Bucket List Vacation Spots For Your 20s, According To Seasoned Travelers

Your 20s are a special time. Newly freed from childhood and looking to make your mark on the world, it's your time to explore this new stage of life and where it may take you. According to social psychologist Adam Galinsky, travel quite literally alters our brains and personalities. In an interview with six-two, he stresses the importance of venturing away from home in young adulthood, saying, "Travel now, because those experiences will have a greater impact on who you become later in life." Your travels will help shape you, and by the time you return home, you will hopefully have found what you can offer back to the world. So, how do you decide where to explore first?

A lot of times, the things we remember are moments we spend outside our comfort zone and day-to-day lives. This pretty much means that travel has priority seating in the hippocampus. We should choose the setting of these precious memories wisely, so don't throw a dart at a map just yet. Who better to consult on the matter than travelers who are now looking back fondly on certain destinations? We've looked at the testimonies of seasoned, older travelers to determine the best destinations for those in their 20s — and some of them may surprise you.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam's infamous Red Light District and purple-lit cannabis cafés have given the city somewhat of an uninhibited reputation. Well, the city isn't as hedonistic as you may believe. In fact, it is a beautiful destination for young people who can't wait to taste a bit of the world. The city's more risqué attractions are intriguing and relatively safe to visit, but take in the rest of this history-rich party city, too. Amsterdam's Anne Frank House and The Rijksmuseum are must-sees for art and history lovers alike, especially those with an appreciation for world-famous Dutch artists. 

For travelers who do want to hit the nightlife scene, Amsterdam has multiple "party" districts for travelers to explore. You will find hostels, nightclubs, and a thriving bar scene in both Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein. The basement nightclubs and converted party warehouses give the nightlife scene a very underground vibe. If you're actually looking for a less touristy party scene, though, Diemen is the place to be for mingling with locals.

We're not saying that people out of their 20s don't like nightlife or that all 20-somethings like to party. However, many seasoned travelers recommend that younger travelers prioritize destinations that offer a good party and bar scene. If nothing else, the social aspect of these destinations can help younger travelers meet like-minded individuals. The truth is that the older you get, the less likely you'll stay in hostels to party until the wee hours of the morning.

New York City, New York

New York City is a place for finding one's self, and it is seemingly full of people who have come here to do just that. More than half of the people who live here are transplants, creating one of the most diverse cities in the world. For a lot of visitors who have never been to a large city, the Big Apple serves as the ultimate symbol of breaking free from the town you're from.

People come from all over the world to see Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, and Central Park, but it's the places that aren't on any visitor's center brochure that really feeds the soul. Everything from microbreweries and ice cream shops with out-there flavors to punk thrift shops can be found here. According to NYC.gov, 98% of all businesses are small. The city has practically been built on dreams, and it's a great destination to inspire a few of your own.

In a review of the best trips to take while in your 20s (as she exits the age bracket), Travel Vlogger Hey Nadina suggests making a big city one of your must-do vacations. It's not just about switching up your surroundings, though, a big city — especially one as diverse as NYC — offers an entirely different perspective to someone who has never been to one. It's about being surrounded by all types of people and finding beauty in the evidence of their lives.

New Orleans, Louisiana

If there is one destination within the United States that young explorers with a love of parties and festivals should visit, it's New Orleans. NOLA has old bones, and its massive parties are founded in culture and tradition, which makes them all the more powerful. From Tremé's Skull and Bone Gang to spooky New Orleans ghost tours, the city's multiculturalism is plain to see.

New Orleans is a source of many fond memories for older travelers, likely because the Southern city offers such intricate, inimitable experiences. Some look back at huge Mardi Gras celebrations that play host to some of their most treasured moments, while others simply describe the way the city puts off a certain feeling. As Tripadvisor user joshlufsgirl poetically puts it, "The smells, sounds and sights accosting my senses from all angles. I felt a vibration around me that I would come to experience many times over, my stomach fluttered with excitement and I was truly happy." Seasoned travelers who have been to NOLA know that you have to visit to truly understand its charm. Travel here while you're young. You'll likely want to come back again and again.

Las Vegas, Nevada

If there was ever a time to blow your life savings at the casino, it's when you don't have much. Okay, so you shouldn't actually bet all your money on black, but you should chase a bit of the thrill when in Vegas. Sin City is a place to revel in the absurd and eccentric, but remember that this destination can spell a special kind of disaster when you let your inhibition get away from you. Still, your 20s is an ideal time to visit — especially for those who enjoy taking risks and high-octane adventures.

