The 10 best graduation trips to take in 2024

Chamidae  Ford

Feb 19, 2024 • 7 min read

Three friends jumping with happiness next to their car with palm trees in the background

Grab your friends and get ready for the trip of a lifetime Frazao Studio Latino / Getty Images

There's nothing like graduating to make you want a celebratory vacation.

Both a massive accomplishment and a bittersweet end of an era, completing your studies can also be a reality check as you begin the next phase of your life.

So, where should you go once you graduate? These 10 incredible destinations allow you to put off real life for a little bit longer.

A man flips into the deep blue water of a cenote in Mexico.

Affordable and with a wealth of diverse things to do, Mexico is the perfect post-graduation escape. The country has a happy place for everyone. Head to Tulum for a beachy, out-till-dawn vacation that is bursting will beach clubs, upscale cocktails and cerulean cenotes. Look to Puerto Vallarta for a classic, lay-by-the-pool escape. In Mexico City , you can try local delicacies and get lost in a museum for the afternoon. Stop by the stunning Museo Universitario del Chopo , which boasts an extensive contemporary art collection.  Oaxaca offers a mix of Indigenous and colonial influences, with day trips out to explore the natural world and local villages. Head to Santiago Apoala for a look at a remote Mixtec village in the heart of a towering mountain range. If the last four years in the library require some sunshine and a warm place to recover, there is no better place than Mexico to finish that beach read. 


2. Road trip across the US

Nothing bonds a group together like a long car journey, making a road trip across the US with your mates the perfect post-graduation send-off. It's hard to grasp the magnitude of the United States until you drive through it. Pick between visiting iconic national parks like Yellowstone ,   Yosemite  and the Grand Canyon , or cruising along the West Coast from the Redwoods to Joshua Tree  with a stop in some of the Golden State's famed cities, like San Francisco and Los Angeles . Uncovering the mysteries of the West has long been an American tradition, not to mention watching the landscapes change and evolve in a matter of days is a mesmerizing experience.

To keep this adventure affordable, try camping in the national parks rather than staying in hotels. It will require some advanced planning, maybe even some reservations. Visit for more information.

Few places have the same vacation appeal as Greece . With its hot, sunny climate and stellar museums, especially the Acropolis Museum , the fantastic restaurants and endless island hopping opportunities, it's hard to have a dull moment. Pro-tip: Don't skip Athens . The birthplace of Western civilization and a paradise for thinkers, artists and scientists, come see the starting place for man's greatest ideas. 

When it comes to Greece's islands, Mykonos is where the nightlife takes center stage, while Santorini provides a more romantic and relaxing atmosphere. Beware, a steep price tag comes with Greece's most popular island spots. Alternatively, if you crave a slightly less touristy experience, the Ionian Islands in early autumn make a great escape. Slow down, eat your way through fresh local delicacies and see what makes the Mediterranean way of life so revered. 


4. Costa Rica

If college wasn't enough of a thrill, head to Costa Rica . Considered one of the happiest places on earth and packed with adventure opportunities, you can white water raft, zipline, traverse sky-high bridges, and surf the most stellar waves to your heart's content. 

If you've spent the last four years in the heart of a city and are in dire need of some nature, warm weather, and delicious food , this after-graduation trip is for you. Start your day with a hearty serving of gallo pinto , take refuge from the heat with a street mango smothered in lime juice, salt and chili powder and wrap up the day with chifrijo,  a local dish of fried pork and beans with all the toppings. Not to mention, eating your body weight in ceviche is considered a right of passage. Pura Vida is right!

Young asian couple sightseeing in a local market in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

5. Vietnam 

Affordable, beautiful and warm, a graduation trip to Vietnam gets you out of your comfort zone. Get lost in a sea of mopeds in Hanoi and slurp pho on stools along the sidewalk. Head up to Halong Bay , where you can tour its limestone islands on a junk boat. Enjoy an urban metropolis like Ho Chi Minh City , wander the Binh Tay Market  or visit Vietnam's only Taoist temple,  Khanh Van Nam Vien Pagoda , before cruising along the Mekong Delta and getting to know the locals at the Cai Rang Floating Market .

6. New Orleans, Louisiana

For a graduation trip that melds celebration with culture, look no further than New Orleans . The loud streets of this city burst with energy: live bands, dancing, cocktails and more. As New Orleans continues to be impacted by climate change, try to reduce your impact during your visit by using trains, bikes and public transport to explore the city.  Eat beignets (deep-fried pâte à choux pastries) in the French Quarter , listen to jazz in a dimly lit bar, and if you time it right, join in with the commotion of Mardi Gras . Beyond the nightlife, the Big Easy is famous for its flavorful cuisine and unique rich history. Make sure to take the time to appreciate both. Don't miss having a steaming bowl of gumbo or biting into a massive Po'boy. Follow it up with a visit to the  Ogden Museum of Southern Art , which explores the city's complex influences and longtime connection to the natural world.  

A couple walks down the streets of Brooklyn laughing happily.

7. New York City

A graduation trip can also be an opportunity to test out potential places you may want to live. For many, that means New York City . Visit before you commit to living here: it's busy, loud, (sometimes) stinky and eye-openingly wonderful. But it's not for everyone. For this test run, spend your time checking out galleries and parks while eating at some amazing restaurants. It will be a pricey trip, no matter how hard you try to budget. Still, it's a great chance to meet new people and try every cuisine you can imagine. Make sure to catch the train to Brooklyn for an afternoon in the Botanical Gardens .

8. South Africa

Not ready to stop learning? Head to South Africa . With a tumultuous and storied history, a trip to this stunning country can be life-changing. Apartheid isn't that far in the rearview mirror, and its lasting effects are visible across much of the nation. Dedicate time to visiting some of the historical sites in Johannesburg, such as the Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill , a former prison turned Constitutional Court. Then, hit the beach to surf some famous waves at Addington Beach along the iconic Golden Mile or catch glimpses of South Africa's diverse wildlife in the expansive Kruger National Park . Keep your eyes peeled for big cats, elephants, rhinos and more. Find time to catch at least one sunset from the top of Table Mountain . Its unmatched views are accessible by cable car in Cape Town.


With stunning fjords, shooting geysers, natural hot springs and the northern lights – Iceland offers an otherworldly reset from your studies. A nature-first vacation, try and dedicate some time beyond the beautiful capital Reykjavik . You'll need a large budget to chase waterfalls, sip pints and toast your graduation in Iceland, but you'll look at the world entirely anew. 

10. Florence, Italy

Florence offers a decadence and youthfulness that is easier to access than in Rome or Naples , and its Renaissance beauty will fill your aching heart if you don't want to leave university or college. Marvel at Botticelli's masterpiece, the Birth of Venus, in the Uffizi and wander the expansive Boboli Gardens . Luxuriate with two-hour dinners on one of their many piazzas, climb to the top of the fabled Duomo to take in the rolling hills in the distance. There is so much to love about Florence, but like most major cities in Italy, it can be expensive, but it's the price you pay to heal your heartache.

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10 Graduation Trip Ideas for Every Budget and Travel Style

From Peru to Paris, these are some of the best trips to take after graduation.

on your post graduation celebratory trip

Valerie de Leon/Travel + Leisure

Everyone travels for a different reason. For some, travel is an adventure, a way to discover all that the world has to offer. Others use it as a means of escaping everyday stresses. It’s also one of the best ways to celebrate life’s biggest moments, whether it’s a new beginning, an exciting achievement, or both. Graduation certainly falls into the latter category, and you’ll often see those earning a high school, college, or post-grad diploma marking the accomplishment with a memorable travel experience. Plus, this is an occasion that’s often accompanied by the rare chance to travel without missing classes or taking off work. So if there’s ever a good time to go on that trip you’ve always dreamed about, it’s right after graduation. 

When it comes to graduation trips, there are no hard-and-fast rules about how or where you should travel; they can run the gamut from quick beach weekends to week-long, multi-country adventures. It all depends on your preference, budget, and availability. To help narrow down your choices, we spoke with two of Travel + Leisure ’s trusted A-List advisors, Maria Diego of Diego Travel and Jean Sanz of JSB Journeys , to curate a list of the best graduation trip ideas.

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When you want a graduation trip with lots of sunshine, salt water, and beautiful scenery, but you don’t want a super long flight, choose Costa Rica, T+L’s 2024 Destination of the Year . “The proximity to the U.S. makes this a quick jump over if time is of the essence,” Sanz tells T+L. Start your journey by indulging in a bit of luxurious relaxation — “You can enjoy hot springs and hang out with friends at The Springs Resort & Spa while sipping on a drink as you overlook the Arenal Volcano,” says Sanz  — then move on to something more active. There are numerous hiking opportunities in this biodiverse country, ranging from beginner to more advanced trails. If you’re really looking to challenge yourself, embark on the 174-mile Camino de Costa Rica .

Lauren Breedlove/Travel + Leisure

Thinking about a West Coast trip? San Diego could be in the cards. The Southern California city is known for its warm, dry summers, and there are plenty of activities to fill an itinerary, no matter your interests. If you want an active graduation trip, book a surf lesson with Surf Diva , hike Torrey Pines State Park Loop, and practice your swing at the famed Torrey Pines Golf Course . For a trip that’s centered around art, explore the collections at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego , The San Diego Museum of Art , and the Mingei International Museum . If you want to do nothing but lounge by the beach or pool, check into Hotel del Coronado or The Lodge at Torrey Pines for a few extra-luxe nights.

Eleanor Scriven/robertharding/Travel + Leisure

While Diego notes that she wouldn’t recommend St. Barts for a high school graduation trip, it is a special, celebratory destination that could be a good option for those graduating from college. In Diego’s words, it’s an “island that outshines them all,” and if you visit in the late summer (as opposed to the popular winter season), you’ll often see lower prices and fewer crowds. “ Eden Rock is always a popular choice if you want to see and be seen, or if you're looking for more of a hideaway with an ultra-chic clientele and [a] lower-key beach club, I recommend Le Toiny ,” she says.

