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How to Plan Your Own Travel Bucket List

Bucket lists aren’t just for those whose time is coming soon. Rather, a bucket list is a catalog of personal goals and experiences. Human lives don’t typically come with a set expiration date, but the concept of a bucket list is maximizing great life experiences while you have the opportunity. One common thing that people often put off in their life is travel — they say they’ll wait til they get a promotion, or until they retire, or until the kids are out of the house…   Here at Bucket List Events, we say the time is now. Here are some tips from our experienced travel guides on how to put together a bucket list that you can’t wait to get started on:



Brainstorming is arguably the most fun and overwhelming part of any plan. Ask yourself, what do you want to do before you die?, and the imagination runs wild.

While brainstorming your bucket list, surround yourself with inspiration. Read travel blogs, ask friends about their favorite travel experiences, watch movies set in foreign locations, pay attention to world news, hang a world map in your home. Do you want to take a roadtrip and see every state? What about back packing through a mountain range? Do you want to take a cruise? Should it be a Caribbean cruise, or an Alaskan cruise? Why not do both?

Realism comes later. If a location strikes your fancy, let it! Write each and every idea down, no matter how far, no matter how crazy. After all, you have a lifetime to work through them.

Some sites to check out include:


National Geographic


Budget Travel



How to Prioritize

After dreaming up a million fantastical trips, it’s time to get real. Assuming that you don’t have unlimited time and disposable income, you’re not going to be able to knock out every trip in one year, or even ten. Prioritizing will help you cross each item off your list slowly and steadily.

Reorder your list according to two different criteria. First, rank your destinations in terms of feasibility. How close is this location? Is it something you could afford to do in a short time frame, or will it take some saving? How much time would you need to to take this trip? Second, rank the destinations by how truly excited they make you. The top few on this list should be destinations that make your heart soar despite the stress of budgeting and planning. If you’re still thrilled about the thought of going after you’ve considered the difficulty of getting there, then you know it will be worth it.


Visual people will enjoy creating a timeline where you can plot out all the big life events that you have coming up, and start pinpointing where and when on this timeline your vacations can go. Do you have a month of vacation time coming up soon? Do you plan on leaving your job after a set amount of time? Are your kids moving out of the house in 5 years? Start identifying periods in your life where vacations can fit. Schedule a few of the smaller, more feasible trips into upcoming weekends and holidays. Put the more ambitious trips out by a few years, following a big life change or accomplishment, so that you’ll have plenty time to budget and plan.

Feeling a little stuck on getting your priorities straight?  Here are some sources with tips and tricks on making this a little easier for you:

Prioritizing Goals & Tasks

How to Prioritize When Everything is a Priority: 5 Smart Tricks


Who to Bring

When you are considering each destination, think about who you want to share that experience with. Your partner? Your kids? Your friends from college? Maybe you even want to take one trip on your own?

During your brainstorming session, you may find that your bucket list doesn’t completely sync up with your spouse or favorite traveling partner. That’s okay!  There’s no point in forcing someone to go somewhere they don’t want to, or letting yourself be dragged along to a desitnation you have no interest in. Separate vacations for spouses may sound a little weird, but there’s nothing wrong with having different interests and taking time for yourself. Just be sure to communicate about what each person wants out of a destination on the bucket list.  Planning your travel bucket list is meant to be fun, but if feelings get hurt because there is no open communication, it can turn ugly.

Here are some further sources on the separate vacation idea:

Will Separate Vacations Save Your Marriage Or Destroy It?

Separate Vacations for Married Couples

Are Separate Vacations a Good Idea for Couples?


How to Plan

Now it’s time to put everything in motion. Perhaps the most important part of planning your bucket list adventures  is making sure you are financially prepared.  Researching flight, hotel, and rental car costs is a good place to start. If you find that one aspect of the journey is exceedingly expensive, start looking into alternatives. Hotels cutting too far into your budget? Look into hostels and camping options. Is the flight going to cost more than you thought? Look for cheaper flights to nearby locations that may give you the option of taking a bus or train to your final destination.


Things to Plan During Your Estimates:

– Cost of getting there

– Cost of staying there

– Cost of food and drinks

– Cost of activities

– How much extra to bring along for souvenirs and last-minute changes to your itinerary

– Lost work time

– Other details like passports/visas, caring for your home and pets while you’re gone, etc.

There are some fun calculators available online that can help you with this planning process when it comes to trying to figure out what type of budget you are looking at needing to save.  This is a really fun part of the process because you can start thinking about what you want to do when you get to your destination.  You don’t have to plot out your itineraries at this point, but it’s good to get an idea for how much the activities you want to do currently cost so that you can ensure that you can do everything that you want to do on your trip.

Some great travel budget articles for your reference:

How to Make a Travel Budget

5 Neglected Expenses That Can Ruin Your Vacation Budget

How to Budget for Food on a Road Trip

How to Budget for a Big Trip


How to Save for It


You may be having a little panic attack thinking about how much these trips are going to cost you, but going about this the smart way will help you to start enjoying the idea of being able to travel to all the destinations on your bucket list.  Putting your trips on your credit cards is probably not going to help your stress levels any when it comes time to start paying for them plus interest on top of the cost of the trip for however long it takes for you to pay them off.  Don’t put that type of stress on yourself.