One thing that comes up frequently with seasoned travelers is money. Generally, they have more of it than their younger counterparts. Yet, they are the first ones to recommend spending money when it comes to travel. Money will come and go throughout your life, but time is linear. Visit places like Las Vegas in your youth, where unique experiences usually take a little scratch, because the untamed memories you create here will last into your older years.

Experiences are worth more than gold, and there's no experience quite like Vegas. Visit one of Las Vegas' many niche museums, skydive over the neon Strip, or elope with the love of your life in front of the King himself. Whatever you do in this beautifully bizarre city, just make it memorable.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Maybe somewhat unexpected, Bosnia and Herzegovina isn't the first place you associate with youth. In fact, this wildly underrated international destination has wonderful historic value as being a place with copious medieval ruins. The ancient history here can almost be felt in the air, from the stone buildings and Turkish houses to the Ottoman Old Bridge of Mostar.

Even so, seasoned travelers recommend those in their 20s visit the laid-back country while they are young. The destination is an especially strong choice for those who like a more low-key and authentic trip, as Bosnia and Herzegovina has a low tourism rate. This means more mingling with locals and less bumping elbows with lookie-loos. However, tourism here is growing, so it may be wise to bump this destination up on your travel checklist.

For a place so humble, there is plenty to do and look at in Bosnia and Herzegovina. One Reddit user, @elhooper, passionately says, " Get overwhelmed. Drink water from the fountain. And then just get as lost as possible ... Every tight little cobblestone alley is chock full of surprises." Sarajevo and Mostar are very walkable, so there will be plenty of cobblestone streets to explore for the aforementioned surprises.


If you don't make it out of your 20s with at least one culture shock, you're doing it wrong. For the young and inexperienced traveler, Japan is the perfect destination for such an endeavor. Visiting a Japanese city is pretty much as culturally and visually different than you can get from most places in the world. Even so, you will find that communication isn't really an issue in the big cities, as you can find people who know basic English.

The same cannot be said for other parts of Japan, as the country as a whole has a low proficiency in English. Japan's countryside may not come with the comfort of English-speaking people, but it certainly has its perks. Gorgeous temples, nature scenes, and unique glances into Japanese culture are what await you here. Some things are communicated perfectly without words, and off-beat Japanese destinations like Shikoku Island and Mount Hachimantai will bring nature to the forefront of your travels.

Seasoned travelers rave about Japan, from the delicious food to how easy it is to travel around the island country. The public train system makes it easy to see different parts of the country, and you will certainly want to. From cities to sprawling coastal towns and mountain peaks, Japan needs to be on every 20-somethings' bucket list. 

London, England

London is full of class, history, and a little bit of angst, making it a great first international trip for young people. Although London offers enough excitement to offer a truly great trip, those with little experience traveling or who don't feel fully comfortable in a foreign country will have some familiar comforts and no language barrier here.

For all the creature comforts that England and its capital city provide, it is still undoubtedly foreign. You will still be exposed to a different culture and landscapes. The observable history is also much older than that of America and is present everywhere. There are pubs in London older than the United States, and you won't find a structure with a history quite like the Tower of London stateside.

Older travelers recommend new travelers tackle the English city while they're still young, as it isn't exactly the most accessible destination for those with mobility limitations. Exploring London means lots of foot travel. Walking on cobbled streets, climbing up and down cramped staircases, and navigating through medieval castles and landmarks can make for a tiring adventure, but it's generally easier to explore for someone in their 20s.

Southeast Asia

When considering the opinion of those who have traveled far and wide, Southeast Asia frequently comes up as one of the most pleasantly memorable places to travel. This comes as no surprise, as the diverse cultures and scenery of countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, and the Philippines are all worth exploring. Whether you backpack and hostel-crash through many countries or spend a longer stretch in just one, you can walk away with a new understanding of the world and the diversity of the people in it.

The amount of beautiful places to visit in Southeast Asia is undeniable. Intricately carved Buddhist temples and shrines, towering rock formations jutting out of bays, and national parks that protect some of nature's glorious sites await travelers here. The Batu Caves in Malaysia, Halong Bay in Vietnam, and Khao Yai National Park in Thailand are all awe-inspiring destinations, but there are really countless places in the region that will knock your socks off.

