PCS’ing to Pearl Harbor: 6 Common Questions

So, your sailor has orders to Pearl Harbor! You might be feeling excited about living in Hawaii, or nervous about being far away, or anxious about all the things that have to get done in order to get there. Or maybe you were like me, and you are feeling all those feelings at once! It can be a lot to take in, especially when you start considering the check-list you must complete in order to get to Hawaii.

This is one PCS where being organized and starting as early as possible are essential. To prepare for our PCS out to Hawaii, I got a file folder with multiple tabs to store and organize all the paperwork related to the move.  

Here you are some answers to common questions about PCS’ing to Pearl Harbor:

When will I get my stuff?

This is one of the more complicated moves with respect to household goods (HHG). We moved from the East Coast to Pearl Harbor, and our HHG arrived three weeks after we got on island, which was about 3.5 months after the pack out. If you are able to, I recommend scheduling your HHG shipment as early as you can, so as to minimize the amount of time you spend in the hotels or in temporary lodging when you arrive. For us, my spouse had a temporary duty station, so we packed up our HHG before he reported for temporary duty. Then he spent two months at his temporary duty station and for part of that time I went on a vacation to visit my sister in another country. We then took our time driving across the country to visit family before we shipped our car out of California.

It can be a long wait for your HHG, and it was common for people to have two to three months from when their HHG were packed until they were delivered on island. If you are traveling during the summer PCS “season”, it is possible that you might have a longer wait for your HHG.

 You can also create an “unaccompanied baggage” shipment, also known as “express shipment.” This is a separate shipment that will hopefully arrive before your HHG. This counts towards your weight allowance for your HHG. Many people who utilize this will pack things such as bikes, kids beach toys, snorkel gear, clothing, etc. However, be aware that there are rare occasions where the unaccompanied baggage may arrive after your HHG shipment.

The Joint Personal Property Shipping Office (JPPSO) handles all inbound HHG shipping, as well as arranges short term storage and extensions. It is located in the Housing office next to the Pearl Harbor NEX.

What do I do until my HHG arrives?

When you first arrive to Oahu, make sure you check-in with the housing office within 72 hours. If you get out to Oahu and already have a house or an apartment to live in, you can utilize the MWR’s loaner furniture program. This allows you to utilize loaner furniture, as well as temporary dishes and small appliances, for up to 90 days while you wait for your HHG.

If you are still house hunting, or waiting for a home in housing, you may be entitled to Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA). TLA can be extended by the housing office depending on your family’s home search situation. TLA rates for those inbound to Pearl Harbor is at the Navy Lodge on Ford Island. During busy PCS times, it can be difficult to get a reservation for the amount of time that you may need to be in temporary housing. Because of this, there is a list of TLA approved hotels on the housing office website. However, make sure that you get Certificate of Non-Availability (CNA) from the Navy Lodge to turn in when you complete your TLA Claim.

There was no availability at the Navy Lodge when we arrived on Oahu and my spouse and I ended up spending two nights at a hotel in downtown Waikiki. However, when a room opened up at the Navy Lodge, we moved into the Navy lodge for about 2.5 weeks before our HHG arrived. It is not uncommon to hear of people spending anywhere from a few weeks to a few months at the Navy Lodge.

What about my car?

In order to get your car to Oahu, you need to get it ready to be shipped. The website PCSmyPOV will become your friend as you prepare your car for shipment and then as you eagerly await for your car to arrive on the island. Make sure that shipping a car is in your PCS orders.

There is a lot that needs to be done in order to ship your car to Oahu. Something that should be done early in the move process is checking for recalls. A car will not ship if there is a recall on the vehicle and it has not been fixed. You will also want a Power of Attorney (POA) if the owner will not be present for the turn in or pick up. Make sure the POA has VIN information. Even if you are a co-owner of the car, you will want a POA if the other owner cannot be present for drop off/pick up. If your car has a lien holder, make sure to get a Lien Holder Letter. Other important information about shipping your car can be found on the PCSmyPOV website, or in this pamphlet. The average time for shipment is 39 days from West Coast ports and 47 days from East Coast ports

When we PCS’d to Hawaii, we were allowed one personal vehicle to be shipped on our orders. We sold our second car before moving and bought a used car about a month after arriving on the island. We shipped our car from San Diego and it took 60 days to arrive and process for pick up (this was past our required delivery date). Our car arrived a month after we did. We were lucky and were able to borrow a car from another spouse, then we decided to purchase a used car because I started working. Many people ship their second car out of pocket. There are many private shipping companies that ship into Honolulu.

