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Are you graduating high school this year and wondering what to do with your summer vacation? Or are you a parent wondering if you should send your hardworking new adult somewhere before they head off to college or the real world? Lucky for you, it’s not too late to plan a graduation trip that will be both memorable and low-stress! Follow the expert advice in this guide on graduation trips for high school seniors, and you’ll have no trouble finding an affordable destination that makes the most of your time away from home.
Graduation Trip Tips
We know high school seniors want to go on a special trip after they graduate. And parents of seniors want them to have a fun and safe experience. There are tons of options for senior trips. We’ve gathered tips from around the web about how you can plan an amazing getaway with your grad. Here are 7 tips for your senior trip.
Know your budget—and stick to it!
We’re all guilty of giving our kids a little more spending money than we intend to at times. However, knowing your budget ahead of time will help you avoid overspending and keep your student safe on their graduation trip. You can always set a limit that’s less than what they want, then treat them afterward as a reward for working hard in school.
Set ground rules with your student.
Whether you have a high school senior or even a young adult heading off to graduate school, having set expectations will help everyone feel safer and enjoy their trip more. One of our most common questions from parents is how to keep kids safe on their senior class trips, so make sure you talk about what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t before they leave!
Know what’s included—and what isn’t.
Some inclusive package senior trips will include delicious food, while others don’t include anything except transportation and lodging. Make sure you know exactly what’s included in your trip, so there are no surprises. Consider budgeting an extra $50-$75/day per student just in case they decide to splurge on a meal or excursion that wasn’t part of their original plans!
Remember your ID or Passport!
This is something many parents of high school seniors forget about—and it can be a big problem if you don’t have one. Not only will you not be able to get on flights without ID, but if there’s an emergency, it may not be easy or even possible to prove that you are who you say you are. Be sure to remind your student in plenty of time to pick up their driver’s license, state-issued photo ID card, or passport (if they need one) so they can bring it with them on their trip.
Don’t forget travel insurance!
As your senior embarks on their journey into adulthood, we know it can be hard to let go and let them explore new places and new things…but remember that while they may be graduating from high school, they are still young adults under 21 years old. Make sure you have some sort of travel insurance in place in case they encounter an unexpected injury or illness while they’re away—it can save you a lot of heartaches (and a lot of money!) if something happens.
What to pack?
It might seem obvious, but packing is actually one of the most important parts of any trip—especially if you plan on being gone for more than just a weekend! Check out our Step by Step Travel Guide with included Vacation Planning Checklist for detailed tips and tricks that can help keep your student safe and comfortable while they’re away from home.
Logistics/How to get there?
Once you know how much money you want to spend, what ground rules are in place, and what kind of insurance you have…it’s time to think about logistics. How will your student get from home to their departure airport? What type of transportation will they take when they arrive at their destination? Will they need a visa or entry permit (if traveling outside of the United States)?
Grad Tour Destinations by State
The process of choosing where to go can be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time planning such an excursion. But worry not! To get you started on your search, we’ve compiled a list of our top graduation trip destinations by state – from New England to California and everywhere in between. These vacation ideas are guaranteed to make your future college student happy (not to mention mom and dad!). And don’t forget, these incredible places would make great vacations regardless of whether they’re being used as official graduation tours or just weekend getaways.
If you’re planning high school graduation trips, here are some popular destinations in California to consider.
For example, take a trip down to San Diego and stay at Hotel Del Coronado, located on beautiful Coronado Island. You can choose from a number of amazing suites that range from 600 square feet to 2,400 square feet! Some of these hotel rooms even come with their own private swimming pools. There’s also plenty to do at The Del including surfing lessons and golfing (the course is currently ranked #1 by Golf Digest). If you decide not to book one of their hotels or suites, there are several other nearby properties where you can rent an oceanfront condo or cottage right on Orange Avenue near all of The Del’s amenities.
Other excellent California graduation trip destinations include Carmel-by-the-Sea, Yosemite National Park, and Los Angeles. Consider a bucket list road trip along the famed US1 highway from Sand Diego to San Francisco. Imagine cruising with the top down in a convertible to celebrate all your hard work!
