Top 6 PCSing Tips

We’ve been in Germany now for 10 days (Wow!  where’d that time go?!)  and I’ve been making little lists in my head for all the things I would do better next PCS…something I’ve always done, but never bothered to write down…until now.  I figure if I can pay it forward to someone else, my lessons will have been well learned.

Ours was a rather unique PCS situation as my husband was given unaccompanied orders and arrived in Germany in July 2012.  Meanwhile, my boys and I drowned our sorrows in Ohio, thanks to the comfort of good friends while we waited for paperwork to work thru the system.  (That’s a whole ‘nother story for another day.)  Anyway, because he was already here, he found a house and we shipped him some less than desirable (*cheap*) kitchen items as I knew he would never really use them, plus a few blankets, sheets, pillows, and towels!

Even with hubby already comfortable with the German way of life, there were still a few things I wish I’d known BEFORE I left Ohio!  (And yes, dear hubby, I’m sure you might have said something along the way, but in my crazy pack-out during the holidays, I only remembered things I thought were important!)

1. Moving Pets:

First, read the AF website info, then contact your state USDA office for up to date info regarding animal transport to any EU country.  They had the CORRECT paperwork!  Over the Christmas holiday, our vet filled out paperwork twice (and we paid for twice), and we drove the paperwork to the USDA office (for us 2 hours away) in a snowstorm (8 inches!) to get it all certified ($77).   The USDA doesn’t do mail, email or fax for these certificates.  You can likely avoid the USDA if your vet is on-base, but good luck getting an appointment!  Remember you  only have 10 days for the certificates to authorize your pets to clear customs, so there’s no getting around this step ahead of time.

2. Pets at the Airport:

Ask the rotator airline agent about sedation when you check in your luggage!  We thought they were taking the pets right away (6 hours pre-lift-off).  Not the case:  we sedated them at 11am, then checked in and they said “keep your pets with you until 4pm.”  If you’ve EVER tried to take a sedated dog out to pee, you’ve never lived.  CAUTION:  don’t sedate until they say they are ready!

On the sedation note, would it be too awful to suggest a package of pediatric Benadryl travel sized individual doses tucked in your purse for the PCSing family with the screaming 3 year old on the flight?  Obviously they FORGOT to bring their own!  Had it been my child, I would’ve loved the gentle offer about 3 hours into the flight!

3.  Mail Important Items 

Send your self the things you may need right away for your house via priority mail to your APO address!  These are the things that won’t fit in your luggage at the last minute (luckily we had one whole suitcase reserved for pillows and bedsheets):

  • Toys! (in our case, Legos)
  • Kitchen knives –even 1 of my favorites would be nice right now…
  • Bath towels (1 per person works, however, an extra 1 would be welcomed!)
  • School supplies (you know, everything they need that you spent a fortune on in Sept)

I mailed 7 packages regular mail:  1 box of Christmas gifts postmarked 13 December; the other 6 boxes, including 1 priority box: 27 December.

We’ve been to the post every day since we arrived and last Monday we were thrilled to get a box!  Would it be the one full of the much anticipated Christmas Legos?  NOPE –this box (priority labeled) contained mom’s music and organ shoes.  Talk about disappointment.

BTW, it’s 9 January and we are still waiting…

Note: Your sponsor can help you get an APO box and address before you PCS. 

4. English Subtitles? Nope!

Everything is written in German:  the dishwasher, the washing machine, the vacuum cleaner instructions, the train ticket kiosk….I love Germany and all, but really wish I’d taken the time to learn more language before I got here.  (I know, there’s only so much one can do in one’s busy life, but this one should’ve been more of a priority!)   Just be prepared to be confused and carry your pocket dictionary with you!   I know I’ll understand it all by the time we PCS again.

5. Study for the driver’s license test!

Even though it’s a no-fail CBT test now –you’ll feel so much smarter when you can walk out of the testing room before your husband comes to pick you up!  (btw, he told me to study before I left Ohio, and I didn’t.)  Took me 90 minutes….the middle section was hard! There is a great study guide here.

6. Cell Phones:

Here’s what I’ve learned about phones.  The best place to purchase a phone plan is off-base at Deutsche Telekom (T-mobile) if you want a decent rate and plan.  Just keep driving to different stores until you find a clerk with reasonable English speaking skills.

Trust me, you want to understand these contracts! Here’s why:  The fine print in all German phone plans (cell, internet, land lines)  automatically renew at the end of 24 months! You have to ask when the renewal date is –it could be month 18 and if you miss it, well, you’re out of luck getting out of your contract if you move at month 36!  You have to cancel your contract in writing, via the German snail mail before that auto renew date.  Put that date in your smart phone, for sure!

Note: Linda originally posted this article on her site, but has graciously shared it with us here as well.