that were lower on that list) Where are we going?
Him: Remember awhile back when we put Italy on our dream sheet just for the heck of it?
Me: Yeah….? And I remember when you said we shoud include it because it’s a “dream” sheet and there’s no way you’d ever actually get the Italy slot.
Him: Well, we got Italy.
Me: WHAT? (standing up now) Are you serious? What?!
Him: (excitement growing) I’m not kidding, we’re moving to Italy!

So here we are, three months since that conversation and things are still in motion for getting us to Italia later this year. Of course, we’re playing the hurry-up-and-wait game with a full understanding that the military could change their mind at any given second and pull this from underneath us, but for now, we’re trucking forward with plans. The R.I.P. (reporting instructions and procedures) is apparently on its way (so say the head haunchos in my husband’s office), so in the mean time, we’re working on getting our house on the market and making this process as easy as possible.

Have I mentioned that this is my very first PCS? To say that I’m a little overwhelmed with all that’s about to happen in the next six months is a bit of an understatement. What are some things you do when you know you’re PCSing, but are waiting on those handy-dandy official documents? Care to help a newbie out?

photo by: ianmunroe

About the Author

Jessica Lynn

Two years ago, Jessica Lynn married her Air Force husband and moved from her hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, to join him across the country in Georgia. If getting married and embarking on the life of an Air Force wife wasn't enough of an adventure, they recently traded in their Georgia peaches and for pasta and wine when her husband got orders to Northern Italy.

No longer a PCS virgin, Jessica is already gearing up for her second PCS in two years. When she's not twiddling her thumbs waiting for more answers about their upcoming move, you can find her learning Italian so she can have a conversation with her 90-year-old neighbor, traveling as much as time and money will allow, hanging out with her husband and puppy, and blogging about her OCONUS adventures at Jessica Lynn Writes.

  • Ok, I lied – I said I’d check this after class but curiosity got the best of me and I’m reading this from my BlackBerry.

    I love the fact that it was on your dream sheet – the military can be so full of surprises! I hope my fiance receives his orders soon!

  • From everything I have heard. PCSing OCONUS is totally different then doing so within the US. Weight of goods is very strict. You do have the ability to put things in government storage such as fine china and extra furniture. Stuff you won’t totally need while your there. As per my friend who recently PCSed to Germany, she said look into renting furniture and creating your own slip covers if you know how to sew. She also said that when traveling there make sure you pack your accompanied luggage you pack based on the weather there not here. She said she didn’t and she was freezing til her homegoods came a month later. The last thin she warned me of what to check out the requirements for pets. They may need time in quarantine before being allowed into the country. Hope this helps.

    • jessica lynn

      Packing for the weather there is a fantastic idea! Luckily, our dog won’t have to be quarantined, from what I understand, but I’ll definitely look into more things for our dog.

  • Andi

    Never moved OCONUS (thanks, Army!), but some preparations apply no matter where you’re moving. I’d recommend you make a list of serial numbers of your electronics and similar items. Photograph electronics, jewelry and other valuables. Get your important documents in order (birth certificates, passports, marriage licenses, etc.) and hand carry those and anything you absolutely couldn’t stand to lose with you. Plus, it’s never too early to purge. I think you’ll find this will be a never-ending task. At least it has been for me….

    Italy? How exciting!

    Oh, and welcome to SpouseBUZZ…

    • jessica lynn

      Making a list of our items with serial numbers is a fantastic idea and something I can definitely do now! Thank you! And you’re completely right, we started purging stuff already and it definitely seems like a never-ending task.

  • I have no OCONUS move experience, but I’ll be watching your journey with interest on the off chance that Sampson and I ever get the chance to live overseas. :-)

  • Sarah

    Ha, this is funny… When my husband and I were engaged, he was asked to list his top ten assignments. We did the same thing you did, only we had more time to mull it over. We researched the areas, looked for job opportunities for me, etc. We gave ten choices, two of which had to be OCONUS. We put Alaska and Korea as numbers 9 and 10.

    We got Germany.

    The funny thing was that we actually didn’t want Germany. I had just returned from living in Europe and was happy to be stateside and not eager to leave my own country again for a while. And we kept meeting couples who would’ve died to have Germany but hadn’t gotten it. It was weird.

    We actually considered trading Germany for Fort Hood, if you can believe that.

