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Hi Folks.  We were at our first PIR on January 8, 2016 and would like to share our experiences in hopes it will help out new Navy families.

We flew into O'hare on Thursday night.  The airport is big, but not too intimidating.  The person at the information desk pointed us in the right direction, and we found ourselves on a bus heading to the car rental area.  The folks at Alamo were very friendly and helpful, and we were on our way in no time at all.  Note: we didn't have any checked bags, so from landing to driving out of the parking lot took a total of about 30 to 45 minutes.  Our arrival was at 6:30pm on a Thursday, and the airport was not too busy.

Our drive was to Waukegan, and was an easy drive.  At about 7:00pm there was very little traffic, and the drive took around 45 minutes.  The toll was $1.90.  We stayed at the Courtyard Mariott in Waukegan, which was very nice and very clean.  Desk staff was friendly and full of tips and suggestions.  While checking in we put our name on the shuttle list for the ride to the PIR.  That was the best thing we did, more on that later.

For dinner that night we ate and Anastasia's, which is next door to the Courtyard.  Great food and great service.  Four of us ate, with a drink or two, for $55.

The next day we had a quick breakfast in the lobby, and were on the shuttle at about 6:30.  Tip..go on the early shuttles for the best seats at PIR.  When we saw the line of cars waiting to get in the gate, and then the shuttle van drove around all of those cars to bring us directly to the gate, we knew we made the right choice.  Total cost for the van ride is $3.00 per person each way...money well spent.  The van can hold six passengers, so there is room for your entire family, and if one van is full, there will be another one soon.

After getting through security (tip, have license ready), it's a little walk to the ceremony hall.  Plan accordingly if the weather is bad, and don't put your ID away, you'll need it again.  We were sitting down by 7:15.  When you walk in the hall, look for your recruits division sign so you'll be sitting in the right place, get your seats, and settle in.  Tip, go to the bathroom before you sit.  There were 12 divisions graduating that day, so people who arrived later had difficulties finding seats near their recruits division.

The PIR is great, and I won't give away any of their surprises, but relax...you will really enjoy this ceremony.  And following the PIR....LIBERTY!!!  After 8 weeks, you can finally hug your Navy Sailor.

Our son had to check into A school, so we left him there and went back to the Courtyard, via the same Black and Red van.  The driver was sitting near the gate when we came out.  Another friendly man, and not a scary driver either.

Lunch was at Sweet Tomatoes, all soup and salad.  Fresh salad fixings, and all you can eat.

We picked up our son at about 3:00 pm and got caught up on the last 8 weeks.  Afterwards we went to dinner at a Sushi place...not very good, and very over priced.  Oh well, the only downside to the weekend.

The sailors need to be back on base at night, so we dropped him off at about 7:00 pm with plans for breakfast the next day.  Also, they can now have cell phones on base, so you can bring your sailors phone if you want to.

Saturday...we drove to Wisconsin and had breakfast at Franks Place in Kenosha.  It is not very far from the base (about 30 minutes), and it is definitely worth the trip.  WOW....what a breakfast.  Try the garbage plates, and a bloody mary.  Incredible. Guy Fieri filmed a show for diners, drive ins, and dives there.

On the way back to the Courtyard we found a Jelly Belly plant.  Couldn't tell you exactly where, but I'm sure Google could help.

Later that day we had lunch at Portillo's for Chicago style hot dogs.  REAL cool place, and the food sure was good.

Dinner brought us back to Anastasia's.  They have an incredible deep dish pizza.  Our left over food went back to the base.  We had to have our son back on base by 10:00pm, and you can drive them directly to their ship.  Make sure you all have your ID's handy, and also the rental slip for the car.

Our return trip was incredibly easy.  It snowed Saturday night, so I figured I'd get an early start.  Traffic was light and the roads were clear.  We pulled up at Alamo, there were two employees who met us at the car, and by the time the four of us were out of the car they already had our bags on the shuttle bus for us.  The bus ride to the terminal was about 15 minutes, and TSA check in was about 30 minutes.  Total time from hotel to gate was about 1 hour and 20 minutes, but I'd suggest you plan to get there early in case your travelling at a more busy time.

NOTE: Thank you Navyformoms for all of your information.  After reading the posts by others, we were very prepared for the PIR, making our trip much more relaxing and stress free.

And...welcome to the Navy family!

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Thanks for sharing your experience.  Lots of good information! 

I've heard from some moms that their sons were tired and didn't feel like doing much more than relaxing at the hotel.  Sounds like your son was ready to get out and see the world again :)  I guess we'll have to play it by ear and see how my son is feeling.  If he's up to it we might try one of your recommended spots.

Also what was the name of the sushi place?  My son loves sushi and I don't want to mistakenly go to that place you said wasn't great.

Thanks again!

Hi mommasquid.  Our son also wanted some time to hang out with us and lay around doing nothing, we gave him a few hours for that as well.  You are on the right track if you make a few loosely scheduled plans, line up a few places to eat, and then play it by ear as you said.  We had plans for about five different places to eat depending on what he felt like.

The sushi place was called Aha Sushi.  It was OK, just not something I'd rave about.  I found it to be a little expensive, and their bill was odd too.

Ok perfect sounds like a plan.  Thanks again!

Are we allowed to bring in signs during the PIR, like Congrats Sailors?

No signs are not allowed.

I don't believe you can bring any signs inside the PIR hall. We were told not to. A lot of the parents made banners and posters to hang on hotel doors.

As has been said, no, signs are not allowed in the Drill Hall. See more on that and more in PIR Day and Liberty during PIR Weekend.

Thank you so much for the helpful information. We haven't received my son's PIR date yet because he just left on 1/13 but we are making sure we are planning ahead and informed! Really great tips especially with the shuttle instead of waiting in the car line!

My son left on the 13th as well, just got his letter yesterday with a PIR date of 3/11/2016!

Heidi,

Our son graduated on the 8th also. You nailed the info great. Luckily we are from the area and drove to the base for graduation (it's only a 30 minute drive)! Woo Hoo. Our son didn't get done with ASchool processing until 4pm, so you got lucky. LOL What ASchool is your son going to? I had to laugh when you mentioned the places that you ate at. How on earth did you know about Franks Diner? I'm from Kenosha :-) Anyways, the Jelly Belly factory is on Hwy 31 (also known as Green Bay Road). You literally drive right past it if you are taking GB Road (Hwy 31) into Kenosha. Your family ate at some great places. Fortunately for us, we met a mom of a recruit (now sailor) who works on base so she showed us the back way into base. Saved us from the long line that you talk about. Hope you had safe travels back. I know driving back and forth for us Saturday was no fun!!! P.S. good luck to your son. And agreed, the sailors just want to have some much needed and really deserved downtime.

Is there a different gate to use for PIR...or a different way to come in to bypass traffic to get to the gate.

Vikki, there is info on cutting down on the wait in line to enter the one gate for PIR in links in PIR Day and Liberty during PIR Weekend.

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