I’ve been lucky enough to visit some amazing places around the world and have some of the best experiences while doing so. Checking off the Northern Lights, solo travel, food experiences, pagoda hopping, and more…. these are the trips that have left a lasting impression on me. If you’re looking for places to visit before 30, look no further. I’ve compiled my “30 before 30 list” here detailing all of the experiences worth spending time and money on!
30 Experiences to Have and Places to Visit Before 30
1. Travel Solo
One of the best decisions I’ve ever made was facing my fears and traveling solo! Sure, you may feel lonely but the truth of the matter is when you travel solo you’re more likely to make friends, go at your own pace, and learn the local culture! Get up at 5 am, go to bed at 8 pm. Or stay in and watch Netflix for the day. The world is your oyster when you’re alone… do with it what you please!
Read more about solo travel here:
2. Fall in love with Paris
Growing up I had a bit of disdain for Paris. I mean, how could it truly be that wonderful? And why is everyone so obsessed with the French? It took me actually visiting Paris to experience first hand the magic of the city. The chic-ness of the French as they make their way to work, fresh baguette in hand. The stunning architecture and romance of the city. And oh don’t get me started with the cheese, pastries, and wine. There’s truly no better place to fall in love and no better city to fall in love with.
Read more about Paris here:
3. Chase the Northern Lights, but don’t be discouraged if you don’t see them
A bucket list dream of mine has always been to see the Northern Lights. When I found myself in Estonia I knew I had to head north to cross this off my list. So I booked a flight to Finland and headed north to a small town – Ivalo. I checked into my hotel and waited in bed all day for my “Northern Lights tour” to start. 10 minutes before we were set to depart, the tour was canceled due to weather conditions. The next day I packed my bags and left Ivalo feeling let down, discouraged, and disappointed. After all… I did fly to Ivalo strictly to see the Northern Lights.
I ended up flying south to Rovaniemi, where I got lucky. The weather cleared and I was able to experience this phenomenon after all. Seeing the lights dance in the sky will be something that will forever amaze me. So go chase the Northern Lights, but don’t get discouraged if you don’t see them.
Read more about the Northern Lights here:
4. Sail through the British Virgin Islands
Get some friends or family together, rent a boat, and sail through one of the most gorgeous parts of the world. White sand beaches, clear blue water; there are endless activities to enjoy in the British Virgin Islands! From adventuring around islands on scooters, swimming with turtles and nurse sharks, to jumping off abandoned pirate ships. Sailing through the British Virgin Islands is truly a once in a lifetime trip.
Read more about the British Virgin Islands:
5. Slow down at Lake Bled
Slovenia is an incredibly underrated country. Full of quaint towns, beautiful nature, and lacking in hoards of tourists (so far!). Make it a point to visit Slovenia sooner than later, and discover what makes the country so special. While you’re in town make sure to stop and spend time in Lake Bled. Found in the Julian Alps, enjoy the scenery and jaw-dropping backdrop as you slowly mosey around the lake.
Read more about Slovenia here:
6. Visit Budapest for no other reason than it’s awesome
Budapest is one of the most underrated capital cities around. Not only is it a walkable city full of charm and history but you can also bathe in natural hot baths, see amazing architecture, come across friendly locals, old churches, fun nightlife, and do all of this cheaply! Budapest operates on the local currency, the Hungarian Forint allowing your dollar to go far.
Read more about Budapest here:
7. Skip Napa, visit lesser-known wine regions
While Napa is beautiful and produces some of the best wine in the world, there are so many other great wine regions around the US with far fewer visitors. This allows you more time to get to taste the wine, get to know the winemakers, and enjoy the atmosphere without crowds of people around. My favorite “less-visited” wine regions include Applegate Valley, OR, Los Olivos, CA, Temecula, CA, and Fredericksburg, TX.
Read more about my favorite wine regions across the USA:
8. See for yourself why Italy is such a tourist hotspot (but don’t get scammed!)
Italia! By far one of the most beautiful countries I’ve visited (it is popular for good reason)! As you move from Northern Italy to Southern Italy (or vice versa) you get dramatic landscape changes, weather changes, and even cultural changes! The best part about visiting is the country is train friendly. Hop on a train for cheap and you can be in a different part of the country in a few short hours! You’ll definitely want to visit Italy to see what the rave is all about.