    Our time in Germany worked out fine and actually worked into our life pretty well as a first PCS. I’m glad you’re excited about your first duty station. I will have to dig up some of my initial OCONUS PCS info to pass along to you.

    Just whatever you do, don’t pack sesame oil in your suitcase :) https://spousebuzz.com/blog/2009/06/i-am-a-pcs-wor

  • wifeunit

    Goodness, I have no advice to offer, but I will be reading the replies to see what I can learn. We are no joke moving at the end of this year (after a non-pcsing pcs last time around). So things like serial numbers is totally helpful!

  • KateKashman

    Yea for Italy! Let me know your questions as we’ve just moved here in June. I don’t claim to know everything, but I do know some stuff :)

    Welcome to SpouseBUZZ!

    • damselandfamily

      Kate, do you have a blog? I’d love to read about your experiences in Italy!

      • KateKashman

        Sorry, damsel, I don’t.

        Jess, I just thought of something I wish I had known before I came here: don’t pack a lot of shorts in your carry-on luggage. Italian women very rarely wear shorts in the summer, but rather pants, skirts and dresses. I had to go buy clothes just so we could househunt without me looking like a clueless American. I’ll add more as I think of it.

        • jessica lynn

          Kate, which base are you at (if you don’t mind me asking)?! Looks like I’ll be stocking up on skirts before I leave here – thanks for the tip!

          • KateKashman

            We’re in Naples.

            Let me know if you are coming here!

    • Alana Gatzke

      I just found out earlier this week, we are heading to Aviano Italy the end of this year. I would also love any information you have on italy, still trying to figure out everything that needs to get done? :)

    • Sara

      Hello, looks like we might be heading to Naples next year. We have a medium size dog, about 30 lbs and I am freaking out about traveling with her and having to pack her under the plane! I have no idea about living in Italy or anywhere outside of the US for that matter. I would love any tips or tricks of the trade! Please let me know where the best place to live and also anything that would be helpful! Thank you

  • Sonya Mooneyham

    Very exciting! Yes, an OCONUS move is different and more complicated. But like any PCS, somehow it all gets done in the end. Plus, your bonus is you’ll be in ITALY!

    Oh, and welcome aboard!

  • damselandfamily

    Congratulations on Italy!!! How exciting! I hope your PCS goes smoothly… I look forward to reading about your experiences!

  • MsCamo

    Congratulations on your assignment to Italy. It is quite beautiful there and you will love it. Make sure you get out and off base and enjoy everything you possibly can while there, you never know if you will get an opportunity like that again. As for moving: First thing, check out Facebook. I have been researching OCONUS bases myself as we are trying to get overseas (anywhere at this point!). And found that while some bases have good .mil websites and links, others are pretty bad with no info. I was researching a base in Japan and found out they had Facebook pages for housing and other things that are of interest to me (as a spouse) and now I’m checking Facebook for everything. Also, not sure which base you are going to, but AF bases have a squadron called Force Support and they usually have a webpage as well, with info on stuff spouses would be interested in, including Information, Tickets & Travel; Veterinary, Daycare, etc… Just look up Aviano Force Support and it will give you tons of info. (I just checked their website isn’t the greatest, but it will get you started). P.S. the vet link has info about moving your pet to Italy, very important to check those things out asap.

    Definitely check the weather out over there for the time of year you will be arriving, you should be able to find averages well in advance and make plans accordingly. Italy’s weather runs to extremes, so look for the region you will be living in. Also, check your route you will be traveling, if you have stops in Germany or England, the weather there can be a LOT different and if you get stuck for some reason along the way, you don’t want to be in shorts if it’s 50 degrees out or a parka if it’s 80. So take a few items along for the opposite weather condition. Only take about two weeks worth of clothes on your initial trip. Everyone usually wears their favorite clothes over and over anyway, and it won’t take that long for your stuff to get there (even though it may seem like forever). Believe me you don’t want to be carrying bags with your entire wardrobe all across the world. Been there, done that, not fun! And I was alone.

