Booking flights to Marine Corps Graduation can be stressful. Over the past year, I have had the honor to attend graduation, both at MCRD Parris Island and MCRD San Diego. We have all you need to know about flights for graduation, from when and how to book to getting your new Marine home after graduation.
When to book flights?
Families often wait until the 8th week of training to book travel in order to ensure their recruit is going to graduate. We would advise booking earlier, usually by the end of the 3rd week of training, your recruit is on their way to graduating. If their graduation date does change, w to help you change your tickets.
The best time to book your ticket is when you can afford to make the purchase. Airlines tend to offer the lowest fares Sunday through Tuesday, but depending on your departure cities and dates, low fares may be available any time. Airlines normally don’t reduce fares once they reach a certain price point, but instead will slowly rise so booking as far in advance as you can is recommended.
Booking your Recruit’s Ticket.
A regular question we get is “How does my recruit buy his ticket home for leave?” Recruits have the opportunity to purchase their tickets during the 8-10th week of training from the on-base travel office. However, waiting this long reduces the chances that they will be on the same flight home as you as well as losing out on the best fares. Purchasing your recruit’s ticket when purchasing your own will ensure they are on the same flight home, and save a lot of money as you can purchase earlier at better prices.
Recruit’s ticket back to training.
The Marine Corps does not pay for your recruit’s ticket home or back to training (Jacksonville, NC for Parris Island graduates and San Diego for West Coast graduates.) Your recruit must report to base no later than the 10th day of his leave. We recommend purchasing the one-way ticket after graduation after reviewing their orders and confirming the actual report date. We also recommend that they travel before the 10th day, their new instructors will not take kindly to your Marine arriving late to School of Infantry, even if it’s due to an uncontrollable delay in flights.
Your new Marine can submit a travel claim for a portion of their travel expenses once they arrive to their duty station (after their school).
Families flying to San Diego
We’d recommend arriving early on Wednesday. The first main graduation event is the Family Meet & Greet held on Wednesday evening starting at 5pm. If you are planning to attend this event, your flight should arrive prior to 3pm. If you are not attending, you can arrive any time Wednesday. Arriving Thursday is not recommended since events start around 830am and you don’t want to be sleepy on the first day you’ve seen your recruit in months. Get the full rundown on graduation events at San Diego here.
Families flying to Parris Island
We’d advise flying in on the best flight on Wednesday anytime. The Family Meet & Greet for Parris Island is held on Thursday immediately following Family Day (4pm) and any flights arriving on Wednesday will give you plenty of time to settle into your hotel and get ready for your early start on Thursday. Get the full rundown on graduation events at Parris Island here.
Summary of flight times:
Family day is normally held on Thursday for both Recruit Depots. Events start very early so you may want to plan you wake up call accordingly.
- San Diego – schedule your flights to arrive Wednesday (before 3pm if you are attending the Family Meet & Greet)
- Parris Island – arrive anytime on Wednesday, but best if you arrive prior to sunset (makes driving much easier.)
- To get the best view of the base let us assign your seat on the right side of the plane. You might even see your recruit doing some famous Marine Corps push-ups if flying into MCRD San Diego.
When should we fly home?
Believe us when we say, “your new Marine will be ready to head home right after graduation.” No matter if you are attending graduation in San Diego or Parris Island your departing flight on Friday should be after 4pm. This will give you plenty of time to travel to the airport and return your rental car if you have one.
Some new Marine’s may want to stay in the surrounding area after graduation, however, we recommend you verify with your recruit prior to purchasing their ticket. Again, most families fly out on Friday after graduation to save money on hotels and to enjoy their new Marine at home.
Please know airlines sell Basic Economy tickets at low fares, but these tickets can never be changed or canceled. Also, tickets purchased on Spirit Airline don’t include seats or carry-ons and are additional costs; and are often reluctant to waive fees.
FAQs on airline rules:
- A ticket can be voided (refunded) within 24 hours of ticketing with no penalty.
- Name changes can only be made within 24 hours of ticketing.
- A ticket cannot be transferred to another person.
- A nonrefundable ticket can be canceled and used for future travel.
- Change and rebooking fees can cost $150-$200 per ticket.
- Basic Economy tickets can never be changed or canceled.