I thought my first permanent change of station (PCS) story would be more along the lines of how I prepared myself and my two small kids for the big move from CT to WA, with all my tips and tricks to follow. For me, this was a BIG move. I had spent the last 20 years of my life living on the east coast within a day’s drive from family. I consider myself a strong independent woman (as all submarine spouses must be), but I’m blessed with my family as an incredible support system. To now be more than 3,000 miles away is unnerving . Then let’s add a global pandemic on top of it.
Prior to February 2020, I was excited for this PCS as my last two moves were completed while pregnant. Our experience was at the end of April through the beginning of May prior to Connecticut opening up, but after the Department of Defense halted all PCS travel of any kind. At the time both states, Connecticut and Washington, had stay at home orders in place. Spoiler alert: we made it just fine.
If you have a PCS move coming up, here is how my family got through it:
Pre-pack with extra caution
Prior to packers arrival, I put toys and clothes in plastic bags as much as possible to decrease my need to feel everything needs to be cleaned upon unboxing in the new house. Due to our move being cross-country, we had plenty of time for the virus to die on surfaces, but taking this extra step put my worried mom brain at ease.
Keep interactions with packers to a minimum
The military moving agency (TMM) now requires all packers and movers to wear masks when working with military moves to protect service members and themselves! Yay! Prior to this I was not super comfortable coming back to my house once they began packing due to possible spread of COVID asymptomatically. Also, it is a requirement for the least amount of people to be located in the house while the packers are present.
Utilize your hotel and hangout
Once the packers arrived, we utilized some of our allotted PCS hotel days to not return to the house. This also gave my daughters and I a place to hang out and keep normal nap time routines while the house was being packed out. We are lucky that my husband was able to be present for the movers/packers. I highly recommend either utilizing hotel days or a day long playdate at a friends to allow for nap time to not be disrupted by all the commotion. With COVID and social distancing rules we opted for the hotel.
Plan a cross-country route with stops at military bases
With a move from Connecticut to Washington state, we created a travel route with stops at military bases only. The stops were approximately 6-8 hours of driving apart. This also allowed for safe and open hotels, as it was unknown especially in the more rural parts of the country exactly what accommodations would be available (Air Force Bases have incredibly nice hotels – also very dog friendly). As it would turn out, some friends had no difficulties finding civilian accommodations during their PCS.
When necessary, make quick gas station stops
When we stopped for gas or food along the way we kept our kids in the car to decrease all the possible surfaces to touch and the number of people we all interact with. We took short walks where there were open areas so our toddler and the dog could stretch their legs. If your kids are older and out of diapers, just plan to have hand sanitizer and wipes at the ready.
Quarantine upon arrival
Every command is different, but for my husband he was required to check-in at squadron then quarantine at home for 14 days. He was only allowed to go to grocery stores and gas stations. Home Depot was explicitly off limits. This has varied command to command as we have heard from other submarine families who have PCS’d at the same time we did. Just make sure you know what your situation is.
Wear masks and wash hands
This is a no brainer, but my husband and I mask whenever we go outside our house for our own peace of mind. At the time we moved it was the regulation in CT, so it’s now become a habit. Our older daughter now reminds us to mask prior to exiting our house. Hand sanitizer and clorox wipes are your best friend. If you are able to get your hands on a few I highly recommend having them in your car.
Moving is ALWAYS a HUGE accomplishment, pandemic or no pandemic. Has anyone else conquered the task of PCS’ing during a pandemic? I would love to hear your story and any tips or tricks that made you feel more comfortable.