Before you trade in that student ID for a corporate badge, here are seven safe, affordable destinations where the dress code is nothing but casual. From hiking volcanoes to snorkeling with technicolor underwater life to kicking back with a cold beer, we’ll keep it easy on the wallet.
The post-graduation month of June is a great time to visit the land of fire and ice, where the temperature is pleasant and the days are long. Reykjavik is a hotspot for thrill-seeking Millennials with a long list of never-ending adventures like snowmobiling, glacier hiking and even descending into a volcano. Budget-conscious travelers will appreciate that it’s a small, walkable city, but hop-on/hop-off buses are another great way to get around. Reykjavik Excursions offers “bus passports” with routes all around and outside of the city, including the Ring Road, a scenic loop of the island.
Costa Rica’s abundant natural landscape offers tons of free outdoor activities like hiking through the cloud forests and the coffee plantations of Monteverde—and you’ll probably even spot a few monkeys. If you want to experience the death-defying zipline through the forest, it will cost you a pretty penny, so save your money and take the local bus to Playa Tamarindo, where you can surf all day and party all night. The Tiquicia Lodge in capital city San Juan offers great budget accommodations with breakfast included. Plan to eat at sodas, local family-run restaurants that serve a hearty plate of Costa Rican cuisine for just a few bucks.
After you’ve sprung for the big-ticket airfare, Thailand becomes an incredible bargain. Look to Phuket, a beach lover’s dream with more than 36 sandy beaches, where all you need is a comfy towel and snorkel. Tint at Phuket Town, a great budget hotel, offers free internet for uploading all those great photos and checking in on social media. Tasty street food vendors let you fill your belly on a dime. If you’re looking for an inexpensive day trip, take the ferry to Phi Phi Island or visit the marine national park at Phang Nga.
Spend a week in picturesque Grindelwald in the Jungfrau Region, where the only gear you need are hiking shoes. While Switzerland overall can be pretty pricey, the Mountain Hostel won’t break your budget, and it’s the perfect jumping off spot for the region’s multitude of challenging hiking trails. Make sure to visit Gletscherschlucht, a glacial gorge with walking paths and waterfalls. You’ll need to purchase a Swiss Pass to explore the area via trains and cable cars. If you’re able to indulge a bit, add the world-famous Top of Europe Tour to your pass, a cogwheel train that takes you to the highest station in Europe that will leave you with views that last a lifetime.
Great Barrier Reef
Put all those science credits to use and visit the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven wonders of the world. You might be surprised to hear that snorkeling the reef is not only cheaper, but offers the same breathtaking experience as a more expensive scuba dive. Half Day Tours and Reef Trip both offer budget tours that will transport you to the best areas. Don’t worry if you blow your budget on this once-in-a-lifetime experience, you can spend the rest of your trip taking advantage of the great free offerings in this part of Queensland. On the Esplanade right in the center of Cairns, there’s a picturesque lagoon that’s a great place to cool off and wile away the day listening to live music. Just a short drive away you’ll find Stoney Creek Falls, a free secret hideaway nestled within the rainforest with fresh water swimming holes, rock jumps and waterfalls. Because this is backpacker central, budget accommodations abound.
U.S. National Parks Tour
If airfare isn’t in your post-graduation budget, gas up your car, grab a backpack and head west. If you’re looking to rough it and experience the great outdoors, the Northern Rockies are the place to go. Plan to spend a couple of days in each park, starting at the local park ranger station where you can take advantage of free daily guided walks to get a lay of the land. Grand Teton National Park has more hiking trails than you can conquer and is dotted with lakes, canyons, and peaks. Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, offers a different kind of wild life than you saw in college—you’ll see everything from bears to buffalo. Stay at the historic, yet budget-friendly, Old Faithful Inn (book early), the largest log structure in the world, where you can actually watch Old Faithful erupt from the cafeteria. End this epic adventure at Glacier National Park and spend the night in an authentic tepee at the Lodgepole Gallery and Tipi Village on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.
The Florida Keys
Margaritaville awaits you along this 113-mile stretch of highway where you’ll see some of the most picturesque beaches, dotted with kitschy roadside attractions and old-school seafood shacks. Trade in your travel itinerary for flip-flops because the Keys give casual a whole new meaning. Plan to just drive and stop on a whim anywhere along the route and chances are you’ll find a roadside stand where you can snorkel, kayak or just enjoy a cold beer.
You might want to park and walk across the famous Seven Mile Bridge that connects the Middle Keys with the Lower Keys because the turquoise blue waters make the perfect backdrop for a selfie. Drop your gear at the Seashell Motel & Hostel in Key West and head for the beach to swim with sea turtles, nurse sharks, parrot fish, and spiny lobsters all along the shallow reefs. If you’re not burned out on history, visit Ernest Hemingway’s home from the 1920s and see the colony of six-toed cats.