Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

8 Great Ideas for Graduation Trips

by Billie Cohen | April 5, 2019

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, 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 taken. If you have more ideas, leave them in the comments below.

“In Venice we loved our ‘secret rooms’ tour…”

aerial view of Venice Italy and surrounding water

Venice, Italy. Photo: Pixabay

Maria was exceedingly knowledgeable and helpful in arranging a fabulous trip for us and our niece to Italy, as her gift for college graduation and acceptance into veterinary school. Maria’s guides/hosts were amazing. In Venice we loved our ‘secret rooms’ tour with Bruna, who showed us the Basilica and Doge’s Palace. Nan, our cicchetti rowing instructor, was so much fun; we had a riot of a time trying to learn to row correctly. In Naples Fiorella introduced us to really unique tastes; our niece still dreams about the ‘snowflake pastry.’ And our hotels were tremendous. We loved our upgrades at both the Ruzzini Palace in Venice, where we had enchanting views of the Campo and the small canal, and the Grand Hotel Santa Lucia in Naples. We especially loved staying out of the tourist areas and the quiet, residential feel of the Campo Santa Maria Formosa. The Hotel Capodimonte in Sorrento was perfectly located for walking into town, and our balcony overlooking the Bay of Naples was terrific! We spent as much time as possible out there. It was a truly memorable trip for us all.” —Mary Lou Voytko

“We had a cooking lesson with an amazing woman in her home, a fascinating dinner at a club with geishas, and…”

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

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

View over the mausoleums and domes of the historical cemetery of Shahi Zinda through an arched gate, Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

View over the mausoleums and domes of the historical cemetery of Shahi Zinda through an arched gate, Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Photo: Shutterstock

“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

“Our tour guide was able to make a call to a fashion designer when she found out our son loved fashion, and we were able to meet with the designer…”

Florence, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

Florence, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our eight-day food tour of Italy was requested by our 21-year-old son, who was graduating from university. We are a family of five (mom, dad, 3 boys ages 24, 21 and 15) who enjoy traveling together, eating great meals, and experiencing other cultures. Milan was the starting point, next was Bologna to learn about the renowned foods of the region, and then a repeat visit to Florence—because what’s not to love in Florence? And we absolutely loved everything Maria planned for our trip. The drivers, guides, food tours, wine tasting, cooking class were all impeccable. In Milan, our guide was able to make a call to a fashion designer when she found out our son loved fashion, 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 a lunch consisting of 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. Again, we would not have found this on our own. Maria also booked us a terrific private cooking class where we learned to make pasta and gnocchi. In Florence, our guide gave us an in-depth but quick welcome back to Florence, as we had to get to the Uffizi, where she guided us to the major works and gave interesting background stories to the art. From there we proceeded to the Barchetto boat tour on the Arno—another great find.” —Deb Lurie

“Special touches she added to customize our trip…”

the beach and ocean at Half Moon resort in Jamaica

The beach at Half Moon, Jamaica. Photo: Half Moon

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

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

Peru hillside village

Machu Picchu, Peru. Photo: Aracari Travel

“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

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

Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand. Photo: Rob-Suisted/New Zealand Tourism

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…”

Connecting Blackcomb and Whistler mountains, the Peak 2 Peak gondola set multiple construction records. Photo: Tim Baker

“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

“There is a planning fee, but the savings made up for it…”

The view from Kerry Park, Seattle

The view from Kerry Park, Seattle. Photo: Seattle Convention & Visitor’s Bureau

“My daughter, a college student, wanted to move from Florida to Seattle when she graduated and wanted to check out Seattle in person first, and my parents wanted a family trip to Canada and a long, scenic train trip. They ran into some planning snags, so I reached out to Sheri, who meticulously planned everything exactly as we wanted. When I had a change of plans and decided to join my parents and daughter on this vacation, Sheri didn’t skip a beat and managed to make the necessary changes to unexpectedly add a fourth person. This involved buying additional tickets and investigating hotel alternatives to accommodate a larger group. She did it cheerfully and excellently! One other note: We definitely saved money on our hotels by going through Sheri. I double-checked on my own and couldn’t come close to the same rate. There is a planning fee, but the savings made up for it. On top of that, we got the benefit of Sheri’s time and experience, making our trip a top-notch experience.” —Renee Gaudet

Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

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