On The Road Again- Moving tips

As a military family, we have moved homes 11 times, so many people assume, and feel free to comment, that we “get used to it.”

We don’t.

The 12th move might be easier in terms of the fact that we know what to expect, but it is not easier in any other way.  It’s just as hard to organize our belongings, just as hard to know what to get rid of/donate/throw away, and just as hard to separate the items into the different shipment categories.  It will also be just as difficult and overwhelming to unpack on the other end.

We are three weeks out from our departure to Beijing.  The movers will show up to work their magic in less than two weeks.  Coincidentally, Horatio will be out of the country for the 3 days of packing.  I’m certainly not the first, and definitely not the only, military (or other) spouse dealing with a pack-out/move on her own, but it’s as much of a formidable task as it sounds:

Two teams of movers for two shipments: one by air and one by sea; three days of packing; and I should probably mention that the movers will not speak English.  While my Mandarin is adequate, the language barrier definitely adds an element of challenge and angst to the process.


In the weeks leading up to the pack-out, there are many things to do to prepare.  Since we have two shipments, as well as about a dozen suitcases full of things we will hand carry, we will label everything to indicate how each item will get from point A to point B.  As the movers won’t speak or read English, the labels have to be creative and very clear.  I am opting for color-coded post-its: Yellow for the sea shipment, purple for the air shipment and orange for the hand-carry items.

Most of the furniture in our house is provided by the government, so it stays in the house.  Beds will have to be moved around on moving day, though, since we brought our own king sized mattress from the US, and it sits atop two government issued twin box springs and bed frames.  A queen bed will have to be moved from Bob’s room to Horatio’s and my room, and the twin beds will go into Bob’s room and Harold’s room.  Harold currently has bunk beds we shipped from the US, and they will get packed up, but the mattresses are government issued, so they stay.  This weekend, Horatio will dismantle the bunk beds and bundle all of the parts, segregating the hardware in a ziploc back, to ensure that all elements of the beds make it to the other side.  It’s a task he undertakes with each move and it’s worth the effort.

We must inventory every item in the house so that we can account for everything on the other end.  Since we are moving from one country to another, we have to consider customs issues.  As the movers carry the boxes from the house, they will place each one on a scale and note the weight.  We have a strict weight limit and will be financially responsible for each pound our shipment is overweight.


Here are the key tips I can offer after my years of experience:

  1. Hand carry anything that you want to have immediately upon arrival at your new home.  For us, a set of sheets for each bed is a comfort for which I’m happy to sacrifice suitcase space.  Also, the boys each carry a video game console and a laptop in their carry-on baggage.  Other items we take on the plane are:
    • Essentials for the dog
    • Swimming gear and toys
    • Medical Records
    • School Records
    • Medication
    • Thermometer
    • Family Calendar
    • Umbrellas
    • Lots of clothes
  2. Air Shipment Items
    • Remaining Bed Linens
    • Towels
    • Bathmats
    • Laundry baskets
    • Laundry hamper
    • Computers
    • TV (if small enough, since the air shipment has strict size restrictions)
    • Favorite items for the kids
  3. Sea Shipment Organization
    • Organize by room
    • Put like items with like items
    • Supervise to be sure fragile items are well packed
    • All small parts should be put in ziploc bags before the movers arrive

Most important…  If you don’t want the movers to pack something, isolate it in an area the movers won’t encounter.  Seriously.  I’ve heard stories of many odd items that have accidentally gotten packed:  trash, mouth retainers, a sandwich, a book someone was reading, and worst of all…. PASSPORTS!

About Commander in Chief At home

Erin is a military spouse and, sometimes temporarily single mom to 4 boys. She's a writer, editor, teacher, and (Autism) mom.
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