First, congratulations on graduation!
School is tough, but I hope the memories with your friends and the steps towards your dream career made the all nighters and student loans (🙃) worth it.
Second, YAAAAAAASSSS you’re thinking about traveling after graduation! Between my graduation trips and my travel trips as an official person in the Working World™, traveling after school has been the best time to travel.
Sure, you might be broke, but if you’re able to save up, you have less responsibilities. It can be easier to travel in that gap between graduating and starting a job– compared to when you’re working full time with basically no vacation time, all of the bills, and, like, weddings and funerals to go to instead.
Now, where should you go? Here are 16 great graduation trips to consider! I asked fellow travelers to share their best graduation trips or ideas and added some of my favorites as well!
Graduation trips for people who…
Want to do something epic
Australian road trip
“There’s only one thing better than a road trip and that’s a road trip in Australia. Hire a camper van and join thousands of other backpackers from all over the world as you set off on the adventure of a lifetime along Australia’s stunning East Coast. This epic journey makes an exhilarating first trip as a new grad.
Australia is a once-in-a-lifetime trip so you’re probably going to want to go all out and do it right so save plenty of money for all those amazing experiences! There are tonnes of bucket list activities to cross off like scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, sky diving over beaches and trekking through the world’s oldest rainforest in Tropical North Queensland. Sail through the Whitsunday islands on a liveaboard boat trip and drive on the beaches of the pristine Fraser Island. Cuddle koalas and feed kangaroos, just don’t get eaten by a croc!
Finish your hedonistic days by camping out under thousands of stars on remote beaches with plenty of new friends. Australia has amazing nature, cities, people, weather and atmosphere which makes it the perfect post-graduation let-your-hair-down trip.”
– By Rhianne from Wanderfully Living
Trans-Siberian train ride
“The Trans-Siberian train journey is a lifelong experience, perfect for recent graduates looking for something unique. It takes at least 7 days on board of train(s) to travel from Moscow to Vladivostok. Based on your budget and comfort level, you can opt for a cabin for 2 or 4 people, or travel in an open compartment and mingle more with the locals.
This trip is a digital detox – without internet or cell reception – while being onboard. It’s the perfect opportunity to bond with your friends and get to know others. Despite the language barrier (unless you speak Russian), you will still learn about the variety of people and their culture in Russia as many fellow passengers will be intrigued to know what brings you to this faraway corner of the world.
During the 10.000 km long journey the train slowly crosses the world’s largest country and you will explore incredible places on the way. A stop at Krasnoyarsk, Jekaterinburg, and Irkutsk at the shore of Lake Baikal are musts. You can also visit the border of Europe and Asia in the Ural mountains!
This over one-week long train trip will teach you patience, acceptance, and gives you the opportunity to explore unique off the beaten path destinations across Russia!”
– By Katalin from Our Life Our Travel
Teach English in South Korea
“Three years after graduation, I’m happy to say that moving to South Korea was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
The capital city of Seoul is one of the safest places I’ve ever visited, with a very low crime rate, a strong cultural identity, and lots of budget accommodation. Seoul has become a frequent weekend trip for me, living just 2 hours away in the countryside, and it has the perfect blend of Korean pop culture & traditional ways of living. It’s one of the easiest cities to navigate in terms of English translations and public transportation, but it’s not tame by any means. Seoul’s nightlife is legendary, with most clubs open until 8am, and an abundance of 24-hour restaurants. But apart from those pockets of youthful energy, there are also places you’d never expect to find in one of the world’s biggest cities: ancient Buddhist temples, animal-themed cafes, and a mountain range accessible by metro.
It’s the perfect place to make those first travel mistakes and challenge yourself away from home, whether you have a week or two, or even a few years.”
– By Max from Dame Cacao
Backpack in Europe
This is the quintessential graduation trip- so many recent grads spend a month backpacking Europe!
There’s an overwhelming amount of amazing historical sights to see, a ton of delicious food to eat, and so many wild clubs compared to the US. It’s easy and relatively cheap to get to other countries with a completely different culture, and many travelers you meet are also young people backpacking Europe with inspirational stories! But most importantly, you have so much freedom and are forced to start navigating on your own.
This is what I did after I graduated college. My best friend and I went to Paris, Vienna, Prague, Barcelona, and London, and loved every minute of it. Even my boyfriend and his cousin did a month in Europe when he graduated high school, visiting Spain, Switzerland, Italy, and Amsterdam. But, they had so many mishaps on their trip and say it would be better as a college graduation trip, and that relaxing island resorts would be better for high school grads :P.
However you do it, backpacking Europe is sure to leave you with some unforgettable memories and opportunities for growth.
