How to handle your household goods when moving overseas

Family with moving boxes
Family with moving boxes

How to handle your household goods when moving overseas

Military OneSource

When visions of a cat wearing a top hat, balancing on a ball and juggling a slew of household items enter your mind, you've either just received your overseas orders or you've read the same children's book too many times. Moving outside the continental United States, or OCONUS, is a lot more involved than a stateside move. If you just received your overseas orders, it's time to get packing — literally — and follow some simple steps to get your household goods where they need to go, when you need them. Start here:

  • Start planning your move as soon as you get orders.
  • Request a sponsor, who can give you inside information on your new location.
  • Create a personalized moving calendar through Plan My Move.
  • Learn your weight limits and how and what to pack — your relocation programs and sponsor can help.

These first steps can get you started, but to learn more about OCONUS moves, read more.

Moving your household goods, or HHGs, overseas is a big project with a lot of moving parts. Along with all the logistics and details that come with any move, an OCONUS move means you'll likely need to leave some of your belongings stateside. Housing is often smaller overseas and storage is at a premium, so less is definitely more. Thorough planning and help from your relocation programs can get your HHGs to the right locations at the right times. Here are some important details to keep in mind and some resources to help make your OCONUS move a success.

Plan early

Take these steps as soon as you get your orders:

  • Visit or meet with your transportation office to set up your move.
  • Request a sponsor, whose knowledge and experience can help you plan what to take overseas and what to leave behind.
  • Find out the weight limits for your HHGs to avoid paying out of your own pocket.
  • Use your relocation programs. The personal property office, transportation office, and Military and Family Support Center can help with move planning, briefings and other relocation resources (such as how to ship your car overseas).

Decide what goes and what stays

The key thing to remember in an OCONUS move is if you don't need it, don't bring it. Divide your belongings into categories such as things you're shipping, what you're storing and items you're selling or donating. Ask your transportation office or Military and Family Support Center staff about the weight limits for your regular, unaccompanied baggage and professional items shipments. Knowing these limits can inform your decisions on what to ship or store.

Long-term storage:

  • Store as much as possible, including large holiday decorations, collections, clothes you won't use, old books and any heavy furniture won't need.
  • Ask your sponsor if the military provides large appliances for your full tour. If so, store yours to save on HHG weight. (You can also check the MilitaryINSTALLATIONS website.)
  • Estimate your HHGs weight (roughly 1,500 pounds per room excluding bathrooms and storage room) with's estimation tool to help with stay-or-go decisions.
  • Research the regulations for transporting personal firearms. The transportation office or Military and Family Support Center staff can tell you the military regulations at your destination. Gun owners must follow the host country's laws.

Regular shipment (slow boat):

  • Ship your furniture, appliances and other HHGS in your regular shipment. Remember, this takes time, so you won't have access to these items for many months.
  • Visit the MilitaryINSTALLATIONS website or ask your sponsor about the household items available through your new installation's loan locker. If you can borrow items when you get there, you can pack your own items in the regular shipment.
  • Don't fry your electronics at your new location. Find out if you need converters or transformers and whether you can buy them when you arrive (to save on HHG weight).Unaccompanied baggage (quick ship):Ship items you'll need right away in unaccompanied baggage (professional supplies, linens, seasonal clothing, your kids' favorite toys) since this will be the first shipment to arrive.
  • Label your and your spouse's professional books and equipment, because professional items don't count against your HHG weight limit. Ask your transportation office or Military and Family Support Center for more information about what qualifies for the exclusion and how much these items can weigh in total.

Last steps:

  • Inventory all of your belongings before the movers show up.
  • Consider adding more insurance coverage if you're moving high-value items. The moving company pays a limited amount for lost or damaged items. Private insurance companies, your moving company, or your homeowner's policy may offer coverage for items in transit.

Moving and living OCONUS is both a complex process and an exciting, new journey. Living overseas with the support of the military is a unique opportunity that will provide you with memories you can unpack and enjoy for the rest of your life. Go live the adventure.

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