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Driving to a New Duty Station

By Jennifer Hochlan for LIFELines

The boxes are packed and you just waved good-bye to the moving van. The excitement of the move overwhelms you. You turn around to see your minivan bursting at its seams with children's toys, fragile belongings, and road trip essentials. You pretend not to notice your spouse trying to tie it all down with what seems to be dental floss. Don't worry. Arm yourself with these helpful hints and timeless tips and the drive to your new duty station will be relatively painless.

Before You Go
Perform scheduled maintenance on all vehicles being driven across country: change the oil, service the transmission, check tire pressure, and check major belts for cracking. Keep a stash of windshield washer fluid, transmission fluid, dry gas, and engine coolant in your trunk for roadside emergencies.

Before you ever leave the driveway, notify your automobile insurance company of your travel plans. Ask if roadside assistance is available on your policy, and sign up for it. This will cut back on possible headaches if you break down or are in an accident. If roadside assistance is not available, consider joining an automobile association.

What the Military Pays
Check with your installation's traffic management office (TMO) for dollar amounts specific to your permanent change of station (PCS). Here are the basic entitlements for travel.

  • travel allowance and hotel reimbursement
  • per diem
  • mileage
  • $40,000 insurance coverage for your belongings
  • dislocation allowance (DLA), a tax-free allowance that does not need to be paid back. It is not automatic, however. You must ask for this allowance, and it is based on the rank of the active-duty member.

Keep Receipts
The most important rule of PCS travel is to keep all of your receipts. Bring along a plastic tie envelope or a sturdy container to store all of your receipts by category (food, gas, hotel, moving van, moving supplies, etc.) It is better to have too many receipts than not enough. Not all of your expenses will be reimbursed by the government. Once you are at your new duty station, make an appointment at TMO to file your travel claim, and take all your receipts. A TMO representative will tell you which ones to file with your specific claim.

Keep in Touch
If you are taking two cars, follow these tips for successful communication between vehicles.

  • Buy walkie-talkies. There are many inexpensive models available and they will make planning for pit-stops painless.
  • Have a distress signal planned in advance, in case you run into car trouble along the way.
  • Map out your driving route on two maps, and keep one in each vehicle.
  • If you have more than one child or pet, separate them during various legs of the drive so they can spend time alone with mom and dad.

The last thing you want while driving across the country is to worry about how much it is going to cost, if your car will make it, and if you will have your sanity on the flip side. With careful planning, preventive maintenance, and thoughtful communication, your road trip can be fun and exciting.



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