HHG or PPM? How to Save Money on Your PCS Military Move


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Ah, the Permanent Change of Station, or “PCS Move”—military families all around the world are familiar with what comes after they hear those words: a house full of moving boxes, detailed inventories of family heirlooms, and road trips to new homes.

A PCS is the standard military term for an official relocation to a new military installation, but there are multiple types of PCS moves. And they can sometimes give you some wiggle room to gain some money whenever the government isn’t picking up the bill.

After going through four different military moves myself, here are the nitty-gritty details everyone going through this should know about their moving options, shipping and storage, and how to save a lot of money.

Types of Military Moves

Military Move

The US Department of Defense is adept at handling the logistics of moving service members and their families all over the country and internationally. Most occur with six months or more notice, but it is not unheard of to need to relocate on short notice to fill a critical position.

And in many cases, military members are able to choose how to ship their household items. Here are the two most common types of military moves.

Household Goods Move (HHG)

For those looking to put in the least amount of work themselves, a Full Service household goods move may be the option assigned to you.

During a HHG move, the Department of Defense finds, contracts, and pays for all move-related services and expenses. This is done through local moving companies as well as larger group contracts. The service member has no input into which company packs or transports their things.

Once the service member initiates the move by contacting their local Housing Office or using the online Defense Personal Property System (DPS) at www.move.mil, everything is taken care of without anything required of the military member, beyond scheduling the pack out and delivery dates.

An HHG move is almost always required for those moving overseas, including to or from Alaska or Hawaii.

Worried about precious items being lost or broken? While the contracted moving companies have strict packing guidelines to follow, DPS provides a claims process to reimburse service members for things that don’t make it to their new destination in one piece (or at all). But you do have to submit photos and replacement values on the claims form provided by the moving company for reimbursement.

Personally Procured Move (PPM/DITY)

A Personally Procured Move (PPM), formerly called a do-it-yourself or “DITY move”, is a favorite among experienced military members and their families.


Because for a little bit of extra effort and logistics coordination, the service member can actually profit from their relocation with a PPM.

Keep in mind that PPM/DITY moves are predominately for moving within the United States.

Those opting for a PPM will have to pack, transport, and then unpack their household items at their new home. For PPM Moves, the military reimburses up to 95% of the cost that it would have required for a Full Service move. The member is able to keep the difference. The amount does vary based on rank, but can be estimated using the move.mil calculator.

“For PPM Moves, the military reimburses up to 95% of the cost that it would have required for a Full Service move. The member is able to keep the difference.”

The items eligible for reimbursement are based on weight, and sometimes this is referred to as “Household Good Weight Shipping Allowance”, or “HHG”. Again, keep in mind higher-ranking service members have a higher weight allowance, since they typically have larger households.

How do I get reimbursed for a PPM/DITY move?

To go through the process of reimbursement, make sure to get an empty truck weight ticket at your origin, then full truck weight tickets at your origin and final destinations.

(Curious about dislocation allowance and other PCS allowances? Click here.)

How can I save the most money with a PPM/DITY move?

It’s tempting to do the labor for your entire move on your own to save the most amount of money, but finding affordable and efficient movers – especially for just the labor – isn’t as expensive these days!

By shopping around for a good deal for local movers, the military member can still pocket the difference between the reimbursement and the actual costs. Even with movers, this can amount to thousands of dollars for those opting to pack, unpack, and transport themselves.

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PPMs and PODS (and other shipping containers)

Not sure if you are up for the challenge of driving a big moving truck across the country by yourself?

Shipping containers are a great solution for getting your things transported for you, especially when you need a flexible window of time.

Military Move
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You can rent a PODS container, or any other portable storage container available in your area. Your container will be delivered to you, then picked up and shipped to your new destination when it’s ready.

Just like any other moving expense, you pay for the service and are reimbursed later for what it would have cost the military to do the job as part of a Full Service move.

You can still hire professionals to take care of any step of the moving process—packing or unpacking, transportation, and shipment—and you’ll still likely save some money from the reimbursement amount provided by the Department of Defense.

“The average military family moves about every two years.”

Military Moving FAQ

You may have heard a lot of strange military terms floating around out there. Don’t worry, I was once confused as to what they all meant too!

Here is a 101 (or a quick refresher course) on some of the most important things you need to know for military moving.

How do I get my PCS allowances while moving, such as dislocation allowance for meals?

There’s the process of moving, then there’s all the other important stuff surrounding a move.

