With summer around the corner, many military families are gearing up for a Permanent Change of Station, or PCS, move. Here are a few tips to help make your moving experience a little less stressful and a lot more productive.

Tip 1: Be Proactive.

As soon as you have orders in hand, start setting up appointments. Make an appointment with the transportation office first because it can be tough to schedule dates during peak moving season, which is typically May-August. Make a list of all of your current bills and find out how to close your accounts. Services you’ll need to shut off include electricity, water, gas, phone, cable, Internet and garbage. You may also have recurring services with pest control or lawn care companies you’ll need to cancel. Don’t forget to call the housing office if you’re living on post or your property management company if you’re renting. Many need at least 30 days notice and may require a copy of your orders.

Tip 2: Get organized.

Have a central location for all of your paperwork. Use a binder with page protector sheets, which are perfect for holding receipts that can be reimbursed later. Keep several copies of your orders in the binder and attach a checklist at the front to keep track of completed tasks and upcoming appointments. You should also keep your personal documents like passports, birth certificates and social security cards with you when you travel. You may want to keep these in a separate folder at first and combine them when you hit the road.

Tip 3: Be financially savvy.

The average military family has $1,725 of non-reimbursable expenses each time they move. Outline a budget in advance to ensure you’ll have enough spending money. In some cases, a do-it-yourself move can actually make you money. Weigh the pros and cons to decide which type of move is best for you.

Tip 4: Remember your pets.

The military does not pay to move your pet so if you’re moving overseas, you’ll need to do some research on plane tickets. This could mean driving to a different airport to get a direct flight or using a pet flight service. If you’re driving, locate pet-friendly hotels along the route. If you decide you can’t take your pet, find a shelter or a friend who will take the animal.

Tip 5: Prep for the Movers.

Before the movers arrive at your doorstep, prep your household. Throw away broken items and trash, put together a donation pile and clean your outdoor equipment like grills and bicycles. Put all of the items you plan on moving yourself into one closet or room and clearly label them “do not pack.” It’s recommended you carry major valuables like jewelry in your suitcase. Also, be sure to include cleaning supplies and toilet paper in your stash. You can also pre-pack to a certain extent. Wrapping your full utensil trays with plastic wrap and putting clean linens in giant plastic bags are great ways to keep things clean and cut down on work when you arrive at your new house. You may also want to walk through your house with a camera to document your belongings. This could be as simple as getting shots of major electronics and serial numbers or taking the time to flip through all of your DVDs. When your movers arrive, show them where the cold drinks are and tell them to help themselves. It’s also nice to provide them with lunch if you have the means. Most importantly, treat them with respect and they’ll treat you and your belongings that much better.

Tip 6: Do your research.

When you find out where you’re moving, start doing some research on the area. If you have children, you’ll want to look for the best school districts. If you want to move on post, you should call the housing office in case you need to get on a wait list. If you’re a social butterfly or have anxiety about leaving friends, look up some local social groups or athletic programs offered by the city.

Overall, the best thing you can do to have a smooth move is keep a positive attitude. The whole process is incredibly stressful, but try to focus on the positives. You’ll get to explore a new city. You might be able to make some extra money from the move. And hey, at least you don’t have to pack everything yourself.

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Jennifer Cary is a freelance writer, blogger and former government employee. You can visit her website here.