5 Tips on planning your Recruit Graduation Travel.

Congratulations on your loved one attending basic military training. Joining one of the United States military branches is honorable and opens the door to an exciting life journey. I am proud to be a US Marine Corps veteran and look back at my days in boot camp as a launching pad for the many habits I demonstrate daily in my professional life.

Over the past ten plus years, I have had the honor of supporting the travel needs of the military community, specifically with travel related to boot camp graduation. I want to share a few tips I have discovered over the years in hopes of making your trip to graduation a great experience.

My five big tips are:

  • Reserve your hotel early
  • Book your flight through a dependable source
  • Ensure your flight reservations can be changed or cancelled
  • Purchase your recruit’s flight if leave is an option after graduation
  • Plan your trip, so you don’t miss any of the activities

First. Hotels are easy to reserve and often require no deposit and can be canceled within 72 hours before arrival. Unfortunately, many of the hotels located by military bases are limited and book quickly. And in some cases, such as San Diego in the summer months, rates sky-rocket to over $300 per night. In some cases, hotels offer free amenities to military families such as free breakfast, shuttle service to graduation, and late check out.

As a travel agency we have access to all available hotel inventory and any promotions being offered. We recently partnered with Expedia and Booking.com and can often beat any of the rates you find on their sites using our agency accreditation. Use our Hotel Rate Verification tool to make sure you are booking the best rate.

No Deposits. Free Cancellations.

My Recommendation: reserve your hotel the day your recruit leaves for boot training. We will make sure you can cancel or modify the dates with no penalties.

Second. I am a big believer in saving money on flights; however, as a travel agent, I am very familiar with the many pitfalls of booking ‘cheap tickets.’ There are a variety of sources, including online sites, such as Expedia, Priceline, and Kayak that offer cheap fares. These online sites sell millions of tickets and not trained in military travel. With such an important trip you need an agent that has ‘been there, done that.”

Let our agents share their decades of experience working with military families to ensure you are booking the right flight.

My Recommendation: book your tickets through our agency and we will take care of you before, during, and after your trip. All of our agents are veterans or active duty spouses. We will make sure you have the best fare, the right times, and can change your ticket.

Third. Ensure your flight reservations can be changed or refunded. In most cases, the cheapest tickets are booked as Basic Economy and can’t be changed or canceled for any reason. Once you purchase the ticket, you must use it or lose it. And with Basic tickets you are not eligible for seat assignment until you arrive at the airport. And finally, don’t wait to buy your ticket until the 8th week of training. The fares will be extraordinarily high and limited.

My Recommendation: book your flights to graduation once your recruit passes the 3rd week of training. Most recruits’ are acclimated and the chances of them not completing training has reduced greatly.

Book an Economy class ticket which we can change without a fee in case graduation dates change due to injury. And most importantly, when booking through one of our agents, you will receive a 100% refund if your recruit doesn’t complete training.

Four. Purchase your recruit’s flight if leave is an option after graduation. Depending on the branch of service your recruit may receive leave after graduation. For example, the Marine Corps has a mandatory 10-day leave once graduation is complete. The recruit (new Marine) is free to leave once the ceremony is over, which means they need to purchase an airline ticket home and back to training. Active duty members can be booked as a ‘military class’ passenger and benefit from specials fares and perks. However, this is not an option on an online travel site.

My Recommendation: If your budget allows you should book your recruit’s ticket when you purchase your own. This will ensure your new Marine is on your same flight, and second, you will take the worry away from your recruit (they have enough to worry about). Recruits must wait until week 8 or 9 before they have the opportunity to purchase their ticket; and again, fares will be higher and seats on your flight not available. And by the way, we can make sure they are receiving any available military discounts.

Five. Plan your trip, so you don’t miss any of the activities. Most of the graduations offer a variety of events before the actual graduation ceremony. It is essential to schedule your flights accordingly and take advantage of everything offered. There are several options of airports to choose from, and often the distance from the military base will differ.

For example, families attending the Marine Corps graduation in Parris Island can choose between Savannah (60 minutes from the base) or Charleston (90 minutes from the base).

My Recommendation: Let us verify the activities and provide you with the most up-to-date schedule and the best airport. We can search for flights that allow you to arrive with enough time to rent a car and check in to your hotel. In many cases, flights are available shortly after graduation saving you a few dollars by not paying for an extra night. And believe me, your recruit will be ready to head home.

I know this is a lot of information and can seem overwhelming. For that reason, we offer free travel planning and are always available for a call. Don’t go this alone. Let our experienced military agents support your needs and take away your stress.

Congratulations again, and have a wonderful trip.

Why Work With a Travel Advisor?

You can book travel yourself – but why would you want to? A Virtuoso travel advisor elevates every trip. They know how to get the best value for your time and money, and, thanks to their global connections, they can VIP you at hotels, on cruise lines, on tours, and more. With a portfolio of nearly 1,700 top hotels, cruise lines, tour operators, and more, Virtuoso represents the best of the best in travel.

