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.
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.