Jetsetter Guides

20 Trips to Take in Your 20s

So you’ve hit your twenties... what a time to be alive! Now for the ultimate catch 22: You have the world to see, but also a flatlining bank account. Here, we round up the 20 trips that, regardless of cashflow, just can’t be skipped.

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Road trip Route 66

2,448 miles. Eight states. Diners, drive-ins, and... iconic roadside attractions (you thought I was going to say dives, didn’t you). Route 66, or the Mother Road, is indisputably the great American road trip. Divvy up your time between CA, AZ, NM, TX, OK, KS, MO and IL to hit all the living Americana legends and small town mom-and-pops that middle-country has to offer. On our master list is Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in St. Louis, the Blue Whale of Catoosa in OK, the "dead chicken" sandwiches and "cheeseburgers with cheese" at Delgadillo's Snow Cap Drive-In in Seligman, AZ, and of course - at the end of the road, the Santa Monica Pier. It generally takes about two weeks to drive the length of the highway, but giving yourself more time is always good. If you're struggling to nail down your route, turn to Roadtrippers for directions and suggestions, Foursquare's Trip Tips for recommendations from friends, and Scout for the cheapest gas stations.

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Eat your way through New Orleans

In the land of beignets, po-boys and kicked-up cajun cuisine, a weekend could easily turn into a full-blown feast. Start the gluttony with the creole-inspired brunch (and 25 cent martinis!) at Commander’s Palace — the wild Louisiana white shrimp stuffed with spicy tasso ham, Crystal hot sauce, pickled okra and pepper jelly is a must. And we can't leave out classics like Cafe Du Monde's famous deep-fried pastry, Bon Ton Cafe's jambalaya, and Bevi Seafood Co.'s peacemaker po-boy full of fried shrimp, swiss cheese and roast beef gravy with a side of seafood gumbo. Newcomers worth checking out include Josephine Estelle, an Italian osteria at the just-opened Ace Hotel, and Kenton's, a chic southern eatery that features a whiskey-based menu (our favorite: crispy grits with country ham and bourbon aioli). Finish the food frenzy by ordering the smoked pork cheeks with cornbread puree and bacon braised collard greens at Angeline. You'll want to pack those fat pants.

RELATED: What to Do in New Orleans Now

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Go on a European grand tour

It’s undeniable: Europe has some of the best cities this world has to offer. Chock-full of art, history, design, and enviable sceneries — we could make a list of 20+ European destinations alone, so our suggestion? A grand trip that encompasses as many as you can handle. Thanks to proximity and super convenient modes of transportation, you can hop your way through Europe on a modest budget. The Eurail Global Pass is a great option if you're passing through multiple countries, and there are nine types to choose from depending on how many days of travel you're working with. The base ticket runs at $348 and gets you access to 28 countries — or for EU citizens, there's the Interrail Global Pass which starts at €200 and gets you access to 30 countries — so you can hit the centrally-located biggies like Paris, London, Barcelona and the outliers like Budapest, Istanbul, and Athens.

RELATED: 6 Most Affordable Cities in Europe

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Go surfing in Costa Rica

You could drop thousands of dollars to travel to Maui’s North Shore to tackle XXL waves. Or, you could buy a cheap ticket to Costa Rica, for the chance to ride world-class swells at a fraction of the price. And given the country’s endless bounty of affordable seaside accommodations, you’ll have that much more money to put aside towards lessons, rentals and equipment. Tamarindo is one of Costa Rica’s more frequented spots but we love Santa Teresa for its rolling coastline and novice-friendly beach breaks. Take the girls for a weeklong camp at Del Soul Surf School, which was founded in 2006 by a former Israeli surfing champion, and you'll catch your first wave in no time.

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Photo by Pooneh Ghana

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Hit the music scene in Austin

Dive bars, fringe festivals, and rockabilly joints form the backbone of Austin’s music scene and lend the live music capital a veritable pulse. Creative newcomers flee to the city in hopes of launching careers, and established musicians continue to push the boundaries of existing genres. Over the years, the city has fostered the likes of Janis Joplin, the Police and the Talking Heads. Now, a resurgence has come in the form of SXSW and festivals like Austin City Limits, Fun Fun Fun and Keep Austin Weird. Pop into any bar or club – there are more than 100 venues – and you won't be disappointed, but locals and visitors swear by The Continental Club – a historic landmark that opened more than 60 years ago; the Mohawk – a newer (circa 2006) Native American-inspired addition to the scene; The Mean Eyed Cat – a complete homage to Johnny Cash from music to memorabilia and everything in between; and Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon – a true honky tonk joint with weekly games of chicken sh*t bingo (we sh*t you not).

