Navigating a New Town After a Military PCS

Whether you’re going through first PCS or your tenth, there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to navigating a new town. Our advice? Do it the old fashioned way and just start exploring your new stomping grounds. The question is, where do you start?


Step One: Decide What’s Important to Your Family

Do you have children who will be enrolled in a local school or daycare? Or are you and your spouse seeking fun night life spots? Outdoors enthusiasts? Or more gym focused? Priorities will vary depending on interests and activities. Of course, if littles are a part of life, finding their new school and a good route will serve the family well. That way, when pressed for time on their first morning, mom or dad won’t be desperately trying to enter the school address into the GPS while in early morning traffic or struggling to find the charging cable for the cell phone, which will, of course, be dead. The next task will be finding the places you visit regularly. Getting to know the base, of course, is important. Equally important, however, is finding the interesting, exciting and essential places in this new duty station. Explore, poke around, sniff out the hidden gems, and have fun.

Step 2: Develop a Ritual

Whether PCSing alone or with a spouse and kids, developing a ritual will make it easier to settle into each new place along the way. Make it a point to go out for ice cream your first night in a new town, check out a new pizza delivery service every Friday night until you find your favorite, or go hunting for the best bookstore in town as soon as you’ve unpacked the contents of your shelves. This ritual will help create a sense of continuity between your old city and your new one as well as increase a sense of family connection.

Step 3: Ask for Recommendations

As you meet your new neighbors, make friends with other military families, and get to know the new community, take the time to ask for recommendations from families who have been here for a while. Ask about the best grocery store, both in terms of budget and in terms of selection. Everyone will have an opinion about the best pediatrician in the area. Don’t forget to listen for information about the places you don’t want to go; it’s just as important to know which sandwich shop has terrible customer service or which sushi bar makes people sick a couple times a month as it is to know where to find the best burger in town. If you don’t have the connections or are too shy to ask for personal recommendations, go online! Many bases have groups for military spouses that can be found on Facebook. There, helpful individuals will be delighted to assist new arrivals. There are also websites and apps dedicated specifically to helping military families learn their way around a new duty station. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of those resources!

Step 4: Get Lost

Once you’ve been in town for awhile, it’s time to, as one writer put it, “wean yourself off your GPS dependency.” Some people–those with a great sense of direction, in particular–will do this somewhat automatically, one they get their feet under them. Others have to work up to that point. When you have some free time, go for a drive and turn off the GPS. Don’t panic if you’re outside your comfort zone. Try driving around until you locating something familiar, then backtrack from there. If you simply can’t work your way out of the snarl, you can always turn the GPS back on. Navigating a new duty station can be stressful for everyone: the service member, their spouse, and their kids. Sticking together and treating it as an adventure, however, can help everyone adapt faster to the new location. Before you know it, this new station will be home!

Ready to get started looking for housing? Our Relobase Realtors are happy to assist you!

(Article originally appeared on


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