By Michael Madrid

The PCS season is usually highest during the summer months, or from May 15th to August 31st. Get ahead of the move by understanding a typical PCS cycle so that you can transition as smoothly as possible.

Related read: Military Moving Expenses - How to Budget When PCSing

An Overview of the PCS Cycle

For some of you, this may be your first time receiving a permanent change of station (PCS) order. As long as you follow a few preliminary steps, you’ll be set up in no time. The first part of the PCS cycle is receiving your orders.

Your orders are typically distributed every 2-4 years. If you’re expecting one but are waiting to receive it, do your best to get ahead of the move by lessening your load.

This can be done by giving away unwanted items or donating things you don’t need anymore.

PCS Cycle Steps

First things first, make sure to visit Move.mil and create an account to upload your orders and applications regarding your move.

Next, go to your transportation office to schedule a move that works for you and your unique needs.

Now that you have that handled, let’s get into the specifics regarding your PCS move. Each PCS cycle is different, so it’s important to determine which kind of move you’re undertaking:

Step 1: Determine the Type of Move

Understanding where and what type of move you’ll be undergoing is essential. You’ll either be going CONUS (inside the continental United States) or OCONUS (outside the continental United States).

Types of military moves include a Government PCS move, a DITY move, and a Partial-DITY move.

Government PCS Move

The most common type of move military personnel receive. For this move, your move-out and move-in dates will be set for you, and a transportation service provider (TSP) will be given to you.

The nice part about a government PCS move is that the TSP will handle all of the packing and shipping for you.

If you’re worried that your valuables may get damaged, the TSP is liable for any damages during the loading, shipping, and unloading phases.

Furthermore, to help service members receive better transparency, a new system is helping families better track their personal property and communicate its location thanks to a $20 billion contract with HomeSafe Alliance rolling out in phases, beginning in 2024.

Otherwise, pack and ship these separately, or carry them with you when you drive or fly to your next posting.

Do-It-Yourself (DITY) Move

A DITY move may be a little bit more challenging because a TSP will not be assigned to you. Packing, shipping, and unloading will all be 100% on you to put together, which means you will need to find a transportation method.

Another tedious aspect of the process is gathering the necessary information for reimbursement. Understanding what is covered and what isn’t covered is vital, so make sure to visit the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) website for specific information.

Reimbursement will be based on factors such as the total weight of your items and how far they will be traveling, so you’ll have to weigh your vehicle. More information on where and how to properly weigh your items can be found here.

Partial-DITY Move

A partial-DITY move is a mixture of government assistance and doing it yourself. For this process, a TSP will be provided to you, but the bulk of your items will travel with you.

You’ll want to weigh your personal vehicle before and after you load your items so that you get properly reimbursed. A partial-DITY is usually done if you have very important items you don’t want to lose or risk damaging during shipping.

Step 2: Checklists and Documents to Keep In Mind

Now that you understand the types of moves you can embark on during the PCS cycle, let’s discuss some good checklists and documents to keep in mind.

You’re gonna want to create an inventory checklist of all of your items. You can manually make your own or use tools like Plan My Move, which will help you get together a checklist that fits your needs.

Next, create a PCS binder to keep all of your important documents, including passports, medical records, insurance, car titles, marriage licenses, etc. These documents are a hassle to retrieve once lost, so make sure to check these items off diligently.

Step 3: Create Your PCS Budget

Many different expenses come up, such as costs associated with selling your house, preparing your vehicles for transportation, and immediate arrival expenses.

If you plan on selling your house once you get your PCS orders, you’ll want to track any expenses regarding maintenance, as you may have to fix up some things before selling.

AHRN has put together a great list of some military moving expenses to watch for while creating a PCS budget.

Furthermore, you’ll want to find an agent to sell your house. Make sure to add this to your budget.

Before your move, you should take your vehicle in for general maintenance. This can be in the form of a tune-up or oil change.

These expenses can be pretty high, especially when covering all the additional expenses of moving out, so add these to your budget during the PCS cycle.

Finally, be sure to remember immediate arrival expenses, such as groceries, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc. Although these supplies are cheaper than other expenses, they can quickly add up and disrupt your budget.

More like this:

How to Find a Military Real Estate Agent: Buying & Selling 101

PCS Cycle Labor & Supply Chain Shortages

When in the peak of peak season, and everyone is trying to PCS all at once, there are massive labor and supply chain shortages that interfere with your orders.

The good news is that things are getting better. Because of mishaps in the past and labor and supply chain shortages, the military has partnered with HomeSafe Alliance to improve the process.

Furthermore, service members can help themselves throughout the PCS cycle by keeping a detailed inventory list and budgeting to account for complications.

Suggested read:

Top 10 Moving Apps & Websites For Your PCS Move


1. This Military PCS Checklist Will Help Make Moving Easier, Life Storage. Accessed April 2024. https://www.lifestorage.com/blog/moving/ultimate-pcs-move-resource-guide/

Updated by Buddy Blouin 6/3/2024



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