Backpack in Southeast Asia
“Post-graduation is an interesting time, where your decisions shape the rest of your life. I did not have a job waiting for me when I graduated and after 5 years of university, I was not quite ready for one. In fact, I was not ready for any long term responsibilities.
Next thing you know, I had bought a one-way ticket to Asia setting Skyscanner’s destination to “Everywhere” from San Francisco. I decided on Hong Kong with no set return date. As a person who didn’t even make her own doctor’s appointments, I wanted to really learn to be self-sufficient. I wanted to go somewhere with no connections and rely on myself to book accommodations, try new foods, make new friends, and learn new cultures.
After my 6-month trip, I experienced many firsts that I never would have anticipated. From drinking cocktails on top of an old helipad overlooking the Kuala Lumpur skyline to getting my PADI scuba certification on a remote island in the China Sea, the memories from my trip made me much more secure in finding a job on my return. There is no better time to take a backpacking trip than after graduation!”
– By Courtney from Solo Traveler Diaries
Volunteer in Chile
“If you are thinking about taking a break or exploring the world after your graduation, I would suggest you go to Chile to teach English to native Spanish speaking students. When I went to Chile and taught English for 4 months to students of a government school on an island, I experienced things that I never thought could happen.
On one hand, there were children of 7-8th grade unable to speak “how are you” properly and unsure of how English could help them. While on the other hand students came running to my English class to play games in English and grab candies that I gave away as treats to encourage students to converse in English.
If you are a native or a near-native English speaker, you can apply to this volunteer program. Unlike many other volunteer programs, you don’t have to pay, and your food and stay are free. On top of it all, you get to stay with a Chilean family and learn Spanish.”
– By Priyanka from On My Canvas
Want to leave the country but are broke
“Hungary is a great destination for fresh graduates because of how budget friendly it is.
Budapest has it all. You can soak in beautiful spas like Gellért or Széchenyi, admire the cultural and historical buildings, and try Hungary’s world famous gastronomy. You have to try goulash.
If you have just graduated, the ruin pubs will probably appeal to you the most. They were rebuilt from the ruins of abandoned buildings, stores, or factories. The seating is often from flea market furniture. Each ruin bar has a different style and gives a very unique experience. You must try pálinka at the ruin pubs. It is a type of fruit brandy, distilled from a variety of fruits. It is a strong and intense alcoholic beverage!
As I said Budapest is very affordable, so you won’t need to worry about breaking the bank. But if you want a free activity that is a bit less known, you should go hiking. There are many great hiking trails in Hungary that you can reach by public transport as well.”
– By Eniko from Travel Hacker Girl
“Vietnam is the perfect destination for new grads to leap headfirst into new experiences. A post-graduation trip is no time to hunker down in old comfort zones, rather it’s a prime time to be openminded and flex your newfound independence!
Vietnam is a fast-paced country, full of exhilarating activities and nightlife its cities and world adventures in nature. There’s just enough tourist infrastructure to make travel here totally doable for English speakers. That said, it’s still going to be a huge (and fun) culture shock for just about everyone, regardless of where you’ve just graduated from.
Vietnam is officially a popular backpacker country, so adventurous young adults from all over the world are flocking here. Recent grads will therefor have the awesome opportunity to make lifelong friends they wouldn’t meet otherwise! Plus, they’ll get to do it among gorgeous mountain villages, historical cities, and some of the best beaches in the world.
Besides being super fun, the hostels in Vietnam are also super affordable. Actually, just about everything in Vietnam is affordable. This is another reason it’s an ideal travel spot for grads; you won’t feel guilty about those pesky student loans somewhere as thrifty as Vietnam.
Figuring out how to navigate a new country always builds confidence, especially when that country is totally different from anything you’ve experienced back home. A trip to Vietnam is an exciting, safe, and insanely fun destination to get your post grad life off to an unforgettable start!”
– By Kaisa from Glam Granola Travel
“Travel is the best thing that you can do following graduation. It’s the perfect introduction to the world outside of the little bubble you have been creating for the past 4 years. And where better to start than Thailand!
Thailand is famously cheap. Backpacker-style accommodation and street food make it possible to travel comfortably on 30 dollars per day. On top of that, the backpacker route is well-established. You’ll be able to easily navigate the country and feel comfortable exploring even the more remote areas of the country. It’s basically international travel for beginners.
But you won’t be missing out on the cultural experiences. Packed with wilderness treks, tiger temples, elephant sanctuaries, and Buddhist temples it’s practically impossible to not gain a better understanding of their traditions and lifestyle. Thailand opened my eyes to the beauty of other countries, not just physically, but culturally as well, and sparked what is sure to be a lifelong interest in travel.”
– By Geena from Bartender Abroad
For adventurous people who don’t have a ton of money to spend, exploring Ecuador’s mountains is the perfect graduation trip idea.
