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    Surviving a Military Move During the Holidays

    Moving boxes...cranky kids...more unpacking in front of me than behind me...exhaustion.

    All of the above could be a description of any military move, but add one more detail: December 19. We had received delivery of our household goods less than a week before Christmas.

    Like many other military families, it wasn't our first off-season military move and it wouldn't be our last. But while in the midst of a holiday PCS move, skipping the "holiday" aspect of the season made sense to me. To my four kids? Not so much.

    They still expected—to put it lightly, demanded—that we do something to mark the holiday season. And to be perfectly honest, deep down, I didn’t want to let Christmas go by without observing at least some of our family’s traditions, either.

    How to cope with a military move right smack dab in the middle of the “most wonderful time of the year”? Here are a few ideas that worked for our family.

    Surviving a Military Move During the Holidays

    Surviving a Military Move During the Holidays


    1) Let go of expectations.

    For both the holiday and your normal unpacking routine! You likely won’t get all your outside lights strung, nor will you finish unpacking every box in a week. Or maybe you're still making a home in temporary lodging for the time being.

    Let go of expectations when moving during the holiday season.

    Give yourself permission to do what you can and not stress over what you feel is unfinished. If you’ve managed to make space to sit together and find room for a Charlie Brown-type Christmas tree, then I consider that a success!

    Traditions will look different during a holiday military move.

    2) Start new traditions. 

    This holiday season will just look different. Your holiday dinner may be courtesy of a local restaurant and your typical shopping routine is out the window!

    Take some time to focus on your family. What new traditions can you create that might be worth observing again next year? Maybe it's a book you listen to together on an app, a new board game, or a movie watched while snuggled up with hot cocoa (with unpacked boxes in the background!). 

    kids playing board game

    3) Keep your sense of humor.

    You may eat your Christmas dinner off paper plates while perched atop moving boxes like we did. And "Christmas dinner" may mean takeout or pizza.

    dinner with moving boxes

    No, it’s not Norman Rockwell picture-perfect, but I suspect your family will remember the togetherness more than the chaos of moving. Some of our best family memories have sprung from moments like these.  

    4) Accept help. 

    If your new neighbors, your spouse, or even your children offer to help, accept it—even if it’s not how you would normally do things. Case in point: my teens offered to unpack the kitchen on one of our holiday moves. While it took me a few months to sort out where all the frying pans and spatulas had gotten themselves to, it was well worth having that task out of the way at the time!

    5) Remember to rest! 

    Between unpacking the house and settling into a new location, you may feel like it's laziness to take a break or that you should always be working on something right now. As my grandmother used to say, "You're a human being, not a human doing."  Carve out time for a nice long nap or a fun activity.

    military move during the holidays

    Pause and enjoy the holiday season. The boxes will still be there when you get to them--I promise! 


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    Jen McDonald


    Jen McDonald

    Jen McDonald is the Content Editor for MilitaryByOwner Advertising. She's a longtime writer, the author of the book You Are Not Alone: Encouragement for the Heart of a Military Spouse, the host of the Milspouse Matters podcast, and has been published in several books and numerous national publications. She was a military spouse for nearly 30 years and is the mom of four (including one son in the military). One of her happiest roles now is being a grandmother. She and her newly retired Air Force husband have been stationed all around the world from Europe to the Pacific and won’t count how many houses they’ve lived in because that would be too depressing. Her passion is encouraging young military spouses and regularly sharing about topics like military life, parenting, homeschooling...and now grandparenting! See more from Jen at her site, Jen McDonald and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram , and Pinterest.

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