Credit cards can be helpful when traveling, and not just because there was something you missed in your budget.  The key is to use your credit cards in a smart fashion.  First, find credit cards that are going to help you with your travel plans.  There are cards that offer airline miles, rebates, and signing bonuses.  You can also look at cards that don’t have foreign transaction fees.

Start saving money the old fashion way.  Take that budget estimate that you figured out previously, and divide it up into your pay cycles until a few months before your trip.  Say you are leaving in a year, so you should try to have all the money in the bank in 10 months to give yourself a little leeway.  So, if you get paid twice a month, that is 20 payments you can be sending to your savings account.  The further out the trip, the smaller this number will be and the easier on your budget it will be to send off to the account without much thought.  If you wait too long, the amount you need to send a pay may seem like too much money to spare from your living expenses.  It may also be a good idea to keep this money separate from other accounts, and make it a little harder to access.

Here are some resources to further your saving goals:

Tips for Planning a Vacation Many Months in Advance

15 Ways to Save for a Vacation

Nine Creative Ways to Save for a Vacation

7 Tips to Save for Your Dream Vacation


Time to Go


The time has come for your first check mark on your travel bucket list.  You should prepare yourself for the whirlwind of travel.  Typically it goes like this: checking off the days on the calendar, thinking it’s too far away, thinking you still have plenty of time to get ready, and then a flurry of last minute trips to try to get everything done in advance of your departure date.

There are plenty of activities that you may forget about until last minute so here are some ideas to help you make sure you don’t miss anything:

  • Are there things at home that will need to be taken care of in your absence? Make housesitting arrangements ASAP!

– Check your mode of transportation, such as get your oil change if going on a road trip or contact the airline to make sure your departure time is still the same.

– Create a list of everything that you need to pack for your trip.  Then separate it out by what you currently own, and what you need to pick up at the store.

– Hit the store for those necessary items.

– If traveling internationally, make sure you have your passports and visas ready, and that you don’t need any particular vaccinations.

– Pack anything that you don’t use in advance so that way you won’t be rushing the morning of your trip.

Here are some great resources for getting ready for your trip:

Comprehensive Travel Checklist for Preparing for a Trip

Travel Preparation Checklist

10 Things to Do Before You Travel

14 Ways to be Prepared For Anything While Traveling


Tips and Tricks

Here are a few extra tips and tricks you should think about when working with your own travel bucket list.

Keep in mind the currency exchange if you are going to be traveling to a foreign country.  It is very possible that your dollar will stretch a lot further than it would at home, or it may not stretch as far.  Of course, it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly how much the exchange rate will be when you are planning in advance, but looking at past trends might give you a better idea of how this may work in or against your favor.  You should also think about getting the foreign currency before you leave as often your bank can get it to you for a better price.  You may also want to inquire with them if they have branches or ATMs where you will be going, as this can help to keep the currency exchange fee down, too. You may also want to look into opening a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees if you don’t already have one.

You should always be hunting for bargains when it comes to your trip.  For instance, look into vouchers before you leave from sites like Groupon.  If traveling to another country, look into whether or not there are any all-inclusive resorts to stay at as this may cost more a night, but be cost effective when factoring in activity fees and meals.  Sign up for email newsletters from your favorite airlines and other travel related companies as they may send out promotions to their newsletter receivers that you might not have known about otherwise.  Not seeing a deal you’d like?  Contact the company directly to see what perks they can offer to you.

Traveling with kids can bring its own sets of rewards and issues.  Be sure to prepare for boredom, especially if going on a long road trip or flight.  A kid’s activity binder might be the perfect solution to boredom.  Another tip is to have snacks on hand, and one ingenious mom figured out that if you take a craft box with all the different compartments, you can fill them up with fruit, crackers and other treats to keep things interesting.  No one wants to deal with a hangry child or parents on vacation.

Finally, if you are traveling to a Disney resort, they have all kinds of tools to make it easy for you to plan and save for your ultimate Disney trip.  The Disney credit card even offers features that you can take advantage of to help your Disney dream trip become a reality.

A bucket list may sometimes be viewed in a negative light as many focus on the fact that death is lurking around the corner, and some may think that if you are making a bucket list, you are considering your own end.  The truth is a bucket list is the biggest celebration of life possible because it’s getting you focused on living the life that you want without regrets.  No one wants to look back and see a life that didn’t fulfill his or her dreams.  Your travel bucket list might just be one of the most important things you ever get down on paper because of how life-changing and life-affirming travel can be for anyone.  Follow each of these phases and adapt them to better fit your particular situation to prepare for some epic vacation plans.  It’s not just the ultrarich that can travel, but everyday people that can think up a plan and put it into action with just a few steps.  Just think, you may be able to get all of your bucket list checked off and be able to start the next list.

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