planning a pcs – packing the luggage

Warning: This Post is Long
Very Long

But I Am Anxious To Be Done With This Topic and Move Onto Other Items

The number of times I have lived out of a suitcase for extended periods of time is a bit ridiculous.
It was shockingly commonplace in my life before I got married and long before My Soldier became a soldier.
Thankfully my nomadic tendencies have proven to be a total asset.
I just had to translate living out of a backpack in Europe or Africa to my life as an Army Wife and mother to Army Brats.

my soldier packing

As I prepare to pack the first thing I did was to think through our accommodations between when our household goods were packed out and when they would be delivered in Bama.
For each location I had to think through everything we would need as a family to function daily.
We spent a couple of days in The Island House, a week in a hotel on post, a night with friends, a month with my in-laws, and 2 weeks in The Southern House including a 3 day stint in the hospital to birth The Peanut.
For those 5 locations we considered what it would take to eat, sleep, stay entertained {read: keep the army brats from bouncing off the walls}, bathe, connect with the interwebs, and drive around.
And of course, that answer was different for each location.
For example: in Hawaii before we left we borrowed a car from friends, our SUV arrived in Atlanta while we were with my in-laws so that is what we drove on the Southern side of our trip.
In Hawaii the Army will loan you beds and basic furniture along with kitchen supplies before you leave the island.
Ft. Rucker? Not so much. So we had to come up with beds and a basic kitchen set-up to function in The Southern House.
Another consideration at each location is weather.
Praise Jesus that it was summer weather for the whole of our travels because it made packing clothing for everyone easy.
When we moved to Hawaii from Dallas we left Dallas in the middle of December with snow on the ground and arrived in Hawaii where it is always 82°.
That required me to pack both winter and summer clothes.
For this move we had the added bonus of knowing that we would be giving birth before our stuff arrived.
{talk about insanity}

So with my lists in my trusty PCS Binder we organized and packed as simply as we could.
Here is how it all broke down for us.
We moved with 16 pieces of luggage.
That included 4 foot lockers on wheels with luggage straps.
2 large suitcases.
2 Army duffel bags.
1 car seat bag.
2 carry-on roller bags.
1 purse.
1 laptop bag.
1 backpack.
2 kids backpacks.

the luggage shoved in our bathroom during pack out

1 foot locker had My Helper and The Cadet’s clothing and toys.
1 had all of the baby stuff for The Peanut.
1 contained My Soldier’s dress uniform and linens.
The last foot locker had items that couldn’t be packed with our household goods like batteries and a few liquid items.
My Soldier and I each had a suitcase for our clothing.
Because My Soldier was coming to Ft. Rucker for an Army school he packed everything he’d need into 2 Army duffel bags.
The car seat bag had My Helper and The Cadet’s car seats.
The first carry-on bag had the portable DVD player, changes of clothes, snacks, our luggage scale, and my PCS Binder.
The second had my MacMini, our external hard drive, and our DSLR camera. {pretty sure we had a hand on that bag at all times}
In my purse were my compression socks {dead sexy, i know}, my iPad, the accordion folder containing our life on paper, my Kindle and all of our meds.
The laptop bag had My Soldier’s laptop.
My Soldier carried his backpack full of manly-type-travel-items and his ‘I Love Me’ binder. {other than his binder, which is quite large, i have no clue what he filled his backpack with}
The kids backpacks were complete with all of their normal travel items like their coloring supplies, a few toys, books, and their neck pillows.

A lot of the stuff we packed we didn’t actually need access to the bulk of the time, but were too valuable to ship.
My Soldier had no need of his dress uniform but if it was lost or damaged he’d be in a world of hurt.
Same with his stuff for school. He didn’t actually need it before our household goods arrived, but we didn’t know if that stuff would arrive before he started school.
The Peanut’s stuff was also a precaution. Our household goods were scheduled to arrive the week he was due, but we knew it was a strong possibility that he would come early. We packed a foot locker with his stuff and didn’t open it till we needed to pack for the hospital.
When we shipped our SUV we shipped the infant car seat, pack ‘n play, and the stroller inside the vehicle so those arrived with the car in Atlanta.
I wanted to set it up so that all we really needed to access was the luggage with clothing and our carry-ons.

Key things we packed:
A digital luggage scale – airlines can be really strict on weight and this allows us to check it ourselves and prevent surprises and fees at the check-in counter.
Foot lockers on wheels with luggage straps – we love using these inexpensive foot lockers for PCSing. They stack well, they roll, they make for easy use at your destination, and are great for storage when you’re not PCSing. We use luggage straps on them to keep them from opening in case the clasps get damaged in flight. We use 4 different colored straps to make for easy identification.
Computers and external hard drives – My Soldier uses a laptop and I use a MacMini with our TV as the monitor. We choose to travel with both computers and their external hard drives to keep them from damage and to keep the information safe. We actually hooked up my MacMini to the TV in the hotel as well as at my in-laws. It makes for an easy and compact set up.
Thank You cards – so many people helped us during our PCS and it was nice to have Thank You cards available to send them right away. This is also why I had stamps in my accordion folder.
Our Growth Chart – It’s one of those things that I would be devastated if it didn’t survive the move. It’s rolls up small and is super portable so it came with us.
Towels, Linens, and Shower Curtain Rings – we threw away the shower curtain liner when we left The Island House but kept the cheap plastic shower curtain rings (the metal ones were with our household goods shipment) and then bought a new liner when we got to Rucker. Linens are so easy to forget but we needed them on both end of the household goods shipment.
A Few Rolls of Toilet Paper – My Solder tried to bring like 10 but we just need a couple to get us by until we could buy some.

camping out in the southern house with a 4 day old peanut

After we arrived at Ft. Rucker and were issued our house we had some added issues. Rucker doesn’t loan furniture the way that they do in Hawaii. Ideally we would have been able to ship our household goods early enough that they would have arrived at Ft. Rucker before we did. Unfortunately we had very little time to coordinate the PCS because my pregnancy meant we had to be off the island a month early. We had to plan for beds and kitchen items for The Southern House so that we could comfortably camp out in our new home.
We knew that since we would finally have a guest room that we needed a mattress for the full bed frame that we’ve been carting around since we left our first apartment in California. We had a  full-sized mattress shipped to us for My Soldier and I to sleep on and then borrowed an air mattress for the Army Brats to use.
For our kitchen we realized it was cheaper to buy some kitchen basics at Ikea than to eat out the whole time. We spent $90 on a basic pots and pans set and cooking utensils. Considering we were supposed to be in The Southern House sans our household goods for over 3 weeks it ended up saving us a ton of money.
All of those temporary camp-out-in-my-own-house type items got boxed up into our moving box. We’ll pull them out again next move and  pack it with us.

That’s pretty much it.
I’ll make edits to this post if I remember something critical.
As I typed this up I was actually amazed that I was able to organize all of this in my super pregnant, super uncomfortable state.
Hope this little series was helpful, especially to my Army friends.