Top 8 things you should hand carry when you PCS

Written by Alita Miller


Turn your permanent change of station into a trip full of memories by making sure you hand carry important items. Keep those irreplaceable items with you — not with the mover. Don’t forget anything. Double-check it, and then check it again.

  • Essential documents like orders and birth certificates
  • Medications
  • Security items for children like a nightlight
  • Phone charger

It is important if you move a lot to keep all your important documents in one place. That way you won’t have to run around your house wild-eyed every time you PCS.

There are few things that are more important than packing your military ID with your household goods when you PCS. There are some items you will need to hand-carry, like your driver’s license, and a few items you might not have thought of, like your marriage certificate. Set aside the items listed below so the movers don’t box them up, leaving you with a dead phone and one big headache.

You don’t have to treat it like the nuclear codes, but you should keep it close and protect it while you are in transit.


Important documents

The most important items to keep with you during a PCS are your vital documents. Without these documents, you will have a hard time doing anything — signing kids up for school, figuring out what happened to the car you shipped two months ago or if you are missing a box after your shipment arrives. Check off each item in the list and make multiple copies of them in case you misplace one along the way. Don’t just rely on electronic copies either. Be sure to make hard copies.

Hand carrying means keeping these items with you on your trip, not in your checked baggage:

  1. Orders — Keep your original set of orders with you at all times and make more than one copy.
  2. Identification for each family member — Bring your Military IDs, driver’s licenses, but also Social Security cards, passports and birth, marriage and naturalization certificates.
  3. Vehicle documentation — Take your vehicle title or lease information and proof of vehicle inspection, registration and insurance.
  4. Financial information — Bring personal checks, any hard copies of recent bank statements, and all credit and debit cards — even the ones from department stores you never use.
  5. Housing information — Carry the household inventory list your moving company provided as well as lease or mortgage paperwork.
  6. Legal documents — Bring divorce or annulment paperwork from a previous marriage, wills, custody or adoption paperwork, and any active power of attorney documents.
  7. School or employment records — Carry all transcripts, report cards or grade sheets your children may need for school registration. If your child has an individualized education program, it’s important to carry this with you. If you are moving with a child with special needs, please check out Military OneSource.
  8. Medical and physician information — Previous medical and dental records and vaccination records will likely be needed for school registration and for some employment.

Many of these items can easily be carried in a folder. OK, so maybe it’s a big folder, but you really need to do it. You may want to take an extra step and back up important files on a flash drive, external hard drive or in the cloud.


Other essentials for your trip and first nights in your new home

Here’s a list of items to consider carrying with you to help the transition:

  • Medication for each family member — Prescription medications for each family member should be close at hand. You might want to bring some headache meds for you too in case of a toddler/sister screaming match on the way there.
  • Phones and chargers — Surviving without your smartphone and charger today is almost inconceivable.
  • Valuables — If you can’t imagine living without your grandma’s pearl earrings, carry them with you.
  • Home items — If you are doing a stateside PCS and you have your vehicle with you, you might want to bring some basic kitchen, bath, cleaning and bedroom items with you like a pot, paper plates and a blow-up mattress so you don’t wind up sleeping on a hardwood floor.



Ensuring that these items make the trip with you can turn your PCS from a rough ordeal to a family adventure.