You just got orders to Germany! A great adventure is about to start, but then it hits you… what is unaccompanied baggage and where can I find a proper list of things to do before this move? If this is your first time moving, or even if you’re a seasoned veteran, a PCS to Germany can be overwhelming if not properly prepared.
Lucky for you, we already put together that “list of things to deal with” before you move. If you’re stressed out (and we’ve all been there) about your PCS overseas, I highly recommend using our detailed checklist(s) to get the ball rolling.
You can download our Ultimate PCS Checklist that goes through everything, or get the FREE PCS to Germany checklist which is a simplified version to help relieve that initial stress.
So let’s take away the thoughts of, “Where do I start?” Instead, how about, “What do I even bring?”
Let’s start with the essential things in a move, our baggage.
Now that we’ve provided you with a checklist to add to your PCS folder, I’m going to discuss what to bring and not bring, and the different types of baggage – unaccompanied, personal luggage, and household goods.
Here’s a few quick tips to consider when moving overseas:
1. Downsize! While you wait for hard copies of your orders, start eliminating items through the house you no longer want/need.
2. The voltage is different overseas. In Germany, your appliances must be 220 volt or higher, whereas American appliances are 110 volt. A transformer or converter is used to plug in your American appliances, but most government houses (on/off base) have outlets with both options.
If you’re bringing over your electronics, double check that it is both 110V & 220V. Most electronic devices will have this written on the product or on the actual wire cord itself.
It must say 220V or higher in order to work overseas, otherwise you’re going to blow it up!
3. If you have any spices or liquids that are going to cause a mess during the move, place them in a ziploc bag when packing.
Unaccompanied baggage (UAB) are the items in your house that you want to send before the other household goods shipment. This is your “expedited shipment,” or the bare minimum luggage to get setup in a new location.
The government authorizes you a weight limit based on your rank and family status. Unaccompanied baggage is generally limited to 2,000 pounds, but limits may vary in certain overseas locations. Check your orders for baggage allowance, sometimes your orders will tell you your exact limits.
The average delivery time is about 6-8 weeks, but be prepared for some delays if you’re PCSing during the peak moving season or if/when the mission requirement is in high demand. This type of baggage travels primarily by aircraft (rather than boat), which is why it arrives before your household goods.
Here are a few suggestions from my PCS checklist to add into your unaccompanied baggage.
- – 3 weeks+ of seasonal clothes
- – Winter gear: gloves, rain boots, snow shovel, ice scraper
- – Plenty of socks, shoes, undergarments
- – A few jackets/coats
- – Military gear
- – Hangers & ironing board
When packing for clothes, be mindful of the months and time of season you’ll be in before your big household goods shipment comes in. If you come in the fall, make sure you have winter clothes, if you come in the winter, make sure you have spring clothes as well.
If you’re PCSing to Germany, the weather will constantly change on you (like throughout the day). It rains a lot here so make sure you pack a light jacket and/or clothes to keep you warm and dry.
You should definitely bring all your military gear. I would pack your everyday work uniform and at least one set of all other uniforms in your personal luggage, and then all extra gear in your unaccompanied baggage. Think of any ceremonies, parades, military balls, or other special uniforms you might need within the first 6 -8 weeks that you arrive.
- – Basic cooking items: One of everything kitchen related
- – Tupperware, paper/plastic plates & utensils
- – A few cups, bowls, silverware
- – Broom/dust pan and mop
- – Napkins/paper towels and an oven mit
- – That one kitchen item you can’t live without.
When it comes to the kitchen, start with one of every important item such as a mixing bowl, spatula, large spoon, pyrex dish, crockpot, air fryer, pots & pans, blender, can opener, kitchen towels, oven mittens, baking pans, toaster, coffee maker, spices, sharp knives.
Even if you think you won’t be cooking, I promise you’ll get tired of eating out, ordering take out, or microwaving food from the commissary, so be prepared to have your kitchen items!
