It’s PCS Time

Whether you are moving a few states over, across the country, or around the world, PCSing with kids takes planning. After three PCSes in four years, we have become more experienced and made some mistakes along the way to learn from. Here are my top 10 tips for PCSing with Kids.

1. Share the News Early

While children may not understand the waiting game or the concept of time in general, they do need time to process change. Sharing the news early provides as much time as possible to process the move. Consider making a moving binder for them. The kids’ moving binder should contain information on their new duty station and what they may see along the way on the PCS. Include a picture of their new school or a typical house at your new duty station.

2. Involve Them as Able

Get the kids involved in adding to their moving binder. Head to the library and get books on your new state and a travel book on the city you are moving to. Older children will enjoy pouring over touring books or city guides to choose places to see or things to do, giving them something to look forward to – making the move an adventure.

Older children can pack their suitcases for the move and even help pack up items if you are doing a DITY/PPM. Younger children may still enjoy packing but with some guidance. Involvement will depend on children’s ages and capabilities, but providing tasks connects them to the move.

3. Pack a Special Bag

Pack a special bag for each child; include a comfort item, favorite snacks, favorite books or toys, and maybe electronic devices for older children. This can be as small as a backpack or as big as a smaller suitcase. Older children can pack this independently.

For infants and toddlers, consider wrapping smaller toys (ie: Little People) in wrapping paper or tissue paper to be unwrapped every hour on air or car travel. This introduces something “new,” and the novelty will help them pass the time. If your child is younger, take all wrapping paper when done unwrapping so it isn’t eaten. You can rewrap these items after a couple hours for a second unwrapping.

4. Plan

Plan for every possible option. If you are moving door to door, plan for an extra day of clothing or fun items in case a flat tire happens or the moving truck is delayed. If using air travel, the extra snacks and clothes come in handy if the journey is delayed. Planning helps you feel less stressed as an adult, and your child will feel that emotion.

5. Snacks

Pack all. the. snacks. No one wants to be hangry while traveling; a hangry child is the same. Having your favorite snacks on hand prevents issues if those snacks are not readily available, and it limits stops along the way.

6. Don’t Forget the Fun Stuff

Plan fun things along the PCS. While moving is work, especially for cross-country moves, there is fun to be had. Presidential Libraries, children’s museums, National Parks, historical sites, amusement parks, and seasonal festivals may be items to add to your “to explore” list along the way.

7. Overpack

Things happen with kids: spills, falls, and messes mean needing extra clothes, especially for younger kids. If you have babies or toddlers, remember extra clothes for yourself. If you are road-tripping, you may not need to worry about this as much, but pack a little extra for an OCONUS or door-to-door move to ensure you have enough spares for all those possible “uh-ohs.” Oh, and overpack on diapers and wipes
– do it.

8. Set up the Kids’ Rooms First

Getting your children settled and able to sleep for the night will help set the tone for the evening. While it may involve a blow-up mattress or a pack-and-play for the first few nights, getting this set up will help them settle. Once your household goods arrive, prioritize setting up the kids’ room.

9. Plan a Fun Adventure at the New Duty Station

Just like planning fun along the PCS adventure, planning something fun at your new duty station is vital. Find a museum, a farm, or a restaurant that serves your family’s favorite cuisine or dish. This connects your children and family to the new duty station and sets the tone for exploring the new adventure!

10. Share Positivity

When talking to your spouse and your children, share the positive aspects of the move. You may be closer to a family friend or a family member. You may be able to go to a National Park on your bucket list. Sharing the positive aspects of the move helps children focus on those as well.


Moving with kids can be a challenging adjustment. Still, with careful planning, patience, and understanding, you can help them adapt to their new environment and turn the experience positive.

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