If you are curious about how to get reimbursed for things like meals, hotels and airbnbs, car mileage and more, here is a fantastic write up on what the military calls per diem allowance, temporary lodging expense (TLE), and travel by privately owned conveyance (POC), as well as all the important forms you will need.

What is “Unaccompanied Baggage“?

The Department of Defense allows for a small shipment to be sent in advance of the bulk of your move, and this is often referred to as “unaccompanied baggage”. This small shipment usually consists of clothes, bedding, and some household items that the family will need immediately when they arrive. This is done to avoid any arrival window mishaps.

Does the military cover dependents traveling with me?

Yes! However, the amount depends on how they travel.

If you all are traveling by car (POC), the standard rate for mileage is usually $0.19/mile. (This also applies to your own travel!)

If they are traveling by plane, bus, or train inside the US, it’s up to your personal military advisor to authorize their travel and reimburse you for the cost of the ticket(s).

And if they are traveling outside the US, they typically will be booked a ticket on a military aircraft, though sometimes you might be asked to take a commercial flight with reimbursement in the case that no American-Flag carrier aircraft is going to that location.

“A PCS is the standard military term for an official relocation to a new military installation, but there are multiple types of PCS moves. And they can sometimes give you some wiggle room to gain some money whenever the government isn’t picking up the bill.”

What is “Professional Gear”?

What about all of the extra uniforms, equipment, and professional materials that military members need to do their jobs? For both a Full Service HHG move or a PPM/DITY move, stuff you need for your job is considered “pro gear” and does not count against the overall weight allowance and is annotated separately.

Professional gear is defined as:

  • Uniforms
  • Medals, Ribbons, Rank insignia
  • Ceremonial uniform items (e.g., sword or saber)
  • Job specific equipment (e.g., fins and masks for military divers)
  • Training manuals, required reading

What is “Non-Temporary Storage“?

Once you arrive at your new home, all that’s left to do is unpack, right? Well, usually the answer is yes, but what if a military member faces a prolonged time away from permanent housing and is staying in a hotel room?

This is where the government can hold on to your things for you, and it’s called “Non-Temporary Storage”. Non-Temporary Storage may be authorized for your household items in this case.

Non-temporary storage is most commonly used for those moving overseas where housing may be limited or significantly smaller than in the US. It can be authorized in some cases for moves within the US, however.

How often will I be moving in the military?

Military moves do not follow a set rotation and vary from service to service. Even within one branch, relocation can be based on a service member’s job specialty, rank, and even personal circumstances, such as the need to fill a gap at another command.

That said, according to the Department of Defense Education Activity, the average military-connected child can expect to move six to nine times during their K-12 school years. This means the average military family moves about every two years. That’s a lot of moves during a 20-year military career!

Is There Anything the Military Won’t Pay to Move?

Military Move

The military will move many household items that you may expect—furniture, clothes, bedding, kitchen items. But a few unexpected items are also on the approved list. Yep, there is an “approved list”!

Before purging your home (or buying a new, fancy toy), make sure that you know if the military will move it or if you will have to arrange transportation at your own cost.

What will the military move?

  • Firearms: Provided that you have the required documentation and follow the local laws at all points in transit, the military will pay to ship personal firearms
  • Unopened liquids: Bottles of unopened liquids, including alcohol, are usually allowed in the shipment
  • Bicycles: Bicycles are allowed and included in the overall shipment. The same applies to larger house maintenance items, such as lawn mowers and weed eaters
  • (Some) boats: Recreational boats under 14 feet may be shipped but do count against the overall allowed weight. For this reason, it can sometimes fall on the member to pay for their own shipment
  • Recreational vehicles: Motorcycles and dirt bikes are allowed as part of the shipment within the US. When moving overseas, motorcycles and dirt bikes follow the same guidance as cars. RVs are authorized on a case-by-case basis

What won’t the military move?

  • Cars: In general, the military will pay to ship one (1) vehicle overseas, but expects members to transport their own vehicle to their new home within the US. You may be able to be reimbursed for gas and expenses, however, depending on your specific situation
  • Consumable items: Items that are meant to be eaten are generally not allowed
  • Pets: Transportation of pets is done at the member’s expense. It is important to check local regulations at your new home as they may require proof of vaccination or a quarantine period
  • Flammable items: Understandably, moving companies require that all flammable liquids be drained from gas tanks. Batteries are also normally not moved as part of the overall shipment

Moving is almost inevitable in military life. Whether you want to use a Full Service option that takes care of all details or you put in some effort to make some extra spending money, there is an option for you out there. Knowing the terms ahead of time, as well as what you can and can’t move, will make moving day that much smoother; you will be on your way to your new home and new adventure in no time!