Unaccompanied Baggage for Kids
- – Kid’s clothes (up to 3 weeks)
- – Favorite toys
- – Blanket/pillow
- – Crib/Pack N Play
- – Baby seat/high chair
- – Diapers/wipes
- – Baby carrier/stroller
- – Electronic games/tablet
- – Formula
- – Books/puzzles/board games
- – Bouncy swing
Kids are special and they need things, lots of things. This list is specific to the age and number of kids you have, so plan accordingly.
Electronics & games
- – Small TV
- – Power strips/extension cords
- – Tablet &/or DVD’s
- – Gaming system (Xbox, Playstation)
- – Extra chargers (phone and other electronics)
- – Plug converters
Walk into each room you have and think about all the electronics you use in that room. If it’s an electronic that gets daily use such as a computer monitor, and you think you’ll need it within the first 6 -8 weeks you arrive, pack it up with your unaccompanied baggage.
Bathroom & Linens
- – Towels
- – Bedding items: Blankets/pillows/sheets
- – Foldable laundry basket
- – Detergent/dryer sheets
- – Air Mattress & comforter
- – Shampoos, soaps, and skin care you can’t find overseas
- – Shower curtain, bath mat, toilet paper.
- – Beauty products: Face mask/bath bombs/lotions & potions
- – Q-tips
One of the biggest complaints about temporary living is the loaner furniture from the government. The sofas and beds can be rough in texture so it’s important to bring comfortable bedding sheets, pillows, and blankets that will keep you cozy when borrowing furniture.
Pro Tip: Measure your furniture BEFORE you PCS so you can see if all your American size furniture fits in your new overseas location!
Miscellaneous Unaccompanied Baggage
- – Bikes, electric scooters, skateboards
- – Vacuum
- – Workout gear
- – Measuring tape & other important tools
- – Folding chairs
- – Scissors
- – Fans (If OCONUS, see if the country has home A/C unit). Germany does NOT have A/C
- – Fishing gear
- – Trash cans for around the home
Miscellaneous items usually takes up most of your weight allowance, so be strategic when figuring out how many tools, workout gear, and other equipment you need to bring with your unaccompanied baggage.
When the day finally arrives to pack up the house, there’s a few things that can be done to make things go smoothly.
For instance, getting up early to empty out the dishwasher and take out the trash. If you have younger kids, take them over to a friend’s house so they aren’t in the way.
When moving overseas it is advisable not to bring large appliances; for instance refrigerators, chest freezers, washing machine or dryers. Housing management will provide you with the necessary household appliances.
Worried about housing sizes in Germany? Check out our complete housing guide for videos and sizing strategies.
Have a designated spot for your personal luggage and unaccompanied baggage so they don’t get packed with the household goods. It’s very important to keep yourself organized with the different shipment categories, and you’ll want to communicate these separate shipment areas with your spouse, kids, and definitely the movers!
Home Inventory List
Let’s talk a little more about organization. This move gets a lot easier if you can properly categorize each room with all your stuff.
I recommend organizing your home inventory by room, item description, model/serial #, and condition of each item. Take it a step further by color coding each room and labeling the boxes in that specific room by it’s designated color.
For example: Label your master bedroom with the color orange. Make a list of all the items in your master bedroom.
Item description: Lamp- perfect condition, estimated value $30, model #123, serial #456.
When you’re finished, label all the master bedroom boxes with the color orange. Use a marker, stickers, duct tape or anything orange that will stand out so that you can visually recognize that color orange.
“Orange = Master Bedroom.”
Do this for each room. This will also save you a headache and keep you organized when you finally get to unpack these boxes at your new home.
If you want your own copy of this home inventory list, I’ve already created it for you inside my Ultimate PCS Checklist.
Another option is to consider buying tote boxes and downloading the ToteScan mobile app. Tote boxes require a little more work for you to actually box up items yourself, but the app allows you to see exactly what’s inside each box. With the ToteScan app you can scan the box QR code or search for specific items in your inventory on your phone.
You also have the option to mail yourself boxes once your mailbox is established overseas. Some locations will set up your mailbox via email and a copy of your orders. If not, have your sponsor go to the post office with your orders and have them set it up for you. Maximum allowance for shipping is around 70lbs per shipment.
Pro tip: Sometimes boxes get misplaced during the move. In order to clearly distinguish which box belongs to you, use a large sharpie to label your initials on the outside of each box.
