Basic Training Graduation: 12 Top Air Travel Tips For Military Families

The much-anticipated date is finalized. Your service member is FINALLY graduating from boot camp or training. Or, maybe they’ve built up enough leave time to make it home for Christmas this year.

Chances are you’re ECSTATIC, and you’ve already marked the date in red on your calendar.

But now someone has to travel.

Whether it’s you or them, there’s plenty to do between now and that special reunion date, especially when flying. With some careful planning and research, travel can actually be easy! Read on for our best advice. For any additional questions or help, contact Sandboxx Travel

family-airport-window

1. Plan ahead.

Flights book up fast, and airlines gradually increase ticket pricing the closer you get to your departure date. If flying out for a graduation, find out how many event tickets are available. Don’t invite extra family members to jump on board until you have an exact number. Hotels near the base also book up quickly around graduation dates, so the sooner you plan, the better. When booking through Sandboxx Travel, you’re covered if plans change.

Parents, if you’re traveling with young ones in tow, pack lots of snacks for your kids. If you have babies who wear diapers, bring double the amount you normally carry with you. Delays and wet diapers with no changing options do not mix well! Quiet toys or favorite books are a good idea to pack as well.

Planning ahead goes for the day of travel, too. Make sure you leave for the airport with plenty of time to spare, accounting for any possible traffic, weather or accidents on the road that may slow you down. Wear light, comfortable clothes (layers, preferably, as planes get chilly), and shoes that are easy to take off. You may not have to remove your shoes if you have TSA Precheck set up. More details on that later about that wonderful and worthwhile perk!

2. Choose nonstop flights.

Unless you enjoy visiting multiple airports, book a nonstop, and NOT a “direct,” flight. A nonstop flight will take you directly to your destination without any detours. Direct flights, on the other hand, may make pit stops at other airports along the way to drop off passengers and refuel before continuing to your final destination.

3. Book tickets using proper, legal names.

This one is really important. When booking flights, be sure to book under the exact name that appears on the person’s government-issued IDs. This is especially important if you or a family member goes by a different name  Nothing will hold you up in a security line longer than a non-matching name on a ticket.

4. Arrive early.

There’s a whole lot of “hurry up and wait” when it comes to air travel. Plan accordingly and allow yourself extra time to get to the airport, especially if you are flying out of a busy one like O’Hare International Airport, where bag check and security lines tend to be pretty substantial. Overall, it can take a lot of time to check in, drop off luggage, clear security, and board.

Note: Most airports require check-in a minimum of 45 minutes prior to departure for domestic flights and at least an hour ahead of time for international flights. It’s always a good idea to check your airline’s policy regarding checked baggage timelines, too.

military security airport

5. Sign up for TSA Precheck.

This expedited security process is free to DoD civilians and service members. For those who aren’t employed by the DoD,  It allows you to keep on shoes, belt, and light jacket, and leave laptops and 3-1-1 compliant liquids in carry-on bags going through security. For families, this can be a huge time-saver. For more details on how to get enrolled, visit the Defense Travel Management Office

6. Use the USO lounge and other benefits.

For active duty service members and families, the USO can be a welcome retreat when traveling.  Many airports have free USO lounges for service members to take a nap or grab a snack. Internet is also provided. You, or your service member, must show valid, active military ID in order to gain entry. Ask any airport employee or check out a directory to locate the lounge within the airport.

Be sure to find out if the lounge is located OUTSIDE of security, as is the case with many of these lounges. If so, you’ll have to go through security again to re-enter terminals, so keep that in mind when planning out your airport timeline. 

Find your airport’s USO location.

uso-lounge

Most airport restaurants and shops offer a military discount as well. Always ask before your server or sales associate brings the check or swipes your card, and have your military ID handy in case they do. The discount can range from 10-20% at some locations.

A few bonus tips…

7. Make sure all your medications are in original prescription bottles, and are in your carry-on bags instead of your checked bag down in the cargo hold.

8. Follow the 3-1-1 rule for any liquids that you may place in your carry-on bags. In short, you are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes through the security checkpoint. These are limited to 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item. Anything larger than this will need to go in your checked luggage.

9. Skip the on-board booze — it will dehydrate you and make your jet lag that much worse. Stick to H2O instead.

10. Bring extra cash. It’s good to have on hand in case your card declines. Also, be sure to inform your bank ahead of your travels where you plan to go.

Our best tip of all?

12. Relax and have fun! Your loved one is looking forward to this moment as much as you. Take pictures and cherish your precious visit together.

Military families, did we cover all of the most essential air travel tips in this blog post? What did we miss? Leave us a note in the comments below if you have any questions for us, or if there’s anything else you’d like to add!

Planning a trip to basic training graduation and need help? Reach out to the Sandboxx Travel Team and they will assist you through the whole process.

google-play-badge5847e95fcef1014c0b5e4822

Author: Seraine Page

I'm the proud wife of a Navy veteran. Many of my family members have served, and I fully believe in standing behind our troops. I love connecting with other military families and sharing stories of service life. As a writer, it's my greatest privilege to tell the stories of those who serve or have served our fine country.

11 thoughts

  1. Not quite enough information. Does the family have to pay for all their airline tickets, hotel rooms & such? in other words, what fees are the family responsible for when it comes to coming to the graduation?

    1. Good morning, Yvette. Sorry for the delayed response. Families are responsible for their own travel expenses when attending the graduation and the recruit is responsible for getting back home after graduation. SANDBOXX’s Travel Customer Support Team is a great place to find out all of the answers to the travel questions you have. Here’s a link to help you get started https://travel.sandboxx.us/. Thank you for using SANDBOXX.

    1. Good morning, Mark. There is the Osprey Inn on Parris Island and it is not pet friendly. There is also an RV Park on Parris Island that you can stay at. We would love to help you further. Please reach out to our Travel Customer Support Team using this link here: https://travel.sandboxx.us/. Click on the Help button in the bottom right corner to speak with one of our Travel Customer Support Team Members. Thank you for using Sandboxx.

    1. There are maps available at the Visitors Center. On Fort Jackson, no map is necessary-they have a blue line painted on the road for visitors to follow to family day and graduation.

  2. Hi, Good morning!😊 I have a question!
    Is there any parking for RV at MCRD San Diego location or close by?
    Thank you so much for your attention! 😊

    1. Here are a few RV parks nearby, or try “Googling” rv parks near mcrd san diego for an even larger list!

      Mission Bay RV Resort
      Address: 2727 De Anza Rd, San Diego, CA 92109
      Phone: (858) 270-4300

      Santa Fe RV Park Resort
      Address: 5707 Santa Fe St, San Diego, CA 92109
      Phone: (858) 272-4051

      Admiral Baker RV Campground
      RV park in San Diego, California
      Address: 2400 Admiral Baker Rd, San Diego, CA 92124
      Phone: (619) 487-0019

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.