Read more about Italy:
9. Visit Bangkok – Strictly for the street food
Bangkok was the first city I ever visited in Asia. I was nervous, overwhelmed, and quite frankly not very excited. I was using Bangkok as a fly-in city in order to connect to different countries around Southeast Asia that I wanted to visit instead. But my, that was a mistake! Bangkok totally blew me away. The crowds of people, the Thai culture, the food… it was all part of this incredible experience making Bangkok one of my favorite cities in the world. I’d highly recommend visiting not only for the experience but mostly for the street food! Go in with an open mind, loose pants, and let your preconceived notions about street food go! My favorite street food markets in Bangkok included the Rot Fai Night Market and the Floating Markets.
Read more about Thailand here:
10. Why yes, Ireland really is that green! Visit to see for yourself!
One of my first “big girl” trips abroad took me to Ireland! I went with one of my best friends, we rented a car, and explored the country for a week. While stopping for fish n’ chips and drinking beer in old pubs was great, the true highlight of the experience was the scenery as we drove from town to town. Lush, rolling green hills and traffic jams as we weaved through narrow roads due to sheep passing. The beauty of Ireland is unlike any of I’ve seen before.
11. Discover the quaint towns of the UK
Sure, visiting London and Edinburgh are great! Both fascinating, lively cities that are rich in history and popular for good reason! But the true beauty of the UK? The beauty that lies in the quaint towns and hidden villages of England and Scotland; between London and Edinburgh. I suggest to slow down and spend some time exploring the countryside. Drive along the hilly roads until you find somewhere suitable to stop. There’s so much beauty to discover in the countryside.
Read more about my favorite UK towns here:
12. Gorge on tapas while simultaneously admiring Gaudí’s work in Barcelona
In awe of the food and architecture found around Barcelona, this city is one of the tastiest and visually appealing cities I’ve ever visited! From La Sagrada Família, Parc Güell, and Casa Batlló, Antoni Gaudí has made a lasting impression on Barcelona. Admire his works while working your way through the city eating different tapas (small plates) found in cafés lining the streets.
Read more about Barcelona here:
13. Prove to people why going off the beaten path is worth it by visiting Tallinn
One of the best-preserved medieval cities found around Europe, Tallinn is an underrated gem found in Eastern Europe. The capital of Estonia sits on the Baltic Sea, making it easy to take the ferry to Helsinki for the day. Or experience what Tallinn has to offer by learning the history as you visit the sites around the town dating clear back to the 13th-century.
Read more about Tallinn here:
14. Rent a scooter and drive one of the most stunning roads in the world – The Hai Vân Pass
A thrilling and exciting (yet terrifying) must-do activity when visiting Vietnam is driving the stunning Hai Vân Pass. Taking you up the Annamite Mountain Range away from the scenic South China Sea, this 13-mile stretch of road is an invigorating drive. As you leave behind the ocean you’ll ascend high up into the clouds, only to depart back to the beach again. This drive truly is a once in a lifetime experience.
Read more about Vietnam here:
15. See for yourself why people flock to Prague for Christmas time
In a city that sees more than 600,000 visitors in the month of December alone, there’s a reason why Prague is one of the most visited cities during Christmas. Whimsy and mystical, the city is adorned with Christmas lights, Christmas trees, and wooden stalls selling trinkets, goulash, and mulled wine. In a city where beer is oftentimes cheaper than water, the streets are still made of cobblestone, and architecture from the 13th-century still stands, Prague is a city that is definitely worth visiting.
Read more about Prague here:
16. Experience coffee culture in Vienna
Coffee culture is “The set of traditions and social behaviors that surround the consumption of coffee, particularly as a social lubricant”, and there’s no city that does it better than Vienna. Here Viennese coffee culture has shaped the city and has a long history dating back to the 1600s when some of the first coffee houses were built. Since then the coffee culture in Vienna has been deemed a UNESCO “Intangible Cultural Heritage” as a place “Where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill.”
Read more about Vienna here:
17. Explore Myanmar’s ancient pagodas on a scooter
Seeing ancient Myanmar pagodas up close is an eery and mystifying feeling. Over 4,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas, and monasteries were built during the 11th-13th century and today only approximately 2,000 of those are still standing. In Myanmar, you’ll get a true sense of what life might have been like centuries ago as you enjoy a more simplified part of Asia.
Read more about Myanmar here:
18. Road trip up the west coast, making sure to stop in America’s Riviera
From San Diego up to Seattle, there are so many towns and cities to stop in as you make your way up the west coast. One of my favorite beach towns on the coast is nestled in the San Ynez Mountains – Santa Barbara, CA. With upscale dining and wine experiences, relaxing days at the beach, and a fun nightlife, Santa Barbara has a lot to offer for a town housing less than 100,000 people.
