Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Great Ideas for Graduation Trips

by Wendy Perrin | June 8, 2020

The gift we can give our graduates—and the gift they’ll give back to us

Given the compounded crises that are rocking our world—the pandemic, the protests for racial justice, the falling economy, and whatever new crisis is coming next week—the younger generation is being handed an increasingly long To Do List of problems to help solve. My son Charlie will be graduating from high school this month. Like most schools, his has been closed since mid-March. Rite-of-passage senior-class events were cancelled, and his graduation ceremony will be a virtual one online. The silver lining is that an historic movement toward racial justice is unfolding across the globe. I know Charlie will help move that conversation forward, thanks to the values he’s learned from his travels.

Travel is built on inclusivity and diversity—on meeting and befriending people from different races and cultures. Charlie’s college application essay, in fact, was about the main lesson he’s learned from his travels, which is how to find common ground with people who are not like you: Wherever you are in the world, from Atlanta to Zambia, you can listen closely to the people you meet, find common ground, and bring those different perspectives to your community back home. You can bring solutions home too. Quite a few of the problems we face in this country are problems that other countries have solved, from environmental sustainability to eradication of the coronavirus.

I know that many of you also have kids in the Class of 2020 (whether high school, college, or grad school) and that travel has similarly broadened their social awareness. I know you had to cancel graduation trips you’d planned for this month.  In case you’d like to think about a make-up graduation trip for next year, I’ve compiled reviews (below) of some of the graduation trips that have most delighted your fellow travelers. And for those of you who haven’t traveled with a young person lately, maybe it’s time to think about it. It’s an eye-opener.

Charlie at age 4 in Jamaica
Charlie at age 7 in Alaska
Charlie at age 14 in Sri Lanka
Charlie’s class celebrated National College Decision Day in a socially distanced way—with a car parade: Each car drove through town carrying a 12th grader decked out in the gear of the college they’ve chosen. That's Charlie with his Vanderbilt University flag and pandemic-length hair.


“A perfect balance of wildlife, culture, adventure and a bit of relaxation…”

Gateway of the Sun, One Day Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu. Photo: Southwind Adventures

Sun Gate, Machu Picchu. Photo: Southwind Adventures

“This was a special trip to Peru for my niece just graduating from high school. She is about to study marine biology in college, so Marisol steered us toward the right Amazon basin area we hadn’t even considered. My husband, niece, and I just returned yesterday from Peru and wanted to send a HUGE GRACIAS to Marisol and her crew for making this trip one of a lifetime! There’s no way I ever could have constructed such a wonderful journey on my own. For sure, it was packed, but we came back feeling we’d seen such a diversity in Peru. It was a perfect balance of wildlife, culture, adventure and a bit of relaxation. And although the weather was terrible during our one-day Inca Trail hike, with rain and clouds obscuring Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate, we still wouldn’t change a thing. I will of course recommend and tell everyone I know to use Marisol—and to once again trust a Wendy Perrin specialist. Over the years, I have used and vetted many of Wendy’s travel specialists—and, no doubt, Marisol and her team are top of the list.” —Jon Paul Buchmeyer

“A fascinating dinner at a club with geishas, and a calligraphy lesson…”

geisha with umbrella in kyoto japan

A maiko geisha passes by at twilight carrying a traditional paper umbrella on her way to work in the Gion district of Kyoto, Japan. Photo: Ben Simmons/JapanQuest Journeys

“I wanted to take my youngest daughter to Japan to celebrate her high school graduation. Scott planned a fabulous and varied itinerary, and our guides were fantastic: They were very flexible to accommodate our interests and energy levels and very understanding of how a teenager would like to travel. Scott arranged several special experiences based on the relationships he has formed. We had a cooking lesson with an amazing woman in her home, a fascinating dinner at a club with geishas, and a calligraphy lesson with an excellent teacher. We both loved Studio Ghibli and the Monkey Park. Scott’s choice of hotels was wonderful. We slept so well every night, particularly at our ryokan. The Mandarin Oriental serves a fantastic breakfast buffet. The Ritz-Carlton was very luxurious (and yes—we did see Leonardo Di Caprio there). We were particularly fortunate that the cherry blossoms came out when we got there and we got to experience the beauty of the season. Throughout the trip, I was able to sit back and relax and enjoy everything because of Scott’s careful planning and knowledge of Japan. I would absolutely use him again and recommend him. I have been a fan of Wendy’s since her Condé Nast days. This is now my second special trip with her experts, and I plan on more. The level of professionalism is exceptional.” —Patricia Klein

“Our eight-day food tour of Italy was requested by our 21-year-old son who was graduating from university…”

Bologna, Italy Food store food market showcase full of food in Bologna city in Italy