Buenos Aires and Patagonia

“Aside from the fact that it should be on everyone's bucket list, Buenos Aires is an eclectic cosmopolitan city, with cocktail bars, nightclubs, and an incredible food scene,” says Sanz. After spending a few days in the city, make your way to Patagonia , where you’ll need your hiking boots, waterproof layers, and plenty of bug spray and sunscreen. “You can hike from camp to camp as you overlook the amazing Fitz Roy mountain and end in a fabulous adventure lodge like Explora . The food and the dramatic landscapes are also a great way to treat yourself as you walk into a new world,” she adds.

National Park Road Trip

Irjaliina Paavonpera/Travel + Leisure

“A road trip is always a great way to celebrate a milestone. We have some of the most beautiful parks and animals on the planet in our own backyard,” says Diego. If you’re planning an extended graduation trip, spread out over several weeks, you could try to plot out some of our nation’s biggest national parks out West— from the Great Sand Dunes to Zion — and check them all off on an epic road trip. But if you’re only planning on traveling for about a week, and you still want to see some impressive wildlife and scenery, head to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, which are about an hour’s drive from one another. Most travelers fly into Jackson Hole Airport, the only commercial airport within a U.S. national park, and use Jackson Hole as their base camp for exploring Grand Teton National Park over a period of two to three days. Yellowstone takes a bit more time; plan on spending three to four days traversing the park and checking off your top highlights and points of interest.

New York City

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New York City has something for everyone — and that includes recent grads. If it’s your first time in the Big Apple, you’ll probably want to experience all of the classics: a Yankees game, Central Park, a slice at a quintessential pizzeria, a Broadway show, and some of New York City’s best museums , including The Metropolitan Museum of Art , The Guggenheim , and The Whitney . It’ll be a packed trip, so don’t forget your best walking shoes; depending on your schedule, you’ll probably end up trekking multiple miles as you make your way through the boroughs. While NYC isn’t known as a particularly cheap destination, it does have a whole host of free things to do if you’re looking to keep costs down.

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“I think Africa is the perfect option for a graduation trip, particularly gorilla trekking in Rwanda ,” says Diego. “In order to do the chimpanzee and gorilla treks, the minimum age requirement is 18, which would be a fantastic age to have this experience.” She also suggests starting your trip at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in the capital of Rwanda: “While extremely sad, it is very educational and sets a context for the entirety of the trip.  Once you see the history of what this small country has gone through, and overcome, it changes you in a very impactful way.  I can't think of a better gift to share with a young adult than the entire experience that is Rwanda.”

London and Paris

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Out of all the cities in the world, London and Paris are two of the most iconic — and they’re only two hours apart by train. Start your trip in the Big Smoke, where you can cheers to your diploma over Champagne afternoon tea at The Ritz and get your steps in while walking through Green Park, St. James’s Park, and some of the city’s most picturesque neighborhoods. Rest up at The Laslett , an expertly designed boutique hotel in Notting Hill, before hopping aboard the Eurostar to Paris. You may have a long list of must-sees in the City of Lights, but leave time for the best parts of a Parisian adventure: leisurely coffee breaks at cafés, croissant and baguette runs, and a long stroll down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. For a particularly memorable stay in Paris, Diego recommends Le Grand Contrôle , “the hotel in the Château de Versailles that allows special access without the crowds.”

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Travelers might want to use this time off to tour Peru, the home of Machu Picchu and part of the Amazon rainforest. “Hiking the last part of the Inca Trail and arriving at the majestic citadel of Machu Picchu gives you a mystical sense of being — and [it’s] a great feeling of freedom to have after several years of university,” says Sanz. She suggests staying at the Palacio del Inka in Cusco, where you can sip piscos on your balcony, and leaving time for Lima. When in the capital, follow Sanz’s advice and “explore the culinary delights of Mayta [and its] fantastic cocktail menu.”

When the only thing you want to do after graduation is soak up some sun on the beach, look no further than Charleston . The Holy City is known for its laidback lifestyle, and there are several beaches within driving distance of the downtown area. Folly Beach is where you’ll find kitschy beach shops, amazing seafood restaurants, and opportunities to surf. Sullivan’s Island is a bit quieter, but its main street, Middle Street, becomes a hub of activity on summer weekends. If the whole family is joining your grad trip, book a stay at Wild Dunes Resort on Isle of Palms. No matter which beach you choose, you’ll be able to find plenty of R&R before starting your next life chapter.

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9 Graduation Trip Ideas for Every Budget

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A graduation vacation is about more than knocking back drinks in a foreign land. Such adventures can also offer moments of reflection on what lies ahead. Choosing how to spend this milestone trip isn’t easy, either. In addition to setting a budget and choosing your travel companions, recent grads should consider what they want to get out of the trip, advises Shelby Albo, travel consultant at Embarc Collective . Here, we’ve pulled together nine unforgettable graduation trip ideas that appeal to a range of travel styles—no matter what your budget is.

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The other Southeast Asia loop

“Backpacking trips in a foreign country are truly unbeatable, especially for graduation,” says Jen Richardson, a travel planner at Scouted . We all know the classic loop through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos, and it’s a great one—the region is affordable for travelers spending U.S. dollars and there is no shortage of cultural sites, natural wonders, and lively parties. But you can find all of that and more on a less-traveled path farther south.  In Indonesia, visit the bustling capital of Jakarta, scooter between rice fields in Ubud, and kick back on the postcard-perfect islands of Lombok and Bali . Experience a mix of cultures in Malaysia by tasting laksa curry on the streets of Penang and visiting the Hindu temples in the Batu Caves, then swing down to Singapore . It isn’t cheap by any stretch, but a few days in the street food capital—which has colorful architecture, lush hiking trails, and a high-tech airport with a butterfly garden and movie theater—are worth the end-of-trip-splurge.

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A weekend (or longer) in Puerto Rico

The Commonwealth is an easy flight from much of the U.S., and you don’t even need a passport. If you have just a weekend, book an Airbnb in one of the candy-colored colonial buildings of Old San Juan, where reggaeton and salsa fill the streets and the Bad Bunny–approved cocktail bar La Factoría comes alive seven nights a week. If you have five to seven days to explore, plan a multi-stop road trip around the island—surfing on the West Coast, night kayaking in one of Puerto Rico's three bioluminescent bays, and baking on the dazzling white sands of Culebra Island.

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South India immersion

You want to go far, but you don’t want to go alone: Intrepid Travel’s group trips are built around this premise, with accessible price points always front of mind. The outfitter’s two-week Real South India trip (from $909 per person) is a great graduation trip idea—it takes up to 16 free spirits (ages 18 to 29) from Hyderabad to Kochi, with five stops and two overnight trains in between. See Bollywood film sets in Ramoji Film City, explore Hindu temples in Mamallapuram, observe elephants and tigers in Bandipur National Park, and feast on stuffed dosa in Madurai. The rate covers guides, accommodations, select meals, and numerous activities; set your Google Flights tracker now for a stellar airline deal.

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The Utah parks circuit

Grab a few pals and pile into a van to go park-hopping in Utah . The state’s national parks and monuments promise slot canyons ( Zion and Grand Staircase-Escalante), forests of rock hoodoos ( Bryce Canyon ), sand dunes (at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park), and bright red rock carved by the Colorado River (Canyonlands), to name just a few of the Beehive State’s otherworldly landscapes. Spend your days hiking and evenings camping under the stars—the Fruita Campground in Capitol Reef National Park is worth planning around—in settings so stunning, they'll stick with you for a lifetime.

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A sunny Caribbean cruise

After years of grinding, you might be ready to simply laze in the sun—a true treat-yourself moment before starting college or before your first job begins. Book a spot on a Caribbean cruise , which will have space for all of your friends and won’t require you to lift a single finger once you are onboard. Royal Caribbean offers a huge selection of affordable cruises departing from New York, Florida, and Galveston, Texas. Go for one of the five-night options , which stop in the crystalline waters of Cozumel, Mexico, and George Town, Grand Cayman, and offer plenty of nightlife and poolside entertainment options to keep things interesting.

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Southern U.S. road trip

For a memorable American road trip, make the drive from Atlanta to West Texas , with stops in New Orleans and Austin en route. You’ll find music and nightlife all along the way—Atlanta’s Trap Music Museum and Second Line parades weaving through the streets of NOLA are not to be missed—plus roadside photo ops (hello, Marfa Prada store ). Scrimp by staying at Airbnbs in each destination; if you’re traveling with just a friend or two, rented rooms, instead of private apartments, are a great way to meet other travelers. Staying at locally owned properties is "such a good way to support the local culture and will make for a rich experience,” says Richardson.

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A tour through South America

This may not be among the first graduation trip ideas that come to mind, but why not put those years of Spanish to use in South America? While the distances are greater than those in Southeast Asia, and the prices somewhat higher, sticking to the northwestern edge of the continent will give you the best bang for your buck. Plus, “planes are super affordable,” says Katalina Mayorga, founder of El Camino Travel , thanks to new budget lines such as Viva Air Colombia and Star Perú.  In four to eight weeks, you can hit the Caribbean coast in Colombia (with stops in Cartagena and Tayrona National Natural Park); the Andean cities of Medellín , Quito , and La Paz ; and ogle natural wonders like the Amazon rain forest (best accessed via Iquitos, Peru), the Uyuni salt flats of southwest Bolivia, and, of course, Machu Picchu . From learning about Afro-Caribbean dance to touring Inca archaeological sites, you’ll have loads to talk about with the fellow travelers you meet in hostels along the way.

