PCS Orders: Factors When Choosing Your New Home

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I feel like every military spouse knows by now that PCS orders aren’t final UNLESS there are hard orders involved.

To all those who aren’t familiar with the 3 letter acronym, PCS stands for Permanent Change of Station. It means the service member’s (and his/her immediate family) relocation to a new duty station determined by the military.

Whenever people ask me whether or not Vergs and I have a say in where the military places us, I usually give a vague answer in return.

The reality is, yes, we DO have the option of giving our choices beforehand. BUT that doesn’t necessarily mean we get any of the places we ask for.

A lot of factors go into the actual decision. So I won’t be touching on things beyond my or the service member’s control. What I will touch on though are the factors that can affect the bidding for certain duty stations.

Let me break it down for you and make it easier to understand.

Before a service member’s contract with the Navy expires, s/he is allowed 3 bids to choose where to be stationed next. There’s a list to choose from which have options varying every year or so, depending on the job requirements each duty station needs.

Each bid lets a service member choose up to 5 duty stations. After a few weeks, s/he finds out if s/he got the job. If not, they bid again.

If you or your spouse are in the process of looking at other duty stations to call home, here are a few things you may need to look into before the bidding process begins.

PCS Orders: What To Think About

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Stateside vs International

This is maybe the first question you’d want to ask yourself because as glamorous as traveling may be, you have remember that going off to a faraway place means you’ll be away from your family and friends from quite some time.

Having stayed in both the US and Spain for a while, I can honestly say that each has its own pros and cons. But I guess at the heart of it all, it really just depends on your personality.

My husband, Vergs, and I love to travel so we use the military as our way of getting around the world and seeing and experiencing new cultures on a long term basis.

We’re not the type of people who like to sit still either, so when we were in Spain, we would always travel to neighboring countries and use it as an excuse to go on a Eurotrip. If we’d get bored during a weekend, we’d take a drive to the nearby towns of Marbella and Seville for a quick getaway.

But as with anything, living in Spain wasn’t exactly a walk in the park at times — no matter how flavorful their paellas were and how incredibly cheap alcohol was. Since we were living in Spain’s Southern area, some locals could only speak in Spanish. So conversations were at times limited to the Spanish and Filipino words that we knew. The struggle of siesta was super real too, especially when you’re hungry, have nothing in your pantry, and live far from base, because almost everything would be closed — even the supermarkets.

Then again, there’s always the option to stay stateside.

The immediate pros of staying in the US? You get to be closer to your family and friends. You get to stay (relatively) close to home. And the culture shock isn’t too extreme — there’s bound to be endless fast food choices all around and there’s probably a Target or a Walmart within a 5 mile radius.

Again, the choice really depends on what you would prefer: convenience or the opportunity to see the world.

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Weather

Okay, you guys, I’m about to get real on this.

Because I am an island girl at heart — lived in Asia for almost all of my life — I have an affinity for the warmer climates.

When it gets hot in Asia, it’s sweltering hot. Summers back at home are usually in their mid 30s on the Celsius scale, and sometimes it can go up to a whopping 40 degrees Celsius.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I cannot for the life of me imagine living in a place that has winter as a season. I mean, I already feel chilly whenever my husband puts the AC in the low 20s.

So again, weather is such an important thing to consider. Think about it, when you and your family PCS, you’ll probably be staying in that area for at least 3 years. More seasons of varying temperatures also mean more items of clothing to spend on. So you need to be prepared not just attitude-wise but expense-wise as well. That being said, remember to look for great deals during off-season sales. Hand me downs from friends and family or garage sales would work too.

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Standard and Cost of Living

Some areas cost more than others. That’s what COLA or Cost Of Living Allowance is for. The problem is, sometimes it’s not enough to offset the additional monthly expenses.

Take Hawaii for example. Everybody thinks of it as a great holiday destination. But since it IS a tourist spot, the cost of living is way higher than most of the the other states. That’s just how it is.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to a budget and how well you and your family can stick to it.

Lifestyle

I feel like this is more of a neighborhood concern more than anything.

Personally, Vergs and I have already decided that we plan to have a family of our own once we get to our next duty station. This means, we want to be in a safe neighborhood, somewhere near a hospital, a supermarket, a mall (okay, maybe that’s just me haha!). But you get the picture.

Other lifestyle factors to consider are the available career opportunities in the area. While some spouses work from home and are choosing to hustle in their own way, others still prefer to check in and out at offices and go the corporate way. Either way is fine, but again, some of your options may be extremely limited depending on the duty station you’re assigned to.

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Flight Fares

I think it’s worth noting that flight fares should be considered once you and your family decide to move.

There are military Space-A flights that can cost anywhere from $0-10 for service members and their immediate family. But those aren’t always guaranteed seats. Basically, it’s not a good option for emergencies or big events that you have to go home for.

When it comes to commercial flights, my best advice is to stick to 1-2 airlines when booking. That way, you get to collect your miles when traveling. You might even be able to redeem a free upgrade or a one-way ticket after.

Also, you guys, if you’re planning to travel a lot, please please PLEASE do yourself a favor and take advantage of the American Express Platinum card. They have amazing travel perks such as airline lounges and their concierge service, which can pretty much do anything like give you a list of places to go and things to do.

The BEST part about the AMEX Platinum card is your annual fees are waived if you’re an active duty service member. That’s $550 saved every year, you guys! THAT’S HUGE.

Ready to apply for your American Express Platinum card? Click here!

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& there you have it! I hope this little guide helps you and your family make more informed decisions when it comes to choosing a new place to call home.

As for us, we’ve got about half a month before we move to Oahu. Not gonna lie, I’m anxious about the move, but after living in a hotel in San Diego for 4 months, I’m ready to have a place to call ours.