Congrats, grads! What better way to celebrate the accomplishment of graduating high school or college than giving the gift of travel? Whether you’re a parent looking to reward your grad in a special way or classmates looking to celebrate your achievement, taking a trip together is the stuff lifelong memories are made of. Graduation vacation destinations can be a bonding, educational, and just-plain-fun shared adventure. It’s also a great way to invest in your graduate’s future. Read on to see some of our best graduation trip ideas.
1. Experience a real-life paradise in Costa Rica
It’s been a long journey to that hard-earned degree. Now it’s time to rejuvenate your mind, soul, and body in an eco-friendly paradise. Yep, visiting Costa Rica is one of the best graduation trip ideas! You’ll feel adventurous while seeing wildlife in the jungle, relaxed while lounging in natural, volcano-fed hot springs, and inspired while meeting local farmers and wildlife conservationists—all on the same trip! From misty cloud forests and lush jungles to volcanic landscapes and sun-kissed beaches, there’s something for everyone in Costa Rica for your family to love.
Two experiences you'll enjoy celebrating with your grad:
- Go wildlife watching on a cruise through a tropical rainforest. You’ll get quite a rush spotting wildlife in Costa Rica’s lush jungles. None better than the spider, howler, and Capuchin monkeys you’ll see in the canopy of Tortuguero National Park as you cruise along rainforest canals.
- Learn how to salsa dance (no experience needed). If you can count, you can dance the salsa! Your group will take a salsa lesson from a local dance instructor after learning how to make a piña colada at an eco-friendly pineapple farm. Delight in an evening of stepping and spinning fun your family will smile about forever.
2. Tour Peru’s Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu
Embark on a journey of discovery as you and your family make your way from lively Lima, Peru’s capital city, to colonial Cuzco and on to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. As you travel on this small group Adventure Tour, you’ll uncover how Peru’s indigenous roots, Spanish influences, and pre-Columbian history blend to give the country its captivating character. Along the way you’ll learn how to weave alpaca yarn, soak in views of the Sacred Valley, and perhaps take a selfie with a llama.
Two bucket-list experiences you can check off together:
- Make the trek to magical Machu Picchu. “When I was a kid I used to watch PBS all the time with my grandma,” said staffer, Paula. “One time they had a special on Machu Picchu. It blew my little kid mind that such a place could exist, and ever since, I’ve always wanted to go.” Whether you’re a big kid or little kid, this bucket list-worthy wonder of the world, high in the Andes Mountains, is guaranteed to blow your mind.
- Step back in time to the ancient capital of the Inca Empire. Marvel at the mystery of how the ancient Incas built one of the world’s most amazing buildings, Sacsayhuamán. Imagine how it looked in the years it was covered in gold. Then walk through the city center and step inside the Convent of Santa Domingo, built by the Spaniards on the site of the most sacred Inca temple of all, Koricancha, the Temple of the Sun.
3. Dig into 5,000 years of history in Egypt
No one celebrated life’s achievements more grandly than the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. (King Tut was just a teen when he died, but his opulent tomb was filled with priceless treasures.) Your graduation celebration will take in over five millennia of history as you walk like an Egyptian through time with a professional Egyptologist to guide you along the way. When you’ve had your history fix, there will be plenty of time to explore Egypt’s tasty dishes, colorful bazaars, and wonderfully strong coffee.
Two ways to make history come alive for you and your grad:
- Get up close to the only Wonder of the Ancient World still in existence. Over two billion stones were used to build the Great Pyramid of Giza (more fun facts here), still standing majestically over 4,000 years later. No matter how many pictures you’ve seen of it, you and your traveling companions will stand in awe. The enigmatic Great Sphinx, the largest monolith statue in the world, awaits your admiration (and photo opportunity) nearby.
- Explore the Valley of the Kings with your Egyptologist. You won’t need a pith helmet, but you and the grads will feel like explorers as you tour the Nile’s West Bank. This was the preferred burial ground of the royals and where King Tut’s famous tomb was discovered. Among the jewels you’ll tour with your Egyptologist is the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, devoted to one of the few female pharaohs.
4. Soak in some family fun on a tour of the Greek Islands
Sharing the world with family, whether you’re traveling with your kids, grandkids, or siblings, can be a life-changing, memory-making experience for everyone. Grandparents and grandkids alike will delight in the relaxed lifestyle and sunny shores of Greece’s storied islands. One of our favorite travel experiences to share with family is visiting sites overflowing with Greek mythology. Watch for the grads’ reaction when they learn that Nike didn’t start out as a sneaker, but as the goddess of victory. The whole family will have fun in one of the most fascinating places to go after graduation.
“I took my granddaughter on this tour after her school trip was cancelled,” said first-time traveler Denise. “We loved the islands and the tours. It was great to have everything planned.”
Two memory-making experiences to share in the Greek Islands:
- Watch the sun rise on Santorini’s Kamari Beach. Many travelers come to Santorini for the sunsets, but the sunrise on Kamari Beach will turn even the biggest night owl into an early bird. Grab your traveling companions, pick up a coffee at one of the amazing cafes that line the waterfront, and head east to Kamari’s volcanic, black-sand beach for a spectacular sunrise. (See our list of Greece’s most beautiful beaches.)
- Stand in awe of the ancient deities as you explore their Greek temples. Before exploring the shores of the Greek islands, discover how mythology comes to life at the temples dedicated to the Olympian gods. Even after 2,000 years in the bustling capital of Athens, these ancient ruins still echo the enduring stories of heroic gods and epic adventures.
5. Take in the best of England, Scotland, and Ireland
Enjoying the journey is precisely what this graduation vacation destination is all about. We take care of all the details as you and your grad get acquainted with the best of England, Scotland, and Ireland. From cosmopolitan London to the medieval city of Edinburgh (via a train ride through the English countryside) to the Cliffs of Moher, you’ll soak in all the highlights. Don’t forget to raise a pint in an Irish or English pub, or a dram in Scotland, to celebrate your diploma!
