Shop as early as you want, however, as I stated above,
I suggest you do not buy until after your recruit has completed
3 weeks of boot camp.
Remember to purchase your airline tickets at LEAST 14 days ahead
of the graduation date, or sooner, if you want. REASON? Before 14
days ahead of graduation you will get your best prices. If you wait
until 13 days ahead, they are a little more expensive. The 12th day
before, they are more expensive, etc. A ticket that might cost you
in the $250 range 14 days before can run as much as $800 if you wait
until a week before graduation. So plan on getting your airline tickets
at LEAST 14 days, or more, ahead of graduation, for the best prices.
IMPORTANT: Your son starts boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot
(MCRD) San Diego, and graduates at MCRD San Diego. He DOES have part of his
training at Camp Pendleton, but does NOT graduate at Pendleton, he
at MCRD San Diego. These two bases are 50 miles apart. So, make your
reservations in the San Diego area. If you have any questions on motel
reservations, you can contact me, and I will help you.
After boot camp, the new Marine has 10 days leave before he has to
be back. The Friday he graduates is NOT one of the 10 days. The 10
days start the next day, Saturday, and continues through S-M-T-W-T-F-S-S-M
and he has to be back at Camp Pendleton on that second Tuesday by
3:00 P.M. Have him back in San Diego by 10:00 A.M., 12:00 noon at
the latest, SAN DIEGO TIME, on that Tuesday, here's why. After he
lands, he picks up his luggage, goes outside the terminal to the USO
building where there is a contract bus that takes him 50 miles North
to Camp Pendleton, where he will check in. This gives him 3-5 hours
to do this, plenty of time. He already knows all this, I am just telling
you so you will know. Regardless of when he gets home, check his orders!
They will tell him exactly what he needs to do. The phone number for
the San Diego USO is 619-296-3192.
My suggestion, if you ARE going to buy his ticket, write him and
let him know this, 2 or 3 times, between his 2nd and 4th week. This
gives plenty of time for the letter to get to him before his 10th
week when his ticket will be purchased locally. I know that new
Marine, if he could be on a plane heading home one second after
graduation, he would do it. If you are in a position where money
is tight, and there are a few of you going out, CHECK and see the
difference in tickets between coming home Friday afternoon and coming
home on Sunday. Usually coming home on Sunday is a lot cheaper,
just a thought.
If your Marine happens to be what they call a "92 day reserve,"
meaning he is going to boot camp, coming home, and then he starts
full time college on Monday morning. He is one that will go back
to Camp Pendleton, for MCT or SOI, NEXT SUMMER. His trip next summer
is paid for by the Marines, so, he only needs a 1 way ticket home.
Before you buy a one way ticket, check the difference in price between
that and a round trip. You will find that a round trip is a LOT
cheaper than a 1 way.
Regardless of what type of Marine you have, IF you are going to
buy his ticket, when you get it, lay it on a copier, take a picture
of it, and send the copy to him. This way he KNOWS you are coming
to see him and take him home. When he gets the picture of the ticket,
his morale will skyrocket. If that is what a picture of an airline
ticket will do, why not do it??
Suggestion: Unless you are planning to go out early, or staying
over after graduation, plan to arrive in San Diego Wednesday in
the early afternoon. On a Friday departure, plan it for 3 P.M. or
later, that way you are not pushing the clock to get from the base
to the motel to the airport.