Psychology tells us that receiving the gift of experience will result in more – and longer-lasting – joy and happiness than receiving a gift that’s an item. While material things don't last forever, the memories you can create on a trip with your recent graduate will stick with them for the rest of their life. And if you want to deliver the news in something you can wrap, start by gifting your graduate some durable new luggage that will carry them through all of their adventures.
Related: Shopping on a budget? Grab these luggage gifts for less than $250.
Bonding trips don't have to be long or include extensive backpacking through Europe (although that's certainly an exciting option). Below, we offer a wide range of trips that run the gamut of length and adventure.
Top Graduation Trip Ideas
The best trips for recent graduates should consider their personality and family dynamics. They’ve worked hard, accomplished much, and now deserve a break before entering the next stage of life.
Grad Trips with the Fam – Ideally, family trips include places that please the whole crew. (Read up on how to plan a family vacation to avoid mishaps). The more people traveling, the wider the range of available activities should be. As you consider a graduation gift for your senior, think about family-friendly trips like theme parks, cruises, or beach destinations with boardwalks. Throw in a new set of luggage to remind your graduate that this trip is for them.
Weekend Trips for Grads – Sometimes, long, elaborate trips just aren’t doable. The best trips of any length are customized to the individual. Does your graduating senior love the outdoors? A few days exploring the Grand Canyon, snow skiing, or learning to surf could be perfect for your adventure seeker. If your senior craves relaxation, a couple days at a spa or on a beach may hit the spot.
Head Abroad with the Family – One of the best ways to better understand other cultures is to experience how different people live around the world. New shared experiences and discoveries build bonds and lasting memories. It will also give you and your family opportunities for conversation and banter for years to come.
Go it Alone – If your graduate is very independent, maybe a solo trip is in order. Letting your kids travel and experience the world on their own helps them learn about other ways of life, which also helps them figure out who they want to be in the world. Solo travel lets them explore at their own pace, meet others, and do the things that interest them most.
Affordable Graduation Trips in the USA
Travel doesn’t have to be elaborate (or expensive). Some of the best places for a senior trip can be done on a budget. Focus on planning ahead, creating memories, and leaning into experiences.
Drive There – A cross-country trip can be daunting, but sometimes the adventure can be all about getting there. Plan for three to four hours per day in the car, and spend the rest of the time exploring new areas.
Book a House – Skip the hotel, and book a place with at least a small kitchenette. Eating out is one of the most expensive parts of travel; if you cook even some of your own meals, you’ll save a bundle.
Find the Hostel – If your grad is headed to Europe, one of the best ways to experience the trip and meet fellow travelers is to book low-cost hostels.
Use Rewards Miles – Accumulate rewards points on your credit card and redeem them for flights or hotel rooms. Rooms are often drastically cheaper with points instead of cash.
Plan in Advance – Don't plan at the last minute when prices are at a premium. Prices can be nearly half if you plan and pay in advance.
Travel Off-Season – You can give the gift at graduation but then take the trip when tourist seasons have died down.
Top Destinations for New Graduates
Need a few more places for those graduation trip ideas? We gathered up five awesome domestic destinations and 5 international destinations that will spark a love for travel and immerse your grad in different cultures.
Hawaii – There’s a reason Hawaii is a popular destination for travelers. The big island and its sister islands offer consistent weather year round, pristine beaches, and loads of local food and entertainment.
New York City– If your grad hasn't been to the Big Apple, the summer after graduation may be the perfect time to go. The world's cultural, financial, and media capital is always bustling with activity and event.
Alaska –The Last Frontier should be on every bucket list for those who love nature. Experience towering mountains, vast landscapes, and wildlife - right in town. Salmon fishing in the summer is a wildly popular trip activity.
Puerto Rico– No need to break out the passport to visit this Caribbean Island. Beautiful beaches and the unique culture of Puerto Rico get you the feel of international travel without traveling internationally.
Nashville, TN – A must-see destination for any music lover. Nashville’s Honky Tonk Highway consists of several blocks of music venues pumping tunes into the street all day and into the night.
Italy – Italy, steeped in culture and history, is an excellent place for any graduating student to visit. From the Colosseum in Rome, to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, to the canals of Venice, there are endless wonders to discover.
Switzerland – The Alps contain beauty many other mountain ranges can only hope to mimic. Discovering the Swiss Alps in person turns the iconic images of these peaks into lasting memories.
New Zealand – With a more temperate climate than Australia and sheep that outnumber people six to one, you can discover the land where the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed.
Ho Chi Minh City– One of the top travel destinations for 2023 (and undoubtedly subsequent years to come), Ho Chi Minh City (one of Travelpro’s destination spotlights) in Vietnam has so much to do and see; you'll likely be back for another trip.
Peru – Heading into South America, Peru has incredible mountains and rich culture. For the adventuring graduate, a hike to Machu Picchu will be remembered forever.
From a weekend trip that's a half day's drive away, to a two-week excursion around the world, the memories you create will be based on the planning and inspiration you put into your graduate’s trip.
Make your gift extra special with luggage that lasts. Peruse our gift guides for travelers to find the perfect fit.