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Eastern Europe backpacking trip

“European backpacking trips are still very popular,” says Albo. “The ease of traveling from one country to another is an attractive aspect.” Not only is Eastern Europe more affordable than France, Spain, and Italy, it’s less crowded than its western neighbors—despite offering just as many reasons to visit. In dreamy Old World cities like Prague and Budapest , regal churches and castles are just as appealing as the edgy nightlife scenes. (Want to party in a converted bunker? Done.) By train or bus, get out to the scenic countryside and hike the Tatras mountains that border Slovakia and Poland before exploring the quaint old town of Gdańsk. Trust us—you’ll leave wondering why the rest of your friends haven’t considered Eastern Europe yet.

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The Camino de Santiago

There’s something enticing about marking one milestone with another. For travelers who want to do it in hiking boots , a Camino de Santiago pilgrimage is an ideal challenge. The Camino refers to a network of trails that all lead to a shrine of Saint James the Great in Galicia, Spain, with several starting points throughout the country. Beginners, however, are recommended to follow the Camino Frances route, which begins just over the border in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the French Pyrenees. The journey takes 30 to 35 days and includes overnights in albergues (bed-and-breakfasts). If you find yourself needing a little motivation along the trail, just visualize the tapas and vino waiting for you each night.

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Travel Guide to Planning the Perfect Graduation Trip

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Graduation. It's the culmination of years of hard work, late-night study sessions, and unforgettable experiences. But amidst the excitement, there's one question on every graduate's mind: what's next? For many, the answer lies in the form of an internship, job, or moving back home and for others it's in a graduation trip or gap year—a chance to celebrate, reflect, and embark on a journey of self-discovery. Whether you're itching to explore distant lands or dive into your cultural roots, careful planning is key to ensuring a smooth and enriching experience. So, let's dive into the post-grad travel guide to planning the perfect graduation trip.

1. Timing is Everything:

Speaking from experience, the one thing I wish I did immediately after graduation was travel. Instead, I hopped right into work and didn't take a real break until 6 years into the corporate grind where burnout was at an all-time high. At this point, I was in my late twenties and decided I needed to pursue my dream of backpacking Europe. So, I took 6 months off of work and set out for a solo trip to Europe and I'm so glad I did! But I wish I had done it sooner as it changed my perspective on life and helped me reprioritize, reset, and reflect.

Deciding when to take your graduation trip is ultimately dependent on the destination you choose, but my advice is the sooner the better - if you can swing it! Consider factors such as weather, peak tourist seasons, and personal commitments. For many, the period immediately following graduation offers a window of opportunity before diving into the next phase of life. However, be mindful of seasonal variations in travel costs and crowd levels.

grad trip planning

2. Choosing the Destination:

The world is your oyster when it comes to choosing a destination for your graduation trip. Whether you're yearning for cultural immersion or seeking adrenaline-pumping adventures, there's a destination with your name on it. Consider backpacking through Europe, exploring the landscapes of South America, or opt for a road trip across the Midwest or along the East or West coast for an immersive experience closer to home. Whatever destination you choose, prioritize ease of transportation and select a place that ignites your curiosity and leaves you inspired for the years ahead.

3. Budgeting:

We know this is a scary time to shell out money towards a graduation trip when student loan are looming, so a luxury excursion is likely out of the picture but that's okay! This is a time to get creative with your finances. Some of the best experiences and foods I've had over the years have been either free or inexpensive. Start by setting a realistic budget that covers expenses such as transportation, accommodation, meals and activities. Look for ways to save money, such as booking hostels from HostelWorld or shared rentals like VRBO . Opt for budget-friendly dining options like take away spots and street vendors and take advantage of student discounts where available. Another popular budget hack is to travel during shoulder seasons to snag better deals on accommodations and flights

4. Staying Safe:

Safety should always be a top priority when traveling, especially as a recent graduate venturing into unfamiliar territory. Research your destination beforehand to familiarize yourself with local customs, laws, and potential risks. Keep important documents such as passports, identification, and travel insurance information secure at all times. Stay vigilant, especially in crowded areas, and trust your instincts if something feels off. It's also wise to stay connected with friends and family back home and share your itinerary with them for added peace of mind.

5. Stay Organized with Itinerary Builder Apps:

With so much to see and do, staying organized is key to reducing stress and making the most of your graduation trip. Say goodbye to scattered documents and hello to itinerary builder apps like Let's Jetty , which offers intuitive tools for planning and organizing your travel plans. From scheduling flights and accommodations to mapping out daily activities and must-see attractions, these apps streamline the planning process. It's also an easy way to share your itinerary with friends and family so they can stay in touch as plans change along the way.

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Embarking on a graduation trip is more than just a vacation—it's a celebration of your achievements, a journey of self-discovery, and a leap into the unknown. By following these tips and taking the time to plan thoughtfully, you'll set the stage for an adventure of a lifetime! After all, the world is waiting—and it's yours for the taking.

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30 Epic Graduation Trip Ideas

Usa & international destinations that are perfect for a summer graduation trip to celebrate a special milestone., the exotic allure of the aloha state may be the perfect balm after a stressful senior year., see the midnight sun in alaska on an affordable alaskan cruise or join an active adventure family group trip., the southwest heats up in june, but you can still enjoy an epic trip to utah’s mighty national parks — arches, zion, bryce, canyonlands, and capitol reef national parks., utah's national parks, explore the rugged coastline and seaside towns of the maine coast with lobster bakes on the beach. you can even assist the crew and enjoy watching the scenic coastline glide by., maine windjammer cruise, summer is the perfect time to be in iceland. spend a few days chasing waterfalls, visiting black sand beaches, hiking on glaciers, and sailing between icebergs., with a drinking age of 18, graduates might enjoy some new-found freedoms in the pubs of ireland — after all, what better place to soak in the irish culture, in june, big hydrangea blooms decorate the island in a mix of pinks, purples and blues. this is a perfect setting for outdoor lovers and adventure seekers., a week or two spent island hopping in the cyclades is a perfect way to chill out after the exhaustion of final exams., hit the highlights in rome and florence, hen take some time to relax and enjoy the tuscan countryside where you can bike through vineyards and swim in thermal pools., discover more graduation trip ideas on:.

How to Plan a Graduation Trip for 2024 – 25 Top Tips

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Are you graduating high school this year and wondering what to do with your summer vacation?

Or are you a parent wondering if you should send your hardworking new adult somewhere before they head off to college or the real world?

Lucky for you, it’s not too late to plan a graduation trip that will be both memorable and low-stress! I planned a massive trip for my senior when he graduated high school. Follow my expert advice in this guide on how to plan a graduation trip for high school seniors or college grads, and you’ll have no trouble finding an affordable destination that makes the most of your time away from home.

Table of Contents

What is a Graduation Trip for?

A graduation trip is a perfect way to celebrate one of the biggest milestones in a young person’s life – graduating from high school.

Such a trip is more than just a chance to go somewhere fun and have a great time – it can also help to build lasting memories, create special bonds with family and friends, and allow the graduate to explore the world.

It’s also a great way to celebrate the hard work and dedication that went into achieving such a major milestone. With a graduation trip, the graduate will be making an investment in something that will last a lifetime.

Whether you’re planning a high school graduation trip with friends, or in need of college graduation trip ideas, start with how to plan a senior trip here.

How to Plan a Graduation Trip

We know high school seniors want to go on a special trip after they graduate . And parents of seniors want them to have a fun and safe experience. There are tons of options for senior trips. We’ve gathered tips from around the web about how you can plan an amazing getaway with your grad. Here are 7 tips for your senior trip .

Know your budget—and stick to it!

We’re all guilty of giving our kids a little more spending money than we intend to at times. However, knowing your budget ahead of time will help you avoid overspending and keep your student safe on their graduation trip. You can always set a limit that’s less than what they want, then treat them afterward as a reward for working hard in school.

How to plan a graduation trip on a budget

Before booking flights or accommodations, consider how much money you have available to spend. This will help you narrow down your options and make more informed decisions.

Keep in mind that a graduation trip doesn’t have to break the bank to be memorable. With some careful planning, you can have a fantastic trip without overspending.

Once you’ve figured out your price points, it’s time to start researching graduation trips on a budget. This leads us to the next tip: choosing your destination wisely.

Whether you want to explore a new city, relax on a beach, or go on an adventure, there are plenty of options out there. However, not all destinations are created equal when it comes to cost. By doing your research, you can find a destination that meets both your interests and budget.

Remember, setting a budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice fun or adventure. It simply means being mindful of your spending and making smart choices. So, take some time to crunch the numbers and create a budget that works for you. With a solid budget in place, you can focus on planning the perfect graduation trip.,

Know what’s included—and what isn’t.

Some inclusive package senior trips will include delicious food, while others don’t include anything except transportation and lodging. Make sure you know exactly what’s included in your trip, so there are no surprises. Even if you’ve booked from high school senior trip packages, you’ll want to know what is included.

Consider budgeting an extra $50-$75/day per student just in case they decide to splurge on a meal or excursion that wasn’t part of their original plans!

Choose your destination wisely

Whether you want to explore a new city, relax on a beach, or go on an adventure, there are plenty of options out there. Choosing from all-inclusive graduation trips could make your planning easier.

However, not all destinations are created equal when it comes to cost. It’s important to do your research and find a destination that meets both your interests and budget. Consider factors such as transportation, accommodation, food, and activities when making your decision. For example, some popular vacation spots might be more expensive due to higher demand or peak season pricing.

Book Flights and Accommodations Early

Once you’ve determined your destination for your high school graduation trip and set your budget, the next step is to start booking your flights and accommodations early. Early booking not only saves you money, but it also increases your options for both travel and lodging. Keep in mind that you want to choose accommodations that fit both your budget and your preferred level of comfort.

While flights and accommodations are often the most significant expenses of any trip, the earlier you make your arrangements, the more cost-effective they’ll be. This means you’ll be able to allocate more funds for activities, excursions, and souvenirs during your trip.