“A very fun and relaxing vacation!” said traveler, James. “I loved that I had everything prepared. All I had to do is focus on having fun.”
Two can't miss thrills that will be highlights of your trip together:
- Catch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. It’s always a thrill, for travelers of all ages, to witness the pomp and circumstance of Buckingham Palace’s changing of the guard ceremony. There will be crowds, so make sure to arrive in plenty of time for the 11:00am ceremony. The Queen’s Guard has been doing this for almost 600 years, so don’t expect them to be late!
- Kiss the legendary Blarney Stone. You’ve earned your degree, now it’s time to enhance your job prospects by gaining the gift of gab. For over two centuries, visitors to Blarney Castle have climbed the steps, leaned backwards, and kissed the magical stone. (Thanks to the installation of an iron railing, you no longer have to be held by the ankles and lowered down to kiss the stone!)
6. Spend a week in Italy’s three most iconic cities
Fabulous is the only way to describe this magnifico trio of places as one of the best destinations for graduation trips. With sprawling Baroque palaces and gondola-dotted canals, Venice evokes romance. The arts are ever-present in Florence. And in Rome, history, art, and romance come together in an intoxicating mix of ancient and modern. The people, the food, the way of life—celebration is at the heart of one of the very best graduation trip ideas.
“Remember when you were a kid and just got in the back seat and trusted where the car was taking you?” said traveler Arthur. “This is what a Go Ahead tour is like! And you can trust that this ‘car’ is going to fabulous places.”
Two very Italian things to do with your grad on tour:
- Cruise the canals of Venice on a gondola ride. See Venice as it was meant to be seen: on a romantic gondola tour of its winding canals. This is absolutely one of our favorite things to do in Venice and should not be missed. You can add this memorable excursion as a small group or as a special two-person ride. Have your camera ready—there’s a memorable photo opportunity around every curve in the winding canals.
- Take an Italian cooking class in Rome. The Eternal City is famous for many things, none more so than its food. Grab the family, whet your appetite, and enjoy a hands-on cooking class led by an Italian chef. You’ll learn how to make traditional dishes such as ravioli, gnocchi, and fettuccine. Then, you’ll enjoy eating the foods you cooked during an included dinner with wine. No college or high school class can compare!
7. Tap into Portugal’s sunny, seafaring spirit
Colorful, coastal Portugal is a great destination for first-time international travelers, especially if traveling with younger grads. The flight from the U.S. is shorter than to most worldwide destinations, the climate is mild, and the whole country seems geared for family-friendly fun. Portugal is small enough to visit its world-class cities and enjoy a beach day on the Mediterranean all on one trip. Anytime you can spend time at the beach, you know you’ve found one of the best places to go for a graduation trip.
“Portugal is an amazing country and Go Ahead Tours has managed to give travelers a glimpse of the best the country offers,” said traveler Joan of our Portugal: Porto, the Algarve & Lisbon tour.
Two great ways to celebrate your grad's achievement in Portugal:
Spend an evening at a Lisbon tavern listening to fado. We can’t think of a better way to officially celebrate graduation than an evening of soulful fado, Portugal’s musical national treasure. Fado traditionally captures the feelings of melancholy and hope, and perfectly symbolizes the nostalgia of your school years and the promise of the adventure that lies ahead. You can soak in the music over dinner while on tour, too.
Snap the perfect Instagram photo at the ocean’s edge. The views of the Atlantic Ocean are stunning at Cape St. Vincent, the southwestern-most point in mainland Europe (and once considered the end of the known world). It’s just the dramatic cliffs and nothing but ocean as far as the eye can see. Make sure to get the bright red-topped lighthouse in your photo to make it especially eye catching!
8. Dream up your own graduation vacation celebration… we’ll do the rest!
Wondering how to plan a graduation trip? If you can dream it up and have seven or more people to travel with, we can build it into a Customized Tour! And you can explore the world with a small group of your closest friends or family members. It’s easy to turn any of our 175+ tours into a summa cum laude Private Tour, or customize it and we’ll work with you to make it happen. The sky’s the limit!
Choose your tour dates, decide where you’d like to go, and we’ll do the rest, including providing a dedicated Tour Director. You’ll enjoy everything you get on all of our tours (staff-vetted hotels, guided sightseeing, authentic meals), plus some pretty amazing extras to help you get to the best places to celebrate a graduation.
“We reached out to Go Ahead Tours to see if they have any tours that visit Outlander sites in Scotland,” said traveler Lisa. “And they do! I started there and chose to create a Customized Tour to make it exactly the experience my group was looking for.”
Two more great reasons to take a graduation celebration vacation:
We make planning graduations trips easy. Your kids, or grandkids, have already put years of work into getting a degree. It’s time to make the celebration fun and worry-free. At Go Ahead Tours, we know the best places to celebrate a graduation. We have more than 175 guided tours that make cool graduation trips. Best of all, we take all the work out of going on tour. We plan the itinerary, make all the travel arrangements (including booking flights), handpick the hotels, and provide a Tour Director and local guides. All you need to do is show up and enjoy one of the best graduation vacations ever!
You’ll create family memories that last a lifetime. A graduation trip with your kids or grandkids is more than just a cultural or educational experience. It’s an opportunity to spend precious quality time together. And you’ll find that at Go Ahead Tours, we have plenty of graduation vacation ideas.
“All the trips I hold dear to me are special because of the time I had with [my grandfather],” said traveler Deron of their four shared trips.“That’s what Go Ahead Tours does, it brings families together. Enjoy where you’re at, but enjoy the company of who you’re with more.”