    Sending your stuff: Find out your weight allowance and start figuring out how much your stuff weighs. Bare in mind that housing in Europe as well as most overseas locations is much smaller in size than we are use to in the states (although that is not true if you live in base housing, and we all know what I’m talking about here). If you currently live in base housing then anything you have is probably ok, as long as it is not extremely heavy. If you think you can fit it in an apartment, then you should be good to go as well. If they tell you your stuff will arrive in 30 to 60 days, assume 60 and if possible get your stuff shipped 60 days before you leave, that way, your wait will be much less. It is a lot easier to live with temporary stuff here in the states that to try and find stuff to borrow/rent, whatever, over there. Check what the voltage is over there, can you even take your electronics (this includes computers)? If you have to use converters for everything, that will get old really quick (and they can be quite expensive). I lived in Germany for three years and by the time I left I only had European stuff or dual voltage stuff. Sell whatever you can’t take and save the money in a fund to repurchase those items after you get there.

    I have plenty of other hints and can address specific questions if anyone needs. I was active duty for over 8 years and we have been a military family for over 20 years, feel free to contact me. I have moved all over the place and I love going new places. The best thing to do when PCSing is to keep a positive attitude and don’t let yourself get overwhelmed.

    Oh, highly recommend getting a tourist passport (no matter what the government tells you), and you should do that right away or as soon as you have enough money to do it.

    • jessica lynn


      Such fantastic information! Thank you for taking the time to post it all :) My husband and I just renewed our passports last week (they expired last month, but we got very good use out of them!). We’re already having garage sales and purging all of the stuff we don’t need so that we’ll only take the essentials over with us! I’ll keep your email on hand in case I have questions!

  • Wendy Mac

    You are going to LOVE Italy. __Pick stickers – different color for each room – before the movers take anything out – put the sticker for that room on the item or the box. On small index cards put a sticker on one for each room – when you get your household goods, put the index card above the door or on the door jamb of each room where the boxes/items belong. Many of the movers OCONUS don’t speak english. They might have one person on the crew that does, but he can’t be everywhere all the time. And anyone can match a color sticker on a box or item to a color sticker on a index card!! It was my favorite moving secret after 23 moves – 7 children, 2 dogs and a cat to every imaginable location in the world. __

  • Wendy Mac

    If you have kids, go through their room the night before the movers come. Make a special “box” or container with their own special items – blanket, pillow, sheets to fit the bed, pjs, two changes of clothes, stuff animal, book and favorite sippy cup. Mark the box “OPEN FIRST” and you have everything you need to bed your child down for the first night! Don’t worry about all that unpacking – you will be too exhausted. Oh and don’t forget to make a OPEN FIRST box for you and your husband – the new black sexy nightgown, some nice wine glasses, …. You get the idea!__

    • jessica lynn

      Just like I told Sonja above, both of your ideas are going in my notebook, and I hope I’ll remember them when it comes time to packing. I love the “open first” box – such a fun and practical idea!

  • Jennifer

    I moved OCONUS to OCONUS (Hawaii to Naples) last year with about two months notice. Lists were my friend as was my thick three-ring binder. Our household goods took nearly the full 90 days estimated. I too suggest taking pictures of all the rooms in your house and everything you put on your “valuables” list before the movers arrive. Another tip is taking the hardware from things like dressers and beds, put them in a Ziplock, label it, then tape it to the item to which it belongs. Also ask them to pack controls with the corresponding item (t.v. etc). Keep in mind that you will need at least one car depending on your sponsor’s job. There is a shuttle from the Support Site to Capo but my husband works longer hours than when it is available. I like to get out and explore so we need two cars. Naples is different than the rest of Italy so you have to keep an open mind. Check out wikinapoli.com for lots of information.

    Buon fortuna!

  • Jessica

    My husband and I just had the same middle-of-the-night, the-slate-was-jsut-published conversation where he called from Afghanistan and broke the news that any place we had planned for was not really an option…soo… after lots of consideration (an a minor freak out on my side), we are on our way to Naples in September/October (no official orders yet, so I am not relying on it, but that’s the plan).
    I am so looking forward to this adventure, and appreciate all the tips everyone has shared thus far!

  • Adina

    Not military, was looking at what it takes to import ones car into Italy. My husband and I are moving back, we’ll be near Florence we really want to take our van it’s in good shape! Did any of you have to do this? I hear its a rough process? We’ll be running a agriturismo so let me know if you need a vacation rental in Tuscany!!

  • JILL

    Buon giorno! does anyone know a website for where i can look at houses for long term lease? or do I have to wait and work with local realtor there? I want a house not an apartment. looking around lake garda area because we’re PCSing in Ghedi AB, grazie!