When booking your accommodations , consider the location, amenities, and reviews from previous guests. These factors can make or break your trip, so it’s essential to choose wisely. Keep in mind that staying in a slightly less trendy part of town might save you a considerable amount of money.

Set ground rules with your student.

Whether you have a high school senior or even a young adult heading off to graduate school, having set expectations will help everyone feel safer and enjoy their trip more. One of our most common questions from parents is how to keep kids safe on their senior class trips, so make sure you talk about what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t before they leave!

Remember your ID or Passport!

This is something many parents of high school seniors forget about—and it can be a big problem if you don’t have one. Not only will you not be able to get on flights without ID, but if there’s an emergency, it may not be easy or even possible to prove that you are who you say you are. Be sure to remind your student in plenty of time to pick up their driver’s license, state-issued photo ID card, or passport (if they need one) so they can bring it with them on their trip.

Don’t forget travel insurance!

As your senior embarks on their journey into adulthood, we know it can be hard to let go and let them explore new places and new things…but remember that while they may be graduating from high school, they are still young adults under 21 years old.

One of my strongest travel tips is to make sure you have some sort of travel insurance in place in case they encounter an unexpected injury or illness while they’re away—it can save you a lot of heartaches (and a lot of money!) if something happens.

While no one likes to think about the worst-case scenarios, unexpected events can happen, and travel insurance can provide peace of mind in case something goes wrong.

Travel insurance typically covers issues like trip cancellations, lost luggage, and medical emergencies, all of which can disrupt your trip and cause significant financial loss. It’s worth looking into different insurance options and finding one that fits your needs and budget.

What to pack?

It might seem obvious, but packing is actually one of the most important parts of any trip—especially if you plan on being gone for more than just a weekend! Check out our Step by Step Travel Guide with included Vacation Planning Checklist for detailed tips and tricks that can help keep your student safe and comfortable while they’re away from home.

It’s easy to get carried away with packing and end up with a heavy suitcase that’s difficult to lug around. Instead, opt for a few versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched, and leave room for any souvenirs you might pick up along the way. By packing smartly, you’ll be able to enjoy your trip without any unnecessary stress or hassle.

Logistics/How to get there?

Once you know how much money you want to spend, what ground rules are in place, and what kind of insurance you have…it’s time to think about logistics. How will your student get from home to their departure airport? What type of transportation will they take when they arrive at their destination? Will they need a visa or entry permit (if traveling outside of the United States)?

Plan Activities Ahead of Time

Planning ahead is crucial for making the most of your high school graduation trip. Whether you’re traveling with a group or going solo, it’s essential to create an itinerary that includes all the sights and activities you want to do.

By planning activities ahead of time, you can ensure you don’t miss out on anything you want to do. Research the top attractions and experiences in your destination, and make a list of your must-sees.

You can also consider booking tours or activities in advance to secure your spot and avoid long wait times. However, don’t forget to leave some room for spontaneity, as some of the best experiences can happen when you least expect them.

With proper planning, you can create an itinerary that balances your must-see attractions with some downtime to relax and explore.

Be Open to Trying New Things

While it’s important to have a clear plan of action for your high school graduation trip, it’s equally important to be open to trying new things. After all, this may be your first time traveling without your parents and it’s a great opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and explore new areas, activities, and cultures.

Don’t be afraid to try things you’ve never done before, whether it’s trying a new type of food, participating in a local activity, or even striking up a conversation with a stranger.

Being open to new experiences can give you a different perspective on life and allow you to grow as a person. Plus, it can make your trip even more memorable and enjoyable. Just be sure to prioritize safety and use common sense when trying new things.

Choose the Right Travel Companions

Traveling with the right companions can make or break your high school graduation trip. It’s important to consider who you’ll be spending all your time with to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Choose people who have similar interests and attitudes towards the trip, but also be open to meeting new people along the way. A diverse group of travel companions can lead to unexpected adventures and lifelong friendships.

However, safety should always be a top priority when choosing travel companions. Make sure everyone on the trip is responsible and can be trusted to make smart decisions. If you have any doubts about someone’s behavior or intentions, it’s better to err on the side of caution and not invite them on the trip.

Stay Safe and Aware

It’s important to remember that safety should always be a top priority when planning your high school graduation trip. This includes choosing responsible travel companions who can be trusted to make smart decisions. If you have any doubts about someone’s behavior or intentions, it’s better to err on the side of caution and not invite them on the trip.

Once you’ve chosen your travel companions, it’s important to stay vigilant and aware during your trip. Keep an eye on each other and avoid wandering off alone in unfamiliar places.

Remember to use common sense and trust your instincts. By prioritizing safety, you can ensure that your high school graduation trip will be a memorable and enjoyable experience for everyone.

Make Memories That Will Last a Lifetime by trying new activities and experiencing different cultures.,

Make Memories That Will Last a Lifetime

One of the most significant aspects of any trip is the memories that you make along the way. One way to do this is by trying new activities that you’ve never done before. Whether it’s snorkeling in the Caribbean, hiking in the mountains, or exploring a new city, these experiences will be etched in your memory for years to come.

Another way to make your high school graduation trip unforgettable is by immersing yourself in different cultures. Take the time to learn about the history, traditions, and customs of the places that you visit. This could mean trying new foods, visiting museums, or interacting with locals. By experiencing different cultures, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation of the world around you and create lasting memories.

Ultimately, the key to making memories that will last a lifetime is to be present and fully engaged in every moment of your trip. Put away your phone and take in the sights, sounds, and smells around you. Laugh with your friends, take lots of photos, and enjoy every moment of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

How to Save or Spend money on Travel

How To Save Money For Your Senior Trip

There are a lot of considerations when it comes to planning graduation trips, from picking where you’re going, what you’re doing there, and how much you’ll spend on airfare, hotels, and everything else in between. The good news is that it’s possible to travel affordably while still having an amazing time.

Here are our tips on how to save money for your senior trip:

  • Get started early
  • Travel with friends
  • Research destinations carefully
  • Look at lots of options
  • Don’t overspend on lodging
  • Bring water bottles so you don’t have to buy bottled water everywhere
  • Eat at restaurants before or after visiting museums or other attractions
  • Use social media sites like TripAdvisor , Yelp and Google Local Guides to find great places to eat based on reviews by people who live in your destination city/town/village
  • Pack carefully!
  • Find good deals using websites like Groupon, LivingSocial and Travelzoo
  • Buy tickets from discount sites such as Viator or CityPASS whcih saves money through combo passes.

soaking it all in, woman on graduation trip looking at Yosemite National Park

Graduation Trip Ideas USA

The process of choosing where to go can be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time planning such an excursion. But worry not! To get you started on your search, we’ve compiled a list of our top graduation trip destinations by state – from New England to California and everywhere in between. These vacation ideas are guaranteed to make your future college student happy. And don’t forget, these incredible places would make great vacations regardless of whether they’re being used as official graduation tours or just weekend getaways.

If you’re planning high school graduation trips, here are some popular destinations in California to consider.

For example, take a trip down to San Diego and stay at Hotel Del Coronado , located on beautiful Coronado Island. You can choose from a number of amazing suites that range from 600 square feet to 2,400 square feet! Some of these hotel rooms even come with their own private swimming pools. There’s also plenty to do at The Del including surfing lessons and golfing (the course is currently ranked #1 by Golf Digest). If you decide not to book one of their hotels or suites, there are several other nearby properties where you can rent an oceanfront condo or cottage right on Orange Avenue near all of The Del’s amenities.

Other excellent California graduation trip destinations include Carmel-by-the-Sea, Yosemite National Park, and Los Angeles. Consider a bucket list road trip along the famed US1 highway from Sand Diego to San Francisco. Imagine cruising with the top down in a convertible to celebrate all your hard work!

Other graduation trips in California include visiting as many of the 8 National Parks in California. Or you could spend your days of exploration at Yosemite National Park , which is a great place to visit in summer. With beautiful views and incredible waterfalls, it’s one of California’s most popular national parks. If you don’t have access to a vehicle or would like an alternate option, you can take a guided tour by coach. The park has several options available through Redwoods In Motion, including many multi-day trips that include stays at different lodges throughout California and Nevada.

New York and New York City

A trip to New York City is a must-do at least once in your lifetime. As one of our most recommended graduation trips destinations, there are lots of reasons why New York City is such a popular destination – and why you’ll want to consider including it on your list. For starters, there are tons of cultural and historical sites throughout NYC, which means that you’ll never get bored with all that there is to do here. Some of these sites include The Statue of Liberty , The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Radio City Music Hall, and Top of The Rock Observation Deck.

Or take some time to travel outside Manhattan and explore one of New York State’s beautiful Finger Lakes.

Another excellent location you can visit during your vacation to Upstate New York is Niagara Falls; it will be easy to find plenty to keep yourself occupied while visiting Niagara Falls, especially if you plan to stay on-site at one of several nearby hotels or motels.

If you’re planning a graduation trip in Florida , then you’ll have no shortage of options. While traveling to Panama City Beach for their white-sand beaches is an excellent option, it certainly isn’t your only choice. Consider traveling along the Gulf Coast and visiting St. Petersburg, which is home to several attractions including The Salvador Dali Museum and The Florida Holocaust Museum.

Keep going south stopping in one of our favorite cities, Sarasota where you’ll find plenty of activities to do with teens .

Continue on to Naples where you can reach your final destination of Key West for a great time!

Of course, the main attractions in Florida may be the Orlando theme parks, Walt Disney World and Universal Studios . Those are not the only things to do in Orlando however. The best things to do in Orlando with teens include the theme parks and also places such as ICON Park, Top Golf, Kennedy Space Center and so much more!

Washington D.C.