Another option that I wish we had known about before we purchased from a dealer is the “Vehicle Resale” lot that the MWR runs onbase. These are vehicles that other service members are trying to sell before they leave the island. When we moved off the island, we sold our second car on this lot in less than two hours. These cars go quickly, and a lot of them are nice, used family vehicles.

Where should we live?

Figuring out where to live on Oahu can be a challenge. On our boat, people lived all over the island. There are a lot of things to consider when looking at housing, including the sometimes long waitlist for base housing.

A major thing to consider is the expense of off-base housing. Oahu is an expensive place to live, and it can be a challenge to find a house that is 1) lower than BAH, 2) has enough square footage for your family and 3) is nice. While saying that, it is not impossible to do. When we first moved to Joint Base Peral Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH), we lived in a small, twobedroom, 1.5 bath condo in Waikele, with a fenced backyard. However, it was all of our BAH. If you have pets, it can be even harder to find a rental that allows pets.

Another consideration is commute time. Not just for the active duty member, but for yourself. Traffic can be an issue, not only if you are working, but also if you just want to get around the island. Looking at a map of Oahu, you might think that things are close. However, traffic can be very bad on Oahu, especially for the evening commute. I worked in Honolulu, and there were times when we lived in Waikele that it could take me an hour to get into work and two hours to get home in the evening. It was only a 14 mile commute.

The above two points are some of the main reasons that people decide to live in base housing. We ended up moving into market rate base housing about a year after arriving on Oahu because it shortened my commute time. For JBPHH, the main base housing options are Ohana Navy Communities and Hickam Communities.  

How do I get my pet to Oahu?

Oahu has animal quarantine regulations. If you plan on bringing a pet to Oahu, this is something that you will need to start near the beginning of your PCS planning process, as there is a quarantine timer that does not start until you conduct the FAVN Rabies Antibody test. Many people leave their pets back on the mainland with family while they are living in Hawaii, either because their pets are old, or they weren’t able to complete the quarantine process before they moved. Having shipped a cat to and from Oahu, I can tell you this can be an overwhelming process.

There are different programs and checklists to complete in order to avoid having to quarantine your pet upon arrival in Hawaii. Here is a checklist for the Direct Airport Release and the 5 Day or Less Program from the HDOA. I recommend printing the checklist and following it. Not all vets understand or know the regulations with respect to shipping a pet to Hawaii, this is why I recommend you start this process early on. We had issues with our cat’s blood sample being shipped to the wrong location for the FAVN Rabies Antibody Test and because of this, our cat stayed behind for three weeks with family before she could be shipped out to us.

There are programs that help with all the documentation and shipping from the Mainland to Hawaii. Programs such as Island Pet Movers are commonly used by military members because they help with documentation, booking flights, and boarding your pet if necessary. Otherwise, you can follow the checklists and book your own pet on a cargo flight or check the pet on the same plane as you. We ended up booking our cat on a cargo flight out of Los Angeles.

Be aware that when flying with a pet into Honolulu, there are weather restrictions due to heat. Because of this, many of the flights that will accept pets are late in the night or early in the morning. Also make sure to double check the HDOA pet release times, as the office is not open all day/night. If your pet arrives at a time that the release office is not open, you may incur boarding fees. I found that the employees at the HDOA and the cargo airline we used to be extremely helpful in this process.

What about schools?

Information concerning Hawaii State Department of Education Schools can be found online. Hawaii tries to make the transition as smooth as possible for military members and their families, with enrollment requirements, zone maps, and many other FAQ’s available on their website. The School Liaison Officer (SLO) is available to assist families with the transition between schools.

Homeschooling and private schools are thriving options on Oahu. There are many homeschooling programs and support groups available throughout the island. A quick social media search will bring up a variety of homeschooling networks and groups. There are a variety of private schools available on Oahu as well, with many military families utilizing private schools in downtown Honolulu.

If you have young children who will need to be in daycare, you might want to put them on the wait list for childcare with Child and Youth Programs and the Child Development Centers before arriving on island. The wait lists can be long, as there are many military members on Oahu who utilize the Child Development Centers. However, there are multiple centers and family daycares throughout the island.

Have you PCS’d to Hawaii? What was the process like for you? Leave a comment and let us know! For more information on Pearl Harbor as a duty station, click here.

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