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The Ultimate Parris Island Marine Corps graduation guide

Whether your recruit has just left for Parris Island or is near the end of their training, graduation will be here before you know it....

U.S. Marines with Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, graduate recruit training aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island S.C., Mar. 26 2021. Upon graduation the Marines will go to the School of Infantry. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel C. Fletcher)

Whether your recruit has just left for Parris Island or is near the end of their training, graduation will be here before you know it. Traveling to Parris Island to attend a loved one’s graduation can be stressful, but we’ve got all the information you need to keep the travel stress at bay so you can focus on supporting the new Marine in your life.

Family Day and Graduation Schedule

Traveling to MCRD Parris Island

Booking flights

Booking hotels

What to do around Parris Island

Family Day and Graduation schedule aboard Parris Island

U.S. Marines with Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, graduate recruit training aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island S.C., Mar. 26 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel C. Fletcher)

Family day and graduation take place on the last two days of recruit training. Family Day occurs Thursday and gives new Marines a chance to see family and friends for the first time during on-base liberty. Graduation is conducted Friday in a formal ceremony, attended by family and friends.

All recruits are issued a graduation packet with the battalion commander’s graduation invitation letter sometime around week 9 of their 12-week training cycle. But please note, it is the recruits themselves who decide who they mail their graduation packets to.

Visitors are requested to stop by the Douglas Visitors’ Center upon arrival to check-in. In order to allow time to identify which recruits have family or visitors waiting to see them, please sign in before 9:50 a.m. on Family Day.

WEDNESDAY – FAMILY ORIENTATION DAY AT PARRIS ISLAND
TIMEEVENT​
6 A.M. – 10 P.M.​MARINE CORPS EXCHANGE (MCX) OPEN
6 A.M. – 6 P.M.​​MARINE CORPS EXCHANGE (MCX) FOOD COURT OPEN
7 A.M. – 5 P.M.​ENGRAVING SHOP OPEN
7:30 A.M. – 4 P.M.​FAMILY CHECK-IN AT THE DOUGLAS VISITORS’ CENTER
​JAVA CAFÉ OPEN (9 – 11:30 A.M.)
VISITORS’ CENTER GIFT SHOP OPEN (8 A.M. – 4 P.M.)
10 A.M. – 12:30 P.M.MARINE CORPS 101, INCLUDING A “BEHIND THE SCENES” TOUR, AT DOUGLAS VISITOR’S CENTER.*
PLEASE CHECK-IN BY 9:30 A.M. SO WE CAN BEGIN SEATING THE WAITLIST AT 9:45 A.M.
​1:30 – 3 P.M.​FAMILY ORIENTATION BRIEF AT THE ALL WEATHER FACILITY  
THURSDAY — FAMILY LIBERTY DAY AT PARRIS ISLAND
TIMEEVENT​
6 A.M. – 4 P.M.DOUGLAS VISITORS’ CENTER OPEN. PLEASE REGISTER UPON ARRIVAL.
JAVA CAFÉ (6 A.M. – 2 P.M.)
VISITORS’ CENTER GIFT SHOP OPEN (6 A.M. – 4 P.M.)
6 A.M. – 10 P.M.MARINE CORPS EXCHANGE (MCX) OPEN.
​6 A.M. – 6 P.M.MARINE CORPS EXCHANGE (MCX) FOOD COURT OPEN.
​7 A.M. – 5 P.M.ENGRAVING SHOP OPEN.
7 A.M.MOTIVATIONAL RUN – PEATROSS PARADE DECK AND BOULEVARD DE FRANCE.
​8 A.M.DEPOT MUSEUM OPENS.
8:15 A.M.ALL-WEATHER TRAINING FACILITY (AWTF) OPENS.
9:30 – 10 A.M.BATTALION COMMANDER’S BRIEF TO FAMILIES & LIBERTY CEREMONY (AWTF).
10 A.M.LIBERTY BEGINS.
​10 A.M. – 2 P.M.MARKSMANSHIP TRAINING UNIT OPEN HOUSE.
​2 P.M.​WARRIOR’S PRAYER AT THE RECRUIT CHAPEL.
3 P.M.​LIBERTY ENDS.
4 P.M.​MEET & GREET WITH DEPOT COMMAND AT THE LYCEUM.
4:30 P.M.​FAMILY NIGHT DINNER WITH DEPOT COMMAND AT THE LYCEUM.*
FRIDAY — GRADUATION DAY AT PARRIS ISLAND
TIMEEVENT​
6 A.M. – 2 P.M.DOUGLAS VISITORS’ CENTER OPEN.
JAVA CAFÉ (6 A.M. – NOON)
GRADUATION STATION (6 A.M.- NOON)
6 A.M. – 10 P.M.MARINE CORPS EXCHANGE (MCX) OPEN.
7 A.M. – 7 P.M.MARINE CORPS EXCHANGE (MCX) FOOD COURT OPEN.
7 A.M. – 5 P.M.ENGRAVING SHOP OPEN.
7:45 A.M.MORNING COLORS FLAG RAISING CEREMONY AT BARROW HALL.
9 A.M. – 10 A.M.GRADUATION AT PEATROSS PARADE DECK.
10 A.M.LIBERTY BEGINS
11 A.M. – 1 P.M.LUNCH BUFFET AT TRADITIONS RESTAURANT.
4 P.M.LIBERTY ENDS
*ALL TIMES/LOCATIONS SUBJECT TO CHANGE.

