College Graduation Trip Ideas

College Graduation Trip Ideas

Graduation is right around the corner, and your student may be dreaming about taking a trip to celebrate. 

The time between graduation and the start of that first “real job” or graduate school is ideal for traveling, and a trip can be an opportunity for personal growth as well as a reward for years of hard work in college. Amelia, 2018 graduate at Bridgewater State, used her family’s flight points to help pay for airfare and her graduation gift money to finance a trip to Europe. Amelia said, “I learned more about myself in 18 days alone in foreign countries than I did in four years of undergrad!”

Your student may have been dreaming and saving for a while, or perhaps you’ll surprise them with plane tickets, gas money or the whole trip. Whatever your approach, we have tips and ideas to ignite some travel inspiration!

When is the best time to travel?

Graduation trips abroadThere’s a rumor buzzing around that booking a flight on Tuesday is less expensive. According to CheapAir.com’s 2019 airfare study, this is a myth; however, you can find better deals by traveling on certain days. An analysis of 917 million airfares in more than 8,000 markets revealed that Tuesday is the cheapest day to travel — on average your ticket will be $85 less than the most expensive day of the week, Sunday.

Summer is a popular season to travel and you will find more expensive flights on peak summer dates ranging from June 15 to August 15. CheapAir’s study suggests that the closer you get to late August and September, the better chance you have of booking more affordable airfare.

Graduation trip ideas in the United States

The United States is packed full of gems for your soon-to-be graduate to explore: historical monuments, national parks, miraculous waterfalls, incredible architecture and much more. If your student isn’t sure where they want to go yet, we’ve researched popular destinations and polled recent college graduates on some of their favorite places.

FOR THE ADVENTUROUS SPIRIT

How about a road trip to visit a couple of America’s national parks? Summer is high tourist season, so your grad should be sure to book their camping spots or make lodging reservations in advance. If they take a trip out west, suggest these national parks. 

  • Yellowstone National Park sprawls across parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho and is known for its wildlife and amazing geothermal features. Rough Guides has tips for how to avoid the summer crowds.
  • The Grand Canyon located in Arizona is 277 miles long, about 18 miles wide, and up to one mile deep. It is an absolutely breathtaking experience. It’s pretty hot in the summer, but might be a perfect destination if your grad will plan an autumn trip.
  • Yosemite, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, encompasses some of the finest hiking and climbing in America. Your grad will want to check out iconic Half Dome (watch the Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo first!) as well as Yosemite’s tallest waterfall, Bridalveil Fall.
  • Take a trip to Glacier National Park and hike any part of the 700 miles of trails in Northwestern Montana.
  • Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is a remarkable place to adventure with gorgeous terrain featuring mountains, lakes, rivers and forests as well as diverse wildlife.

Useful tool: Download the AllTrails app. It’s free and hosts over 60,000 trails for hiking, trail running and biking. It is extremely user-friendly and makes navigating in a foreign place simple. Users can filter length, rating and difficulty level for a custom experience when embarking on their adventure.

DISCOVER A NEW CITY
  • New York — “the Big Apple” — is an urban experience like none other, full of bustling city lovers, lively nightlife, incredible architecture, world-class art museums and of course Broadway. Your grad won’t want to miss the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Ellis Island; here’s a fun blog to share with them so they can also be sure to discover the “real” Manhattan off the beaten path.
  • If your student has never visited our nation’s capital (especially if they majored in poli sci or government!), now is the time for a visit to Washington, D.C. Many attractions are within walking distance of each other: the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, free Smithsonian museums and more. The can rent a bike or kick back on a double-decker tour bus.Graduation trip to San Fransisco
  • California is everyone’s dream destination. With Los Angeles as a home base, they can enjoy beaches, nightlife, art museums and Hollywood; San Francisco offers trolley cars, the famous Golden Gate Bridge, Ghirardelli Square (chocolate!), more beaches and is also close to California’s famously beautiful wine country region. 
  • Boston, Massachusetts bustles with young, working professionals and will be sure to delight your grad. Popular activities include the Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall, Fenway Park (home of the World Champion Red Sox — be ready to sing “Sweet Caroline”!), the Boston Aquarium, guided Duck Tours — even whale watching! 
  • Austin, Texas — known as the “Live Music Capital of the World” — is a fun, vibrant place to visit for people in their early twenties.
  • Seattle, Washington is a coastal city with a hip young vibe and when the sun is out, the views of Mount Rainier and the Olympic Range are breathtaking. Also, every person should visit Seattle’s original farmers market, Pike Place,  at least once. 

