How to Stay Merry Through a Christmas PCS Move

James Thomason, civilian contractor, unloads boxes of home goods at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, U.S. Air Force photo by Kylee Thomas

Moving at Christmas? PCS over the holidays? No problem.

This year, we have the great luxury of spending our holidays mid-move. As anyone who has done it before can attest, there is nothing quite so festive (ha!) as stuffing stockings in a hotel room by an interstate while praying your ornaments make it to their destination in one piece as you repeat for the hundredth time that OF COURSE Santa knows all about PCS moves.

Gunny Claus tells him.

I'm still not sure how we ended up November movers, but when you are, you can be nearly guaranteed one thing: Christmas?

That question mark is important, because it's the same one that hits me every time I try to pack our bags to survive the move. Underwear: Check. Socks and shoes: Check, check. Stockings? Fragile ornaments? Is bringing the whole tree with us to the hotel we'll have to stay in for who-knows-how-long such a crazy idea, really?

If you find yourself PCSing right now too -- or just stuck in some non-permanent housing that threatens to bring out your inner Scrooge -- don't fret. Here's our quick guide to making sure your Christmas is perfect -- mid PCS, military transition, hotel housing, or whatever else the DoD throws at you.

Rule One: Bring the Stockings

What, you thought stockings go on a mantle? Nay nay, my friend. Chairs are perfectly adequate stocking holders. As are doorknobs, 3M Command hooks, and, when pressed, the floor. We usually hang a bevy of stockings to count for the dogs (we are Those People) and the various grandparents coming through, but when we move, we pare it down to the basics.

Our temporary housing blessedly has a dining table, so it's also stocking city. For awhile, they hung on the sides of the chairs until I bothered to go get some command strips, but on Christmas morning, everyone will find their stocking stuffed and on their chair. Which, come to think, would work great in a car, too. Hey, happy travels! Here's your stocking full of stuff to keep you entertained on the trip and no, we're not there yet!

Rule two: Cue the Music and Movies
Hotels have cable, sure. But they don't always have ABC Family, otherwise known this time of year as the Christmas music marathon channel. Or White Christmas or Scrooged or whatever it is your family puts on rotation during the holidays. (Love Actually anyone?) So make sure you have those holiday tradition movies ready to go - and maybe a CD of Bing, too.  Trust us, a little baby it's cold outside takes the chill out of honey please wear shower shoes in that bathroom.

Also, Christmas Vacation will never feel more appropriate.

"That there is an RV!" Or, you know, a minivan packed to look like one.

Rule Three: Figure Out a "Tree"

Look, I'm not talking the nine-foot pine you've been dreaming about for years and years that smells perfectly like the Christmas Tree Farm and drops absolutely no needles. I'm talking along the lines of a small, tabletop tree you can put nearly anywhere. Or a small fake tree you can cram into your car somehow. Or, for the really creative, a ladder tree, tacked-on-the-wall Christmas light tree, or even a felt tree you just pin up. Maybe you throw some lights on a tower of suitcases and say ho ho ho.

We've decorated a fake ficus this year. For some reason our temporary housing includes a large, fake plant, and I've put some ornaments on it and we pretend it's White Christmas worthy. (It's very important to get group buy-in on this, because otherwise it runs the risk of just looking depressing. "Does this look ridiculous?" I asked my husband while decorating it. "Yeah. But it's Christmas. It's supposed to," he answered. Good deal.)

My two cents? Decorate your fake tree for all it's worth. Let everyone choose their three favorite ornaments and bring those. Pack a string or two of lights so that whatever it is you find to decorate glimmers like Christmas should and incorporates a little bit of everyone's favorite things. (Or whatever is most fragile and you don't want the movers to break. That was mostly my mechanism for ornament selection.)

No matter how small or lame your attempt feels when you're doing it -- or how ridiculously un-Christmas it looks along the way -- I guarantee you that the night will come when you walk back into your hotel room and see it and your heart just melts. That's the universal rule of the holidays, and it applies to holidays in transition, too.

Rule Four: Christmas in Bed!

What happens when you're in a hotel/motel/Holiday Inn (hey! it has "holiday" in the name!) and there isn't room at the inn for any more space, people, or presents? Christmas in Bed!

With the handy little in-suite coffee maker every hotel has, you can whip up hot cocoa for the family and enjoy it while you pile in the big bed to open presents. Because we don't have enough chairs for everyone to sit, this is our big plan for this year, made special by super cute Christmas pajamas and plans for a little boozy hot cocoa for the adults. (I lie. I'm still in that baby-at-home stage where I *think* I can do something like that and then decide that, instead, the only appropriate way forward is to hook myself up to an IV of coffee.)

A PCS Christmas isn't everyone's favorite Santa present, but for some of us, there's no way around it. Christmas will come, your move will happen, and somehow, you'll make merry in the middle.

Tell us: Have you ever moved over an important family holiday? How did you make that day special?

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