Packing and Shipping: PCS Overseas

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***For an overseas move, the government will pack and move all of your things for you. This holds them accountable if anything were to get lost or broken. Packing Tips

  • During the last few months before the move, use up products that can’t be moved and focus your grocery shopping on using up food you already have.
  • Clean before packing – make sure nothing is packed that can cause mold, empty and clean your trash cans
  • Bag up small items that you don’t want to get separated.
  • Remove batteries from electronic items.
  • Place address labels or tape piece of paper with your name, e-mail, reliable phone number of a family friend, and intended destination onto several items that will be packed. This way if the box goes missing, it is more likely to be found and returned.
  • If you take apart any furniture, save all nuts, bolts, pegs, etc. and place them in a bag that is taped to the particular furniture item or place them all together in a utility box. It may be best to take apart difficult or fragile furniture yourself to ensure they don’t get broken during disassembly. TSP’s are not required to disassemble outdoor equipment/structures, so make sure it is done ahead of time. Any furniture disassembled by the movers, they will reassemble at its destination. Anything not disassembled by the movers will be your responsibility to put back together.
  • For every item you have a box for (electronics), put the item on top of or next to its box. Let the movers pack it. This way they are held liable if any damage were to occur.
  • Remove items off the wall (curtain rods, picture frames). Tape nails to the back of the picture frame or place it in your utility box of parts.
  • Organize similar items together as you take pictures of them. Better yet use plastic totes to label and organize your belongings. Some movers will even send those very same totes AS IS, even though transportation will say the movers won’t send any items in totes and need to pack them in boxes for liability reasons. Our HHG movers sent all of our totes as is, which made unpacking a lot easier on us!
  • Fix up any of those items you have been meaning to get fixed (furniture, electronics) and purchase any items you need for something to function like printer ink for a printer.
  • Have a friend or neighbor watch your children and pets on moving day.
  • Load anything you don’t want to be packed (important papers, prescription medications, flight luggage, purses/wallets, car keys, jewelry) into your vehicle or place it in a designated off-limits room.
  • Consider providing your movers with lunch (pizza, sandwiches) and bottles of water… as an extra incentive. Tipping is at your own discretion, but do not feel obligated to do so.
  • Cross check the condition and serial numbers listed on the inventory list. If you do not agree, make sure to note it in the comments section.
  • Make sure that no damages occur to the residence or property during the move. Report damage right away.
  • Don’t sign any paperwork until every crate is sealed shut. Watch every crate as it is sealed shut.
  • Check with your insurance company about “moving insurance”

Packing to Do List

  1. Go through all of your belongings. Decide what to keep and get rid of. Set aside items you won’t be keeping to sell at a garage sale or donate to a thrift store.
  2. Estimate your weight. Usually you can estimate 1,500 pounds per room, excluding bathrooms or storage rooms. Then consider the weight of appliances and furniture. Estimation tools are available online at
  3. Separate your  professional books and equipment. “Qualifying” professional gear, not exceeding 2,000 pounds, will not be counted against your weight limit. Place these items in a separate area so that they can be packed, marked, and weight separately. A separate weight allowance of 500 pounds may be available for a spouse’s professional books and equipment as well.
  4. Separate remaining items into one of the four categories: POV, NTS, UB, or HHG (see below). You can use color coded post it notes/stickers or separate items into bins/totes. Ask your sponsor about what you should and shouldn’t bring.
  5. Make an inventory list for each category. Document specific details of your valuable items describing the brand, model #, size, etc. How to Inventory Your Belongings
  6. Take video or pictures of your belongings the day before packers arrive. Make sure it is date stamped. Better yet take a picture of each item next to a newspaper with that day’s date. Take video of electronics working/turned on. On the occasion that something gets broken or lost, you will have proof.
    • I put photos on my computer and categorized them into folders for easy reference, which also helped in creating my own inventory list.
  7. Measure and document large furniture before the move. This might help in creating a room layout and speed up the delivery process of your household goods. It could also help in making sure that the house you choose has a large enough doorway to fit over-sized items.

Dividing Your Belongings for Shipment

  • Your weight allowance is based on the grade or rating held on the effective date of the orders authorizing the shipment of property.
  • During an overseas move, there are four (4) main shipments to consider: Personally Owned Vehicles, Non-Temporary Storage, Unaccompanied Baggage, and Household Goods. All four of these shipments will count toward your total weight allowance. Schedule non-temporary storage, unaccompanied baggage, and household goods pick-ups on separate days to avoid confusion.

Personally Owned Vehicle

  • The military will pay for you to ship ONE personal vehicle. If you decide to ship another vehicle, it will be at your own expense.
  • Ship your vehicle as soon as possible!
  • The weight of the vehicle will be included in the total weight allowance.
  • Certain items can be left in the car.

