It's crunch time and you want to set yourself up for success when arriving to your new German duty station. COVID restrictions really change how this works and timelines for things. Here are some things we did that went really well and then some things that caused us some trouble. Here are 10 recommendations to set you up for a smoother move.
1. Schedule Internet early. We arrived in Germany the beginning of March and didn't have internet services through a typical router connection until the beginning of April (around 4 weeks). We were able to still use our TKS phones as hotspots for a full month which wasn't too bad (we have the unlimited plan). We purchased a cell phone, cable, and home phone package for calling stateside numbers free all through TKS mobile. For two smartphones
2. Add Whatsapp and/or signal before you arrive, especially if placing phones on military suspension. My wife waited to setup these apps until after our stateside numbers had been disabled. This caused big problems with trying to contact people back in the states on various apps because it defaulted the area code to +49 and we were unable to change it without deleting the account and signing back up with a stateside number. Fortunately I purchase a number I use for my business on the Dingtone app that allows me to keep a US number anywhere I go. TKS, the dealership we bought our car through, and other businesses use Whatsapp.
3. Send unaccompanied baggage well in advance. We sent our UB shipment the Mid February and were able to have it delivered the end of March (around 6 weeks). The moving company tried to convince my wife that most of the items we had set aside and reported during the preliminary walk through were not able to go in the shipment and were unnecessary. Don't flex, if you reported something to be shipped and there wasn't any kickback, don't let the moving team tell you it can't be shipped. Understand that there are weight limits. Some things we sent in our UB shipment are: Bedding, computer, printer, monitors, kitchenware, silverware, water filter, TV, XBOX, clothing, school work, cot, tools, paper towels, toilet paper, trash bags, plates, cups, towels, pillows, sleeping bags, hangers, and cold weather clothing. Overall, we were very happy with the items we put in UB and it really helped out when they arrived as there is still another full month estimated before the main shipment arrives.
4. Ship vehicle 2 months early. I shipped my truck the end of January and it arrived the beginning of April (around 9 weeks). If you want your vehicle to arrive quickly then ship it early. When it comes to registration appointments, schedule early or know how to use the waitlist feature. With patience, I was able to get appointments ranging from the next day to a month away. When you subscribe to the waitlist, you will receive a notification anytime that someone cancels an appointment. Check out How to get driving in Germany and How to rent a car in Germany USAG Bavaria, Hohenfels to get driving.
5. Take the baggage you need. Our family of four took 9 suitcases (we were authorized 12). The only reason we didn't take more is because we couldn't move that many at a time. Some commercial airlines still have a 50 pound restriction but military is higher. Our bags were very full and we were just under 50 pounds. Some things we took were the obvious clothing and essentials for going on a plane but we also had two suitcases full of additional things to make our quarantine and wait for UB shipment more bearable. We threw in a dual voltage portable projector, board games, water filter, bed sets for each person, toilet paper, air mattress, towels, and a GPS to name a few. You will want to give your sponsor a heads up if you are bringing a lot though. If they have a small care they will probably have to sign for a TMP to pick you up.
6. Work with a sponsor and ask their advice on the best options for your family. They should be able to do a house walk through, get groceries, and help you set up internet and phone services as long as you work the payment piece. If they are a dud work with Red Cross or the local military groups like SAMA or SGT Morales club to get what you need.
7. Know before you go. There are so many resources available to find the information you need to prepare for your move. There are several official resources and even more unofficial like Facebook groups and blogs.
8. Be prepared to wait. Shipping on orders using your APO address or when requesting items at the exchange that aren't in stock, expect to have to wait weeks to months for the item to arrive.
9. Amazon.com will ship to your APO address with several restrictions of course, but it will be tax free. Amazon.de can deliver right to your doorstep off base but we have ran into problems with USAA blocking purchases after a few weeks even though our address was updated and a travel notification was put in. USAA UK customer service was unable to figure out why the block was happening.
10. HelloFresh.de does have a branch in Germany that will deliver to your doorstep. This was a lifesaver during COVID quarantine. We scheduled our first Hellofresh delivery before we got on the plane and set the delivery for the day after we arrived. COVID policy is to attempt to put all families in the house you will be assigned before you arrive. This is a huge difference from normal operations. Many families have to stay in a hotel for months before getting a house. This food service is a little spendy but an easy way to get food to your house while you are on quarantine. The food seems to be mostly local to this region which is really nice to experience and much healthier than what we were used to stateside. The downside is that the website and all instructions are in German. There are plenty of translation services that you can use to make it work.
We did have our sponsor and a Red Cross volunteer pick up some food from the commissary for us but they tended to buy name brand items and things we wouldn't usually purchase which really racked up the bill for the groceries. Try to be very specific on what you want when going this route. Also understand that the bill will be higher than normal just because it's overseas as well.
What else would you add to this list?