Post by International Military Life Community Manager Courtney WoodruffUSAA Community What I Wish I knew OCONUS PCS.jpg

PCS season is ramping up. For many service members, spouses and children, this means applying for passports and preparing – physically, mentally and emotionally – for life in a foreign country. If this is your first time receiving orders to an OCONUS duty station, don’t worry; we’ve got your six.

Military spouses who’ve been stationed around the world have reached out to help fellow military families by answering the question:


“Before moving overseas, I wish I’d known…”


Just how tough the process can be.

Meg F. of MilKids Ed, “I wish I had known the hoops you needed to jump through. Literally everything is hard: pack out, booking flights, getting a pet over there. The offices in charge act like this is the very first time a family has ever attempted to move to (OCONUS location) from (stateside base).”


The challenges associated with bringing pets overseas.

Christina W., “My cat was the biggest hassle ever when we moved to Hawaii. They wanted her to get two rabies boosters, so that was two separate vet visits, plus the blood work visit, plus another visit 10 days out for the health certificate (that totaled several hundred dollars and about five months). The flight was simple, because she went with us on orders as “baggage,” which is cheaper than sending her separately. All we got reimbursed for was the Hawaiian government fees, which was $200-ish I think.”


Solid job-hunting strategies.

Jennifer O., “I wish that I had known to look and apply for jobs before we arrived. It can take a while to find employment – if you are able to at all. Starting early can help.”


The ins and outs of financial entitlements.

Lizann P. L. author and blogger at Seasoned Spouse, “We lost lots of money because we didn't know some of our options for shipping a vehicle, staying in temporary housing, what to ship Express, etc. I heard so many similar stories from others that I decided to write a book of resources for military families moving there.


What to ship and what to leave behind.

Jennifer O., “I wish that I would have known what was important to bring and what was not. We picked up a lot of things during our time overseas and needed the space to bring it back stateside.”


What it takes to be an entrepreneur.

Meredith R., “The amount of incorrect information circulated about having a small business overseas is infuriating! telling spouses to work under the table or trying to apply what works in one duty station for operating a business to another especially overseas... being told you don’t have to register with housing or post. Also, being told because we lived on a federal installation that we didn’t need to pay taxes ... list goes on.”


The necessity of having a Power of Attorney.

Christa P., “I wish I had known (before the first OCONUS move) that as the dependent, I would have to have a POA in hand before we landed. So many things I couldn't do because my sponsor wasn't with me.”


How important it is to be financially prepared.

Courtney W., “There are so many hidden expenses when moving overseas. It’s important to set aside a good amount of money before you PCS so you will be able to set up your new life without having to take out a loan or rely on credit cards. It’s also important to make sure you have switched over all of your insurance policies to ensure your personal property is protected in case something happens during your move .”


Helpful technology hacks.

Ciara S., author  of Welcome to Yokosuka: A Practical Guide on How to PCS to Yokosuka, Japan, “I wish we had known about the Google Fi phone. It’s actually a cell phone program through Google that works anywhere in the world by picking up signal from whoever the local carrier is. There’s no contract, it’s fairly inexpensive, and it charges you only for the data you use pretty much. The only caveat is you have to use a Google Fi phone.”


That at the end of the day… it would all be okay.

Jennifer O., “I wish that I would have known that although everything is crazy with an overseas move, I should trust that it will all work out.”


Have you been stationed at an OCONUS duty station? What do you wish you’d known before moving overseas?

Additional information:


Budgeting for the Hidden Expenses of Moving Overseas

How to Decide Between Off-Base and On-Base Housing Overseas

Check out the USAA – International FAQ


Courtney.jpgAbout the Blogger: Courtney Woodruff is a military spouse, mom and writer currently living in Germany. She has a master's degree in Human Services Counseling: Military Resilience and currently serves as the International Military Life Blogger and Community Manager for USAA. She has a heart for our troops and their families and strives to share her own experience to help others overcome the unique challenges of military life. Follow her adventures on her blog, Courtney at Home, or connect with her Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.