For many people, news of a military transfer to Oahu, Hawaii, can seem like you’ve won the lottery or a spot on “Island Life,” one of those HGTV shows where your home is filled with island breezes and surrounded by a tropical landscape with beautiful vistas and colorful sunsets. The future seems blissful and peaceful.

But back up a bit in that glorious scene — first, you need to actually move there! Sure, Hawaiian moves happen daily, but when it comes to PCS moves, each step is a deliberate one that requires paperwork, a lot of planning, and helpful moving experts. If you are in the military and moving to Oahu, preparation is key, so you can ultimately enjoy arriving, living, and experiencing all the island has to offer. Consider the following military moving tips to prepare for your upcoming move.

a member of the military speaking on the phone

Step 1: Start the conversation

Fortunately, there are many things your installation will help you with in terms of thinking about housing, educational opportunities for your children, and spousal employment for your husband or wife. This is a great place to start when thinking about the move itself and how to plan for the weeks and months ahead. 

Moving, particularly a PCS to Hawaii, can also be made easier with the help of moving experts. At PODS, one of the most important parts of the experience of moving in general or moving overseas is working with one of our expert consultants to make sure you not only have the moving and storage containers you need but also the knowledge you want. According to Karim Yann Chihani — who helps families, retirees, and military personnel with Oahu moves on a regular basis — this includes everything from military discounts to suggestions on how to move pets or vehicles to advice on education, entertainment, and other parts of what life is like on the island.

“It all starts with a conversation. We want to understand what they’re doing and how they’re going to do it. The more information we have, the better prepared we are going to be, so we can give them the right service and help them,” Chihani said. “When you call PODS, our first question is, ‘How can we make your day better?’ That way, people feel welcome and comfortable to talk. We want to reassure our customers we are a company they can trust, and we are going to tell you exactly how things are going to work step-by-step.”

a happy military family at home

Step 2: Consider your needs

What types of items will you be moving?

From the beginning, Chihani said he and his staff start with the basics of whether a customer is moving from an apartment or house to their new Oahu home. If they are moving with furnishings, accessories, and more, Chihani said they will have a detailed conversation about the sizes and shapes of these items, so the right size and number of moving and storage containers can be determined. 

Will you be hiring professionals to help you pack?

The second key question is whether the military family is packing for themselves or if they are using professional packers or movers to prepare their containers. If the family is packing, that may result in more boxes or a different kind of storage or container need, Chihani said. If professional movers are used, they tend to pack more tightly, and that can save space, he noted. 

“Regardless, we can guide them through all of it if they have questions,” Chihani said. “Everyone who works here has moved, so we have good tips and examples. One of the things we always tell customers is you want to pack your mattresses last. That way, when your container arrives, that is the first thing you can set up in your new home.”

How many containers will you need?

Once the details of what types of items are being moved and how they’re packed is covered, ensuring the right number of containers are delivered when the movers are ready to load up a container must be considered carefully and fully, according to Chihani. His staff are experts on ensuring the proper size and number of containers are ready to go when moving day arrives, making something that can seem stressful or complicated as smooth and simple as possible for customers. 

Will all your items fit in your new home?

Living space in Hawaii tends to be smaller than mainland homes, so that should be a consideration when moving to the islands. This may limit how much you want to bring if you are downsizing to a smaller home or going into an apartment. The cost of living is higher than other states, as well, because of the prices to bring things onto the islands. If you are moving into housing on an installation, you may also want to consider what furniture and accessories you move with, so you have enough room for these items when you arrive. 

Will you be bringing pets or vehicles?

When it comes to pets or vehicles, Chihani said his customer service team members can offer referrals to companies that do those kinds of moves. These referrals will help military personnel determine how to move a car or pet efficiently and with the right paperwork in place. And while Chihani said he personally doesn’t move these items, he is confident in the referrals his team can offer. 

Think you should just handle it on your own? You may want to think again. Moving a pet to Hawaii, for example, involves several weeks of preparation and a lot of patience with the process. Hawaii has a law that requires all cats and dogs to go through a quarantine period to avoid bringing rabies or other concerns into the area. Owners must also provide recent rabies vaccination certificates, completed import forms, and payments for the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, among other requirements for inspection at the airport where they will arrive.

military moving can go smoothly when you plan ahead

Step 3: Execute the perfect PCS move to Hawaii

Have confidence in your packing skills…

Remember the mattress that you packed last? This is when it comes in handy. Executing an overseas move with a container solution can be more helpful than people realize, Chihani said. Having something soft as you open the container also makes sure any shifting during your move is easier on your belongings. Chihani said, fortunately, the move from the mainland to Oahu is smooth because it is across the water, so there typically aren’t any issues for containers and what’s in them, which makes this a great solution for these kinds of moves. 