For those led by the stomachs, Southeast Asia is known for its culinary excellence, and broke 20-somethings will be able to try a bit of everything, as the region is so affordable. This bucket list destination checks all the boxes for many travelers, but young travelers will reap the huge benefit of an international trip that is easy on the wallet and filling to the soul.

South America

By the time you hit 30, you should have visited every continent. Okay, that's a steep ask, but you should at least consider exploring some of South America before the big 3-0. Not only does the continent contain some of the most beautiful and diverse wilderness you will see, but the rich cultures found throughout the continent are also something to experience.

Patagonia is a show-stopper and the colorful wilderness is perfect for nature-loving 20-somethings. Backpacking through this preserved landscape is certainly something older generations can take part in, but you never know what the future will hold for your body. Overall, it's just not something you will want to miss. This is why Patagonia is highly recommended by seasoned travelers for young people looking for adventure.

South American destinations like Colombia and Peru are also top recommendations from people who have been all over the world. Columbia's Salt Cathedral and Peru's Machu Picchu exemplify how two attractions in this region can be so different, yet similarly culturally significant and marvelous. 

The Grand Canyon

Some things you have to see to believe, and for some people, the Grand Canyon is one of them. There seem to be two camps of people in this world: those who revere the Grand Canyon and those who think it's just a big hole in the ground. However, those in the latter camp have likely never seen the national park.

As older travelers recount their first experience at the Grand Canyon, many report being brought to tears by the sight of its enormity and beauty. Others recall not thinking the site would be much beforehand, only to be gobsmacked when finally locking their eyes on it. Don't wait too long to have this same realization.

There's nothing that brings you back down to Earth quite like a trip to the Grand Canyon. To stand on the edge of such vastness and feel so small helps to truly understand how big our world really is. It is the type of place where wanderlust is born, and it's best to get hit with the travel bug earlier rather than later.

The Appalachian Trail

It's not all great memories that inspire more mature travelers' destination picks for new adults — there are some regrets in there, too. Unfortunately, we can't do it all in our lifetime, and hiking the Appalachian Trail takes a whole lot of time. Between children and a committed career path, most are not able to take the months of vacation time needed to attempt the hike.

One traveler in particular expresses his sadness at the lack of nature-filled adventures in his youth. "I would have taken time off from work to do the whole Appalachian Trail in one go," says Reddit user @Hefty_End_786 when describing what he'd do differently in his youth. Continuing, he explains, "... looking back, I wish I had placed experience in nature over experience in an office cubicle when I was able."

Trekking over one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, hiking the Appalachian Trail is a truly ethereal experience. As you explore nature and the small towns nestled in valleys along the way, you'll form memories not soon to be forgotten. The people you meet could become long-life friends or simply passing souls. Either way, they'll live on in your memories past the days your body is too old to tackle the lengthy trail.

Anywhere and Everywhere

When seasoned travelers are asked where 20-somethings should travel, a lot answer with, "Everywhere." Your first thought may be to tropical getaways, far-off mountain villages, or distant metropolises, but don't forget the places in your own backyard. Some of the best-hidden gems may be hiding in plain sight. 

Local adventures may not have the same bragging rights as a month of country-hopping through Europe, but local trips come with their own set of benefits. Keeping your travels local not only saves you money, but it stimulates your local economy and allows you to enjoy things off tourist trails. For young people especially, finding things to appreciate in your locality and other domestic destinations may help you decide where to plant your own roots.

We only have so much time on this Earth, and we should make it count. Whether it's international adventures, backpacking expeditions, or a day trip to the next town over, it doesn't always matter where you go. Just go. Your 20s are the perfect time to prioritize travel and dive into the endless possibilities of anywhere and everywhere, even the nearby places.

The method behind our picks

Hindsight is 20/20, and the people who really know where 20-somethings should go on vacation are those who themselves were once vagabonding 20-somethings. We scoured all the typical internet haunts of seasoned travelers, like Reddit, YouTube, and personal blogs, to help decide which destinations you should add to your bucket list. These former young adults had a lot to say about prioritizing travel to these destinations. They either really enjoyed them in their 20s, or they were destinations they wished they had traveled when they were younger.

A lot of our picks were recommendations directly from older travelers' mouths and highlights from their own 20s. In some cases, though, we instead looked at how seasoned travelers described their experiences and their reflections on their youthful travels. Since not all new adults are looking for the same kind of getaway, we also provided an array of destinations. Happy travels!