If you are anticipating graduating high school soon or assisting someone who is, you know just how expensive the whole process can truly be. You have all the college applications, the cap, and gown, the party food and favors, the senior trip, not to mention college tuition. We think that while a senior trip is important, it doesn’t have to be the most expensive part of graduating. This is supposed to be the time of your life, so don’t let a big-budget getaway spoil your entire summer plan and break the bank for college. Choose something more easily budgeted, but without compromising on the fun!
Here’s what we suggest:
- Beach - Grab your friends, your surfboard, and your sunscreen and get ready for one of the cheapest, most traditional, and most fun ways to celebrate graduation: the beach! This senior trip option allows a lot of room to play, literally, but especially with the budget. You can opt to go to a local beach, in which case travel costs will but cut, or you can head to a coast you’ve never seen and find a free hideaway cove to admire the new views, it’s totally up to you. We particularly like this option because when you get to the beach you will have so many different options of things to do, most of which, if not all of them, are completely free. Enjoy swimming, snorkeling, boating, surfing, body boarding, windsurfing, beach volleyball, picnicking, local town touring, relaxing, and just soaking up the sun with all of your closest friends!
Average Cost Estimate: Travel and food only - Varies
Our Suggestion?: Virginia Beach: all the great sand, surf, sun, and scenery without the overwhelming crowds and prices.
- Theme Park - This is another really easy option to customize to fit your particular budget, with numerous locations spanning wide price ranges. As with the beach option, you can head to a locally loved amusement park, theme park, or carnival area, or you can spend most of your money on travel and go to an iconic park farther away. Most amusement parks will run you about $40-$70 for admission, depending on the time of year, length of stay, and a number of people in your group. You can head to the Disney parks, Universal Studios, Six Flags, or even your local carnival and have a screaming good time without spending a ton of money. To further save money, be sure to look online for deals before buying tickets and also consider packing your lunch for a parking lot picnic rather than spending more money on overpriced foods inside.
Average Cost Estimate: Admission $40-$70/day, plus food and travel
Our Suggestion?: Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio: the home of 72 record-breaking rides.
Zipline and Aerial Ropes Course - If you and your senior class are looking for a little more adventure, a little more bang for your buck, then this is the option for you! Zipline and Aerial Ropes Courses are popping up everywhere across the U.S., providing interesting and relatively cheap new ways to celebrate, travel, exercise, team-build, and make memories. These adventure parks are offered in several different locations, most of them being heavily forested with spectacular surrounding views. For instance, you can find popular parks in Branson, MO, Gatlinburg, TN, and Honolulu, HI, all with truly gorgeous landscapes. At these parks you can, of course, zipline (most group rates go from $30-$100/person), you can take walking tours, participate in physical team-building challenges, or attempt to take on the challenging aerial ropes course (you already managed to tackle high school, why not this?).
Average Cost Estimate: $30-$150/person - for zipline and rope course
Our Suggestion?: Ultra Ziplines at Utah Olympic Park. Three words: the world’s steepest drop.
- Mexico - Ahhh México; la vibrante cultura, la comida deliciosa, el sol sin fin! That’s right, our next cheap option for your group is the vibrant country of Mexico. There are several different cities, beaches, and areas within this gorgeous country that are extremely budgetable, allowing you room to do what you want. Traveling will be your biggest expense, of course, but if you hit all the free beaches, pack your own food, and tour all the free architecture, history, culture, and natural surroundings you can while you are here you won’t be needing much money any way! This is a really good option for a large group of students with several different avenues of interest, as well as students eager to see something new and experience their first big travel adventure.
Average Cost Estimate: $400-$500 for flight, $50-$100/night for lodging
Our Suggestion?: Head to gorgeous Cancun and live like a local!
- Day/ Weekend Cruise - Most senior groups dream of going on a cruise for their big graduation celebration, but most senior groups also really can’t afford such a big trip/expense. That’s why we’ve included the next best thing, a day or weekend cruise! You can typically find several day/weekend cruise options at major cruise companies such as Princess, NCL, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival, as well as different, cheap, customized, and fun options from the local river and lake-based sources. There are practically endless options of day and dinner cruises around the U.S., from southern comfort, filled dinner cruises in Nashville and New Orleans to wildlife watching adventures in Maine or Alaska! Take a lunch yoga cruise, astronomy cruise, weekend sightseeing cruise, the options are practically endless with this option, and like we said, really cheap alternatives to week-long voyages at sea! The memories you make will be just as special!
Average Cost Estimate: $60-$275
Our Suggestion?: Any Carnival Cruise weekend special cruises or the Steamboat Natchez in New Orleans.
- Camping - This option is my personal favorite, the cheapest opportunity to get out, getaway, and get in touch with nature! The overall cost of camping also depends on where you want to go and how far you want to travel to camp. You will have to pay to rent a site for however long you want, but other than that you can pack your own food and make your own entertainment while there, which won’t be hard to do! Enjoy fishing, hiking, boating, swimming, wildlife viewing, eco-excursions, and just being outdoors and active with all of your closest friends. You can see some truly stunning places with this option as well, so be sure to bring your camera, your binoculars, and your sense of adventure before you set off!
Average Cost Estimate: $5-$30/night
Our Suggestion?: Yosemite will not disappoint, especially when it comes to that scenery!
- Water Park - Like theme parks, water parks are always great senior trip options because they are affordable and super fun activities for the hot summer. Most water parks come with deals to get into the attached theme park as well, if there is one, and provide excellent ways to be active, be outside, and be having tons of fun with your classmates! This is another situation in which it would be wisest to look online for ticket deals before you come and pack a parking lot picnic to save money on food once inside! Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen for this always-fun option!
Average Cost Estimate: $30-$45/day
Our Suggestion?: Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City, boasting the tallest and fastest waterslide in the world.
- Volunteering - Probably not many senior groups, teachers, or parents, tend to think about volunteering as their big senior celebration, but in all honestly, it’s probably one of the most rewarding, fun, and cheapest options on the list! There are probably also more options than you think when it comes to volunteering with such popular options as Habitat for Humanity, National Park System Volunteers, Volunteer Vacations abroad, and several different localized volunteering opportunities. Spend anywhere from a single day to two weeks helping others or helping the community, each option excellent opportunities to travel, see something new, get active, and experience a different culture and ecosystem. You will make unforgettable memories and a rewarding sense of accomplishment after this big celebration.
Average Cost Estimate: Purely travel distance dependent
Our Suggestion?: Volunteers-In-Parks NPS program. This allows your group to go to any major U.S. National Parks for up to a week and help restore and maintain!
- National Park - Speaking of National Parks, how about this last option for seriously affordable senior fun at any of your local, or even far away, gorgeous national parks? This is the perfect option for a day only trip into some of the most beautiful and untouched places in America, a great opportunity for your senior class to get outside and get out some pent up (maybe a high school's worth) energy and celebrate! Pack a picnic or enjoy local hidden gem eateries for lunch, and even consider camping or finding cheap local lodging to further your stay and your nature-filled enjoyment.
Average Cost Estimate: This depends on travel distance, overnight stay options, and food options. Our guess - $100-350
Our Suggestion?: Glacier National Park - Montana (there are over 700 miles of hiking and biking trails here!