Pack it up, pack it in


So I’ve been a little MIA lately; I take my final Arabic test in two days so I’ve been a little busy pretending to study. I have a couple of posts coming up on what’s been going on with me: home leave info, tenure/promotion analysis, PCSing with a pet, etc. But this is a bit simpler: How to pack for long-TDY/PCS move.

I’m assuming government-funded travel where there is no nasty extra-bag fee and where you can use two bags of 50 lbs each. Your needs and desires are likely different than mine, but this should serve as a good primer.

First, if you’re PCSing, get in touch with your sponsor to see what can be sent by pouch/APO ahead of time. Must-have books are good candidates because the USPS media rate is so cheap. Clothes that aren’t needed in your current location but would come in handy right away at post are also good, though you’ll want to pack them tight so you’re not paying to ship air.

We’re big fans of bringing our bedding with us in our carry on. That might seem wasteful, but it makes it easier to not have your bed while you wait for your HHE. We bought a large, heavy-duty duffel bag (you can pick one up for $30 at most places that sell luggage or on Then we stuffed pillows, sheets, and comforters into those vacuum space bags. Those bags aren’t great, but they only need to hold until you can get the duffel zipped. Pack one bag that doens’t need to be opened en route and you’re good to go.

Save space in your other bag and carry-on by packing your clothes differently. I recently traveled using the bundle method of packing clothes and was able to fit two complete suits, jeans, 5 shirts, 2 pairs of shorts, and everything else I needed into my carry on. The suits didn’t need ironing when I was done. Sweet.

Finally, make good use of your “personal/laptop” extra carry on. While a laptop is ideal, I’ve definitely brought an iMac in this carry on. Bringing a large hard-drive with a bunch of movies, a Vonage phone/VoIP headset, and a couple of wireless routers will not only get you connected and entertained right when you land, it will also reduce the need to fill your UAB with a bunch of heavy books or space-hogging DVDs. If you MUST bring DVDs, take them out of their cases and put them in a slim, car visor cd case. You’ll be able to keep 20 DVDs in the space that you would have normally put one or two. Ship the cases HHE and you’re good to go.

Question on number of pack-out days


A friend asked me how many days she was entitled to take off for her pack-out to post. Post was itching to get her there, and apparently couldn’t spare the two days she wanted to make sure the movers didn’t put the kitchen sink in HHE. Sadly, the answer is zero. Pack-out days are not/not an entitlement. They are taken as administrative (paid) leave approved by your supervisor. According to 3 FAH-1 H-3465, your supervisor can approve up to two days for pack-out and one day for unpacking (with extensions available). The silver lining for her? While at FSI, your supervisor is unlikely to be your supervisor at post. If you’re in long-term language, your Language Training Supervisor or CDO is usually your supervisor of record, and they’ll tend to give you the time. Your milage may vary–and it’s probably best not to piss off your boss before you even get to post–but I find it hard to believe that two days is a deal breaker in the vast majority of cases. We’ve all been through packouts and having that day can be the difference between keeping your sanity and finding your minor child crated and shipped to post.