Preparing for Marine Corps Graduation

Twenty years ago, I was experiencing what your recruit is going through at Marine Corps boot camp. From the early morning humps (a hike for you civilians) to perfecting close-order drill your recruit’s days are full of excitement, challenge, and drive. To try and provide a blog post accurately describing their experience would be difficult. Instead, I can share with you my recommendations for planning your trip to graduation.   In a few months (or weeks for some of you) you will experience a life-changing event – Marine Corps boot camp graduation.

There are two Marine Corps Recruit Depots, MCRD San Diego and MCRD Parris Island. And since graduation is slightly different for both I will provide recommendations for each depot.

The basics for both graduations.

  • Traditionally graduation is on Friday morning unless changed for a holiday.
  • Both graduations have Family Days, which are on Thursday.
  • Both graduations have Family Meet & Greet dinners but on different days.
  • Your new Marine start their 10-day leave immediately after graduation.

For assistance planning and booking your trip ask one of our Travel Navigators.

Most families fly home on Friday, and yes, your Marine will be ready to head straight to the airport.

Next, here are some travel tips that will ease your mind when booking your flight & hotel.

  • Book your airline ticket now, we can help you change the dates if graduation dates are changed for any reason.
  • Book your hotel room now and not pay anything upfront. Most of our hotels offer a free cancellation up to 72 hours prior to arrival.
  • Book your recruit’s ticket to ensure the best fare and they are on your flight. Most recruits aren’t allowed to purchase their ticket until the 8th week, and by then flights are full and expensive.
  • Ok, this one is easy – Relax and leave the planning to us.

All of our travel Navigators are Veterans & Spouses and will recommend the best travel solution. Use our Free Graduation Travle Planning Worksheet.

MCRD San Diego Graduation

The majority of families arrive on Wednesday and depart on Friday. And this is what we recommend based on the cost of travel and, most importantly, your new Marine will be ready to head home, I can promise you this.

Graduation Schedule:

Wednesday: Family Meet & Greet Dinner an evening hosted at the Bay View Restaurant every Wednesday before Boot Camp Graduation. It is a chance to mingle with other new Marine families, meet the Drill Instructors. You must make a reservation for this event, and they sell out fast.

Thursday:  Family Day starts early with the famous Recruit Motivational Run, and no, you don’t have to run 🙂 The motivational run is my most memorable event of graduation and is the first time you will see your recruit.

0600 – 0900 Breakfast Buffet Begins The Bay View Restaurant
0830 Welcome Orientation Depot Theater
0900 Drill Instructors Brief Command Museum
0930 Motivational Run Command Museum
1030 Marine Corps 101 Depot Theater
1130 Company Commander’s Brief Depot Theater
1200 Liberty Formation Depot Theater
1220 – 1700 Depot Liberty (1800 during DST) MCRD San Diego
1100 – 1500 Liberty Lunch The Bay View Restaurant

Friday: the day is finally here, graduation day. A few tips, have your camera and tissues ready. The emotionally packed event will leave you speechless and in awe of how far your son has come in such a short time. To save money I would not recommend the graduation breakfast buffet or lunch service. And remember, your Marine will be ready to head to the airport as soon as they are dismissed.

0600 – 0900 Breakfast Buffet The Bay View Restaurant
0745 – 0830 Color Ceremony Commanding General’s Headquarters
0830 – 0945 Graduation Seating Shepherd Field Parade Deck
1000 – 1200 Graduation Ceremony Shepherd Field Parade Deck
1100 – 1400 Lunch Menu Service The Bay View Restaurant

San Diego International airport (SAN) is minutes from the base and it is recommended booking your return flight anytime after 4pm. Graduation will be complete by noon.

MCRD Parris Island Graduation

Wednesday: Arriving early Wednesday will allow you to time to explore the local area and locate the front gate to Parris Island. Our recommended hotels are about 15-20 minutes from the base located in the city of Beaufort, SC. Please note that hotels in Hilton Head are about 45-60 minutes driving time despite the actual distance in miles.

Time Event
730-4pm Family Check-in at the Douglas Visitors’ Center
1:30 – 2:30 Family Orientation Brief at the Douglas Visitors’ Center
2 – 5 p.m. Late lunch at Traditions (pub menu available).
5 – 8 p.m. Dinner at Traditions. Reservations are required.
Please note your Marine will not be present.

Thursday: Get up early because my favorite event starts at 7am, the famous Motivational Run. This will be the first time you see your new Marine and, well, will blow your mind. Liberty will start at 10am and ends at 3pm. Although there are several food packages you can preorder I recommend eating at one of the many fast food restaurants, plus, this will provide you more time with your Marine (and save money.)

Time Event
7 a.m. Motivational Run – Peatross Parade Deck and Boulevard de France.
8 – 9 a.m. Marine Corps 101 at Douglas Visitor’s Center.*
9:30 – 10 a.m. Battalion commander’s brief to families & liberty ceremony (AWTF).
10 a.m. Liberty begins.
3 p.m. Liberty ends.
4 p.m. Meet & Greet with Depot Command at Traditions.
4:30 p.m. Command welcome remarks
4:45 p.m. Family Night Dinner with Depot Command at Traditions.

Friday: Yes, Graduation! Seating can be limited especially during the cold months when graduation is held inside. So get there early, and be prepared to do a little, ‘hurry up and wait.’ When graduation ends your Marine will be ready to head to the airport after a short tour of the base.

Time Event
6 a.m. – noon Douglas Visitors’ Center open.
7:45 a.m. Morning Colors flag raising ceremony at Barrow Hall.
9 a.m. – 10 a.m. Graduation at Peatross Parade Deck.
11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Lunch Buffet at Traditions restaurant.

Most families purchase their return airline tickets for Friday evening. There are two airport to choose from Charleston (CHS) about 90 minutes from base, and Savannah (SAV) about an hour away. A return flight anytime after 6pm is perfect.

Keep watching our blog posts for more great information on graduation tips.

Disclaimer: This is a private entity and is not connected to or endorsed by the U.S. Marine Corps.