Traveling to MCRD Parris Island for graduation

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Stanley Cao)

Planning your trip to Parris Island for Marine Corps boot camp graduation can be overwhelming. To make the process easier for you we’ve put together all you need to know and how to book your trip to Parris Island for Marine boot camp graduation.

Booking Flights to and from Parris Island Graduation

What airport should you fly into?

When it comes to deciding what airport to fly into for Parris Island’s graduation, you have a few different options. There is not a specific Parris Island airport, but the three nearest airports are:

SAV – Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport

CHS – Charleston International Airport

HHH – Hilton Head Airport

The airport you choose to fly into is entirely up to you.  The Hilton Head Airport will be the nearest airport to Parris Island, but depending on flight times and your finances, Charleston International Airport (CHS) or Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV) might be a better option. CHS is about an hour and a half drive to Parris Island, and SAV is just about an hour drive.

How do I book my flights to graduation?

When booking your flights, purchase your ticket first and then your recruit’s ticket.  Since the recruit ticket is a one-way home and qualifies for a military class ticket, this reservation must be done separately.

Once you book your flight, you will receive a confirmation email with the flight details and airline confirmation number. sometimes, you can visit the airline website and modify your seats. You can also print out your boarding pass 24 hours prior to your flight on the airline website.

When should I book my 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. However, you may want to invest in travel insurance in case your loved one experiences a delay during training.  

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.

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.

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 Marines may want to stay in the surrounding area after graduation, however, we recommend you verify with your recruit prior to purchasing their ticket.

Booking your recruit’s ticket home

A regular question we get at Sandboxx Travel 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.

Important Note: New Marines are not currently authorized leave between their graduation from Parris Island and their next appointed place of duty.

What about flying your new Marine 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, as 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.) 

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 non-refundable ticket can be canceled and used for future travel.
  • Change and rebooking fees cost $150-$200 per ticket (unless you have TravelPlus).
  • Basic Economy tickets can never be changed or canceled.

Parris Island Hotels

Pfc. Nicholes Kelley is reunited with his family during Family Day at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. (U.S. Marine Corps photos by Warrant Officer Bobby J. Yarbrough/Released)

There are no hotel accommodations on Parris Island for families to stay at during graduation, but there are many options to choose from in the surrounding area. One thing to keep in mind is not all of the local hotels will offer shuttle service to and from the airport, as well as to Parris Island. You may need to look into renting a car while visiting for graduation.

Hotels near Parris Island to book for graduation

Beaufort, South Carolina is a hidden gem and offers great dining, shopping, and sights. The following hotels are all located minutes from both the base and historic Beaufort and are rated as “excellent” by Google.

What is there to do around Parris Island after graduation?

*Locations may be closed or require masks for entry

Though there is an entire schedule of events for Marine Corps boot camp graduation, you may have some time to do things on base at Parris Island and in the surrounding area, there is so much to do. From local ice cream parlors to on-base bowling, you’ll be sure to find something for the entire family.

