Here’s everything you need to know about sending an express shipment during an overseas PCS.
When PCSing overseas, what is an express shipment?
Moving overseas can be a huge, stressful challenge for a military family. The more you know about the process and prepare for it, the more smoothly it will go for you. One important difference of an overseas PCS is that when the military moves you to a foreign country, you are allowed to designate two separate shipments. The biggest shipment will be your Household Goods (HHG), which contains your furniture, TV, books, and other items, up to a weight limit determined by the service member’s rank. Everything will be packed into cargo boxes and sent overseas by ship. The delivery can take months. More about what you should (and shouldn’t) pack in your HHG is listed here.
Because of the long shipping times, service members are permitted an additional smaller shipment called the Express shipment. This one will be flown overseas and can be timed to arrive the same time that you do.
How to prepare an Express shipment for an overseas PCS
The military will reimburse moving expenses, including the moving company, packing supplies, and equipment rentals. You must go through DPS/PPSO at your current station and schedule your packing dates on http://www.move.mil/. They will help you contact a moving company approved through your local base, one that is familiar with military moves. You must first determine:
- which items to take as luggage on your plane ride,
- which to send in your Express Shipment (Unaccompanied Baggage),
- and which to pack up with the rest of your Household Goods (HHG).
The express shipment will be your only personal supplies for your first few weeks in the new country, besides whatever you carry in your luggage on the plane. When you first arrive, you will be placed in temporary housing, so it is important to consider whether you will be in a hotel, or an actual house on base. If it is a hotel, you will not have much room for items besides clothing. If you are in a temporary house, your base may offer free loaner furniture and kitchen supplies to get through through the first month or two until your own furniture arrives. Temporary housing varies at different locations, so do your research or ask your sponsor for more details.
Our express shipment for a PCS to Europe was mostly clothes, uniforms, and bedding. We also included baby gear, a box of toys, and the kitchen supplies in the next picture.
Recommendations for an express shipment for an overseas PCS:
- Include clothing, shoes, and jackets for all family members. Consider what temperature changes will occur in the month following your move.
- Include cooking utensils and supplies. Your temporary housing will include a small kitchen, so packing 1 large pot, 1 frying pan, 1 bowl, 1 baking dish, 1 sharp knife, and a can opener at minimum will allow you to prepare some meals in your room.
- Include towels, bed sheets, and blankets for each person. You might not need these in a hotel, but you would in other temporary housing. Since they are light weight, it will be better to have them than to buy new right away.
- Send cleaning supplies like a vacuum, broom, dustpan, and mop.
- Baby gear like a Pack and Play, high chairs, cribs, swing, strollers, etc. can be included in the express shipment.
- Depending on the moving company policies, 1 TV can be included in this shipment.
- Desktop Computer, PlayStation, Xbox etc. can be sent, along with games and accessories.
- A small selection of toys, movies, or books should be included to entertain the family.
- Air mattress, area rugs, trash cans, shower curtains, hangers, and a floor lamp will make life in your temporary house more comfortable.
- Bikes should be included, if you have one, because it will give you a cheap transportation option when you arrive.
- Send a small set of screwdrivers, wrenches, hammers, nails, and scissors so that you can do any minor household jobs before your household good arrive, and so that you don’t have to go through your whole shipment looking for the tools to open the boxes!
- If you are moving during summer to a coastal base, send your beach chairs, umbrella, towels, and beach toys express so you can go to the beaches as soon as you arrive!
- Keep in mind that your temporary quarters may be small. Don’t include furniture or excess items.
- Do NOT include any food, batteries, liquids, or hazardous materials in your shipment.
I sent all these kitchen items express when we moved to Europe. We were a family of five and knew we were moving into an empty house. It worked out well because I was able to cook regular meals right away. I even baked chicken and an apple pie our first weekend there when the new neighbors invited us over for dinner!
More information about moving overseas can be found in my book Welcome to Rota.