Read more about road tripping across the west coast:
19. Discover the many facets of Seattle
One of the cities that most amazes me in the United States is Seattle, WA. Here you can experience wine country by day and city life by night. Or get out in nature to hike and explore the surrounding PNW or even ferry to surrounding islands! In what other cities can you get city life, hikes, wine country, and boating experiences all in one place?
Read more about Seattle here:
20. Relax on Thailand’s white-sand beaches
When it comes to beautiful destinations, Thailand is high up there. Island hop your way around Southern Thailand as you walk through white sand beaches and dip your toes in the clear blue waters. With endless activities such as snorkeling, diving, and visiting temples, there’s more to do than just relax on the beach.
Read more about Thailand’s beaches:
21. Learn about the devastating effects of WWII by visiting a concentration camp
It’s estimated that approximately 3% of the population died in WWII (70-85 million people), making it the deadliest war in history. This time, the people that perished, deserve to be remembered and paid tribute to. Step back and history and try to put yourself in those people’s shoes who were forced into concentration camps. Learn a little bit about what life might have been like for those people and pay respect and remembrance to them.
22. Stay in a glass hotel during wintertime
What better way to get the experience of being in a winter wonderland than enjoying it from the heat and coziness of your own hotel room? You can do just that by staying in a glass igloo or hotel! Watch the sunset early in the day, as the snow falls to the ground blanketing the earth in a sheet of white. If you’re lucky you may even be able to experience the northern lights without leaving your room!
Read more about my time in Finnish Lapland:
23. Visit a lesser-known country; perhaps Macedonia?
In 2017 I set off to Macedonia for eight weeks to experience what life was like in a country I had heard very little about. It turned out to be one of my favorite countries I’ve visited; full of friendly locals, great food, cheap drinks, and stunning views. All with very few tourists! Although I was nervous to go, (it isn’t a country that is talked about much), Macedonia will always hold a special place in my heart.
Read more about Macedonia:
24. Road trip up the east coast of the USA, learning about American history along the way
While the USA isn’t nearly as old as the other countries, we still have quite a fascinating history. From immigration to the Boston Tea Party, and even Paul Revere’s final ride, learn about how America came to be as you road trip up the east coast!
Read more about my favorite east coast cities:
25. Marvel at the uber clean, futuristic city of Singapore
While expensive, Singapore is a city, unlike any other and one that you must see. Futuristic architecture, supertrees, and housing one of the best airports in the world, Singapore is a city like no other. Where it’s illegal to chew gum, there are cameras found on every street corner, and the highway to the airport can be rearranged to an emergency landing strip within 20-minutes, it’s truly unique.
Read more about Singapore:
26. Volunteer abroad
One of the best ways to learn about different cultures is by volunteering! With different opportunities all over the world, there’s no excuse not to get out there and help others. In 2017 I volunteered with Project Hope in Macedonia and it changed my life from the inside out!
Read more about my experience volunteering:
27. Get lost in nature at Banff National Park
Taking a “nature” trip is a great way to disconnect, recenter, and explore the beauty of planet earth. And what better place to do so than Banff National Park? Located in the Rocky Mountains, Banff is the oldest national park in Canada packed with glaciers, mountainous hikes, wildlife, and stunningly blue glacial-fed lakes. Visiting Banff is a feast for the eyes no matter where you turn.
Read more about Alberta:
28. Skip Oktoberfest! Instead, head to Munich for Springfest
Like Oktoberfest, Springfest is an annual beer festival that takes place in outdoor tents around Munich. Without the crowds of Oktoberfest, you get a more local experience if you opt for Springfest instead. With beers and pretzels the size of your head and lederhosen the dress of choice, this is definitely a trip for the books! And one to take before 30!
Read more about Munich:
29. Take a girls trip
The flip side of solo travel? Group travel! Some of my favorite trips have been with my girlfriends! Take to the beach, mountains, or city, group travel can look different for everyone! My favorite places to enjoy girls’ trips are in cities like Chicago, on the beaches in Florida, and in wine country like Los Olivos!
30. Visit the heart of America – Nebraska!
And to round out 30 trips to take before 30, discover what makes middle America so great. Down to earth people, affordable housing, and an expanding dining scene you can’t go wrong when you visit Nebraska. Visit our famous zoo, float down the Niobrara River, or take one of the most scenic drives in America, the Sandhills Journey. There’s more to Nebraska than what meets the eye.
Read more about Nebraska:
While my travels are just getting started, these have truly been some of the most life-changing experiences I’ve had. But I’m curious, what are some of your favorite once in a lifetime trips you’ve taken? What places would you recommend to visit before 30? Let me know in the comments below! I may just be adding some to my ever-growing bucket list.