Useful tool: The CityMappers app is an efficient way to get a bird’s eye view of all the routes one can take to get from point A to B in a busy city. It helps locate the fastest route by subway, train, ferry, taxi, car share, bike share or walking. 

SAND IN THEIR TOES

Maybe your graduate just wants to relax. Not a worry in the world if they look into these destinations!

  • Maui or Honolulu – Hawaii offers many options for beachy getaways and new cultural experiences, too. Aloha!
  • Diving, snorkeling, beaching, boating…there’s a ton to do in the Florida Keys located off the southern coast of Florida.
  • Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina. Visit the world’s tallest brick lighthouse!
  • Charleston, South Carolina is the oldest and largest city in the state. Rich with southern charm, beauty and culture, this beach town is a perfect vacation destination.
  • Laguna Beach in southern Orange County, California is a popular destination on the Pacific coast.

Graduation trips abroad

A chance to explore outside of the U.S. can be a life-changing. There are so many incredible places to choose from. Make sure your student does extensive research on where they plan to go and the sort of lifestyle they can afford while traveling. Cultures can vary greatly and expectations should be set ahead of time. Encourage them to think through topics such as language barriers, housing options, safety procedures, politics, etiquette and more.

Here are useful apps to help them on their journey.

  1. Whatsapp supplies secure, reliable messaging and free phone calls to help your student stay in touch with the family from anywhere in the world.
  2. Trail Wallet is a great app for travelers keeping a keen eye on their daily budget and expenses. (Only available on the iOS)Graduation trips abroad
  3. Airbnb is a great option for locating rentals of private homes and affordable rooms, providing a different experience than traditional hotels or hostels.
  4. XE currency, a currency converter app, is extremely helpful when traveling from one country to the next.
  5. TripLingo is a very useful tool for international travelers. It includes a voice translator that instantly helps you communicate in another language, a common phrase book to help with casual and formal speech, learning language tools, a safety feature, tip calculator and more.
STAYING ON BUDGET WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD

Unless your grade can find good hotel or Airbnb deals, hostels are great for travelers on a budget who don’t mind shared spaces. It is also a convenient way for your student to meet other young people from all around the globe and learn travel tips — and even make new friends to venture with! Many hostels post reviews online with insights into safety, cleanliness and price.

RailEurope and EUrail offer deals for students who want to country hop in Europe. If your student prefers to travel by plane, they can find inexpensive flights on Ryanair or EasyJet.

Meals can end up being a large expense, but travelers don’t always have to eat out! Although an authentic restaurant experience can be wonderful from time to time, your student should really take advantage of local food markets — less expensive than restaurants plus fun to visit from a cultural perspective.

Trust in your student

For many new college graduates, a trip is a rite of passage and a way to test their newfound independence and freedom. Parents are sometimes uncomfortable when their students embark on a journey that takes them farther away from home than they’ve ever been but it’s important to honor their choice if they can make it work financially and with their other responsibilities. Be sure to discuss safety measures and logistics with them, but also trust in your student to plan their trip and deal with the obstacles that may come up along the way.

Relish this moment in time. Remember college move-in day all those years ago? What a long way you’ve both come. Your grad’s journey could not have been possible without your love and encouragement from the start.

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Kelsey Gast

Kelsey is the Marketing Communications Associate at CollegiateParent. She attended Appalachian State University, from which she graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Communication, Advertising.

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