Here’s our top 7 things to do near Parris Island:

Aerial panorama of Beaufort, South Carolina, USA

Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park (off base)

Looking to get off base and see the sights? A quick twenty-five minute drive off base will bring you to the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

The park, which sits at the water’s edge, features shady walkways, peaceful swings and benches, flat walking trails and other designated outdoor spaces. Close to the park are restaurants and shopping. The park is open to the public and visitors are welcomed to enjoy the beautiful, calm spaces!

Admission:
Free

Location:

“Every Second Counts” Escape Room Adventure (off base)

Rated as one of the top escape rooms in the local area, “Every Second Counts” is sure to be an invigorating adventure should you choose to embark on it! Do you consider yourself a problem solver? Do you like to put your brain to work and work with others? Or, do you just want something fun to do? If you answered yes to any of these questions, an Escape Room is definitely the type of activity for you. While trapped in a decorated room with specific items as clues, you must find the unique hints that lead you to “escape” the room in enough time. “Every Second Counts” offers differently themed and staged rooms for you to personally select from. Rooms also vary in difficulty, so if you want to ease your way into your “escape room” experience, you have the option to do so.

Admission:
$25/ adult
Military and senior discounts are offered at check-in.

Location:

Parris Island Bowling Center (on base)

There is only one way on and off base, so it might be easier to just stay on base during Family Day liberty. The Parris Island Bowling Center is open to new Marines and their families and friends. Enjoy “Glow Bowl” on Friday and Saturday nights, while you get some much needed time with your Marine.

Admission:
$3.50/Civilians
$3.00/Active Duty

Location:

Southern Sweets Ice Cream Parlour and Sandwich Shop (off base)

Looking to grab a sweet treat or lunch off base? Southern Sweets is your go to place. Rated by locals as the top ice cream shop in Beaufort , the traditional ice cream boutique is only a 20 minute drive off base.

Along with numerous ice cream flavors, sundaes, milkshake and malt options, the shop also offers sandwiches, soups and salads. All options on the menu are moderately priced, so you are sure to find something to soothe your sweet tooth craving.

Location:

Parris Island Museum (on base)

Located on base at MCRD Parris Island, the Parris Island Museum details the legacy of the United States Marine Corps and the rich history of Port Royal.

With thousands of artifacts, displays, images and multiple exhibits, the museum showcases all facets of Parris Island throughout history. From its earliest Native American inhabitants to its pristine Marines, accounts of Parris Island are told from all sides in the 10,000 square foot museum.

The museum even offers special hours on graduation week to accommodate for large crowds. Whether it is sunny or raining, budgeting a few hours to attend the museum will make your visit to Parris Island well worth it.

Admission:
Free

Location:

Sweet Tea Bar in Downtown Beaufort (off base)

Whether you were raised on sweet tea or not, the Sweet Tea Bar is your one stop shop for a true sweet tea experience. Located in downtown Beaufort, roughly 25 minutes from base, the Sweet Tea Bar serves sweet tea and sweet tea floats.

Poured fresh to your liking, they combine their own signature southern sweet tea with freshly blended sorbet; perfect for those hot Beaufort summer days.

The Sweat Tea Bar is located in the South Southern Market, a shop filled with home decor, gifts, and more made from local southern artisans.

Location:

MCRD Movie Theater (on base)

Summers at Parris Island are hot, so you may want to be in the air conditioning, attending a movie at the MCRD movie theater is perfect for you.

The theater, located right on base, has weekly showing of PG, PG-13 and R-rated movies. Ticket prices are largely discounted for Marines and their families, so that everyone can enjoy their time together during graduation week. The theater also has a snack bar to make sure you can load up on popcorn, candy and soda before you enjoy the film.

Sandboxx Tip: Call to schedule tickets to your movie (843-228-1525)

Location:

What ever plans you make during your trip to MCRD Parris Island, nothing will compare to the moment you see your new Marine for the first time. Whether you choose to do something together during their graduation liberty, or extend your stay over the weekend there’s plenty to do in the area to make it a memorable weekend.

So pack your bags for graduation, and start planning your trip to MCRD Parris Island. Need help planning your travel to graduation? We’ve got a team waiting to help you plan the most perfect trip.

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