Whether you’ve already booked your flight and hotel for graduation or not, there are a lot of questions about what to expect when you arrive at Parris Island for Marine Corps boot camp graduation. To help, we’ve compiled the most frequently asked questions from families who travel to Parris Island for their recruit’s graduation, and answers from Andrew Appleton, head of SANDBOXX Travel.
Q: When should I arrive at and leave Parris Island?
A: In most cases, Family Day takes place on Thursday starting very early in the morning. I would recommend arriving the day before, prior to nightfall, to give yourself time to take in some of the historic sites of Beaufort and become familiar with the layout of the base. There are activities on base for families starting on Wednesday, should you choose to attend.
In terms of leaving, most new Marines want to bid good riddance to Parris Island as soon as possible. After 12 long weeks of basic training, they’ll want to leave ASAP, which in this case is Friday after graduation. Graduation ends around 10:30 am, and you can often be off base by 11:15am at the latest. We’d suggest booking your return flight for any time after 4pm to ensure you have plenty of time.
Q: Are there places to eat on base during family day?
A: Yes! Parris Island offers several restaurants, both casual and fast food. During Family Day, you will be able to visit the Exchange – the mall and food course on base– in addition to the bowling alley, which has a Subway, or Traditions, a family friendly casual restaurant which is relatively affordable. There are pre-paid meals you can purchase, but I would recommend against this option. The portions are small and the food is rather simple. You are better to let your hungry Marine sniff their way to the food!
Q: How do I get on base?
A: Most families will reserve a rental car for the occasion, and can drive effortlessly on to the base. Each passenger over the age of 18 will be required to show a government-issued ID. The rental agreement will serve as your insurance, so don’t worry about bringing your personal insurance, but make sure you have this on hand if you’re driving your personal vehicle. Additionally, don’t purchase the additional insurance coverage from the rental agency, as your personal auto insurance will cover your rental.
Q: What time do I arrive to the base?
A: Family Day starts early with the Motivational Run (no, you don’t have to run!) around 7am. I would recommend being at the gate no later than 6am for both Family Day and the graduation ceremony. The Motivational Run will be the first opportunity you get to see your new Marine, and is often the most anticipated event of the weekend.
Q: What if the weather is bad on graduation day?
A: If the weather is bad, they will hold graduation indoors, which means there will be limited seating. In this case, make sure you are at the gate no later than 5:30am to ensure you get a seat. Otherwise, you will be in overflow watching on a big screen.
Q: What does Family Day entail?
A: During Family Day, you will get the opportunity to learn more about what your Marine went through during boot camp, hear from the battalion commander, and have your Marine escort you around base showing you where they trained. To avoid accidental knife-handing by your Marine, stay on their left side so they are free to salute with their right hand when passing higher-ranking Marines on base.
Q: What is graduation day like?
A: Graduation day is filled with a lot of emotions, and will be a day you and your new Marine will remember forever. Families from all over the country travel to attend graduation, so expect a big crowd and get there early. Depending on the size of the graduating class, you should be able to get a seat for graduation, but always plan for the worse and wear comfortable shoes in case you have to stand. Graduation will last for an hour, and then your new Marine will be released.
The feeling you get when you see your new Marine for the first time will be more than you could ever imagine. It is truly a special day and time to enjoy and celebrate with your Marine and family. There are many other questions you probably have, so please reach out to our SANDBOXX Travel Team and ask away.
Happy travels, and congratulations to you and your soon-to-be new Marine!
Curious about what needs to be in your suitcase for boot camp graduation? We have you covered in our blog post, The Ultimate Boot Camp Graduation Packing List.