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MAY 2017




Packing Out—What You Need To Know

It’s that time

of year again:

summer transfer

season is quickly

approaching, and

thousands of

Foreign Service

employees and

their families

are preparing

to pack up their

households and

ship their possessions to

their next post.

The Overseas Briefing Center, part of the Foreign

Service Institute’s Transi-

tion Center, should be the

first stop for anyone facing

a move. All U.S. government

employees, contractors and

family members assigned

to or returning from U.S.

embassies and consulates

overseas are eligible to use

the OBC and take any of the

Transition Center training

courses. More details on

the OBC and the resources

available there can be found


In brief, here are the five

golden rules for a successful


1. Watch your weight.

Most overseas posts provide

furnished housing, so the

total weight you are author-

ized to ship there is 7,200

pounds. That household

effects (HHE) allowance is

the same regardless of the

number of people listed on

the travel orders: A single

person or a family of six

both get the same 7,200-

pound allotment.

A separate

weight allow-

ance is also

authorized to be

shipped as unac-

companied air

baggage (UAB);

this amount does

change based on

the family size.

A single traveler

is authorized to

ship 250 pounds of UAB.

The second traveler in

the party is authorized to

ship 200 pounds; the third

traveler is authorized to ship

150; and any additional trav-

elers can ship 100 pounds


Remember, too, that you

cannot transfer unused UAB

weight to your HHE allow-

ance. Moving companies

in the United States do not

weigh each box before load-

ing it on the truck and can

only provide a final weight

once the shipment has

been consolidated at the

warehouse. This leads us to

golden rule number two:

2. Take your time.


planning your packout from

the Washington, D.C., area,

make sure you leave plenty

of time to check weights

and inventory before you

get on the plane. Remember

that the moving company’s

weight estimate is just

that, an estimate, and it

rarely comes in right on the


So it is very important

that you have time before

you fly out to verify the

weights of all your ship-

ments—UAB, HHE and long-

term storage—to make sure

that you are not overweight,

and to remove items if you

find that you have exceeded

the weight allowance.

You are allowed 10 days

of per diem before flying

out—use them wisely.

3. Organize and sepa-


Make sure you sepa-

rate each category of ship-

ment carefully.

The packers will descend

on you and will pack things

up faster than you realize,

and you can’t keep your

eyes on everyone at the

same time. Keep the HHE,

the UAB and the storage

items carefully segregated.

You can mark big items with

tape, but you may want to

keep the smaller items in

separate rooms.

4. Inventory, inventory,


Make sure your

inventory is as comprehen-

sive as possible. Use your

smartphone or tablet to take

photos or videos of each

box, if possible. A sketchy

or incomplete inventory will

make it difficult to cull the

shipment if you’re over-

weight. A complete inven-

tory will make it easier to

identify missing or damaged

items, and may help you to

claim on your insurance if

items have been damaged

en route. So spend a little

extra time to make sure your

inventory is as thorough as

you can make it.

5. Engage the inspector.

A State Department inspec-

tor visits each packout site,

probably on the first day of

the process—which is likely

to be before any problems

have cropped up.

Be sure to speak with the

inspector and ask him or her

to pay a second visit later

on. At the very least, make

sure you are able to contact

the inspector in case any

problems arise.


—James Yorke,

AFSA Senior Labor

Management Adviser

James Yorke