Non-Temporary Storage

  • The military will pay for household goods to be stored in a commercial storage facility. This storage facility is usually chosen by the government based on who they have a contract with.
  • You will not be reimbursed for household goods stored in a non-commercial storage facility (i.e. garage, basement of a private residence). However, you may be eligible for reimbursement for a partial DITY (do it yourself) move to a non-commercial storage facility based on how much the government would pay for that amount of weight to be moved so long as you are within your total weight limit.
  • Most choose to store: furniture, large appliances, and 110 volt electrical items. We also chose to leave excess holiday decorations and some of our fragile mementos.
  • Because ranges, refrigerators, washers, dryers, kitchen cabinets, and wardrobes are provided by housing, you will not be allowed to ship any of these items to Italy.
  • If you arrive at your overseas assignment and cannot fit everything in your house, you may have to store it at your own expense.
  • For extra security, you may want to put a piece of paper in each box with your name and a good phone number (maybe a relative’s) that will still be working when you take it out of storage.
  • We decided to not utilize the government NTS. Instead we chose to store our belongings with my parents, because I wanted the extra security. I also did not like the fact that you cannot check on your stored items while they are in storage or you void the agreement. That would be three years of us never knowing if something was damaged or stolen.

Unaccompanied Baggage

  • Sometimes the military allows a small amount of items to be shipped ahead of your main household goods. This shipment flies on a space available status, but usually arrives within 4-6 weeks
  • Pack the essentials that will get you through the first few months before the rest of your household goods arrive.

Household Goods

  • You may ship all personal property associated with the home and all personal effects belonging to you and your dependents on the effective date of your orders.
  • Plan for your household goods to take about 2-3 months to be delivered.
  • See a detailed list of items you can and cannot send as HHG
  • No: open food items, aerosols, flammables, candles/wax melts, batteries, alcohol, or any opened liquid containers. Sometimes they do accept manufacturer sealed liquid products, toothpaste and creams. Whether or not  they accept any type of food or liquids varies from mover to mover… play it safe and try to use up everything before you move… or try to send it with unaccompanied baggage.
  • Mowers and gasoline powered tools need to have the gasoline and oil drained from them
  • Italy does not allow you to ship privately owned firearms

NEW Guidelines for Moving Professional Books, Papers and Equipment took effect on May 1, 2014 –

    • Defined as “the goods in a military member’s possession needed for the performance of official duties at the next or a later destination.”
    • Until recently, moving professional gear did not count against your household goods (HHG) weight allowance, regardless of weight. Now, there is a limit on the amount and the type of professional gear that is allowed to ship during a military move.
    • The allowance for moving professional gear is now set at 2,000 lbs., which does not count toward the separate weight allowance for household goods. However, if an item does not qualify as a professional gear, the weight of that item will count toward the household goods weight allowance.
    • There is a grandfather clause for those already stationed overseas. Those who transported more than 2,000 lbs. of professional gear before May 1, 2014 can return the same amount to the continental U.S. on their next PCS move.
    • Spouses may be able to move a separate amount of “qualifying” professional gear to the next location, up to 500 pounds.
    • Label and move “qualifying” items to a separate area for the movers to weigh and document on the origin inventory as professional gear. Before signing your inventory, make sure these items are listed as “PB&E/Pro Gear” and not as “books” or “miscellaneous”.
    • Professional gear can be shipped as unaccompanied baggage or household goods.
    • Totes and foot lockers are not pro gear and should not be used to pack pro gear.

These items will no longer fall under professional gear:

    • Personal computer equipment and peripheral devices
    • Memorabilia including awards, plaques or other objects presented for past performance, including any type of going away gifts, office decorations, pictures, etc.
    • Table service items such as flatware and dishes, utensils and glassware, etc.
    • Furniture of any kind, even if used in connection with professional items, such as bookcases, desks, filing cabinets, etc.
    • Professional items not needed at the next or subsequent duty stations, such as textbooks from previous schools unrelated to future duties, personal books (even if they are part of a past professional reading program), and reference material that ordinarily would be available at the next/subsequent duty station, either in hard copy or available on the Internet.
    • Shop fixtures, household furniture, office furniture, sports equipment, and commercial products for sale/resale used in conducting business.

These items are still considered professional gear:

    • Reference material.
    • Instruments, tools, and equipment peculiar to technicians, mechanics, and members of the professions.
    • Specialized clothing such as diving suits, flying suits; astronaut’s suits, flying suits and helmets, band uniforms, chaplain’s vestments, and other specialized apparel not normal or usual uniform or clothing.
    • Communications equipment used by a member in association with the Military Affiliated Radio System.
    • Individually-owned or specially-issued field clothing and equipment.
    • Government or uniform service-owned accountable Organizational Clothing and Individual Clothing property issued to the employee or member by the Service/DOD COMPONENT for official use.

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