A small-town Missouri native, Katie writes about parenting, military families and travel for a variety of regional and national publications. Her work has appeared in At Ease Magazine, Legacy Magazine, and Monterey Bay Parent Magazine, where she was a monthly columnist. She is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy with a degree in English and has a Master’s Degree in Education from Johns Hopkins University. Connect with Katie @kmbegley or at katiemelynnbegley.com.
Illustrations by Robbie Cathro

How to Get Dislocation Allowance for Lodging and Meals During a Military Move


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So you got a PCS in the military. (AKA “permanent change of station”.) Now how do you get reimbursed when moving for the military?

Anyone who has ever served in the military is quick to tell you the rewarding but challenging military lifestyle comes bundled with frequent relocation. Even service members with years of experience can often feel overwhelmed by the logistics of moving to a new duty station.

Luckily, the Department of Defense wants to ease the financial burden that comes with relocation as much as possible. This is where both Temporary Lodging Expense (TLE) and Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA) come in, which helps military families afford incidentals throughout their move.

Does the military cover the cost of my move?

When relocating due to military orders, all military branches cover the costs of moving for military families.

Moving service members get a Dislocation Allowance (DLA) that affords them money towards their move. There are a few options to get from your current duty station to your new home, ranging from professional services, to loading up your own moving truck with the help of family and friends. (More on that below.)

No matter how you do it though, the military pays for moving expenses, though your Military Housing Option will decide your moving option for you.

What type of move does the military give me?

When you get to use a professional company already contracted by the military, the service member (or their authorized representative, such as a spouse or family member) only needs to schedule the move and be on-site during moving day. The moving professionals take care of the rest and the government picks up the bill.

Read about the different types of moves here

For the do-it-yourself or Hybrid type, the military will reimburse the costs of moving equipment, mileage, and even some meals during the transit. As soon as you know a relocation is in your future, talk to your local installation’s Military Housing Office to discuss which option you’ll be given.

How do I get reimbursed for a military move?

That’s where filing for TLE and TLA come in. TLE and TLA (once again, Temporary Lodging Expense and Temporary Lodging Assistance) are non-taxable payments that are provided to reimburse military members for meals and lodging during a move.

  • TLE is what is given to military personnel moving within the continental US
  • TLA are for moves overseas, or anything outside of the US

The daily rates for TLE to be used inside the US are based on the location that you are moving from or moving to, paid out per diem. This literally means “per day”, and how much you get will be the amount that the government believes is reasonable to help you cover the move-related expenses each day during your relocation. This means there is no standard dollar amount, so talk with your military counselor.

For a military PCS overseas (including Alaska and Hawaii), military members can file for TLA for additional reimbursement. Because it can be difficult – if not impossible – to make a quick trip overseas while finding a home ahead of time, the Department of Defense allows those moving abroad to get additional lodging expenses reimbursed.

What documents do I need to receive TLE or TLA?

Anyone getting ready for a move should keep a handy file of important documents ready, but this is especially important if you plan to file for reimbursement for any of your expenses.

Important documents to keep when relocating in the military:

  • TLE Form (DD1351-2): This intimidating looking form isn’t so bad; it simply lists your contact information, family members, travel itinerary, and expenses

TLE Form (DD1351-2) for relocating.

  • DFAS Form 9098: This is how you officially claim your Temporary Lodging Expenses. It will need to be completed as part of your overall travel claim through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the military’s pay system

  • Official Permanent Change of Station (PCS) Orders: Anytime you move in the military, you should keep a hard copy (or two!) of your official orders showing your transfer from one area to another. You will need this document for everything, from getting free checked luggage on airlines to checking into a government hotel. You will also need this for filing for your TLE or TLA reimbursement!

