Planning your own graduation trip? Here's how

There is an increasing number of people who view embarking on a graduation trip after University as a rite of passage - something to end your collegiate journey with a bang before you enter the workforce proper.

If you can spare the time and money, you should consider taking a graduation trip that offers heaps of unforgettable experiences.

My own trip was an awesome journey with some of my best friends, travelling from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and New York City. If you are planning your own big Hurrah before settling into the office grind, here are some tips I learned to get you started!

1. Pre-trip planning

You've been looking forward to your trip, so you'd definitely have done your research. Make sure you get the best deals on flights by using sites like Skyscanner to monitor fluctuating flight prices.

I've heard that clearing your browser's cookies before booking flights can give you a better deal as well, especially if you have been searching for the same flights several times.

Don't forget to check if you need to have paperwork done before entering your destination of choice. For instance, although Singaporeans can travel to America on the Visa Waiver programme, you do have to produce an ESTA document that is registered online, and costs US$14(S$20). Additionally, don't forget to always get travel insurance!

2. Look for free activities

If you are planning a graduation trip, you are coming fresh off a student budget, so bargains will help! This could be free walking tours, museum admissions, or tourist attractions without admission fees. Find out if there are any festivals or art walks taking place at your destination, and don't be afraid to ask locals for their recommendations.

If you cannot get in attractions for free, do an online search to find out if you can get discounted tickets. I visited a couple of museums in New York - The American Museum Of Natural History and Metropolitan Museum of Art - at a steal because they allow you to pay what you wish for admittance (though there is a suggested ticket price), which works great for those on a budget.

3. Checking for reviews

You are in a new place, so any reviews from locals or previous tourists will always be welcome when you are doing research on activities and attractions!

Yelp reviews turned out to be incredibly helpful when looking for good eateries. We were fortunate enough to get good recommendations from our Airbnb hosts as well.

Another handy tip I picked up from a friend is to check out the Instagram account or tagged photos of a restaurant before we made our orders, if you want to get an idea of what the dish looks like, or an estimate of the portion size. For our trip, we made it a point to try some brunch places that we have previously only seen being wildly raved about on Instagram (like L.A.'s famous Egg Slut) and were not disappointed!

4. Accommodations and getting around

Part of this point is also knowing where you are booking your accommodations. If you are on a budget, you would have to weigh the pros and cons of booking a pricier place that is centrally located and near popular attractions, or somewhere cheaper and farther away.

Check if public transport is readily available, or if it is cheaper to rent a car to get around. For my trip, we got around using a mix of everything - public transport, renting a car, getting rides from friends, and using Uber. More than transport, though, is checking the safety of the locations.

While searching for our accommodations for one leg of our trip, my friends and I found that staying in one part of San Francisco was much cheaper than another city that was a short distance away.

We later found out from a friend that the cheaper location was not the safest place, thankfully before we made our bookings.

5. Be open to new experiences!

I will be honest and say that one of the experiences I was adamant against trying was going to Disneyland (to the horror of my travel mates). Prior to the trip, I was not feeling the magic, so to speak, and felt that my time was better spent exploring other activities.

Of course, I'd be lying if I said I had no interest in the Happiest Place on Earth, so I did end up joining the trip to Anaheim.

It turned out to be one of our best days on the trip! Disneyland might not be one of the best examples of going with the flow or doing something wholly adventurous, but the idea of keeping your mind open to something you might not immediately be drawn to is something that you should definitely have on your trip.

6. Traveling with friends

If this graduation trip is the first time you are travelling with a group of friends, be sure you know what everyone is looking forward to doing in the trip, and plan activities accordingly. Are you more of the shopping type, or do you want to explore outdoor activities? Perhaps you'd like to try different brunch places, while your friends prefer visiting museums.

Whatever your preferences, being open about what you want to see or try, and being able to accommodate and compromise with everyone's individual travel styles and budgets, will ensure that your trip runs smoothly, and everyone has a good time!

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