…but maintain lists, just in case

Moving has also become easier from California to Hawaii in recent months because inventory lists are no longer required during the process, Chihani said. He recommends customers keep a list, though, as well as have a complete understanding of the terms and conditions of their rental agreement on their containers, so they know what the procedures will be before, during, and after the move.

You will also need proof of at least $10,000 in moving insurance for a move to Hawaii, Chihani said. You can obtain this insurance through your own carrier or work with a container company such as PODS that offers insurance on your belongings. This is essential and non-negotiable, so make plans in advance to make sure you have this at the ready. 

Take the time to make the move

Moving also can take a bit longer when you are going from the mainland to Hawaii. You may want to take a short vacation or approved leave to prepare yourself or your family for the transition. Giving yourself time to prepare, plan, and complete the move with grace can make the whole experience much better for kids, spouses, and pets. Having PODS in your corner also helps, Chihani notes.

When your container arrives, finding the right place for it is just as important as unloading it. PODS has a Special Services Team that will help customers with getting items where they want them in a timely fashion. This team helps with a door-to-door experience, according to Chihani, and they receive special training to ensure all items arrive when and where the customer wants.

“We want to know how to help a customer,” Chihani said. “When we see an 808 number, we answer the phone with an ‘Aloha,’ because we want to welcome the customer from Hawaii. We equip our associates to help our customers feel important. We want the service to be wonderful.”

Did you know? One aspect newcomers to Oahu or a Hawaiian move may not realize is there are considerations in place for moths. Hawaii is one of 21 states that have areas that quarantine for moths, so be prepared to follow these regulations as part of your move. You will need to submit a Gypsy Moth Form after checking your items before they move from the mainland to Hawaii. You can do a self-inspection or pay a state-licensed inspector to do it for you to make sure all your items are moth- and insect-free.
military moving with family requires additional steps

Step 4: Get settled in your new island life

Congrats! You’ve made it! Now, this is where life becomes a checklist of items in the first few days of your arrival to make sure you have everything you need to get your life started on Oahu. This starts with items such as registering your vehicle if you brought one, getting a driver’s license, registering military firearms, setting up your mailing address, making sure your pet makes it through quarantine successfully, and any number of items that are special to living the island life on Hawaii. 

Make educational decisions for your children

Educational concerns are likely top of mind for parents, and Hawaii has several options for families. You can work with the Hawaii State Department of Education to register your children in Hawaii’s public schools. You also can choose to homeschool, an option that is especially popular in Oahu.

Help your spouse find a job

For spouses, finding a job or career is likely another important part of setting up a successful island life. Generally, the unemployment rate on Oahu is mostly lower than the national average, so there are many opportunities to find work for the family who comes to the island with a military spouse. Plan ahead and start contacting employers before your move as well as checking with the installation’s Family Support Center, neighbors, friends, and social media to see who is hiring and the process. The tourism industry is traditionally one that is thriving, so that may be an option, as well. 

Consider your new day-to-day schedule

And when it comes to getting everyone in the family where they need to go, you will also want to think about your daily or weekly commute. Traffic times vary on Oahu, but there can be times when island transit from one area to another can take between one to two hours. You may want to see if you can flex your work travel times outside of normal heavy traffic hours to reduce those commutes to work, school, or the base to shorter times for everyone’s convenience. 

Oahu has many beautiful locations

Explore your new surroundings

When it comes to finding new things to do as a family or in your free time, there are many outdoor and indoor options for fun on Oahu. There are great hiking trails, such as Diamond Head, Maunawili Falls Trail, and Lanikai Pillbox. There are also many historical sites to visit around Hawaii, including the Polynesian Cultural Arts Center, Pearl Harbor, the U.S.S. Arizona, and Iolani Palace. For attractions, there are plenty in terms of beaches, luaus, and ranches, including Kualoa Ranch. Make time for kayaking, paddle boarding, and snorkeling, as well, as there is warm water and great weather most of the year. 

Celebrate your service

And as you work on your new life, remember many companies happily offer discounts for people serving in the U.S. military. In fact, Chihani says PODS is proud to offer a military discount or promotional code to military families, so that is a great option for those who are moving or need storage options while on the island.

Save 10% with PODS’ Military Discount: Available to all military active duty, retired, and veterans. Find out more.  

Want more advice for your upcoming PCS move? Take a look at what this seasoned military-moving spouse recommends as well as these foolproof packing and moving tips.


Karen Dybis is a freelance journalist and a frequent contributor to the PODS blog. Her work has appeared in Time magazine, U.S. News and World Report, The Detroit News, and more.