  • Lodging receipts: Since the TLE and TLA are for reimbursing you for lodging costs,  the military wants to know that you actually needed to stay in a hotel (or other accommodations, like an AirBNB). At check-out, make sure to get a receipt that shows you paid your bill in full (lodging receipts are also sometimes called a “zero-balance receipt”, meaning you owe $0)

  • Meal receipts: I have never been asked to provide meal receipts during a military move. However, it is a good idea to keep these receipts on hand, just in case. The cost of meals during a week-long move can add up if not reimbursed. Tucking some extra receipts into a file folder is worth the peace of mind for me

  • Proof of actively seeking lodging: To continue receiving TLA during an overseas move, you have to show that you are actively seeking lodging. You will need to submit proof, such as copies of applications or appointments with property managers, to your new command every 15 days in order to continue receiving TLA

How exactly do I file for TLE or TLA?

Your first step in completing a PCS military move is to meet with a counselor at your local Military Housing Office that you’ve been assigned already, or complete the online pre-move counseling at https://move.mil/customer-service.

This important person is available to answer any questions and go over what assistance and reimbursements you are eligible to receive—including TLE and TLA.

After your move is complete, you will be able to submit all of your claim documents to the Housing Office at your new duty station.

The official regulations that provide information for travel expenses come from theJoint Travel Regulations. If you really want to dive into what is authorized for any type of military travel, this is the document for you. For example, if you plan to travel separate from your family or have temporary duty (e.g., military training, school, etc.) during your move, the Joint Travel Regulations can tell you exactly what reimbursements you are authorized to receive.

How much money will my dislocation allowance cover?

Understanding the process and what documents to keep is important, but everyone getting ready for a move really just wants to know how much extra they can expect to see coming into their paycheck.

To know how much, you’d multiply the rate per day with the amount of days eligible:

  • TLE reimbursement is authorized for up to 10 days during a move within the continental United States. Look up the daily lodging rates for your area during your pre-move counseling as they can vary by location and time of year.
  • TLE reimbursement is authorized for up to five days during a move to or from outside of the continental United States.
  • TLA is authorized for up to 60 days when arriving outside of the continental US and for up to 10 days when departing.

Wondering what that amounts to? It just depends on where you’re staying. (For example, Norfolk, Virginia averages $94 a night, while San Diego averages $174 a night.) Your lodging rates do have a cap, based on location, so check with your local Housing Office to find out what it is before booking that ultra-swanky suite overlooking the beach.

Protip: Some hotels do offer a government rate that falls within the local TLE or TLA limit—it never hurts to ask!

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What about meals?

The per diem meal rate for both TLE and TLA is based on the location where you are staying and the number of family members that you have with you during that time.

Daily meal rate reimbursement through TLE or TLA:

  • 1 person (military member or dependent): 65% of the daily meal rate
  • 2 people (military member + dependent or 2 dependents): 100% of the daily meal rate
  • For each additional dependent over the age of 12: add 35%
  • For each additional dependent under the age of 12: add 25%

For example, a service member with a spouse and two children who move from that same Norfolk, Virginia to Naples, Italy will be eligible for reimbursement for up to 60 days of lodging TLA in Naples and 150% of the per diem meal rate each day. This can be a significant amount of money that will help with moving expenses!

Where can I stay using TLE/TLA? Can I stay in an AirBNB?

The name of the allowance says it all: “temporary lodging”. Yes, even an AirBNB!

To receive TLE or TLA, you must provide receipts that show you are staying in a temporary living quarters. This can be a standard hotel room, an extended stay hotel, or, yes, that cool AirBNB you’ve had your eye on!

If you are staying with family members or friends, you can still receive the per diem portion of TLE or TLA to help pay for additional meal expenses during your move. You will need to provide a written statement from your host that outlines the dates that you were without your own home.

What if my stay exceeds my allotted days?

Everyone going through a military relocation hopes to be back into their own home as soon as possible. Unfortunately, sometimes your move-in date is delayed. You are normally responsible for the additional expenses incurred. But if the additional time in temporary lodging is due to unavailability of military housing or a delay in your household goods arriving, you will most likely be able to file for additional reimbursement.

Moving is a part of military life. But it doesn’t need to be a financial strain. Temporary Lodging Expense and Temporary Lodging Allowance are there to help military members deal with the daily costs of relocation.

Get to know your local Housing Office to make sure that you are maximizing your benefits and focusing on the important things during your move instead of the costs.

A small-town Missouri native, Katie writes about parenting, military families and travel for a variety of regional and national publications. Her work has appeared in At Ease Magazine, Legacy Magazine, and Monterey Bay Parent Magazine, where she was a monthly columnist. She is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy with a degree in English and has a Master’s Degree in Education from Johns Hopkins University. Connect with Katie @kmbegley or at katiemelynnbegley.com.


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