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PCSing to Alaska: Military Life in the Last Frontier

March 14th, 2018 - 1:34 PM

Alaska military moves

Are you ready for the adventure that awaits in Alaska?! Whether you’ve completed a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move before or this is a first, you’ll notice quickly that relocating to Alaska is a little different — with a few more things to coordinate. Namely, travel. Rather than just packing up your vehicle and driving straight there, a move to Alaska involves either flying (and shipping a vehicle), taking a ferry across the ocean or driving the ALCAN through Canada. Here’s help planning your Alaska military move.

Tip: Use this PCS Checklist

How to PCS to Alaska


How to PCS to Alaska

According to Governing.com, there are 17,302 active duty military in Alaska (primarily Army and Air Force). So while the move may seem like a mammoth task, you’re not alone. Depending on your PCS orders, you’ll have the option of having goods moved to your new duty station through a government carrier, or you may be able to save by doing a personally procured move (PPM), which is a do-it-yourself move. It’s important to note that a PCS to Alaska is considered an OCONUS move (outside the continental U.S.), because this impacts PCS move entitlements.

Start here

As soon as you get orders, make an appointment with your base transportation office (note that what the government office that handles relocation is called varies by service branch). At this meeting you can ask questions to learn what moving options you qualify for, what your weight allowance is and what you’re entitled to financially, like lodging, per diem, mileage, a pay advance, etc.

Then contact the family center at your new duty station. They offer relocation assistance programs to help you and your family. And, if you live in government housing, make sure to contact the housing office to let them know when you’re planning to move.

Plan the move

If you like the idea of saving money, the PPM option may be the best — especially for a big move to Alaska. With a PPM, if there’s a difference between your allowance and the actual costs, you keep the difference.

A PPM also normally gives you the option of doing truck rental (driving it yourself) or a “you pack, we drive” move. For a PCS to Alaska, “you pack, we drive” is the ideal option! You save money by doing your own packing, loading and unloading, but can drive in the comfort of your own vehicle (or fly). In contrast, truck rental requires driving the moving truck through Canada on the ALCAN highway.

Go U-Pack for your PCS to Alaska

U-Pack specializes in long distance moving, moving to Alaska and military PPM moves — a perfect match! Just let us know that you need weight tickets for reimbursement when reserving the move (online or by phone), and we’ll take care of the rest. To ensure the details goes smoothly, we have an in-house military moving specialist who makes sure everything is completed correctly.

It works like this:

  • We bring the moving equipment to your home (either a moving trailer, ReloCube container or ocean container depending on needs/availability)
  • You pack and load
  • The shipment travels to Tacoma, WA and then sets sail to Alaska (transit typically takes 8-14 business days)
  • Once it arrives, we deliver it to your new home
  • You unload
  • We pick up the empty equipment

If you need to store your belongings, ask your U-Pack moving consultant about available options.

The Do Not Ship List

U-Pack has a list of items that are prohibited such as perishables, compressed gases and explosives. Make sure to go over the Do Not Ship list before packing. And since firearms aren’t allowed in the shipment, you’ll have to make other plans. If you’re driving, guns and ammunition aren’t permitted to enter Canada, however, if you’re flying or arriving by boat, review the TSA firearms and ammunition policy and the Alaska Marine Highway Firearm policy ahead of time. Read more about shipping firearms.

Plan travel

Once you know how to get your belongings to Alaska, make a plan for travel. Your PCS orders may outline the method of travel, and also, how you get there can depend on where you’re going. There are several military installations located in Alaska, including many sub units. Some of the larger bases are:

Air Station Sitka

Eielson AFB

Elmendorf AFB

Fort Greely

Fort Richardson

Fort Wainwright

Kodiak Base

USCG Juneau

Air Station Sitka, Kodiak Base and USCG Juneau are all located in their namesakes. Eielson AFB, Fort Greely and Fort Wainwright are close to Fairbanks, while Elmendorf AFB and Fort Richardson are close to Anchorage. As you plan PCS travel, make sure to book lodging and transportation early. Depending on the time of year, there can be lots of tourists in both areas. Certain modes of transportation, like the ferry, can sell out. Your main travel options are:

Driving

Driving can be difficult depending on the time of year. The ALCAN highway is beautiful in spring or summer, but it may be best to avoid it during winter. No matter what time of year, we recommend picking up The Milepost, a helpful turn-by-turn guide for driving the ALCAN, and using the Alaska 511 as for driving conditions guide once entering Alaska. And remember, you’ll be passing through Canada, so make sure to have passports for everyone in the vehicle.

Flying

The main points of entry by plane are in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. Many airlines offer free checked bags to active duty service members, so check with the airline. Read the TSA tips for military travel.

Sailing

The Alaska Marine Highway sails from Bellingham, WA to several ports and the ferries have sleeping cabins, food, beverages and activities. It would be a unique way to get to Alaska!

No matter how you plan to travel, after arriving in Alaska, you’ll need cold weather gear. While you’ll have to move it, many recommend purchasing gear before arriving because it’s typically more expensive there.

Plan for your vehicle

In most cases, military members are authorized to ship one vehicle, with a maximum of 800 cubic feet, at government expense when moving. While U-Pack does not ship vehicles, we refer customers to Mr. Car Shipper®. You can contact them at 877-528-9627 for a quote.

If you’re trying to move a motorcycle, dirt bike or ATV, you can ship them with household goods in a U-Pack container — just drain the fluids first. Learn more about moving a motorcycle.

Plan for your pets

For dogs, cats and ferrets over the age of 3 months, the state of Alaska requires a health certificate and rabies vaccination. Your current veterinarian can help with the requirements. All other animals entering the state are required to have a current Health Certificate, and certain species may require a permit. Read more about bringing pets into Alaska here.

Have questions about PCSing to Alaska?​

With so many steps to this process, you’re bound to have questions. Let us know in the comments below — we’re happy to help. Whether you need assistance getting a U-Pack quote, booking a military move, making arrangements for vehicle shipping or anything else, we can point you in the right direction.

Related Resources

Moving to Alaska FAQs

New Guidelines for Military Pro-Gear Weight Allowance

Shipping Household Goods to Alaska

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