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Military Move Day: What to Expect When The HHG Movers Come

  It’s military move time.  Before you get too excited — like you’ve gotten your #1 wish list duty station granted — don’t pack a single...

military movers bringing in boxes


It’s military move time. 

Before you get too excited — like you’ve gotten your #1 wish list duty station granted — don’t pack a single item. Sure, do some purging, but don’t start taking down artwork and wrapping up mementos just yet. 

Your military move is final when your official PCS orders arrive.

After you get orders, you’ll need to decide if you want a DITY move, a partial move, or have military movers take it over. Most families opt to have military movers take over the literal heavy lifting so they can get on with their travels. This is known as a Household Good Move — HHG for short. 

If an HHG is what you’re planning, you’ll need to mentally and physically prepare for the madness that is military PCS move time. 

To prep you, we’ve compiled some things to keep in mind before the military movers come knocking on your door:

Preparing for Your Military PCS Move 

woman packing house while toddler plays
Courtesy of Unsplash

The day you’ve been waiting for has arrived. The knock on the door comes and the movers are ready to do all your heavy lifting. Whether you’re moving 300 miles or 3,000 miles, PCS anxiety is real — especially when complete strangers are handling your stuff. 

Here, we dive into what to expect and how to handle your military move day:

Don’t Pack Anything for Your Military Move

Yes, you read that right. The military movers don’t want you packing anything. Leave the pictures on the wall and the t.v. on its stand. If you’re doing an HHG move, the entire process is done by a government-contracted company known as a Transportation Service Provider (TSP). These types of moves are only available for Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves, by the way.

Pro move day tip: If you have delicate or sentimental items that you never want to see broken, wrap these ahead of time and keep them to the side. Take these items with you as space permits in your vehicle.

Understand it’s Hard to Watch Movers Pack Your Stuff

One of the most challenging aspects of having government movers pack up your stuff is that you have to sit and watch. You can’t help pack anything at all because they’re responsible for anything that breaks. Because it isn’t their stuff, they may not handle it with as much care as you might. This is a hard reality of government-furnished moves, but you can always ask for them to be a bit more gentle.

Pro move day tip: It can make you feel helpless and bored for sure, but it’s their job to do it all! Let them handle the packing, but speak up if how they’re handling items is making you uncomfortable.

Expect to Oversee Packing Day 

Depending on how much household goods you have, the movers can take a good chunk of the day to pack your stuff. Not only do they pack everything, but they have to label all the boxes and do an inventory sheet review as well. The bigger your house — and family size — the longer it can take. 

Pro move day tip: If you have little ones, hire a sitter or drop them off with family so they won’t get bored or hurt during the moving process. It will likely take four-five hours (or more) for the movers to get the job done.

Loading May Actually be Separate

Sometimes you’ll know in advance if loading will take place on a separate day. It’s helpful to know this because if it does occur on a different day, you may choose to have them leave your mattress and sheets out for you to sleep on that evening — surrounded by all your other packed goods. Often, a TSP will set up a walk-through prior to packing day to let you know if they think it will be a one- or two-day process. Once everything is loaded on the truck, you can start your travel.

Pro move day tip: Plan for packing and loading to potentially take up to two days. Factor this into your travel plans as you map out your route and expected travel start date.

Rank Matters For Weight Allowance

Your travel orders will show your rank, which determines how much total weight you can move to your new location. As your rank increases, so does your moving allowance weight. If your weight goes above your moving allowance, you’ll receive a bill at the time of delivery. That’s why it’s a good idea to get rid of any items you don’t use — like that broken grill — in advance of your packing day to lessen your load.

Pro move day tip: If your spouse has a business, the movers will mark it separately as “pro gear.” Be sure to separate these items from your other household goods. Mark it with a sign to make it clear to the movers that it shouldn’t count against your total household weight.

Expect Them to Inventory Everything 

service member signing off on military move day items
Photo by Stephenie Wade

One of the most important factors you’ll need to keep an eye on for move day is inventory documentation. It’s timely and it’s annoying, but it protects you and the moving company. Movers often want to be done and get on with their day, so it’s up to you to slow them down and ensure every item is marked on the inventory sheet. Don’t let them leave without a signed copy in your hands.

Pro move day tip: It’s helpful to have date-stamped pictures. That way if the movers claim that your mattress was ripped before they touched it, you can prove otherwise, if needed. Make sure you agree with the condition that they list and it’s accurate. 

Military Move Day May Make You a Little Crazy 

red moving truck
Courtesy of Unsplash

Military move day is chaotic, but you’ll get through it. 

Aside from your place looking like a tornado hit it, you can expect lots of coming and going, the awful sound of packing tape, and a whole lot of grunting and sweating happening. To help ease your stress levels, get up early the day the movers are to arrive and enjoy one last quiet moment in the place you’ve temporarily called home.  

A few final tips to help it go smoothly: 

  • Create your own inventory list – Before the movers even arrive, take the time to make your own inventory. Go through drawers, look at your jewelry, and markdown high-value items. Take date-stamped pictures of all your most important items.
  • Try to relax – If you’re having an HHG move done, do your best to sit back and relax.
  • Keep water on hand – Stay hydrated to avoid headaches and heat-related issues if you’re in a warm climate. You’ll be moving around a lot, so keep downing that H2O. You may also want to keep quick snacks on hand — like trail mix or crackers — to help you from getting too hungry.

  • Leave the vacuum out – If you live in an apartment that requires a deep cleaning, keep the vacuum out and have the movers pack it last. As each room is emptied, vacuum and then close the doors to indicate all is packed.

Last but not least, breathe! This is the end of one military adventure and the start of the next. It’s only one (or two) temporary days of stress. Remind yourself it will be over rather quickly. You’ll be unpacking at your new duty station before you know it. 

Learn more about how to prepare for your first PCS move here! Visit the official DoD moving portal, too.

If at any point you have concerns with the HHG movers or the moving process, reach out to your family support center or local personal property office at your current base. They’ll be happy to help! 

What military move tips do you have for service members who are doing a Household Goods Move?

Feature image courtesy of U.S. Transportation Command. Photo by Stephenie Wade


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