Food market in Bologna, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our eight-day food tour of Italy was requested by our 21-year-old son, who was graduating from university. Milan was the starting point, next was Bologna to learn about the renowned foods of the region, and then a repeat visit to Florence—and we absolutely loved everything Maria planned. The drivers, guides, food tours, wine tasting, cooking class were all impeccable. In Milan, when our guide found out our son loved fashion, she made a call to a fashion designer, and we were able to meet with the designer. We spent an hour-plus speaking with him, trying on his designs, and buying some of his pieces. In Bologna our guide took us on a delicious food tasting that culminated in copious amounts of prosciutto, hams, cheeses, bread, balsamic vinegar, wine. Our all-day food tour through Parma and Emilia-Romagna was incredible, as was the private wine tasting where we sat in the cellar with the vineyard owner for more than two hours, tasting food and wine pairings. The vineyard owner then asked our driver to detour us through the medieval village of Fontanellato, to view the castle and moat and to indulge in gelato.” —Deb Lurie

“Zulya even arranged for us to have lunch with her family in Bukhara…”

A wedding couple in Uzbekistan.

A wedding couple in Uzbekistan. Photo: Tim Baker

“My son was graduating from Harvard’s Kennedy School with a degree in public policy, and his interest is Central Asia, so as a graduation present we took him to Uzbekistan. Not only would I recommend Uzbekistan as a travel destination, but I would highly recommend Zulya to anyone planning a trip there. She arranged for a wonderful guide to accompany us throughout the country; our guide stayed with us day and night, shared meals and her culture, and helped us navigate a very foreign language. Zulya even arranged for us to have lunch with her family in Bukhara. It was amazing. Her mother taught my son how to make Palov. The lunch was a true feast, with about 20 family members. After lunch we all got up and danced together. It was an experience my wife, son, daughter-in-law, and I will cherish forever.” —Ron Klausner

“Upon entering our room, we were greeted by a 6-foot-long banner on the wall that read: ‘Congratulations, Emmy!’ ”

beach with palm tree and rock jetty in Jamaica and sunset

Eclipse at Half Moon resort Jamaica. Photo: Salamander Hotels

Lindsey was instrumental in creating the most special and absolutely perfect trip to Jamaica for my daughter and me, to celebrate my daughter’s graduation. Lindsey’s great knowledge of the resort and the area, combined with the many special touches she added to customize our trip, were unmatched. Upon entering our room (upgraded to a suite!) we were greeted by a 6-foot-long banner on the wall that read: “Congratulations, Emmy!” The banner was complete with photographs of Emmy and her college insignia. We found, to our delight, a bountiful fruit and snack basket that lasted our entire six days, as well as a rum cake that was delivered separately. Before our departure, Lindsey had asked via email for a list of Emmy’s favorite snacks and drinks, as well as for some photos of Emmy, her high school, and college insignias. I never anticipated the banner. Lindsey’s partnership with the perfect resort, and the exceptional staff at Half Moon, helped to make Emmy’s graduation trip unforgettable. Additionally, Lindsey’s suggestion to get the VIP service and ‘fast pass’ through customs, as well as the ‘Club MoBay’ pass, helped to make our travel days so much more civilized.” —Sallie Bunn

“We wanted to see some of the sites associated with the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies…”

New Zealand - Hobbiton - Movie set - Lord of the rings Bilbo Baggins House

Hobbiton Lord of the Rings filming location, New Zealand. Photo: Shutterstock

Donna arranged a two-week trip to New Zealand for my son and me after his high school graduation. We didn’t know much about New Zealand—but we knew there is a lot of great scenery and outdoor activities, and we knew we wanted to see some of the sites associated with the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies, because we are both big ‘Lord of the Rings’ fans. Donna and her team put together a detailed itinerary with great places to stay and great activities. Although it was June—which is the beginning of the New Zealand colder season—temperatures were mostly in the 40s and 50s, which was comfortable with a jacket. We had a car, which I would recommend: Some people are intimidated by having to drive on the left, but it really isn’t difficult, and you see so much on the road. For a stress-free, wonderful New Zealand travel experience, I definitely recommend Donna.” —David S. Fitzgerald

“Our son wanted to mountain bike on Whistler/Blackcomb and truly enjoyed it…”

Turquoise Wedgemount Lake and wild alpine flowers, Whistler, British Columbia Canada

Whistler, British Columbia. Photo: Shutterstock

“We recently traveled to British Columbia to celebrate our son’s high school graduation. On Wendy Perrin’s recommendation, we contacted Sheri, who suggested that, given our time constraints, we limit our visit to Whistler and Tofino. That proved to be an excellent recommendation which allowed us to enjoy our vacation without being rushed. Our son wanted to mountain bike on Whistler/Blackcomb and truly enjoyed it. Sheri suggested other activities which kept the rest of us active while our son spent the day on the mountain. Her recommendation that we stay at the Four Seasons Whistler was great. It’s a beautiful hotel with great staff and a wonderful breakfast. We enjoyed our time in Tofino as well; Sheri’s recommendations for lodging, food, and activities were perfect for us. One of the things that I appreciated was that Sheri was willing to do as much or as little as we desired.” —John Masko


This article was originally published April 2019; it has been updated.

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