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From PCS Orders to Home: 11 Ways to Settle In


September 14, 2023

A Permanent Change of Station move can be exhausting. Moving into your new house, finding new friends, and figuring out a new schedule is daunting. There’s so much to learn, negotiate, and put in place to feel like you’re finally home.

That’s why we’re here to help! We’ve got 11 easy and creative ways to break in your new duty station after a permanent change of station move. Pick your favorites and start getting comfy in your new home.

Making Your House a Home After a Military PCS

Every military family has a different way of feeling at home in their new house. Whether in military housing or a civilian neighborhood, it takes time to feel anchored in a new place.

Try these ideas to help your family settle in.

1. Create a ritual 

People from all walks of life — military-connected or not — use rituals to mark important moments in their lives. And a PCS is a very important moment! 

Of course, rituals are highly individual. They can depend on your family’s needs and interests, your cultural heritage, and more.

You can also create your own traditions to celebrate your new home and then use them every time you PCS. Consider these ideas:

  • Dance to “your song” (or the first dance from your wedding) in your new kitchen
  • DoorDash every family member’s favorite foods for your first meal in the house (even if you have to eat it on the floor!)
  • Hang a wreath on the front door and take a family selfie
  • Have a family sleepover in the living room on the first night

If you follow a specific faith, there are also faith-based rituals for blessing a new home. You can do a little research and use a do-it-yourself approach. Or, if your family has found a new place of worship, reach out to discover what services might be available to help you feel welcomed.

2. Prioritize your unpacking

What’s the room that makes your house a home? Prioritize your unpacking in order of importance so that your family can feel settled in as soon as possible. 

For some families, congregating in the kitchen to make dinner together is important. For others, it’s movie nights on a well-loved couch in the living room. Maybe your family needs to have bedrooms unpacked and in order so everyone can feel grounded and well-rested. 

3. Don’t wait for perfect

Military families can wait months for their household goods to arrive. There might be boxes missing, possessions that are broken, or furniture that doesn’t fit your new space. 

Make memories anyway. Take pictures, even when they’re not Instagram-perfect. Remember these moments for what they are—the next pages in your family’s story. Enjoy what you have right now, even if it’s not exactly what you hoped it would be.

Making personal connections after a PCS

Military life can be lonely, especially in the first few weeks after a move. (At least it was for me!)

If you live outside the base gates, you might not feel a sense of community or have ready-made opportunities to meet your neighbors. And even if you do live on base, it can be hard to find your people.

Use these options if you’re having those new-kid-in-school feelings.

4. Get social with the locals

Unless your installation is in the middle of nowhere (Minot, we’re looking at you), there are usually plenty of opportunities to participate in the life of the civilian town nearby. 

  • Join a civilian service club, like the Rotary
  • Find volunteer opportunities through VolunteerMatch
  • Join local community Facebook groups
  • Attend community events you find on Facebook, Nextdoor, or other local event boards

5. Use the internet

If showing up to an in-person event without knowing anyone sounds a little scary, the internet can help. Apps like Meetup and Friender can help find folks with similar interests who are actively looking for friends in your area. 

Of course, it goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway): take safety precautions when meeting online acquaintances. Always hang out in public and make sure other people know where you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re with.

6. Meet other parents

If you have children, school activities and clubs are a great place to meet the parents and guardians of your child’s classmates. From sports booster clubs to the PTO/PTA, there are plenty of opportunities to get to know other people in your community while spending time supporting your kids. (And you’ll already have something in common!)

7. Use your network 

Often, it feels like the military is a camo-colored version of Six Degrees of Separation. Chances are, you know someone who knows someone at your new base. Don’t be afraid to ask friends to connect you with people they know. 

Exploring your new town post-PCS

Whether you’re excited for this next chapter in your family’s life or you’re feeling nostalgic for your former duty station, getting familiar with your surroundings is a must. Personally, I consider it one of the most fun parts of a PCS!

Find your family’s new favorite places with these suggestions.

8. Be a tourist

Head to your town or region’s tourism websites. What is the area known for? What are they advertising to tourists? Look for:

  • Festivals 
  • Restaurant weeks
  • Sports events
  • Attractions 

Check out the sites with the enthusiasm and excitement of a tourist. There’s nothing better than going on an adventure! 

Pro Tip

Do a little extra research before you visit attractions or attend events to save big. Your admission fees might be reduced (or completely comped!) thanks to military discounts, Blue Star Museums, or Vet Tix

9. Go on a scavenger hunt

Explore your neighborhood or town with an interactive game. If you’re feeling really crafty, you can make your own, unique scavenger hunt. Otherwise, there are free downloadable options you can print and pass out to your family before unleashing them in your new neighborhood. 

10. Make a bucket list

Military life can be good and bad. When you hate a new place, you only have two or three years of living there. But when you love a new place, you only have two or three years of living there. 

No matter how you feel about your new home now, make the most of your time. With your family, create a bucket list of all the things you want to do before you PCS again. Think about adding items to your list like: 

  • Seasonal activities (pumpkin patches, holiday parades, etc.) 
  • Events (street fairs, festivals, etc.) 
  • Activities (stand-up paddleboarding, hiking, etc.) 
  • Restaurants and shops to explore 
  • Points of interest (parks, historical sites, etc.)

Keep your bucket list in a prominent place in your house. Every time your family needs a pick-me-up, choose one of those bullet points. When you’re done, check it off! Can you complete your new home bucket list before your next military move?

11. Use your Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) benefits

You may know that you can access some very cool facilities and activities (golf courses, private beaches, bowling alleys, and movie theaters come to mind), but did you know that MWR also offers tons of rentals

Depending on your installation, you may be able to access cabins, bouncy houses, kayaks and canoes, outdoor grills, and even yurts. (Yes, yurts!) Use MWR benefits to infuse some fun into your new installation as you explore local waterways, spend a day at the beach or on the trails, or take advantage of art classes!

Don’t forget: Be gentle with yourself and your family during this transition period. While moving is part of military life, it can still be challenging. Give yourself and your family time, understanding, and grace as you miss your old home and learn to embrace your new one.

Joanna Guldin-Noll writes one of the largest military spouse lifestyle blogs online, Jo, My Gosh! Her writing has been featured in national and international publications. She is currently the social media manager at and the co-founder of PILLAR, a free virtual deployment retreat for military spouses and significant others. Joanna lives in Pennsylvania with her Navy veteran husband John and her puppy Albus.