Other graduation trips in California include visiting as many of the 8 National Parks in California. Or you could spend your days of exploration at Yosemite National Park, which is a great place to visit in summer. With beautiful views and incredible waterfalls, it’s one of California’s most popular national parks. If you don’t have access to a vehicle or would like an alternate option, you can take a guided tour by coach. The park has several options available through Redwoods In Motion, including many multi-day trips that include stays at different lodges throughout California and Nevada.
New York and New York City
A trip to New York City is a must-do at least once in your lifetime. As one of our most recommended graduation trips destinations, there are lots of reasons why New York City is such a popular destination – and why you’ll want to consider including it on your list. For starters, there are tons of cultural and historical sites throughout NYC, which means that you’ll never get bored with all that there is to do here. Some of these sites include The Statue of Liberty, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Radio City Music Hall, and Top of The Rock Observation Deck.
Or take some time to travel outside Manhattan and explore one of New York State’s beautiful Finger Lakes.
Another excellent location you can visit during your vacation to Upstate New York is Niagara Falls; it will be easy to find plenty to keep yourself occupied while visiting Niagara Falls, especially if you plan to stay on-site at one of several nearby hotels or motels.
If you’re planning a graduation trip in Florida, then you’ll have no shortage of options. While traveling to Panama City Beach for their white-sand beaches is an excellent option, it certainly isn’t your only choice. Consider traveling along the Gulf Coast and visiting St. Petersburg, which is home to several attractions including The Salvador Dali Museum and The Florida Holocaust Museum.
Keep going south stopping in one of our favorite cities, Sarasota where you’ll find plenty of activities.
Continue on to Naples where you can reach your final destination of Key West for a great time!
There are lots of wonderful grad tour destinations in Maryland and Washington, D.C., so consider including both states on your list. One of our top recommended sites that you can’t miss is The Smithsonian Institute, which includes 19 museums located throughout Washington, D.C., as well as a zoo and several gardens.
Chicago isn’t just home to professional sports teams and impressive museums — but also a thriving improv comedy scene. The Windy City is home to several award-winning improv theaters including The Second City (yes, like Saturday Night Live) ImprovOlympic Theater, and ComedySportz Theater.
Another excellent grad tour destination in Illinois is Evanston, located north of Chicago in Cook County.
Boston’s got an impressive sports history. Sports aren’t all that Boston has to offer – there are also several fun activities including The Freedom Trail Tour which takes you through downtown Boston on a walking tour that highlights 16 locations related to American History.
Consider a Montana dude ranch if you’re looking at going off-roading, horseback riding, and more. Here you can enjoy group rides, trail rides, and much more. Serenity Springs Ranch is another great option in Big Sky Country; it’s easy to see why so many people consider visiting Montana as one of the best graduation gifts to themselves!
How To Save Money For Your Senior Trip
There are a lot of considerations when it comes to planning graduation trips, from picking where you’re going, what you’re doing there, and how much you’ll spend on airfare, hotels, and everything else in between. The good news is that it’s possible to travel affordably while still having an amazing time.
Here are our tips on how to save money for your senior trip:
- Get started early
- Travel with friends
- Research destinations carefully
- Look at lots of options
- Don’t overspend on lodging
- Bring water bottles so you don’t have to buy bottled water everywhere
- Eat at restaurants before or after visiting museums or other attractions
- Use social media sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp and Google Local Guides to find great places to eat based on reviews by people who live in your destination city/town/village
- Pack carefully!
- Find good deals using websites like Groupon, LivingSocial and Travelzoo
- Buy tickets from discount sites such as Viator or CityPASS whcih saves money through combo passes.
How To Decide What You Want to Do
There are a lot of questions you’ll want to ask yourself before making any decisions. Do you plan on taking a graduation trip with a group of friends? Spending time with family? Traveling somewhere new? Decide what’s a top priority for your own personal best experience before setting off with a group. Unless of course, the group experience is spending time with other young people, then you can always sit back and go with the flow.