When you are PCSing to and from an Overseas location you have the option of sending Unaccompanied Baggage aka an Express Shipment. We have always chosen to use this option!
What is Unaccompanied Baggage/ an Express Shipment? This fact sheet from the Ramstein site has some great info about it! Basically it is a percent of your household weight allowance that your allowed to take with you overseas that you can send ahead via air. So for example, our Household Goods (HHG) weight allowance is 14,000 lbs, we were able to send up to 1600 lbs via the Express Shipment. The reason the weight is so small for the Express Shipment is because it’s sent via air which is much more expensive then when they send the rest by boat. Yes, everything we own that does not travel with us in our luggage or the Express shipment takes the slow boat to Germany!
Another important thing about the Express Shipment is that it arrives MUCH faster than the rest of the HHG’s on the boat, usually within 30-45 days after shipping. We shipped our Express Shipment Nov. 1st and it’s due to arrive in Germany Dec. 1st. We shipped the rest of our stuff Nov. 8th and it’s due to arrive at the end of December.
Why does it matter how long it takes to arrive? Well for example if we arrive in Germany and get a house within 1-2 weeks (first week of Dec, let’s say for this example) we will get loaner furniture and some loaner silverware/dishes but that’s about it. Having our Express Shipment there means we can have it delivered right away and have access to the stuff we chose to ship over quickly.
Unaccompanied baggage packed and waiting to be loaded into crates on the truck.
What goes in your Express Shipment? This is not our first PSC so it was much easier to deicide what needed to go. The hardest part is deciding what you can do without HERE so you can have when you get THERE! Yes, that means we were here without some handy things here (see list below) but since our HHG were going a few days later and we were heading to TLF (Temporary Living Facility, i.e. like a hotel) it didn’t really matter. Yes, it was a bummer to realize we had not microwave to make popcorn and that the manual can opener didn’t want to work, but we survived. I could see this being a bigger issue if you were shipping things 30 days or so before leaving your home. We’ve learned from doing this a few times you can ship your Express Shipment right before moving out and it’ll still normally get there before you get a house. Although we did choose to stay in TLF for 2.5 weeks on this end so that we could send all our stuff to Germany 2.5 weeks before flying out. It’s all about choices and personal preference, we’ve found it’s much easier going without stuff when you have friends around (like here in Alabama) than trying to do it overseas when you don’t know anyone.
Top 11 Things We Always Send Ahead:
For us it’s our iMac desktop computer, printer & printer paper. It’ll be nice to get our printer back but I’m really enjoying our new Macbook!
2. Cooking supplies
New Crockpot because we kept the old one here (I’ve had it for 16 years!) to use in TLF and then we’ll donate it, kitchen knives (that was a bit tricky to use tiny knives the last few days in the house), nice pots & pans (we keep the older ones to use until we sent with HHGs), utensils, silverware, plates/bowls, can opener, microwave, and stuff to make holiday desserts & cookies, and this was only because we are PCSing smack dab during Thanksgiving, 2 of our kids birthdays, AND Christmas!
3. Bedding, blankets, & towels
Make sure you know what size the TMO furniture will be. I know we’ll have a full sized bed for us & twins for the kids so that’s the sizes I sent ahead. No need to have bedding for our Queen sized bed that won’t be there yet. Also it will be cold when we get to Germany so I sent extra blankets as well. We also send towels, gonna want to take showers right away! 🙂
4. Clothing & shoes
We sent ahead some of our cold weather clothing since it’s still fairly warm here in AL. We kept some to wear/carry in our luggage. Also sent snow boots, snow pants, hats, mittens, and such items.
5. Dog stuff
This is our first PCS with a pet. We sent ahead a new bag of food for him, some of his supplies, and well as the baby gate we use when we need to keep him in the laundry room.
6. Tools, to include scissors, as I’ve found out the hard way many times.
We sent the drill, hammer, measuring tape, just a few essentials to get us through until the large shipment arrives.
7. Small TV & DVD player
Make sure you check the size, they only allow smaller TV’s to go in the Express Shipment.
8. Cleaning supplies like our vacuum!
We’ve learned the hard way that it’s best to send a vacuum ahead! So much easier to borrow one from friends here when needed. Also sent steam mop & steam cleaner as we’ve learned from experience we normally want to do a quick clean of the house before we start unpacking stuff. Also and Ironing board & iron for uniforms!
9. School/Craft Supplies
Such as extra notebooks, paper, pencils, pens, crayons, markers, etc.
That way you don’t have to run out and buy stuff as soon as you get to the new school and find out they need extra items. These are things I buy after the season and keep on hand anyways at home, I just sent a tupperware tub full of some stuff I thought we might need after we arrive.
10. Pro Gear aka Professional Gear
For my husband this includes any military items/books/resources and for me it included stuff for my photography/Doula stuff. The Pro Gear is packaged and weighed separately since we each get 500 lbs that does not count against our weight limit.
11. Any specialty items
What is this? Well really it depends on a few things. Such as WHEN you are traveling and WHAT is coming up in your family. For us we will arrive in Germany literally a few days before Bubby’s birthday, then we have Boo’s birthday on Christmas Eve, & then Christmas. So these specialty items for me included a tupperware box with gift wrap, tape, scissors, gift bags, gift tags, and tissue paper. It also included some Christmas gifts that we had gotten a great deal on and went ahead and purchased.
Here is part of my actual list, and yes, I listed almost 95% of the items, and yes, I realize I have issues 😉 The main thing I wanted to list was the New items we’d bought for the PCS so I’d know if anything was damaged or missing. As you can see we scratched off the card table & chairs because Mr. B was concerned about weight issues.
Unaccompanied baggage gone!
Wondering how long the packing & crating for Unaccompanied baggage takes? They schedule it for 1 day, unlike the HHG which is scheduled over 2-4 days depending on how much stuff you have. For us they arrived at 10:15 am and started packing everything up. They started loading the crates & truck at 1 pm (after an hour break for lunch) and drove off by 2 pm. So it was close to 4 hours that we had to be at the house for them to pack everything up, which isn’t too bad!
Want a chance to win a Free Printable Custom Note Card File?
Just to make things a little more fun, because PCSing can be filled with lots of Non-Fun let’s see who knows how much ‘junk’ we sent ahead! 🙂 We were allowed 1600 lbs for our Unaccompanied Baggage/Express Shipment. Using the pics and lists from the post can you guess what our Express Shipment weight was? Comment below with your best guess! One guess per person please 🙂 First person to guess within 20 lbs will win a free custom note card printable file!
Whew, just typing that all out wears me out all over again, LOL!! I hope this information is helpful if you have a Overseas PCS coming up soon and if not that it provides a glimpse into what goes into the process of doing an Overseas PCS!
UPDATE! Y’all were WAY off, Alica was the closet guess, she’s been contacted. Drum roll please……
our Unaccompanied Baggage weight was 815 lbs! That’s it! Now if I knew we were going to be living in a German hotel for so long I would’ve sent more! But then again I’d have no where to put it….