There are lots of wonderful grad tour destinations in Maryland and Washington, D.C., so consider including both states on your list. One of our top recommended sites that you can’t miss is The Smithsonian Institute, which includes 19  fascinating museums in this area  located throughout Washington, D.C., as well as a zoo and several gardens.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago isn’t just home to professional sports teams and impressive museums — but also a thriving improv comedy scene. The Windy City is home to several award-winning improv theaters including The Second City (yes, like Saturday Night Live) ImprovOlympic Theater, and ComedySportz Theater. Another excellent grad tour destination in Illinois is Evanston, located north of Chicago in Cook County.

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston’s got an impressive sports history. Sports aren’t all that Boston has to offer – there are also several fun activities including The Freedom Trail Tour which takes you through downtown Boston on a walking tour that highlights 16 locations related to American History.

Consider a Montana dude ranch if you’re looking at going off-roading, horseback riding, and more. Here you can enjoy group rides, trail rides, and much more. Serenity Springs Ranch is another great option in Big Sky Country; it’s easy to see why so many people consider visiting Montana as one of the best graduation gifts to themselves!

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on your post graduation celebratory trip

Let's Roam Explorer

14 Great Graduation Trip Ideas

From strolling the streets of Rome to hiking Machu Picchu, there are so many great adventures waiting! Check out this guide for a list of great graduation trip ideas!

on your post graduation celebratory trip

Graduating from high school or college is a huge step toward becoming an adult. Here at Let’s Roam, we know how much traveling can help shape a person, no matter how old they are. For many young people, graduation trips are a rite of passage. This is a chance for them to see just what they are capable of before they head out into the world alone. We understand the importance of a graduation vacation so we have compiled a list of great graduation trip ideas just for you!

Graduate to the next level with Let’s Roam !

Travel is always a great form of education, no matter what stage of life someone is in. Why not make every adventure even more memorable and educational by incorporating a Let’s Roam Scavenger Hunt in it? These hunts are expertly designed to help you find some of the best spots in a city ranging from tourist hotspots to hidden gems. They are short and sweet and serve as the perfect introduction to a new destination.  With hundreds of options to choose from all around the world, we are certain that there will be one that is perfect for you!

Great Graduation Trips for Adventurous People

Below you’ll find a long list of graduation trip ideas to help you and your family celebrate this momentous occasion whether you are a parent hoping to reward your son or daughter on this great achievement or a group of friends hoping to let your hair down a bit before you move onto the next stage of your life. 

We believe that everyone should have a chance to enjoy this important time so we have included a wide variety of trip ideas to match different tastes and budgets. While many of these can be considered bucket list trips and have the price tag to prove it, others are a bit more low-key but have a ton of great experiences to offer!

You’ll also find a handful of travel tips gained after decades of experience roaming around the world. These tips are designed to make your decision-making easier and to help ease any concerns that you have about particular locations. Rest assured that our team of in-house travel experts has experienced them all firsthand.

1. Embark on the All-American road trip .

Countless Hollywood movies have focused on the life-changing aspects of a good old-fashion road trip. With wide open spaces, some of the most beautiful national parks in the entire world, and an amazing array of coastlines, the United States is the perfect place for a road trip. Road trips give friends and family the chance to spend time together that they will look back on for a lifetime. Best of all, you can make them as long or as short as you want. They can also be done on a budget!

One of the best places to do a road trip is in the American southwest. States like Utah, Arizona, California, Colorado, and Nevada all have a lot of great attractions, all within just a few hours’ drive of one another. The number of big cities and, therefore the traffic, that you have to drive through is limited which also makes it great for people who have only had their driver’s license for a short period of time! You can even create an itinerary that takes in some of the country’s most famous national parks including the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Death Valley, Zion, and Bryce Canyon!

From doing a road trip on Route 66 to crisscrossing your way through America’s national parks , there are so many options to choose from, you may struggle to figure out which direction to go in, literally! Before you head out, make sure you download an epic road trip playlist where everyone can sing along!

2. Backpack across Europe .

This is one that mom and dad will probably want to stay home for! Backpacking around Europe is one of the best ways that young adults can learn about the history and the arts. They’ll also be exposed to incredibly diverse cultures within a relatively small space of land. If you don’t believe us, just ask what feels like every dignitary in European and American history who did their own little swing through Old World destinations like Paris, Geneva, Florence, and Venice as part of a Grand Tour.

Europe is always an easy continent to spread your travel wings thanks to the high level of infrastructure development and fantastic public transport which makes it easy to get around. This, combined with a massive network of hostels in seemingly every mid to large size city on the continent and a high level of English being spoken, particularly in Northern Europe, also makes it easy for travelers to make other friends. If that isn’t enough to make you want to pack your bags, most destinations in Europe are also very safe, especially when compared to major cities across the United States. 

One of the best countries for first-time backpackers to explore include Spain thanks to its low cost of living in relation to countries like Germany and France and the incredible variety of things to see. At one point, Spain was invaded by the Moors of North Africa so southern parts of the country have a distinct feel to them. The northern part of the country has oodles of UNESCO World Heritage sites, museums, and vibrant cities. As a bonus, this could be a great option for someone who wants to put their newly-gained Spanish skills to the test. Other great options include Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and, of course, Italy!

3. Go wild on an African Safari .

Africa is home to some of the world’s most spectacular wildlife. Although it’s possible to see many of these animals in zoos, nothing compares to seeing them out in the wild. It is a deeply humbling and breathtaking experience that everyone should have before they die. 

For many people, an African safari is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Why not take your recent grad for this magnificent experience when they are young? Give them the chance to see the animals that they only learned about at school or on fleeting trips to the zoo. Show them how to truly appreciate the beauty of nature’s diversity and realize just how insignificant our day-to-day problems are.

Some of the most popular locations to go on a safari include Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, and South Africa. Despite having a few problems like many other countries, all of these countries are relatively stable with developed infrastructure that makes it easy to get between urban areas.  They also have several established and trustworthy tour operators that know exactly how to give the perfect safari experience.

4. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu .

Although the ancient fortress of Machu Picchu has existed for nearly 600 years, it has only exploded onto the tourist scene within the last few decades. For something that was once hidden away high up in the mountains, it certainly feels like you can see images of it everywhere now!

Although it is crawling with tourists most of the year, there is still something magical and awe-inspiring about Machu Picchu. And there is no better way of seeing it than by walking there! Walking to Machu Picchu via the famous Inca Trail or the not-quite-as-famous Salkantay Trail takes you through some of Peru’s most beautiful landscapes as you climb high into the Andes Mountains. Hiking trips normally last four to five days with the final day being to reach the ruins of Machu Picchu well before the tourist crowds get there. 

Although the hike to Machu Picchu is considered challenging, most people with a decent fitness level should be able to finish it. It’s important to arrive in Cusco at least a few days before the hike begins, though, to give yourself plenty of time to get acclimated to the high elevation. Otherwise, you will feel like you’re hiking with an elephant sitting on your chest for the first few days!

5. Go on an Eco-Trip through Central America .

One of the best ways to experience the incredible biodiversity around us is to go out and explore it firsthand! An eco-trip through Central America can take you through the cloud forests of Costa Rica, up the volcanoes of Guatemala, or to the island paradise of Ometepe. Costa Rica has long been the poster child of Central America. However, other countries in the region like Guatemala and Nicaragua have really cleaned up their act so to speak and the number of visitors continues to grow!

When visiting Central America, you can either choose to spend all or the vast majority of your time in one particular country. Alternatively, if you are feeling adventurous, you can overland travel through the region, taking local buses from place to place. The unfortunately named “chicken buses” of Central America can take you to most parts of the region and are often converted American school buses that were once used to take kids to elementary school. It is a tight fit for anyone taller than 5’0 tall but getting there is just part of the fun, right?

If it is your first time visiting the region, Costa Rica is by far the best place to start. This relatively small country is blessed with spectacular nature including pristine cloud forests, belching volcanoes, a lovely coastline, and charming cities. English is also widely spoken. Although it is much more expensive than other countries in Central America, it is one of the safest. 

When you’re looking for something a bit more challenging, Nicaragua and Guatemala are overflowing with fantastic destinations. In Nicaragua, you can hike up a volcano or go bike riding around the beautiful island of Ometepe, go volcano boarding (yes, volcano boarding) in Leon, or simply immerse yourself in the lively colonial cities. In Guatemala, you can hike up a volcano (are you seeing a pattern yet?), visit unique tribes, hang out at Lake Atitlan which is surrounded by hippy-friendly villages, or stroll along the cobblestone streets of Antigua. It’s truly one of the best graduation trip ideas out there!

6. Cruise to Antarctica . 

A cruise to Antarctica is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This stunning continent is like no other place on the planet. Being surrounded by an endless sea of icebergs, frolicking seals, waddling penguins, and whales gliding by is an experience that you aren’t likely to forget anytime soon!

Virtually all cruises to Antarctica leave from the city of Ushuaia, tucked at the very bottom of Patagonia in Argentina. This lively port city is a great place to spend a few days recovering from the long flight before boarding your epic cruise.  

Most cruises last around 10-14 days including four days spent crossing the Drake Passage. From there, they will often cross the Antarctic circle before setting foot on “dry” land. It is a fantastic adventure, and although the trips can be painfully expensive, it’s worth every penny.

Travel tip: If you’re considering surprising your recent graduate with a cruise to Antarctica but are shocked by the hefty price tag, try booking at the very last minute. You can score some amazing deals which make the price a bit more bearable. Back in 2016, I was able to book a 14-day cruise a week in advance for $7,000. The original price was close to $20,000 which I would have never been able to afford. I had to book one of the first flights I could get out of New York City to get down there in time but it was definitely worth the money and the stress!

7. Island hop in the Galapagos .

The Galapagos Islands are famous for being one of the most ecologically diverse places in the world. This is where Charles Darwin did much of his research. More than a century later, the region is still enthralling scientists and tourists alike.

