You thought, discussed, lost sleep, thought some more, and, finally, the wishlist is in. You’re cautiously optimistic about the opportunity to PCS to paradise. Then, surprise! Orders come through, and suddenly your dreamy whims have turned into reality. You actually get to PCS to paradise — your family is heading to Hawaii.
OK, so perhaps not everyone has this secret wish to be forced to move to the most honeymooned state in America. But, to those who are either wishing on an island breeze to get these orders or have already been gifted this wish and are just beginning to plan, we are here to bring you back down to Earth and (re)set some of your expectations.
We sat down with a Marine Corps spouse, Danielle Keech, who recently experienced the move to Kaneohe Bay (K-Bay), Hawaii, with her Cobra-flying husband and ever-smiley little toddler.
Daily Mom Military (DMM): When did you find out about your husband’s orders to Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH)?
Danielle Keech (DK): When my husband completed advanced flight training, he got his aircraft assignment and orders to move for additional training in California, followed by four years in Hawaii. So, we actually knew that we would be moving to the island a year before we made the move. However, because the timeline for training in California fluctuates, we weren’t certain of when we would actually move.
DMM: How early did you start to prepare for the move?
DK: I got our names on the list for Ohana military housing and started the home-quarantine process for our pups as soon as we had orders out of advanced flight training with Hawaii written on them. Beyond those two things, there wasn’t much else I could do to prepare until we had our web and written orders two weeks before our flight to the island.
Pets and HHGs
DMM: What was the protocol for moving your pets overseas?
DK: Because Hawaii is a rabies-free state, they require pets coming from the mainland to be quarantined. The process consists of a series of vet visits and submission of detailed paperwork. It’s an expensive and timely process, but far worth the convenience on the back end if you can manage to work in advance. Rumor has it, though, that these regulations are under review. If they choose to relax the requirements, it will be far easier for military families with pets moving to Hawaii. Just be sure you do your research before you start the rigorous process of moving your fur babies.
DMM: How long did it take after moving in to receive your stuff from the movers?
DK: We were without our stuff for about a month. Being without your stuff isn’t as bad as you’d think. If you choose to live on base, then you likely won’t need your household goods right away because you’ll be setting up camp in a hotel or a month-to-month furnished apartment. If you choose to live out in town or if you’re one of the lucky ones to move right into base housing when getting to the island, there are a number of resources available to help you get by without your stuff. MCBH offers furniture rental and access to the lending locker where you can borrow household items until your things arrive — not to mention the generous community you’re joining that is more than happy to jump up and help!
Planning the PCS to Paradise
DMM: What stuff did you take with you on the plane, and how did you decide what to take with you and what to have packed?
DK: We knew that we had a house waiting for us so, in addition to uniforms, clothes, and toys for our toddler; we packed a few household items that we knew would make the transition easier. Our coffee maker and grinder, for example, made it on the plane with us. It all depends on your priorities! It’s obvious where ours lie — in our morning coffee. And definitely bring all important documents. Create a PCS binder with birth certificates, your marriage license, pet documents, children’s immunization card(s), health and school records, car titles, orders and copies of orders. There’s actually a really great list published by MilitaryByOwner that you can follow to ensure you’ve got everything you need.
DMM: Any secrets to airport life/traveling with a toddler?
DK: Snacks, snacks, and more snacks. Also, a blanket. Bring books, small toys, and an iPad or tablet (with headphones). One of the best things about the flight for us was that airlines typically seat children around other children. Our 18-month old spent most of the six-hour flight watching other littles! The best piece of advice I can give fellow parents flying with young kids is to expect your kids to be fussy. None of us want to be the ones with the child throwing a tantrum. But, it’s a long time to keep a child entertained and they’re going to get frustrated. It’s going to happen; mentally prepare for it. Make friends with the flight attendants and your neighbors. Lastly, remember that the plane will land. It may not be grounded for another five hours, but it will land and the flight (no matter how bad) will be over.
Making A Home Base
DMM: What priorities did you take when deciding on housing?
DK: We knew that we wanted to be close to the flight line, space for our growing family, and didn’t want to spend more than the allotted BAH. Although it’s not impossible to find all of that in a rental off base, we knew it would be difficult, so we chose to pursue on-base housing. And we couldn’t be happier!
DMM: Are there any secrets to obtaining on-base housing in Hawaii?
DK: Start the process as soon as possible. After you submit your housing application there are two waitlists. A preliminary waitlist that starts upon submission of the application and an immediate list that starts usually after you arrive on the island.
DMM: Is there off-base housing offered on the island?
DK: You’re more than welcome to embrace the Hawaiian lifestyle and live like a local in a rental home out in town. Most families stationed at MCBH choose to live in Kailua or Kaneohe, anywhere from five to 20 minutes from base.
DMM: What grocery stores, shops, and amenities are on or near the base?
DK: On base, there’s the exchange, commissary, gym, pool, MWR, child care, elementary school, and the youth center. There are also a few fast-food restaurants, like Starbucks, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Papa John’s, and Subway (of course). Out in town, you’ll find a lot of familiar chains, like Safeway, 7/11, several well-known restaurants, and Target. The most common things you’re likely to miss are Chick-Fil-A, Homegoods, and Marshalls. But there are enough new things to enjoy that you’ll hardly notice Chick-Fil-A’s absence.
PCS to Paradise with Kids
DMM: What activities are available for a toddler?
DK: Not only are there too many playgrounds on base to count, there’s also a splash pad, library, playgroups, preschool (both accompanied and unaccompanied), and a calm beach for kids to play. And the options out in town are endless. Take your littles on hikes, explore the botanical gardens, head out to the Sea Life Park, or soak up the sun at the Wet ‘n’ Wild water park.
DMM: What support is available (through the base or the community)?
DK: You’ll find no shortage of kids in Hawaii. Aside from the opportunities offered on base, you’ll find support in military spouse groups. No matter the demographics of these groups, parents will get together and make an effort to get out and do fun things together. It’s a great way for both you and your kiddos to make new friends!
Photo Credits: Corry Frazier Photography