Having worked in airline reservations for 20 years, please let me give a few tips for flying your son or daughter home for leave. I know you want to spend as much time as possible together. Everyone does! But DO NOT book the last flight of the day, when your kid has to be back on base by the next morning. WEATHER happens (I live in Alaska, ask me about weather!). Planes break. Pilots get sick or can't fly because of DOT restrictions. The airlines do not keep a steady supply of planes handy at each airport to just "bring in another plane." And as callous as it sounds, if Seaman Junior misses his flight, the airlines offer little sympathy. They don't CARE if traffic was backed up for 6 miles because the Space Shuttle was launching, the snow is 40 feet deep, you had to stop to let a moose cross, or you got abducted by aliens. If it CAN leave on time, IT WILL. And even if it is still at the gate, once those doors close, that's it. The flight is officially GONE! Mom, Dad, or the King of Norway can't get it back. And beating up the gate agent is NOT an option!
Don't give you child food from home to take with him. It won't be allowed past the security gate. Only items purchased in the gate area are deemed safe to bring onboard. Tell him or her to save the iPod for the plane. He can't hear a gate call if he has competition from Lady Ga Ga. And if you want to give him a gift, make it something replaceable. Grandpa's watch, or a genuine Picasso is NOT what he/she wants to bring to boot camp. Knit them a hat or have a t-shirt made. Photo keychains are great too!
I hope I haven't offended anyone and I apologize if I have. I'm just offering advice because I am the one who fielded the calls from frantic parents. I remember a night at the ticket counter in San Diego, years ago. A marine came up to the desk practically in tears. He had been at Camp Pendleton and now he was going to an exotic country he had never heard of. He was terrified. It sounded jungle-y and he was sure he would be eaten by wild animals, cannibals or worse. "Where are you going, son?" I asked softly. "MACONGA!" he wailed pitifully. WHERE??? "Let me see a copy of your orders!" I said. I took one look and almost doubled over in hysterics. "It's awful, isn't it?" he sniffed.
"Honey", I said, "you're going to Macon, GEORGIA! The US of A!" He gave a great shout and picked me up and twirled me around. "THANK YOU!!! Mama will be SO happy!"