A great travel advisor…

…takes it from ordinary to extraordinary.

A Virtuoso travel advisor can secure special benefits that you can’t get on your own, such as complimentary breakfast, spa credits, and upgrades at hotels. But they also see the nuances in every trip. From big-picture aspects (where to go – and when) to the details that matter (booking the hotel rooms with the best views, where to get the most authentic pizza on the Amalfi Coast), your travel advisor knows how to plan a memorable trip.

In bloom in Sant’Angelo on the Italian island of Ischia.
 
Photo by Photo by GoneWithTheWindStock/iStock/Getty Images Plus
In bloom in Sant’Angelo on the Italian island of Ischia.
 
Photo by Photo by GoneWithTheWindStock/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Looking to become a Certified Home-based travel agent? Learn more.

…knows the world.

Just as you might use a financial planner, an interior designer, or personal shopper, it makes sense to entrust your most valuable asset – your time – to an experienced travel advisor.  The best advisors spend a lot of time on the road themselves – scouting out hotels, deepening relationships with tour guides, and finding the best restaurants and things to do. 

Watching the sunset over temples in Myanmar.

…knows your travel style.

A Virtuoso travel advisor understands what’s most important to you and your traveling companions. You may want to take a cooking class or a private tour, or you may not want to leave the resort pool! Perhaps you want to use travel to educate your kids, plan an unforgettable anniversary trip, or celebrate a milestone birthday with friends and family. Your Virtuoso travel advisor will have plenty of suggestions on what might work best for you.

Relaxing with food and wine along the coast of Greece.

…expands your horizons.

A great travel advisor will help you think creatively about where to go and what to do. Italy, France, and Hawaii will always be popular. But your advisor also knows the best ways, say, to see Chile, Portugal, New Zealand, and many other hot destinations – plus new ways to experience the places you’ve already visited. Together, you can plan your next dream trip or weekend getaway. 

Spelunking in Iceland.

…can handle anything.

Have you ever been on a trip where everything went exactly as planned? Right – this almost never happens. Issues are bound to pop up, and your Virtuoso travel advisor is your personal help line and “fixer” who knows how to quickly turn things around for the better. When they follow up after your trip, you’ll surely have an answer to this question: “Where do you want to go next?”

Camel ride in Egypt.

Ask a certified TravelAgent for your next trip.

14 Islands of the Bahamas are Ready to Welcome Visitors With Open Arms

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The Islands of the Bahamas is an archipelago with more than 700 islands and thousands of cays spread out over 100,000 square miles of ocean, starting just 50 miles south east of the coast of Florida. While the country grieves the devastation Hurricane Dorian brought upon two of the most northern islands, Grand Bahama and The Abacos, there is a silver lining. The majority of The Bahamas, including 14 of the most commonly visited islands, remains unaffected by the storm. The warm and friendly people of The Bahamas, along with hotel and travel partners, from Bimini to Nassau and Paradise Island, The Exumas to Inagua, are ready to welcome travelers with open arms.

As the public seeks information on how they can best help the country recover, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation (BMOTA) urges consumers to know that the best thing they can do for the country, now more than ever, is simple: visit The Bahamas. Airports, cruise ports, hotels and attractions throughout the Northern, Central and Southern Bahamas are open and operating.

These islands include:

  • Nassau and Paradise Island
  • The Exumas
  • Eleuthera and Harbour Island
  • Bimini
  • Andros
  • The Berry Islands
  • Cat Island
  • Long Island
  • San Salvador
  • Rum Cay
  • Acklins and Crooked Island
  • Mayaguana
  • Inagua
You've shown us great love. We're so grateful, we'd like to return the favor. 14 islands welcome you with open arms. Map of the Islands of the Bahamas

“Maintaining a robust tourism industry will be vital in helping the country to recover and rebuild,” said Bahamas Minister of Tourism & Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar. “We are grateful for the outpouring of support and love for our islands, and we would like everyone to know that the best thing they can do for us right now is visit Nassau, Paradise Island and the Out Islands. Our beautiful island nation is ready to welcome you.”

Travelers should visit www.bahamas.com to learn about the unique characteristics of each Bahamian island and find the one, or two or three, that best suits them. Bahamas.com is a portal to vacation discovery with a wealth of resources for planning a trip. Travelers can start with the Island Finder – an interactive tool that measures personal preferences to match consumers with the island for them – then explore a pre-approved list of Places to Stay and an always-updated database of Deals & Packages to book. For island cuisine, upscale resorts and endless family activities, Nassau and Paradise Island are where turquoise waters and culture collide. For a quaint, boutique getaway where the sand is as pink as the colonial cottages, visit Eleuthera and Harbour Island. The options are infinite.

In addition to planning a trip to The Bahamas, monetary donations to a reputable relief organization are most critical at this time. Those who wish to contribute can find a list of The Bahamas’ verified partners at www.bahamas.com/relief.