The infamous Graduation Trip, or Grad Trip is fast becoming a rite of passage for graduates around the world. Following years of book-wormdom, exam stress and painful group assignments, with the reigns now loosened, now is the chance to taste freedom in all its globe-trotting glory. That is, before the need to get a paying job dawns on you.
For those who have absolutely no idea where to start? Fret not! We have put together a range of five Grad Trip escapes suiting every need, budget, style and explorative interest.
1. For the cash-strapped penny pincher
Closest to home, Southeast Asia is perfect for budget grad trips and offers a bit of everything, ranging from majestic sights to delectable food and pristine beaches.
Visit Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, in Siem Reap, Cambodia or go on an island hopping and snorkeling adventure at Bali, Indonesia. Alternatively, stroll the shops and dine late into the night in Bangkok, Thailand where you can score a delicious meal and a beer for around S$10! While street food is even cheaper with many snacks going for less than a dollar.
The perks of travelling close by not only means a bang for your buck on-ground, but also when it comes to booking flights. Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam are all incredibly accessible and affordable, with some budget carriers getting you there for around $100.
2. For the incurable shopaholic
For grads that love to shop, a shopping holiday is just about the best way to bid adieu to study sessions. Asia is a mecca for nabbing great clothing and knick-knack finds at a fraction of the cost that you’d find them elsewhere. When booking your trip, save yourself the hassle and added cost of looking at more expensive long-haul flight destinations and book a trip to Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei and/or Tokyo. Not only were they voted the world’s best shopping destinations, according to The Globe Shopper Index, but they are also incredibly culture-rich and filled with sights worth your while when your inner shopaholic hollers for a rest.
It’s no surprise that clinching the coveted top shop spot is Hong Kong, which boasts the highest concentration and variety of stores and brands. Everything from vibrant night markets like Ladies’ Market, where you can score apparel at a bargain price to the fancier and pricier designer boutiques like Prada and Fendi, are all within a short stroll of the bustling Causeway Bay area.
Harajuku is a popular hangout spot for Japanese youths.
For a change of scenery, jump on a flight to Tokyo and be pampered by the world-renowned Japanese hospitality and fine attention to detail, from customer service to meticulous packaging that is second to none. Stay abreast of the latest youth street fashion at Harajuku or head straight to Akihabara for all things computer, video games and manga.
3. For the fearless adventurer
Intrepid travellers looking to relieve their laptop-strained eyes and stretch their desk-bound legs can venture to the well-known adventure landscapes of Australia and New Zealand, or the lesser known Yangshuo, China. Whatever you choose, you can rest assured of guaranteed heart pounds, nervous butterflies and adrenaline fuelled screams during the dazzling selection of outdoor activities and extreme sports.
While Australia is synonymous with scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef, it is not only primed for sea sports. Defy gravity and try your hands at rock climbing or cliff hanging in the mountains. Not your kind of adventure? Explore the outback by trekking and mountain biking or conquer the sky in a hot air balloon and tandem skydiving.
Much in the way of adventure for New Zealand (NZ) needn’t be explained. Whatever your Grad Trip adventure desires, NZ has it covered, including jet boating, white water rafting and bungee jumping. Visiting in the winter (June-November)? Head for the mountains to try your hand at skiing or snowboarding at Broken River, Mt Lyford or Craigieburn!
If you’re looking for something different altogether, get a flight to the slightly closer-to-home Yangshuo in China – a former fishing village which has been dubbed as the adventure capital of China thanks to its rock-climbing. The magical limestone karsts are a must see for any beginner or experienced rock-climber, and they’re easily accessible by a short bike or bus ride from downtown, but be sure to visit between March to May and September to December. For enthusiasts, make your way down during November to catch the climbing festival.
4. For the intellectual who loves to learn
It may be surprising to hear that after years of studying, someone would want to celebrate their uni days by learning even more. Not when you can celebrate and learn in places like the US and China that are rich in history and culture. The vastness and age of these countries makes it a top pick for grads wanting to travel abroad and back in time to soak up the acclaimed memorials, monuments and museums.
Kick start your China trip in Beijing, where must-see landmarks are located within the city centre, including the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and Temple of Heaven. Not forgetting the Great Wall of China up south. Ticked those off your list? Make your way to Shanghai for the ancient water town of Zhujiajiao and The Bund’s colonial architectures.
Equally intriguing is the US’ Washington DC. Get your camera ready for the White House, Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. When you’re done with those, make a beeline for the Smithsonian museums and galleries, all 19 of them with free admission too. If you have a spare few days on your hands, catch the bus to buzzing New York City for a serious dose of mind-blowing entertainment and attractions like the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building, which boast great audio guides.
5. For Lovey-dovey couples keen for added romance
What better way to celebrate the end of school than with your significant other by your side, soaking up the romantic European sights, sounds and delights? Paris, Florence, Santorini and Vienna are some of the most stunning Euro countries guaranteed to satisfy your inner passions.
Easily one of the most romantic places on earth, get enchanted in Paris in a moonlight cruise down the Seine River or get all cozy at a sidewalk café with a glass of red. Similarly, it’s difficult not to be mesmerised by Florence, an exceptionally beautiful Italian city famous for its alluring Renaissance architecture and Tuscan countryside.
After some sun and topaz blue sea? Grab your other half and make a dash for Greece’s Santorini which is beyond captivating with its fairytale-like seaside villages. Sunset at Oia is a dreamy experience, thanks to its iconic sweet whitewashed houses, contrasting cobalt ocean and sky. Otherwise, relax and get cuddly in a vintage horse carriage to explore Vienna and its charming night sceneries, or take a romantic walk along the streets of Spittelberg.
After years bound to books, desks and nasty exams, a breakaway from home shores is not just a nice idea, it’s a sanity-saving necessity! Whatever your personality, style or budget, when it comes to breaking free from the school gates, these options are sure to refresh, relax and ignite your travel spirit.