Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Great Inspiration for Graduation Trips

by Wendy Perrin | May 30, 2021

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

Given the crises that have rocked our world in 2020—the pandemic, the election, the imperiled economy, the climate-change denial, the racial reckoning, 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.  We need to be raising global citizens at a time when our young people are stuck schooling online from home.  Once the big wide world opens to us again, It will be important to get them back out there experiencing it.  After all, travel is one of the best forms of education.

This past spring, my son Charlie graduated from high school the same way many students around the country did—virtually. Rite-of-passage senior-class events were cancelled, and colleges resorted to remote learning. Charlie opted to postpone his freshman year and spent what would normally have been his first semester of college participating in a gap-year outdoor education program in Hawaii, where he studied sustainability and environmental sciences by working on farms and helping local conservation causes.  His travel this fall taught him real solutions he can bring home.

Travel has also taught him to value inclusivity and diversity, as it’s all about 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.

Many of you had 2020 plans to give your favorite high-school, college, or grad-school graduate an important experience of the world—plans you’d like to revive when the time is right.  As inspiration, here are reviews of some of the graduation trips, arranged by WOW List destination experts, that have most delighted your fellow travelers.

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.


“Due to Covid I felt more comfortable using a travel planner who was on the ground in Mexico…”

Four Seasons Punta Mita Mexico infinity pool overlooking ocean

Four Seasons Punta Mita. Photo: Four Seasons

PANDEMIC TRAVEL “We recently used Zach Rabinor and his staff for a wonderful trip to The Four Seasons Punta Mita [in May 2021]. This was a pretty straightforward trip, but due to covid concerns I felt more comfortable using a travel planner who was on the ground in Mexico. After chatting with Zach, and determining our main goal was time on a beautiful beach, he recommended the Four Seasons and it was the perfect resort. Trip was very low financial risk – as if the trip needed to be canceled due to covid it would be completely refundable. Four Seasons was taking alot of health precautions, and we felt completely comfortable (turned out we were fully vaccinated before traveling so perhaps not as much of an issue when we traveled but still was great to see).

This was a trip to celebrate my daughter’s graduation from her master’s program, and while Zach offered up a slew of wonderful ideas for tours, surf classes, etc., in the end we decided to do one tour of the Marietta Islands and swim to the hidden beach, and the rest staying at resort. The boat tour was alot of fun and we were glad we did it. Carlos from Zach’s team was in touch with us on the ground in Mexico which was so sweet and great to have in case we had any issues (which we had none). A nice touch was a piece of congratulatory cake in the room when we arrived – so thoughtful! We had a great room and location, and everything including their restaurant recommendations were excellent! (Definitely worth staying oceanfront at this resort – views to die for!). We loved our stay and was as close to perfection as one could get!” —Christine Daudelin

Read reviews of Zach and then contact him to maximize your trip to Mexico. You’ll be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

“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

Read reviews of Marisol and then contact her to maximize your trip to Peru. You’ll be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

“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

Read reviews of Scott, and then contact him to maximize your trip to Japan. You’ll be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

“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

Read reviews of Maria, and then contact her to maximize your trip to Italy. You’ll be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

“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

Read reviews of Zulya, and then contact her to maximize your trip to Uzbekistan and Central Asia. You’ll be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

“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

Read reviews of Sheri, and then contact her to maximize your trip to the Pacific Northwest. You’ll be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

We’re Here to Help

If you’re thinking about a trip during Covid, write to Ask Wendy. We know which trip-planning specialists have up-to-the-minute intel for your destination and can ensure that your entire trip is safe, smart, and extraordinary. Check out Real Trips Right Now to see the difference that this makes. For future (post-Covid) trips, use The WOW List to find the best destination specialist for your needs.

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


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