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PCS to MacDill Air Force Base | Florida

The military is notorious for acronyms. New military families have to acquaint themselves with most of these acronyms.

PCS is among the simpler ones but comes with a lot more baggage, mayhem, and stress for military families. If you're a new military family staring down your first PCS, you need as much information as possible to make a move easier.

What Does the PCS Move Entail?

As a military family, you can expect a PCS move every 2 or 3 years. Most families in this circle call it PCSing.

A PCS move can be overwhelming, even for experienced military families and spouses. Many factors are out of your control, and the chain of command dictates where you're going, who can come along, and how much you can take.

There are two types of PCS moves, each with different rules and requirements;

CONUS - Inside the Continental United States

Under a CONUS, military members and civilians with PCS orders can arrange to have their belongings packed and moved by the Transportation Service Provider (TSP). It's a convenient option that makes a move more manageable. All you have to do is start a request with the United States Transportation Command. The government will arrange the packing and shipping of the items to your new duty station.

While making this decision, remember that your shipment's weight restriction depends on your rank. Also, there are some limits to what you can include in your household goods (HHG) shipment. For example, it's at your own expense if you want to bring your pet.

Alternatively; You can handle the packing and the move in a personally procured move. In this case, the government will reimburse you 95% of what it would cost for a TSP to manage the move. The military will determine the allowance by weight. You can keep the difference if you move less than what it would cost the military to do it.

With a Personally Procured Move (PPM), you have more control over the moving schedule and can choose the moving dates instead of having them chosen for you.

OCONUS - Outside the Continental United States - Includes Alaska, Hawaii, and other U.S territories

In OCONUS PCS moves, your belongings might also be subject to administrative weight restrictions depending on where you're going. The upside is if you're subject to an administrative weight restriction, the storage of your goods in the continental U.S. will be covered by your regular allowance.

Also, OCONUS moves have additional restrictions on items that depend on the country. For instance, some countries don't permit the importation of alcohol or possession of personal firearms.

Also, with an OCONUS move, you're entitled to one privately owned vehicle shipped to your destination on the government's bill.

How to Prepare for a PCS Move in 7 Steps

Moving after receiving your PCS order doesn't get easier, regardless of how many times you've gone through the process. Knowing which steps to follow and how you can make the process easier goes a long way in making the process more manageable and comfortable for you and your family.

Contact your transportation office

Contact your transportation office as soon as you receive your PCS order. The sooner you reach out to the office, the more likely you can schedule the move for the dates that work better for you.

Figure out your weight allowance

The next step is to determine how much weight you can move, depending on your rank. It will help you decide what to bring and what to get rid of or store in another place. The earlier you start planning, the more time you have to execute and the easier the process becomes.

Make arrangements for your pets

Some PCS orders allow you to move with your pets, but the TPS doesn't cover the shipment of live animals. You will have to arrange for pet transport yourself. If you can't bring your pet, you must find them a new home.

Decide what you want to do with your privately owned vehicle

If the move is an OCONUS move, the government will cover the cost of shipping one of your POVs to your new duty station or storing your vehicle stateside.

CONUS moves don't cover the cost of shipping the car but allow you to include boats, motorcycles, and other recreational vehicles as part of your overall weight.

Document the condition of your household goods

Create an inventory of the valuable items you want to move, such as heirlooms and artwork. If possible, get the items appraised just in case they are damaged or lost. Take pictures or videos of the items to record their condition before the move.

The documentation will come in handy if you have to file a loss or damage claim. Keep small items like cash or jewelry on your person when you move.

Prepare for the movers

If you're having the TSP handle the move, you should have a checklist of things you should do to make a move go smoothly.

The checklist can include emptying and cleaning your refrigerator, disconnecting appliances, removing mounted items, and others that can expedite the moving process.

Supervise the movers and review your inventory

You must be present on moving day. Ensure the mover's wrap and load everything correctly. Take time to review the inventory. Check every item and box before signing off to ensure nothing is left behind.

What to Expect at MacDill Air Force Base

If your PCS order is for MacDill AFB, you might have just hit the jackpot. During your downtime, you can enjoy the warm climate and take in the beautiful, sandy beaches.

The MacDill Air Force Base is located eight miles from Tampa, Florida. It's on the southwestern tip of the Interbay Peninsula in Hillsborough County. The base was named after Colonel Leslie MacDill and was opened and activated on April 16, 1941.

The base is an Air Mobility Command base. It's capable of rapidly projecting air-refueling power anywhere in the world. The base is organized into four groups that carry out two-fold missions of air refueling and airlift support to the two Unified Commands based at MacDill.

When you arrive at MacDill AFB, show your military ID to the Gate Guard. If you don't have it, you will need to get a pass at the Visitor Control Center, the white building just at the entrance. Once you arrive at the base, your first step should be to contact your unit. Your supervisor or sponsor will direct you to Customer Service. If you're arriving on a weekday, you may need to turn in your in-processing package and a copy of your order at the Military Personnel Element.

The Harbor Bay at MacDill provides housing for military families who choose to live on base. There are five distinct neighborhoods around the MacDill AFB. However, the on-base housing has a lengthy list that requires patience.

Luckily, there are plenty of single-family homes, apartments, townhomes, and spacious lots within the town that you can look into. Some popular areas you can look into for off-base housing around MacDill AFB include South Tampa, Brandon, Apollo Beach, and Lithia.

