Ah, PCS. An acronym that every military spouse knows far too well, and yet, it’s never quite mastered. Every move comes with different obstacles, but one obstacle is constant: packing for an express shipment (also known as unaccompanied baggage). Your PCS stress level can go from zero to one hundred real quick, so what if you could make things easier?

Here are some military express shipment tips to improve your next PCS.

8 Tips to Help You with Your Military Express Shipment

1. Purge

What To Pack In Your Military Express Shipment + Tips

Purging unnecessary items in your home before you start packing will pay off in the long-run. Do not skip this step! Figure out what you actually need to pack for your next house, and avoid the “damn we have a lot of sh…stuff” phase when it’s time to unpack. Most bases have thrift stores or donation places that will gladly take your unwanted items. Consider throwing a Take My Stuff Party before moving. It’s a great way to purge and also say goodbye to friends and neighbors. Whatever items are left, post on Facebook Marketplace or local Buy/Sell/Trade pages for a profit.

2. Make a list

Military Mamas love to make lists! They keep us organized and on track. Make a list of things your family can’t go a week or two without. Close your eyes and take a minute to go through your daily routine in your head when making this important list. Think about what your family needs to function morning, noon, and night. Maybe you make a list for each family member, assigning a particular color, or using a flash card for each individual.

3. Separate

To stay organized, separate your express shipment (UB) from your household goods (HHG) and luggage items. Do this at least 2 days before your movers are scheduled to come so you have enough time to prioritize where you want your items to go. This helps you decide if you have any last-minute items to purge. Keep your UB items, HHG, and luggage items in distinctively different spaces from one another. You don’t want the movers to grab items that were supposed to go with a different shipment — or worse — pack your luggage items. (Gasp!)

3. Mark it

Once your items are separated, clearly label them. While it would be nice to watch your movers the whole time they move your stuff, it’s just not possible. Give the movers clear direction, so you’re not breathing down their necks. This calls for signs! Nothing fancy and too wordy; just direct and noticeable for the movers to know what items go where. Use bright and colorful sticky notes or paper with bold markings and large lettering (e.g. UB, HHG, DO NOT MOVE).

4. VIDEOTAPE EVERYTHING

What To Pack In Your Military Express Shipment + Tips

Some may think this step is going a little overboard, but better safe than sorry! If your property gets damaged during a move, this step will help keep you calm. Videotape the items in your home that are valuableespecially the expensive ones (TVs, computers, hutches, grandma’s old china, etc.). Use your phone to record electronics in working condition, turning them on and off and recording the serial number.

Use the app, MY ULTIMATE PCS to help you organize your next military express shipment.

5. The OG

Use the original box and packaging material that your items came in if possible. This helps transport your items without damage. We know that sometimes items may still get damaged, but it lowers the possibility.

6. Hardware

A major stressor when unpacking express shipment boxes is missing screws and other hardware needed to assemble furniture — especially when it’s for the baby’s crib! (The horror!) When disassembling furniture, put the screws in a Ziploc bag and securely tape the bag to a piece of the furniture. Painter’s tape is perfect because it won’t damage your items when peeling it off.

7. Vacuum seal

In order to save some space and keep your linens fresh, vacuum seal those bad boys! Blankets and pillows are bulky, so be sure to find a large enough bag so it seals correctly. Vacuum sealing will also prevent your items from getting damaged due to unforeseen weather damage or leaks and helps keep the items together for easy unpacking. (This also works well with clothes, shoes, spices, etc.) It may seem obvious, but do not pack any soiled linens. You don’t want to be on the other side of opening that bag after it’s been driven across the country or in storage for a month.

8. Contain

What To Pack In Your Military Express Shipment + Tips

When packing for a PCS, containers are your BFF! Opt for clear bins, if possible, to easily see what’s inside. Pack items in bins per room and label each bin with the room it belongs in to make unpacking easier. Label with masking or painter’s tape and a permanent marker, or a label maker.

Large and giant Ziploc bags work really well for containing items in junk drawers. (Who wants to sort through all that when the movers dump it into one big box?!) Consider using one Ziploc bag per kitchen drawer. Dividing silverware in one bag and serving ware in another will make unpacking your kitchen a breeze.

Things to Pack in Your Military Express Shipment for Every Room in Your House

Here are some ideas of things to pack in your military express shipment. Be sure to keep in mind your weight limit.

Bathroom

  • Shower curtain & rings
  • Toilet paper
  • Towels (make sure to pack some towels in your luggage!)
  • Trash cans

Kids

  • Toys
  • Pack-n-Play
  • Board games
  • School supplies/backpack

Kitchen

  • Can opener
  • Pans/pots
  • Oven mitts
  • Spices
  • Silverware/Knives
  • Cutting board
  • Plates/Cups
  • Kettle
  • Coffee pot (a must!)
  • Corkscrew/wine glasses (another must!)
  • Microwave

Bedrooms

  • Sheets/Blankets/Pillows
  • Iron/Ironing board
  • Extra clothes
  • Lamps (some movers won’t let you bring lightbulbs)

Pets

  • Kennels
  • Food bowls
  • Pet beds
  • Unopened dry dog food in a bin

Extras

  • Powdered laundry detergent
  • Laundry baskets
  • Toolbox
  • Desktops/Laptops
  • Extra chargers
  • Small TV
  • Router
  • Snorkel gear
  • Snowboard
  • Bikes

What are your favorite military express shipment tips?

Comment below with your go-to PCS packing tips!

Worried about your children while moving?
Check out this article on 5 Things to Help Children Through a PCS transition

What To Pack In Your Military Express Shipment + Tips
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