RELATED: 16 of Summer's Best Music Fests

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Test out the coffeeshops in Amsterdam

Just so we’re all on the same page – we’re not talking about real cafes, but Amsterdam’s famed coffeeshops where the menus are a bit more...illicit. If you happen to be passing through with some downtime, the grungy, graffiti-tagged Hill Street Blues is a great dive option; the boutique Amnesia has a cleaner look than most (and some of the friendliest budtenders); and there's always the iconic Bulldog — Amsterdam's most famed spot which in 1974 was nothing more than a living room hangout. You're only young (in Amsterdam) once, right?

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Get weird in Portland

It’s not hard to see how this wacky west coast city got its reputation. Here, you’ll find all sorts of people from the hippie-meets-hipsters, to nude bikers to the unipiper — a Darth-Vader-mask-wearing, flaming-bagpipe-playing unicyclist. (Yes, you read that right.) And when it comes to food, Portland caters to some eclectic tastes. Don't miss oddball desserts like the bacon, maple bar at Voodoo Doughnut and Salt & Straw's honey lavender or pear and blue cheese ice cream flavors. There's even a vegan strip club if you want to satisfy your primal appetite in a less carnivorous fashion (not like you were going for the all-you-can-eat wing buffet anyway... wink, wink).

RELATED: 35 Things to Do for Free in Portland, OR

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Hike through Patagonia

Patagonia’s rugged 400,000 miles stretch from southern Chile to Argentina, through the Andes mountains, icefields, scrubland, barren plains, and craggy coasts. For experienced ice-hikers, glacier trekking in El Calafate, Argentina’s dramatic glacier capital, is a must (but try to avoid January and February when tourism and prices spike). It’s the active Glacier Perito Moreno in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares that draws adventure enthusiasts from far and wide, and the storied 36-mile Fitz Roy Trek which takes anywhere from 3-7 days to complete. If you're interested in truly immersing yourself in the experience, REI offers an array of two-week hiking and camping trips that include traditional BBQ, ranch work, and sickeningly beautiful panoramas of twin peaks Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy.

RELATED: 11 Wild Summer Camps for Grown-Ups

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Shop the souks in Marrakech

Branching out from the medina’s main square, Jemaa el Fna, you're certain to get lost in the narrow twisted streets of the souks. (But that's all part of the fun!) Take in piles of pottery, hand-made slippers, gold lanterns and genie lamps, or look up and browse colorful kaftans, pashminas and berber rugs hanging from the walls and doorways. And when you bargain with the merchants, remember one Moroccan dirham is worth 10 cents, meaning you can literally haul your loot home on a dime. Cha-ching!

RELATED: 72 Hours in Marrakech

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Photo by Eric Wolfinger

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Brunch in LA

Sure, Los Angeles offers shopping, celeb-sightings and a red-hot nightlife, but that’s not the only reason you need to cross it off your 20-something bucket list. It’s called brunch, people, and in the City of Angels, it’s not just a meal—it’s an art form. So clear the better part of your morning/afternoon, and make room for the city’s endless smorgasbord of flavors. We love Gracias Madre's Mexican vegan fare and sun-soaked patio, République's French-inspired plates and soaring interiors, and Gjelina's coffee, pastries, and beachy, SoCal feel.

RELATED: California For Everyone

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Backpack Southeast Asia

Backpacking Southeast Asia – Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, in particular – is easier and more affordable than you may think. With a highly favorable currency exchange rate, super inexpensive hostels and street food as far as the eye can see (it’ll often run you less than a dollar), you won’t be stuck counting your pennies and dimes 24/7. The toughest part will be whittling your ambitious must-see list into a manageable itinerary. If you’re planning a two week jaunt, hit Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Angkor, Phnom Penh, and Saigon (give or take a few and the little places you stop at along the way). If you’re blessed with an extended vaca, and money to spare on a couple of extra flights, you could also work in Malaysia and the Philippines. Pre-trip, just make sure you invest in a sturdy backpack, shoes, and travel insurance (seriously, don’t skimp on this).

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Go clubbing in Berlin

If you watched HBO’s Girls and thought that warehouse parties in Brooklyn were crazy, Berlin is really going to blow your mind. Working with large swaths of industrial wasteland, the city’s clubbing scene mainlines disorienting techno and house music in abandoned factories and dilapidated buildings, and the subculture thrives on Sunday mornings (yes, really.) In a former Communist power plant, the legendary Berghain rules the scene, but the notorious bouncers are unimpressed by most (seriously, there are articles about how to maybe get in). Rather than face rejection after hours of standing in line sans cell phone (read the articles...) try your luck at the small and gritty Golden Gate near the Jannowitzbrücke train stop or White Trash, a one stop burger-beer-tattoo free-for-all that attracts an expat-heavy crowd.