A man in front of chalkboard with house key

Living Off Base – Buying a Home Near MacDill Air Force Base

You need a foolproof to find you and your family the perfect house. Living on base has its benefits, but the waiting list is long. A few have orders and priority, but if you're not among them and need a place to live off-base, you will find plenty of exciting places to stay near MacDill AFB.

You don't have much time, so the search for your home should begin earlier than later. Here are a few things to remember when buying a home near MacDill AFB.

Before you leave

You don't have to wait until the move to look for a house. There are things you can do right now that will make the search for a home easier. Some pre-planning will save you time and save you a lot of frustration.

You can start by listing down the type of house you want, what features are a must-have, and those you can't do without. Finding a local real estate agent might also go a long way.

Do your school and city research

You will need more than a house for military members moving with their families. You will also need a school for your children and other amenities. You need to research the cities around MacDill AFB to find one best suited to your family's needs.

Spend time reviewing the education statistics and third-party ranking systems of public schools to find the most suitable for your children. You can also compile other factors and amenities like hospitals and grocery stores. A convenient location will make settling down much easier for you and your family.

The House Hunting Process After Receiving New PCS Orders

The best advice you can get when looking to live off-base after receiving your PCS order is to start the house hunt early. But that's not the only advice you will need.

The planning phase

The planning phase of house hunting begins even before leaving your current station. Here are several things you can do during this phase that will increase your chances of finding the right home;

  • Research local real estate agents in Tampa and pick one if you need help finding the right house. It's common to have high expectations at the beginning, but it might serve you better to keep an open mind about the inventories if you have the option of renting and buying on the table.

  • Hotel, airline, and loyalty cards for free flights and stays. Gather and organize credit card points. Car rentals and train trips might be available on points too. There's also military lodging that can offer you reprieve until you find the right home.

  • Plan ahead! It's easy to get caught up in the house-hunting process. Break it up by throwing in a mini vacation, especially if you bring your spouse or family. It can be as simple as visiting a museum or some of the places the locals recommend. It will help you learn something about the city and bond.

  • Read up on as many schools and neighborhood reviews as possible online. It will help you narrow your search to the most suitable areas to live and for your children to learn.

When You Get There

Now that you have everything prepped and done most of your online research, it's time to take the trip down to MacDill AFB.

  • Between house showings, take some time to learn the area. Find places that will be important during your stay, like grocery stores, doctor's offices, restaurants, and libraries.

  • You can visit some of the schools you shortlisted while researching now that you're here. While at it, you can check out after-school activities such as dance studios or community theatres.

  • Regularly log into your saved property searches to see if new homes pop up while visiting.

  • Come up with a system of recording the details of multiple homes. A simple notebook will work. Always carry a notebook to compare the features and amenities when looking at houses.

  • Once you find the right house and are about to close on the house, take the measurements of the rooms and dimensions to compare to your furniture and the accessories you will be bringing home. It will help you decide what you can and can't bring.

5 Best Places to Live Near MacDill Air Force Base

If you're looking for a great location, consider moving to one of these five cities.

South Tampa

If proximity to the base is at the top of your priority list, South Tamp is perfect for you. It is adjacent to MacDill AFB, which provides you with a short commute and the ultimate convenience to the base. The city has many playgrounds, kid gyms, and a swim school. It is perfect for any military family with children.

Homes around here are reasonably priced, and the real estate market is quite busy for rentals and home purchases and comes with various amenities and features. It's a great family location.

St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg is perfect for families looking for an active lifestyle in an upbeat location. St. Petersburg has a population of 245,000, with 360 days of sunshine each year. Also called The Sunshine City, it sits just 21 miles from the base and is a thriving community.

While looking for a house here, you have many accommodation options like Hampton Inn and the Pier hotel.

The city is also packed with local attractions like the Sunken Gardens Museum, the world's oldest living museum. There's plenty of action for a young military family and many houses to make the perfect next home when you move to MacDill AFB.


The downside to Tampa and St. Petersburg is that they are hot markets, and the house prices here will be above average. Brandon fits the bill if you're looking for something more affordable but still nice and in a suburb outside Tampa.

The commute to the base is a bit longer, taking about 35 minutes depending on traffic, but you might still find that it is a fair trade, especially for families that want a quiet and peaceful neighborhood and atmosphere.

Besides the serene environment, Brandon is a hive of activities with plenty of things to do in your free time, like the Bertha and Tony Saladino Park, Westfield Brandon, and Hillsborough County Fair.

Apollo Beach

Apollo Beach is one of the best places to live around MacDill AFB. It is popular among military families because of the district's quality and high-performing public schools. It also has many parks and playgrounds with tons of things to do nearby. The drive from Apollo Beach to MacDill AFB is about 40 minutes, depending on traffic.

Another reason you will love Apollo Beach is the many community outings. Finding entertainment during your downtime will be quick and easy.


Finally, there's Lithia. A great place to separate work and home because of the long commute. Lithia offers fresh air and space in the suburbs and contrasts with the busy work environment that Tampa is known for.

If you're looking to unwind from the action in the military during your off hours, having a house in Lithia will help.


PCSing can be challenging for every military member, even those without a family. It's even harder when you have no plan or idea of how to do things. The biggest challenge is usually finding a new home and settling down.

This guide quickly walks you through everything you need to know to find a home near MacDill AFB and some of the best spots to live in.

With over 50 years of mortgage industry experience, we are here to help you achieve the American dream of owning a home. We strive to provide the best education before, during, and after you buy a home. Our advice is based on experience with Phil Ganz and Team closing over One billion dollars and helping countless families.

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