The Galapagos are well-known for being an expensive destination to visit as many visitors explore the islands via cruise ship. These cruises go to many of the islands that make are off-limits to island-hoppers but they do come with a high price tag attached.

However, there is a budget-friendly alternative—island hopping! Although you can do much about the hefty airfares to get there, you can easily DIY your own Galapagos trip that could save you thousands of dollars. To do this, you simply need to get to the Galapagos, book your accommodation, and grab a spot on one of the many adventure trips like snorkeling or kayaking. 

There are frequent ferries connecting the main inhabited islands which makes it easy to get from one island to another and there are many different accommodation options ranging from hostels to hotels. Although Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as its de facto currency, things are still relatively inexpensive. You may be surprised at how budget-friendly a bucket list destination like the Galapagos can be!

8. Say hello to Mickey Mouse at Walt Disney World .

While Disney is one of the most popular destinations in the world to take youngsters to, this doesn’t exclude the young at heart! In fact, it may be just the thing that your high school grad needs to put a little magic in their life before heading off to college. And, to be honest, it may just be the last time your kid is willing to go there with mom and dad for a while!

A trip to Disney can serve as a symbol of moving on to the next stage of life. Of saying “goodbye” to childhood and taking the first tentative steps toward adulthood. It can also serve as an important reminder that no matter where you look, you can always find something magical around you!

If you are thinking of taking a family trip to Disney World in Florida or Disneyland in California, we highly recommend waiting until the fall when school is back in session. This will hopefully ensure slightly shorter lines and lower temperatures that can help make a trip to the Magic Kingdom much more pleasant. Alternatively, if you really want to go all out on this trip, you could even consider heading to Disneyland Paris, Shanghai, Hong Kong, or Tokyo. As crazy as it sounds, when you add up all the expenses associated with a trip (airfare, accommodation, food, rental cars, entry fees, etc.) you may find that you can fly from New York City to Paris, check out Disneyland, the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower for the same price that you can fly to Orlando or Los Angeles!

9. Explore the interior of Mexico .

Thanks to horror stories of spring break craziness, many parents may shudder at the idea of sending their kids to Mexico. However, our spectacular southern neighbor has some amazing things to offer visitors once they leave the tourist trifecta of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. With charming colonial towns, cosmopolitan cities, and ancient ruins left behind by the Aztecs and Mayans, Mexico has such a diverse array of attractions, there truly is something for everyone. Oh, and did we mention the mouthwatering food and friendly people?  

Travel tip:  Unfortunately, Mexico has a reputation for being unsafe. After traveling alone as a solo female there for a year, I felt much safer there than in many parts of the United States. Much of the crime is caused due to the drug trade and prostitution, It’s very important not to get involved in any criminal activity while you are there.

10. Take a step back in time in Italy or Greece . 

Ancient Rome and Ancient Athens are two of the historical periods that nearly all students study at some point. These two countries both make for great graduation trip ideas! These two empires shaped the world that we live in in a myriad of ways. From the governments we live under to the roads that we walk on, going to see the ancient ruins of Rome or Athens can be a bit like going to see our great, great, great, great, great grandparents. 

These popular vacation destinations are at the top of many history buffs’ wishlists. So why not cultivate your young son or daughter’s interest in it as part of a graduation vacation?

A trip to either of these destinations can include heaps of ancient ruins, beautiful beaches, bustling cities full of fascinating museums, and an incredible selection of food on offer. The good thing about going with your graduate is that you can help guide them through what is likely to be one of their first trips to Europe. This experience may help spark an interest in studying abroad which can help their resume stand out a bit when they are applying for their first jobs or even for grad school. Even better, this could make them intrigued by the idea of doing their full undergraduate or graduate degree in Europe which can help save tons of money (higher education in many parts of Europe is completely free!).

11. Discover Hawaii .

Way back in the early 2000s, I was looking at where I wanted to go for a graduation trip. Some of my friends were going to Cancun but I begged my mom to take me to Hawaii. To me, the thought of spending my days snorkeling off of white sand beaches, hiking to waterfalls hidden in rainforests, and watching colorful sunsets seemed like a great way to say goodbye to my small town in Ohio and hello to the world. Luckily, the experience definitely did not disappoint. I have been lucky enough to go back in the decades since!

For many visitors, their Hawaiian vacation starts on the island of Oahu, home of the state capital of Honolulu , Diamond Head State Monument, and the haunting memorial of Pearl Harbor. It’s a great place to learn more about the history of the islands and the relatively sad story of how these far-flung islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean became part of the United States. 

From there, you can head to Maui and relax on one of the many beaches or go to the Big Island where you can explore Hawaii’s wild side on one of the many hiking trails located on the island. 

Travel tip:  Hawaii can be very, very expensive in terms of not only accommodation but also food. It is a wise idea to book a vacation rental that has its own kitchen so you don’t have to waste money eating out at restaurants for every meal. 

12. Explore Puerto Rico .

If you would love to give your graduate a taste of Latin culture but don’t have time to get a passport, the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico may be an excellent choice for a senior trip! Puerto Rico is famous for its beautiful beaches and stunning landscapes and is just a hop, skip, and a jump from the continental U.S.!

Old San Juan is a fabulous place to start your trip to Puerto Rico. Established in 1521, the colonial section of the city embodies the Old World. Here, you can find cobblestone streets, colorful houses, and explore centuries-old forts. Old San Juan also provides a great base to take day trips to nearby beaches of Culebra or Viequest or to the El Yunque Rainforest, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System. 

During your visit, don’t forget to check out the Old San Juan Let’s Roam Scavenger Hunt . This fun-filled hunt will take you past some of the best attractions in San Juan as you complete wacky challenges along the way. Not only will you learn a lot about this Spanish colonial city but you will have a great time doing it!

13. Take a bite of the Big Apple .

Long before Carrie Bradshaw graced our TV screens with her fancy wardrobe and eclectic group of friends, many young people from across the United States were dreaming of going to the Big Apple (myself included!). New York City seems to epitomize everything that made America powerful during the 20th century—money, architecture, innovation, and the arts. All of these things are still very much alive and kicking in the Big Apple.

If you want to introduce your recent grad to all of the different sides of New York City, what better way to do it than a week-long stay in Manhattan or Brooklyn? These two boroughs are crammed full of all of the iconic buildings, museums, parks, cafes, restaurants, and bars that have made NYC the perfect backdrop for tons of movies and TV shows. While you’re there, you can see the treasure trove of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, catch a Broadway show featuring an A-list celebrity, take a ride up to the top of the world-famous Empire State Building, and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

NYC is an expensive place to visit with the hotels often offering tear-worthy prices. However, the great thing about the city is that you can easily hit up many free attractions in one day thanks to how compact and well-connected nearly everything is. Best of all, you can travel the city far and wide simply for the price of a metro card. 

Travel tip:  Many people are concerned about safety in New York City, but you don’t need to be. While it’s important to follow the same standard safety precautions that you would when you are at home, New York City is actually statistically one of the safest big cities in the entire United States!

14. Ride the rails in Alaska .

Alaska is famous for many things. It is the biggest state in the United States, lays claim to the country’s tallest mountain, is home to more than 100 volcanoes, and has more coastline than the rest of the U.S. combined. However, what some people don’t realize is that the state is also crisscrossed by a developed railroad network. The Alaska Railroad stretches 470 miles from Seward to Fairbanks with stops in places like Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali National Park, and more.  

The Alaska Railroad is a great option for anyone who wants to see the beauty of southcentral and interior Alaska without having to drive the whole route themselves. You can either book a sightseeing day tour or a multi-day ticket that allows you to hop on and off, spending the nights in lodges and the days hiking or kayaking along the way. 

If that isn’t enough for you, you can also hop aboard the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad that runs from Skagway to Fraser, B.C. This historic train was established in 1891 during the Klondike Gold Rush and today serves as a tourist train taking visitors into Alaska’s rugged terrain. Like the Alaska Railroad, the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad gives you the chance to hop on and off if you want to take advantage of the hiking or camping opportunities nearby. 

Ready to roam with these great graduation trip ideas?

We hope that this list of great vacation ideas has made your travel planning just a bit easier!  As always, we would love to hear your feedback and please let us know if there are any other great ideas that we may have missed!

If you would like to learn more about any of these destinations when you are planning your next family vacation or friends’ getaway, make sure to head over to the Let’s Roam Explorer blog where you can find hundreds of travel guides, must-see lists, and blog articles. For additional advice on particular attractions, restaurants, and more, make sure to download the Let’s Roam app . Not only will you gain access to all of our fun-filled scavenger hunts, but you can also get travel tips and other useful information contributed by our users!

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re looking for a great grad trip idea , why not consider backpacking through Europe or exploring the interior of Mexico? Check out the Let’s Roam Explorer blog to learn more.

Family trips to celebrate a recent graduation are a great way to spend time together. From hiking in national parks to enjoying the magic of Disneyland , there are plenty of great family-friendly ideas.

If you and your friends and family want to hit the road , the best place to start is the American southwest where you have wide open spaces and plenty of great attractions.

Places like New York City , Puerto Rico , and Disneyland are all good options. Head over to the Let’s Roam Explorer blog to read more great trip ideas!

Backpacking is easy there, and you can visit some of the world’s biggest landmarks including the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, and the ancient ruins of Rome and Athens . Head over to the Let’s Roam app for more ideas.

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Best Graduation Trips

There is rarely a time in your life when you will feel more free than after you receive that diploma. Travel Channel editors recommend top places to travel post-graduation.

