After years of studying (and probably a little partying) the time has come to walk across the stage to receive your diploma. What’s next? Whether it’s a job or advanced studies, be sure to take advantage of some time off to explore this beautiful world. Sure, you could do the typical European or Southeast Asia backpack tour, but everyone does that. Be bold and strike out on the unique adventure that you deserve after all of your hard work. Here are 10 epic graduation trip ideas.
Go down under to Australia
Explore the land Down Under, aka Australia. Take an epic road trip à la The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Explore the Australian outback, where you can see natural wonders like Uluru (Ayers Rock) or Devils Marbles + visit Coober Pedy, the world’s opal mining capital. Marvel at the gorgeous parks in less-touristy western Australia. Visit a sheep farm or cattle ranch. See the Great Barrier Reef + visit eastern Australia’s hip beaches. Australia is huge and its landscape varies (beaches, rainforests, deserts + more), so there’s plenty to explore.
Hang loose in Costa Rica
Head to Costa Rica to learn how to surf and practice yoga. Check out Surf Diva, the first surf school for women, which operates surf camps in Nosara, Costa Rica
If your graduation trip lasts at least a few months, I recommend adding in time to volunteer with a local eco-friendly organization. Check out Volunteer Match to find a reliable organization to partner with.
Learn to cook in Italy
Learn to cook the most delicious food you’ll ever eat in the Tuscany region of Italy. I recommend Tuscookany or Tuscan Women Cook. Don’t forget to tack on extra time to explore the vineyards of Tuscany too.
Whether you’re preparing for a career in the culinary world or just looking to pick up a new skill, you, your friends, and your family’s stomachs will be eternally grateful.
Park hop across the US National Parks
Spend the summer on a good ol’ fashioned road trip across the US, visiting as many US National Parks as you can. In 2016, Jonathan Irish + Stefanie Payne spent a year road tripping across the US in an airstream trailer, visiting 59 national parks. Check out the Greatest American Road Trip for ideas on putting together a plan for your NPS road trip.
If you’re more into theme parks, dream up a worldwide tour of Disney theme parks: Disneyland Resort Paris > Disney World > Disneyland > Tokyo Disney Resort > Shanghai Disney Resort > Hong Kong Disneyland Resort. Bonus points if you are actually able to pull off visiting every park AND manage a stint at Aulani Resort or on a Disney Cruise.
Road trip it in a tuk tuk
You could road trip from coast to coast in the US or down either coast, but why not aim for something crazy unique? Grab your bestie and head to Sri Lanka or Cambodia with Large Minority.
Once there, you’ll head out on a week-long tuk tuk race where you and your friend must drive a tuk tuk to a new destination each day and complete fun challenges along the way. It’s guaranteed to be a trip you’ll never forget!
Safari time in Africa
Set off on a safari to admire gorgeous landscapes + observe animals in their natural habitat. Africa is the leading region for safari adventures, where travelers can visit a variety of landscapes from deserts to plains to rainforests, and more. Popular destinations in Africa for safaris include Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia.
Given that safari adventures are so popular in most African nations, there are an overwhelming amount of tour operators to choose from. One way to select a reputable operator is to see how they give back to the regions where they work.
Natural Habitat Adventures, for example, is 100% carbon neutral. They also are the official travel partner of the World Wildlife Fund, where the 2 work together on crafting sustainable itineraries, support conservation projects + more.
A sailing adventure is a great opportunity to UNPLUG and enjoy your time exploring the open waters. Don’t shy away from a sailing adventure if you don’t already know how to sail. Many popular tour operators offer sailing adventures that don’t need you to man your own sailboat. Here are a few ideas to get you pumped for a sailing adventure.
Set sail in the gorgeous waters between Greece and Turkey, making stops at some of Greece’s most gorgeous destinations, such as Mykonos and Santorini. Slowly make your way down the Amazon River, where you can also add a rainforest trek on to your itinerary. If you don’t mind cold weather, hop aboard a cruise ship headed for chilly Antarctica where you can peep icebergs and hang with penguins.
South American adventure
Head to South America to learn more about the mysterious moai of Easter Island, trek to new World Wonder Machu Picchu or explore the landscape of Galápagos Islands, where you can observe animals you can’t see anywhere else in the world.
If you’re feeling super ambitious, have a ton of time off and have an endless supply of cash money, I challenge you to head to pull off this insane bucket list itinerary: Quito, Ecuador > Galápagos Islands > Lima, Peru > Cuzco, Peru > Machu Picchu > Patagonia (Torres del Paine National Park, Glacier National Park) > Falkland Islands > Antarctica.
Trace Your Lineage
This is one of my favorite graduation trip ideas! To pull this one off, you might have to do a bit of research ahead of time to find out the where your ancestors came from if you don’t already know.
Consider taking an ancestral DNA test, such as the one from 23andMe, to get a general idea of where your ancestors are from. I thought I knew where all of my ancestors were from, but after taking the 23andMe test, I was surprised by the results!
If you have information that goes back to at least your great grandparents’ names, Ancestry.com can also be helpful in finding more specific information, such as which town they lived or even the exact address!
Walk Like an Egyptian
Explore modern + ancient Egypt on an organized tour. Explore the Pyramids of Giza, the only original 7 Wonders of the World that still stands today, along with the Sphinx of Giza. Marvel at the Abu Simbel temples of Pharoah Ramesses II and Queen Nefertiti. Get lost in the Valley of the Kings. Sail the Nile River on a felucca, a traditional Egyptian sailboat. Shop at Khan el-Khalili, a large souk in Cairo.
The opportunities for exploration in Egypt are vast. While highlights of Egypt can be seen in a week-long tour, the history and culture is so rich, that I recommend going only if you have a minimum of 2 weeks.
What are your graduation trip ideas?
More travel tips + vacation ideas