There are tons of hiking opportunities in the high altitude Andes mountains, and there are tons of adventure activities like ziplining, canyoning, and rafting in adventure towns like Banos. Everyone is really friendly, you can practice your Spanish, and the best part is, traveling the country is super cheap compared to other destinations- nice hostels can be as low as $9 and lunch specials are typically $2.50! Plus, they use the US dollar, so you won’t even need to convert your money!
Of course, if you do want to check out the Galapagos, those cruises are pricey, but it’s also a once in a lifetime opportunity that might not be around in the future!
Want to stay in the US
“Everyone wants to go to Hawaii at some point in their lives, so why not make it a celebration for graduation?
The island of Oahu has something for everyone. Want to hike to a secret waterfall? We’ve got a few of those! Rather relax on a stunning, sunny beach? We have dozens – if not hundreds – to choose from. Looking to spend your time shopping? We’ve got the world’s largest outdoor mall! Or perhaps you’re a foodie? We have a ton of unique fusion foods, including musubis, manapuas, and malasadas.
Oahu gives you the opportunity to do all of the activities you didn’t have the time to do over the past few years, because you were too busy studying, researching, or writing in order to receive your degree.
If you’re looking for a list of things to do on the stunning, adventure-filled island, here are 100 things to do on Oahu, Hawaii (according to a local).”
– By Sarah from Borders & Bucket Lists
Pacific Coast Highway
“A beautiful drive up California’s famous Pacific Coast Highway would make the perfect graduation trip. If you’re taking the drive, we recommend starting in San Francisco and heading south to San Diego. You’ll get better views of the ocean and coast!
There are way too many places to stop along the way, so be sure to pick a few of your favorite places and come up with a loose schedule. You could start at the Golden Gate Bridge then head down, passing through the museums in San Jose and the beaches of Santa Cruz, to the amazing cliffs of Big Sur for several great beach stops. From there, head on into Santa Monica area which is basically Los Angeles, and has tons to do and see with the pier and beaches. Then you can enjoy all the beaches on your way down to San Diego.
A drive up or down the coast will bring you to some beautiful sites, and fun places to visit- perfect for new grads!”
– By Sara from Our Kind of Crazy
Or just spend your time in San Diego! San Diego is the perfect graduation trip for anyone who likes surfing, snorkeling, hiking, day drinking, amazing food, and the sun. It just feels like where you should be for a vacation that balances staying active, taking it slow, and being surrounded by other college aged peoples as well. But you don’t have to believe me- this year, Forbes named San Diego as one of the 14 best places to travel in the world! For more ideas of epic and not touristy things to do in San Diego, check out my locally crafted bucket list.
If you haven’t been to Las Vegas yet, after you’ve finished school is the time to go. Of course, there’s all the casinos, clubs, and drinking, which make it such an obviously fun destination. But even if you’re not as into partying, there’s a ton to do. For foodies, so many top foodie destinations like Momofuku have locations here! For adventurous people, once you leave the city, there are a ton of awesome day trips you can go on- like the Grand Canyon and Arches National Park. For artsy people, there are all kinds of shows you can watch! And to do all of this while on a budget – check out this guide!
Want to celebrate
Travel with a loved one
“My daughter is graduating this year, and she has asked to go to Quebec City, Canada. It actually surprised me, because we have traveled Europe, Asia, and gone to tropical islands. I kind of expected her request to be more exotic. But she’s actually thought this through and really wants Quebec City because we are going to have a busy summer. She doesn’t want to spend all her time getting wherever we’re going, she wants to enjoy being there. She also requested Quebec City because she has studied French throughout high school and she wants to go somewhere she can really use the language.
I have already visited Quebec City on my own, eating through a few foodie stops. I told her how I had more people walk up to me and begin conversations in French with me there than I ever did in Paris. The people are friendly, welcoming, and perfectly happy to work with whatever amount of French you have to share – or switch to English if that works better for you. The historic center of Quebec City also feels completely like you are in an old French town. City walls and all. If you don’t feel like making the trek to Europe, but love the small European town feel, Quebec City is the place to go.”
– By Megan from Wandertoes
Cruises are the perfect way to celebrate something epic like graduating. Everything is taken care of you on a cruise- food, activities, and where to go, so you can just concentrate on having fun!
Whether you want more of a party cruise like going to the Bahamas or Cabo, or more of an adventurous cruise like an Alaska cruise, there’s a type of cruise for everyone.
My mom and I did this to celebrate getting my Masters, and after all the crazy computational research projects I did, this was definitely the perfect way to relax. Like you know those first few days on vacation when it feels like you should be doing homework and not having fun? Yeah, the cruise definitely made that feeling last for 5 minutes.
Where do you think you’ll travel to after graduation? Or do you just want to take a trip right now? Let me know in the comments!