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Backpack Through Brazil

"Throw caution to the wind and live life with reckless abandon by backpacking through Brazil. Traverse the thick Amazon rain forest in Manaus, immerse yourself in the Afro-centric culture of Salvador, go nude sunbathing on Praia Mole in Florianopolis, witness the awe-inspiring beauty of Iguazu Falls, and stand at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain for panoramic views of Rio de Janeiro. Go — you’ll be glad you did — and prepare to get a lifetime of great memories." — Kwin Mosby, Managing Producer

Camp in Canadian Backcountry

"What better way to kick off your first step into the real world than by getting away from the hustle and bustle that you have come to call normal? There may be no better place to do that than the Canadian wilderness of Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. Spread out over nearly 3,000 square miles of pristine backcountry, Algonquin boasts more than 1,900 campsites set along the shores of more than 2,400 lakes, with plenty of different ways to enjoy them. Grab a canoe, a backpack and a few friends, and paddle off into a sunset-drenched backdrop of the open water and woods to jump-start your trip. After a few days of traveling through the natural highway of portages and lakes, you’ll be relaxed, refreshed and ready to take that next step." — Matthew Dewhurst, Producer

Live Out Your Own Euro-Trip

"First time across the pond — you don’t say! There’s not a better way to christen a newly minted passport than with a classic Europe trip. London is the perfect place to wet your whistle with a pint between checking off bucket-list attractions such as Big Ben and the Beatles’ Abbey Road. Then, ride the Eurail to your heart’s content. Hip hostels make traveling to stylish cities such as Paris, Barcelona or Prague possible even before you earn your first 'big kid' paycheck." — Sara Gilliam, Senior Producer

Party Vegas Style

"As four-plus years of studying comes to a close, celebrate with one last hurrah in Las Vegas! Be a high roller for the weekend and spend some graduation money on high-stakes gambling and bottle service. Enjoy the beginning of summer with crazy Vegas pool parties at the Venetian’s Tao Beach and Encore Beach Club ." — Michelle Tran, Ad Sales Producer

Cuddle a Koala on Magnetic Island

"Australia is a place on most people’s bucket lists, and it’s a fantastic destination to let go and have some fun after years of studying and exams. Make your way to Magnetic Island in the lower part of the Great Barrier Reef. Go snorkeling to see the colorful fish and coral, and take a free hike along the Forts Walk to catch the sunset while perched atop the historic World War II fortifications. Be sure to keep your eyes on the eucalyptus trees to spot koalas. If you don’t see any, go cuddle one at the Bungalow Bay Koala Village, which is also a backpackers' hostel." — Arthur Hsu, Video Project Manager

Island-Hop in Greece

"Enjoy beautiful beaches, island-hopping and a warm but cooler 77 degrees during the month of June — the perfect time to go, just before the rush of summer tourists. Charter a catamaran through Blue Lagoon Cruises, whose boats come equipped with swimming platforms, bars, trampolines and much more! Enjoy hidden bays and hot springs on and around the islands of Santorini and Mykonos." — Rani Robinson, Digital Director

Cruise the Caribbean

"Grab a few friends and book a cruise to the Caribbean . Even just a three- or four-night sailing is the perfect way to kick back, party till the wee hours, and see a few new places — all in one vacation. Not to mention it’s budget-friendly, with most meals and entertainment included. Try a four-night Western Caribbean itinerary on Carnival, leaving from Miami and sailing to Key West and Cozumel, Mexico. Or, if you have the time and money, spring for a seven-night Southern Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean, leaving from San Juan with stops in places such as Aruba, Barbados, St. Thomas, Antigua and St. Lucia." — Hannah Prince, Copy Editor

Chill Out in Newport Beach, California

"If you’re searching for a great domestic post-graduation destination that blends both relaxation and excitement, then Newport Beach, is the place for you. Post up on the expansive plots of sand with a good book or your headphones and relax in the sun, enjoying some of the country’s best weather. Looking for a thrill? Newport Beach also offers a wide variety of adventure and fun, from Jet Skiing and cruising the waves on a surf or boogie board to setting up your teammate for the perfect spike on one of the many public volleyball courts. And if you start to feel parched after a long day in the sun, stop by S harkeez — a Newport staple — for a cold cocktail." — Ben Breslerman, Producer

Celebrate in the City That Never Sleeps

"Not everyone can afford a trip around the world to celebrate graduating, but you can take a budget shortcut and visit NYC instead! While it's still not the cheapest city in America, in one weekend, you can take the N/R train down to Chinatown for tasty soup dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai , walk up to Little Italy for some authentic Chianti from Parm , and then hop the A/C to Koreatown for homemade Miss Korea kimchi and barbecue. Not to mention the dozens of first-class museums, such as the Met and the Frick, that are also just a subway ride away. You'll leave having experienced the best of more than a dozen cultures without ever needing your passport!" — Liz Fraser, Photo Editor

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post-graduation trip

5 Reasons Why You Should Plan a Post-Graduation Trip

on your post graduation celebratory trip

When you think about graduation, thoughts of the professional world are the next obvious stop, but that isn’t always the case anymore. Other less-traveled paths, such as gap years, are quickly becoming the norm after you’ve moved out of the dorms.

A post-graduation trip with some close friends can be the perfect way to say goodbye to your academic years. Here are five reasons why you should plan a post-graduation trip.

1. It’s Something to Look Forward To

You might have scheduled the easy classes for your final two semesters, but senior year will still include a bunch of to-do’s on top of all your academic responsibilities, like sending out graduation invitations to relatives and friends, ordering your cap and gown and applying for entry-level jobs .

Instead of stressing out about the great unknown once you exit the graduation stage, a post-graduation trip can be something exciting to look forward to. Planning a road trip to another state or even flying abroad will serve as the perfect graduation gift to yourself after years of studying and tests.

2. It Teaches You Invaluable Skills

While the trip itself will be a blast, a post-graduation adventure takes planning like any other holiday. But unlike those obligatory family vacations where your parents were the ones who planned the less-entertaining aspects like finances, a post-graduation trip will involve you and your friends having to assume that role and agree on a suitable budget that covers everything from airplane tickets to lodging, expenses for food and transportation.

Although it may not sound like fun, planning an excursion unsupervised by parents — and one that is likely to come out of your own pocket — will teach you valuable skills , like managing your own money and problem solving.

There are countless traveling sites like TripAdvisor and Airbnb that will help you find affordable hotels, restaurants and sites to visit, which can help minimize the cost. In addition, companies know that plenty of students fresh from graduation plan trips, which is why many of them offer discounts for people under 30. Traveling while young does have its advantages!

3. It’s an Interlude Before a New Life Stage

Graduation means you’re forever freed from the burdens of costly academic textbooks and classroom lectures (unless you’re planning on going to grad school), so there’s no better opportunity to travel than right after you snatch your diploma. At what other time in your life are you going to be as physically able and enthusiastic to see the world around you?

You can always plan a trip later on in life after you’ve found someone to hire you, but other responsibilities like paying a house mortgage and taking care of kids might sway you from ever taking that adventurous leap into the world.

A trip right after graduation will also help you transition into the work world, and it will look impressive on any resume . Potential employers will be pleased to discover a candidate that has gained life experience outside the college bubble. It shows your drive to take control of your life during a time when those around you expect you to find a job as soon as you graduate.

If you’re planning on traveling abroad, that’s even better, because it will provide you with an even greater chance to experience vibrant cultures that will enrich your journey and leave you a well-rounded individual.

Jobs will be available no matter where you are in life, but you never know when you and your friends will all be together again, which is one of the reasons why a post-graduation trip only comes around once!

4. It Helps You Discover Yourself

Junior year is the time when family, friends and acquaintances start asking you about your plans after college, and if it isn’t, then senior year is bound to make up for it with lots of awkward conversations about a topic that most students dread verbalizing into reality. College students are often expected to figure out exactly what they want to do in life when the truth is that it’s unrealistic to know everything at such a young age.

A post-graduation trip to an unfamiliar destination away from your campus and home life can literally provide a breath of fresh air, whether it’s at an exotic location or simply somewhere you’ve never traveled to before. It pushes you out of your comfort zone, and for that reason, you’ll end up meeting new people with different life experiences, explore the distinct culture of a new city and try out new things you might never have thought of otherwise. All the little details that add up to a fulfilling trip might end up inspiring you toward a new direction in your life.

5. It Will Become a Treasured Memory

Post-graduation trips entail more maturity than previous vacations because of the life stage they take place in, a sensitive era when many 20-somethings are on their own for the first time and can no longer rely on parental finances.

However, that frightening independence also separates a post-graduation trip from your past family vacations, or that crazy trip you took one time on spring break with friends. A trip deliberately planned after graduation means taking that first adult step after college and claiming full responsibility for the choices you make in life.

Grab a friend or two and travel together after you’ve thrown your college cap in the air, because you might regret not doing so later on in life. More than anything, you’ll look back on a precious memory that you chose to make happen when you could have just as easily left the idea unrealized. So far, I haven’t heard anyone say they’ve regretted traveling!

Maya Butler, Baylor University

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Exciting Destinations for a Graduation Trip

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You just graduated? Congratulations! And now like any other happy graduate, you want to celebrate this huge milestone, and what could be a better way than going on a graduation trip? Traveling is the most memorable way to celebrate, especially when you choose a destination that you have always desired. It helps you reflect on your accomplishments and create fun moments with your friends or family. We have outlined several exciting destinations for a graduation trip to help you decide which fits you best.

School life is taxing. You have to attend long classes, complete endless assignments, and study and do tough exams. Sometimes, one doesn’t even have adequate spare time for relaxing and has to delegate some of the schoolwork to a research paper service to catch a breather. If you want a place to properly unwind after graduation, Hawaii fits the bill. This destination is a stunning archipelago that comprises eight main islands. Each island boasts of unique characteristics.

Moreover, you can snorkel and dive in pristine waters. If you like snorkeling or diving, you will find paradise in these waters. The marine life found in the coral reefs of the island is abundant and includes colorful coral, sea turtles, and tropical fish. Off the coast of Oahu, snorkelers can explore the famous Hanauma Bay, a marine sanctuary.