RELATED: Start Spreading the Booze

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Soak in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland

Save those overpriced luxury spa packages for when you’re 50, and instead try something a bit more adventurous. This geothermal spring may be touristy but it's a must-do. Famed for its seafoam-colored waters, it's pooled within a lava-field basin rich in minerals like silica and sulfur. Expect to step out of the natural hot tub feeling fully pruned and pampered.

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See scenic views in Croatia

Kick off your sightseeing tour along the picturesque Dalmatian Coast. While Dubrovnik’s early renaissance architecture and romantic alleys are enough feast for the eyes, the best views of the Adriatic Sea are from the cable car up to Mount Srd. From the port, hop a boat to visit the just-as-stunning islands of Vis, Hvar, Split and Korcula. Next stop: Four hours north near the Bosnian border, explore waterfalls, fir-tree forests and crystalline waters at Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO Heritage Site. Then end the trip at the 13th-century Dubovac Castle, just half an hour south of Zagreb, where you can climb to the top of its tower to overlook the medieval town of Karlovac.

RELATED: 6 Most Affordable Cities in Europe

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Get an adrenaline rush in New Zealand

There’s a time and place to be young and reckless — and New Zealand is it. Want to swing off the side of a canyon from 357 feet up (that's like falling from the 28th floor of a building!)? How about bungee jumping off a bridge or paragliding over Queenstown? If you're the ultimate daredevil, go black water rafting on an innertube in the dark depths of the Waitomo Caves.

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Hit the slopes in Whistler

Newsflash: You’ll never be more able-bodied than you are in your twenties. So, get out of your comfort zone and do something that puts your physical to the test. And what better place to feel the rush than at Whistler Blackcomb, one of the largest ski resorts in the world? Expect 8,000 acres of pillowy pistes and 200 runs, with knee-deep powder, film-worthy steeps and seven months of subzero temperatures a year. Off the hill, the après ski is one of the finest in the world with next-level DJ acts, craft brew tastings and hot tub parties. Located at the base of Whistler Mountain, Buffalo Bill’s is a popular hangout among the locals, and plays host to themed parties (think: Wild West) most every night of the week. Oh, and did we mention the drinking age is 19?

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Spring break in Mexico

There’s a reason Mexico serves as the backdrop to virtually every Hollywood film ever made about Spring Break. With plenty of inexpensive hotels, gorgeous coastal scenery, and cheap food and drink, paradise is completely within reach. And as for the nightlife, the options are limitless, from the booze-soaked raves to the all-you-can-drink pool parties. True, you’ll need to set your inhibitions (and dignity) aside, but when there’s this much budget-friendly fun is just a plane ticket away, there are really no excuses. Cancun is classic Spring Break territory, as is Cabo, but Tulum lures a laid-back breed of beach lover to its casita-dotted shores.

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Explore Japan

Yeah, your lives may seem busy and all at the moment, but just wait until you have an exec job and some kids. So even though a far-flung trip to Japan may seem like a big commitment, take advantage of your flexible schedule to explore the country’s vibrant culture and vast, diverse landscapes. Tokyo is a must-see, with its sci-fi skyscrapers, colorful karaoke bars and endless array of ramen and sushi joints (we’d recommend a sushi breakfast at Tsukiji Market, the largest, busiest fish market in the world). And Kyoto's Zen gardens, mountain scenery, and thousands of ethereal, gold-covered temples may just be the yin to your quarter-life-crisis yang.

RELATED: 10 Foods You Should Eat in Japan That Aren't Sushi

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Photo courtesy of Design House Stockholm

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Check out Stockholm’s design shops

It might be hard to imagine right now, but in ten years’ time, you’ll actually want to upgrade that musty couch you bought off Craiglist as a post-grad. And when that fateful moment comes, you’ll do well to have some sense of what you’re looking for. Enter Stockholm: a design-lover’s haven, with its trendy boutique furniture stores, folksy vintage shops and mid-century modern showrooms. On your hit-list: Design House Stockholm, a high-end concept store that represents over 60 luxe Swedish contemporary designers and Carl Malmsten, a design company known for its beautiful wood furnishings and curvilinear, 60s-inspired samsa sofas.

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Museum-hop in Barcelona

Just because you've graduated, doesn't mean you have to stop learning. In Barcelona, you won’t need a textbook to continue your education. With dozens of galleries and museums, each offering rare glimpses into Spain’s cultural epochs, there’s a history lesson built into virtually every exhibit. What’s more, almost every museum has free admission on a certain day of the week, so you won’t need to break the bank to soak up great works by Spanish artists like Tapies, Dalí and Picasso. The recently opened Museu Picasso is home to one of the largest collections of the artist's work, with exhibits stretching across five adjoining palaces. And The Contre de Cultura Contemporània (CCCB) organizes a wide ranges of exhibitions, concerts, and shows featuring contemporary film and visual media projects.

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