Family trips are, by their nature, special. But when the family trip celebrates a milestone such as a graduation, it’s even more so. Graduation trips are among the most popular family trips we see here at WendyPerrin.com, and we agree that an academic achievement deserves to be marked with a fun, memorable—and yes, sometimes even educational—experience. To provide inspiration for your own travels with your favorite grad this year, we’ve looked back at the coolest graduation trips our readers have requested. If you have more ideas, leave them in the comments below.
Adventures in Alaska
One of the ways to ace a family vacation is to make sure you include one or two activities you’ve never done before: When you do an activity for the first time, it makes a trip vividly memorable—and when you do a new activity together as a family, it’s a bonding experience. If you’ve got an athletic pre-teen or teenager, an active trip to Alaska is a sure way to achieve those memorable bonding moments, as one family with a middle-school graduate did. Their adventure included a glacier trek with a veteran guide, a cooking class, lots of hiking, and plenty of post-activity coddling at the Winterlake Lodge. “On the southwestern edge of Denali, Winterlake Lodge has five cozy cabins, great guides, saunas, hot tubs, and lots of peace and quiet,” Alaska expert Judith Root says. “The rates aren’t cheap, but they include round-trip air transportation, meals, guided activities, cooking classes, yoga, a one-hour massage, and use of the lodge’s kayaks, fly-fishing gear, and other equipment.”
Cultural Exchange in Uzbekistan
Wendy has written a lot about “the enlightenment that comes from traveling to foreign countries, meeting different peoples, and learning first-hand about their culture.” We often hear from readers that they feel the same way and want trips that will pass that curiosity and open-mindedness on to their kids. Uzbekistan, where the culture is so rich and also so different from our own, is that kind of trip. It’s a land of famed explorers, fantastic bazaars, and strong family bonds. As one reader wrote about his trip (which celebrated the achievement of a son’s graduate degree), “Zulya arranged for us to have lunch with her family in Bukhara. It was amazing. Her mother taught my son how to make plov [a rice pilaf dish]. The lunch was a true feast with about 20 family members. After lunch we all got up and danced together. It was an experience [we] will cherish forever.”
Safari (and More) in South Africa
Cape Town is just a cool city—packed with trendy cafés, award-winning restaurants, art galleries, and tourist attractions that somehow avoid feeling cheesy (Penguins! Street art! Cable car!). Which makes it a really fun place to visit with the family. It’s manageable, vibrant, safe, and there’s something for every age. Want to learn about the history of Nelson Mandela? Kayak among the southern right whales in Walker Bay? Learn how to cook regional cuisine? Even go on a safari? Yes, yes, yes. And no matter what combo of activities you choose, you can bet it’ll all be memorable. One particular don’t-miss experience is sleeping under the stars while on safari. Says WOW List safari expert Nina Wennersten, “You have the safety of a raised platform to keep you from becoming a lion’s meal but can enjoy the starry spectacle of the African sky accompanied by a chorus of wildlife in the distance—a night you’ll remember forever.”
California Road Trip
When we think “trip” we often think “destination,” but as the saying goes, the journey is the destination. And not only is that a great lesson for any grad, but it also makes for a unique and memorable graduation trip. One mom wanted to take her daughter, and her daughter’s BFF, on a drive along the California coast for their high-school graduation present, staying at unique hotels overnight and filling their days with classic sights such as the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as memory-making activities such as a surfing lesson. The diversity of activities is one reason why a road trip can be such a great experience; and don’t forget that the planning phase can be part of the fun too: Wendy has lots of tips for putting together the perfect itinerary and things you should always stop for.