Additionally, you need to take pictures of your household goods. If anything gets broken or damaged in the move, you’ll want to prove the condition it was in before the incident occurred when filing a claim.
On moving day, consider going over these last minute recommendations:
- – Put small items in ziploc bags for organization (junk drawer, loose screws, remotes)
- – Tape all remotes to each electronic or put in bags so you don’t lose/damage them
- – Make sure all fragile items are double packed with paper/bubble wrap
- – Remove wall decorations/pictures and tape clips/nails to the item
- – Put zip ties around all your hangers to keep them organized
- – Let your neighbors know a huge moving truck will be in front of the street on moving day
- – You have the option of tipping your movers or providing them with drinks/snacks (not required)
- – Triple check everything was packed, did you check outside? Garage, storage rooms, shed?
- – Hire cleaners or clean house yourself once movers have left
- – Go get yourself a glass of wine, you made it!
For a more detailed checklist of how to prepare for your household goods shipment, download our Ultimate PCS Checklist.
Personal luggage includes the items that you will hand carry with you to the next destination. The first thing to remember in your personal luggage are your important documents.
These documents should be on you AT ALL TIMES and you should also have soft copies available in case you need to print more along the way.
- – Hard copy of orders: Original copy and multiple copies.
- – Leave forms (Army)
- – Legal documents: Driver licenses, marriage license, social security cards, birth certificates, adoption paperwork, green cards, divorce paperwork, power of attorney, living wills, etc
- – All passports, original U.S. citizenship/naturalized documents (OCONUS) and vaccination cards (if necessary)
- – All military and dependent ID’s
- – Official records including medical and school records/transcripts for kids. Mammograms, X-rays, CT scans, MRI’s, etc
- – Travel reservations including rental cars/hotel/Uhaul
- – Vehicle titles, insurance cards, registration, loan agreements
- – External hard drives: Anything important on your computer needs to backed up!
- – Important contacts & home inventory spreadsheet
- – Jewelry. Not a document but consider hand carrying your high value jewelry (and the corresponding paperwork) so you ensure it doesn’t get lost/damaged
- – Spare keys. Consider hand carrying your spare car keys, safe box keys, and any other important keys
My wife and I recently had a sit down and established that our most important item in our home is our external hard drive. All other “things” in our home are just material “things” and can be replaced or recreated (birth certificates, files, paperwork), but our memories and documents on our computer come before any material item.
With that said, I want to reiterate how important it is to spend the money on an external hard drive. If you want everything on your computer to be safe, I would immediately back up your files, wedding/birth/travel photos & videos, and hand carry it with you!
Take a moment to figure out what’s MOST important to you in your home. If it’s your photo and video memories, take the proper steps to secure it.
Hand Carry Items
- – 2 or 3 weeks of seasonal clothes/shoes/socks/undergarments. Clothes for job interviews, school clothes, one set of every military uniform, special events (ball gowns, change of command, anniversary/birthday dinner, etc)
- – Medicines (like motion sickness pills) and first aid kit
- – Multiple phone chargers
- – Pillow/blanket/snacks for plane
- – Games or electronics to keep you busy on plane/car and in quarantine (if necessary)
- – Noise cancelling headphones
- – Hygiene: Toiletries, wet ones, disinfectant cleaning supplies
- – Tiger balm or lavender oil. Sniff or apply inside your nostril (or on your wrist) to instantly remove plane odors
- – Go to the “travel size” section of the store to get essential items for the plane
- – That favorite movie to put the kids in “the matrix.”
- – Essential baby supplies. Consider toddler car seat for plane/bus
- – Pet supplies (snacks, poop bags, medicine, etc)
- – Wallet, phone, purse, laptop
Pro tip: Download your favorite TV shows/movies on your electronic device, then test to see if works without WIFI to ensure it will work when you get on the plane.
We hope this packing guide has relieved some stress for you as you’re preparing for an overseas move. Although this may seem like a crazy time in your life (it is), you should also feel extremely excited for a new opportunity overseas!
If you still feel overwhelmed or need additional support, we’ve organized all of this information (and more) for you in our Ultimate PCS Checklist.