Now that the basics of HOW to sign up have been dealt with, it’s time to talk a little sign up strategy.
First, let’s back up a bit … to the countries (destinations) you listed on your sign up form. In all our time traveling space a, my sponsor and I have never been denied a seat because we decided to go somewhere other than the listed destinations (and, we have often changed our plans at the spur of the moment). But, just in case, to be sure all our bases are covered, we now routinely list the countries farthest north, south, east and west that space a passengers can fly to, and then throw Hawaii in for good measure. (Hawaii and Alaska are considered “countries” since they are OCONUS). This simplifies the decision, and includes any destination along the way in any direction.
Next, you need to give some thought to where to sign up and when to travel.
When you have a trip in mind, send a sign up to every terminal you may need to fly out of. There is no limit to the number of terminals you can sign up with, and you never know where you will end up along the way! Use your own email form, the official AMC form 140, or Take a Hop, and send them all at the same time. If you choose to use Take a Hop, you will be limited to five terminals per form, so you may need to submit more than one.
Here’s what signing up for a trip to Europe from the beautiful Pacific Northwest would look like: requests sent to McChord, Andrews, Dover, McGuire, BWI, Norfolk, Ramstein, Rota, Naples, and Sigonella. It’s possible a flight might pop up at McChord, going all the way through to Ramstein or other European location, but not likely. Much more probable would be a flight from McChord to one of the bases in the DC area, and then on to Europe on a separate flight.
And, here’s where sign-ups for the return trip would be sent: Ramstein, Spangdahlem, Naples, Sigonella, Rota, Dover, McGuire, Andrews, Norfolk, North Island, and Travis.
Remember that once you fly out of a terminal, unless you are manifested through on a continuing flight, your sign up there is finished. If flew from McChord to Dover, and then departed Dover for Ramstein on a different flight, your sign up at Dover is over. If you think you might need to use that location again for your return, be sure to send another sign up from your next stop. Arriving at a terminal does not affect your sign up, but departing does.
Most seasoned Category 6-ers try to travel somewhere between day 30 and day 50 of their sign-up. The idea is to have enough date/time seniority to stand a good chance of getting a seat, but not be so close to the limit that you risk your sign up expiring. If that happens, you will need to sign up again, and you’ll go to the bottom of the list!
If your journey will fall completely and comfortably within your 60 day window (you will be returning by about day 50), sign up at both your outbound and homebound terminals. You do not need to wait until you arrive at your destination to sign up to come home. However, if you will be away for close to or more than 60 days, sign up separately for your return. Allow yourself the same 30-50 day seniority for your homebound flights.
Finally, as with all things in outer space a, flexibility is a must. Plan where and when to sign up, but be ready to amend and adapt when it’s time to go. Flights can be canceled, alternate routing may need to be employed, and sometimes, even alternate destinations must be chosen at a moment’s notice. By all means, have a general idea and sign up accordingly. Then, hope for the best, but have other options at hand. Being flexible and adaptable is the key to space a success.
Next time: Marking yourself present.