**Sorry to interrupt our European travel posts, this one is for the ones moving abroad with the military // my post about Amsterdam is coming to ya on Monday!!**
As a Type A organized-control freak, the past few months of getting ready to PCS to Germany (aka our move abroad) has been one headache after another. There really isn’t a concise “to do list” when moving with the military and getting your orders (which took forever) dictates when a lot of the list can get started on. Doing everything that we needed to do for this move took forever, and we don’t know how we would have gotten it all done if we hadn’t stopped working a few weeks before. We are also pretty new to the military life – Timmer commissioned back in med school with the Air Force’s Health Profession Scholarship Program (HSPS), so were basically starting from scratch.
If you are scheduled to move abroad with the military, here are a few things you should know:
The Air Force travel office will book your flight for you concurrently with you receiving your orders – flying on the rotator takes you from Baltimore directly to Frankfurt and is the cheapest and easiest way to fly with your pets. However, the rotator is booked pretty far in advance so you most likely won’t get on it. In this case, you can work with the Travel Office to ensure you get on a commercial flight with your dogs. We requested Lufthansa because they are the best internationally with flying animals, and since they have a code share with United Airlines and the Air Force has discounted rates with United, we were able to get on a Lufthansa flight! *Also this might be unique to us because we are moving via the HSPS!
If you have dogs, call your airline immediately!! There are only three pet spots on a Lufthansa flight – We have two black lab mixes that we were 100% bringing with us. I’m one of those crazy dog moms who buys t-shirts and phone cases with my dogs on it, so there was no way we would ever leave our dogs behind for three years. Once we got our orders and flight information, I immediately called Lufthansa about getting my dogs on the flight. I was heartbroken when I found out all three pet spots were already taken, but they told me all three spots were available on the following day’s flight. We called the Travel Office to see if they would be able to push our orders back one day, fully expecting to be disappointed, but to our surprise they said yes! Read more about moving your dogs abroad here. **Note: talking to Lufthansa representatives was hit or miss — I called three times before I got a definitive answer on whether or not our dogs were officially on the flight with us, so if you get a rep that doesn’t know what they’re talking about, just hang up and call again. More on flying with dogs later!
Schedule your movers ASAP – As I mentioned here, the military hires people to come pack up your items and then to move them. The military uses a website called DPS to initiate scheduling movers. You have to have your orders before you can submit a request for movers in the DPS system, but once you do get your orders you should submit the request as soon as you can. The DPS system is super slow, but there is a helpful tutorial on move.mil to help you navigate it. Once your request goes through, someone from a local base near you will call you to schedule your movers. There are two types of moves: Unacommanied Baggage (UAB) which flies your items over to you, so you get these items sooner, and Household Goods (HHG) which ships everything else over on a boat, so this can take 6 weeks to 2 months. You will get both, but the local office has to schedule these for you. The reason I recommend scheduling these ASAP is because originally, they weren’t going to be able to find movers for us until August 14th, when our move date was August 1st!
Book Temporary Living Assignments (TLA) – I would also try to book these as soon as possible, especially if you are trying to get a TLF on base, and especially if you need one to be pet friendly. TLFs book up really quickly. We thought we had a reservation, but somehow that fell through. To be off base you need a letter of non-availability so, we got that and ended up finding a temporary AirBnB-type furnished apartment in Kaiserslautern. We were able to get a per diem which will cover the cost of the TLA for 30 days.
Make sure your passport is in order – Since Timmer and I began the military move process before we were married, we weren’t sure what name they would put on the orders or when booking our flight. They ended up putting my married name on the orders/flight, so I needed to update my passport, but since it was only three weeks out when we got our orders I had to do the passport expedited process. That was expensive and just another 2-hour item on our to do list. If you do the expedited in-person process, make sure to make an appointment online, bring a copy of your orders, flight information, marriage certificate, your current passport, a passport photo, and your drivers license (with your changed name).
Schedule your POV (Privately Owned Vehicle) shipment – We were allowed to ship one car over to Germany, so we decided to ship my Nissan Rogue since it is newer than Timmer’s Jeep Wrangler. It is super easy to schedule the vehicle turn in date online, but there are so many other things you must do before you turn it in.
Get your car ready to turn in – There are a list of reasons why cars get rejected at POV turn in, so make sure you do your research! I referenced this website. We had to get it serviced (and ended up replacing the battery), empty it out and get it cleaned, make sure there was less than 1/4 tank of gas at drop off, and make sure you have the correct documents. *see below*
If you haven’t fully paid off your car, request a Lienholder’s Authorization Letter – I wish I had started working on this one sooner! I was on the phone with Nissan for three days before I got what I needed. To get the letter, you have to send them a copy of your orders and your marriage certificate (if your name is different). For some reason, it takes a lot of time to process this letter. Everyone at Nissan is super nice and wants to help, butttttt it took a ton of phone calls to receive this letter, and we finally got it in the eleventh hour right before we turned in my car.
Prep for the movers – Hopefully this one can be moved up your to do list, but since we didn’t get our orders until pretty late in the process, our movers couldn’t come until the week we left. It was pretty nice that we didn’t have to sleep on an air mattress for more than a few nights, but the flip side is that we will be without our bed for awhile in Germany. To prep for the move, I’d suggest going through each room and throwing out anything you won’t need in your next home. It’s better than having the movers pack it, and then realizing you don’t need it once you get to your next place. If you are moving abroad, look at all of your electronics to see if they are dual voltage, or if they don’t even work in your next country. We kept the KitchenAid mixer I just got as a wedding gift, but sold or donated any older electronics.
If you have dogs, schedule an appointment with a USDA accredited vet within 10 days of your move – Not all vets are USDA accredited so definitely double check! Also well before this, make sure the dogs have a microchip and their rabies vaccine. The USDA accredited vet will give you a signed health certificate, and you have to take this form plus the rabies vaccine certificate to get endorsed at a different office. Moving dogs abroad is a lot of work!
Take your USAREUR drivers test – If you don’t have a military ID yet, you won’t be able to take the test until you have one, so plan accordingly. I recommend taking it beforehand if you can, but I couldn’t so I just had to take it once I got to Germany. That wasn’t a big deal at all, it just meant we had to take two trips to the licensing office instead of one. The USAREUR test is online, but it definitely takes time. You have to watch video modules, then take a 200 question practice test, before you take the real 100 question test.
Get your military IDs – Our orders stated we could only get our military IDs the day before our flight, so this was one thing off our to do list that we couldn’t do in advance. We couldn’t make an appointment since that day was walk-in hours only, so we showed up 30 minutes early to try to be one of the first ones in line.
Cancel cable/internet and any other bills – Cancelling cable and internet is probably everyone’s least favorite thing to do. Horrible customer service and people who have no idea what they are talking about makes for a frustrating afternoon. We tried to cancel our internet through the day we left, but of course they cancelled it at midnight on the day before we left, so I wasn’t able to take the USAREUR drivers test…and we just didn’t have internet for the day. We survived, but maybe you should just cancel it at the end of the week to give yourself some buffer room for their mistakes.
Note: we don’t have kids, so this is exclusive of anything parents have to do. Let me know if you have any other questions or if there is anything else that I missed!