What’s more, Hawaii’s lush rainforests and volcanic landscapes offer a paradise for hikers. So, if you are a hiker or have desired to hike, this would be your perfect destination. It has hiking trails that range from easy to multi-day treks.

New Zealand

There are a lot of unusual and magnificent landscapes in New Zealand. This nation offers countless opportunities for exploration, from the untamed Fiordland National Park to the geothermal wonders of Rotorua. There are many other thrilling activities you can do in New Zealand. If you are fearless, bungee jumping and skydiving are a must-try. If you are an adventure seeker, you can hike the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing, go white water rafting on the Kaituna River, or explore the stunning Milford Sound by boat or kayak. And for more leisure, enjoy a relaxing soak or scenic flight in one of the many hot springs.

The destination is famous for its biodiversity. Since the country has a mixed climate and a broad-range of landscapes of rainforests, cloud forests, and dry forests, it is home to many animals and plants. It has great national parks and wildlife reserves. Thus, if you are fond of nature, you will have a great time in Costa Rica.

Another thrilling activity that will provide amazing views is zip lining through the dense canopy. Alternatively, you can head into the jungle and take off on an incredible whitewater rafting trip down one of the rivers.

Exploring the coasts of Costa Rica is something that one should not miss when there. The Pacific coast harbors beautiful beaches like Tacó, Tamarindo, and Manuel Antonio. All these beaches have a vast array of fun activities that one can engage in, such as snorkeling, surfing, kayaking, and even jet skiing. These activities are just the best way to let go of the stress that college students go through with their writing assignments that, at times, may prompt one to think, “I need to buy an essay to get this paper done.”

Thailand is such an interesting country to visit. It has many temples, and Bangkok houses some of the most famous, such as Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Arun. These are beautiful structures that have magnificent and ornate decorations. The former capital, Ayutthaya, also harbors some of the ancient ruins that are interesting to those who are fond of historical architecture and monuments.

Numerous festivals are held in Thailand as well. These vibrant festivities pay tribute to special occasions and usually include parades, street food, and live music. Thus, if you want to add some flair to your graduation by experiencing a different culture, consider celebrating in Thailand.

Another experience you wouldn’t want to miss is the floating markets. They are famous attractions that give a view of the country’s trading history. Some of the vendors sell flowers, fruits, and other local artifacts, while other locals take visitors for a boat ride around the waterways.

African Safari Destinations

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Amazing national parks, game reserves, and wildlife sanctuaries await you during your safari exploration of Africa. Among the must-visit places are Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, South Africa’s Kruger National Park, and Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve. These are well-known sites that offer a great experience for game viewing and stunning scenery. Besides, you can experience the thrill of riding in a hot air balloon. To make it even more exciting, you will get to see wildlife during a soothing sunrise. Additionally, you will be able to interact with the locals and learn about their culture.

The great migration is something else you can witness while in Africa. For many years, wildebeests, zebras, and gazelles have traversed the African plains in search of greener pastures. Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania are prime locations to witness this beautiful migration. As the herds move in an endless flow, you will be treated to a series of sights, sounds, and scents. Moreover, witnessing predators stalk their prey in the middle of the great migration is an unforgettable adventure. However, for you to enjoy this great migration, you should visit between July and October.

A stylish way to mark the end of your studies is with a graduation trip. It is crucial to plan ahead and begin budgeting well in advance to ensure a wonderful trip. Making early plans also gives you ample time to research potential destinations, evaluate them, and reserve accommodation and other requirements in good time. You will also be able to determine how long your trip will be and plan the activities to do.

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The Graduate School is excited to celebrate the achievements of your friends and loved ones at commencement!

Summer 2024 commencement

Saturday, August 10, 2024, 2:30 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center

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General parking will be available in Stadium West and Jordan East. Guests should enter Gates A, B, or C. Degree candidates should enter Gate B, Portal 15. There is no fee for parking.

ADA Parking : Parking for guests with disabilities is available. Parking attendants will be on duty to guide guests to the appropriate areas. The driver may drop the passenger off at the Founders Lounge entrance and then park the vehicle. A valid, state-issued ADA placard or license plate is required for ADA parking, and there is no fee for parking. For an ADA access map of campus, visit the ADA Access Interactive Map . Parking in these lots is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

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Those attending the ceremony will walk across the stage platform while their name is announced by a professional nomenclator, and their digital slide is shown. All graduating students, regardless of attendance at the ceremony, will have a digital slide available (with audio of a professional nomenclator announcing the graduate's name) for viewing on the commencement livestream . Those not in attendance will not have their name announced and their slide will not be displayed during the ceremony.

There is no limit on the number of guests, and guest tickets are not required.

You will be able to view the ceremony on the commencement livestream.

Bryce Jordan Center Parking

To manage the significant congestion expected around the Bryce Jordan Center, Pegula Ice Arena, Medlar Field, Beaver Stadium, and University Drive during spring commencement weekend, drivers will be directed to the appropriate lot by University Police and event parking staff based on the traffic and parking conditions at the time of their arrival. Please use caution while traveling through this area of campus and allow extra time to reach your destination.

General parking for Penn State spring commencement ceremonies being held at the Bryce Jordan Center will be available at one or more of the following parking areas, as directed by University Police and event parking staff:

  • Jordan East – located east of the Bryce Jordan Center, and accessible from Porter Road (via Park Avenue or College Avenue) and Dauer Drive (via University Drive)
  • Stadium West – located west of Beaver Stadium, and accessible only from Park Avenue
  • Porter North – located north of Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, and accessible from Porter Road (via Park Avenue or College Avenue)

ADA parking will be available at the following Jordan East and Stadium West areas:

  • Northwest corner of Jordan East near Bryce Jordan Center Gate B, across from the Penn State All-Sports Museum (accessible from Porter Road)
  • Section of Lot Orange L located between the Bryce Jordan Center and Jordan East (accessible from Dauer Drive via University Drive)
  • Southwest corner of Stadium West near University Drive/Curtin Road intersection (accessible only from Park Avenue)

To ensure the safety of all guests and to assist with traffic flow between each ceremony, drivers are discouraged from dropping off or picking up guests outside of the designated ADA parking areas. These areas are ADA accessible and located just a short distance from entrances to the Bryce Jordan Center. Curtin Road will also be closed to vehicle traffic between University Drive and the entrance to Jordan East throughout most of the commencement ceremonies to allow safe pedestrian access between Stadium West and the Bryce Jordan Center.

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5 Places to Scratch Your Itch for Stargazing

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When the weight of earthly troubles creates stress, many escape to the stars.

Aerial shot of Chamberlin Observatory

 If you’re a fan of stargazing, Colorado offers numerous opportunities to explore the cosmos while keeping your feet planted firmly on Earth.

For this edition of DU Field Notes, we boldly go where—well, quite a few people have gone before—and look at five locations that offer a clear look into the endless void of space.

Chamberlin Observatory

We know, we know. This appears like a little bit of shameless self-promotion. But, dear reader, hear us out. There are exceedingly few places to see the stars in Denver without taking a trip either west into the mountains or east onto the plains. Light pollution is absolutely bonkers in metro Denver, coming in at 2.7 times brighter than the global urban average, according to data released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That’s ninth globally and another instance of Denver being ranked ahead of Miami (go Nuggets, boo light pollution).

Located just a few blocks east of campus at Observatory Park, the Chamberlin Observatory boasts a 20-inch refracting telescope that’s maintained by DU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. It’s been open for more than 120 years and regularly hosts open houses and public nights. Registration is required to attend and can be done online at the Denver Astronomical Society website . The Chamberlin Observatory also has a Twitter account with additional information and regularly shares updates from astronomers across the country.

Bonus entry: The Kennedy Mountain Campus also allows DU community members to see stars that might not be visible from the urban campus.

Jackson Lake at Dusk

Jackson Lake State Park

Just north of Fort Morgan, this stargazing spot requires a 90-minute drive east on Interstate 76. Still, the trip is worth it for the lack of light pollution alone. In 2020, it became the first Colorado State Park to earn the International Dark Skies Park designation, making it one of the best places near Denver to view the stars. Open between May and September as a popular boating destination, once the hubbub of the day clears out, it’s a paradise for those gazing into the infinite depths of the cosmos. More the 240 campsites and a spacious, sandy marina offer numerous areas to post up with a telescope.

Garden of the Gods at sunset

Garden of the Gods

Head south to Colorado Springs and you’ll find one of the state’s premier national natural landmarks. But instead of the dramatic geology and excellent hiking you’ll find throughout the day, at night it’s a stargazer’s dream. Even with light pollution from the nearby city, the landmark is regularly featured in long-exposure photographs of constellations behind the signature jutting rocks.

The Colorado Springs Astronomical Society regularly hosts free and open “star parties,” with multiple telescopes pointed at different celestial bodies. A full schedule of events is available at the website for the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center .

Sand Dunes with mountains in the background

Great Sand Dunes National Park

If you’re a fan of “Star Wars” or “Dune,” you can bring a little piece of sci-fi to your stargazing activities by visiting Great Sand Dunes National Park. While you can’t travel to Tatooine or Arrakis, the unique, desert-like surroundings will add some flair to your interstellar exploration. Between the dry air, high elevation and dark skies, it’s one of the best places in Colorado to view the Milky Way and capture it in photos. Just be careful to avoid mountain lions and black bears, and don’t forget to wear warm clothes to combat the cool nighttime temperatures.

Grand Mesa in autumn

Grand Mesa Observatory

One of Colorado’s hidden gems for stargazers, the Grand Mesa Observatory on the Western Slope has a couple unique offerings. Similar to the Great Sand Dunes, Grand Mesa is dark, dry and at a high elevation. It’s one of the few places in Colorado that offers private rentals of high-end stargazing equipment to capture images and data at your leisure.

If you don’t want to make the trip yourself, the observatory offers subscription services where a professional will snap images and data at your direction.

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