When I was younger my goals revolved around work and family. I had no time, energy, or money to consider trips of a lifetime. Mortgages, school expenses, braces, etc., ate up most of our cash (though we did manage to squeeze in some great trips with the kids to the National Parks and twice to Europe!). If you’d asked me what my travel future would be, I’d likely have been dreaming of summers by the beach and an occasional trip to Paris. I never thought that regular people like me could go on a safari, or cruise down the Nile. But when a friend went to Africa to celebrate a big birthday, I began to realize that (some of) these bucket list trips are possible if you want them badly enough. By planning, prioritizing, and saving, I’ve had some extraordinary adventures. And you can too!
What are trips of a lifetime?
These are the Bucket List trips – the ultimate travel destinations we dream about. For some that might be New York City, for others India. Some may want a physical challenge, and some may want to be pampered. Our dreams are as individual as we are.
Some people don’t like ‘bucket lists.’ But I find having a list of anything – errands, activities, or books – increases my likelihood to get stuff done. I didn’t have an ‘official’ travel list until we retired and suddenly, we had opportunities we hadn’t had before. Whereas before we planned vacations on a whim, with a prioritized list we’ve organized our travel and reached for more of our trips of a lifetime.
Prioritizing is key. A few years ago we jumped on a friend’s suggestion to travel to Alaska. We’d always wanted to see Alaska, so this seemed a great idea. But when we looked at our combined priorities, we noted that Alaska was way down the list, far below out #1 destination – Costa Rica. We opted to skip the trip and went to Costa Rica instead. We’ll get to Alaska some day, but only when it’s our top choice!
As older adults we know that now is the time to turn our dreams into plans. Top travel bloggers share suggestions for the Best Trips to Take in Your 60s.
Create your Trips of a Lifetime list
1. Make a list of all the places you’ve dreamt of going – your bucket list trips.
This is the time to brainstorm and dream.
Make a list of all the places you’ve dreamed of going. Don’t discount any cool travel ideas. Just write it all down. Consider your passions, the things that make you happy. Are you…
(click on a topic for brainstorming suggestions)
- An art aficionado?
- A beach lover?
- A history buff?
- A foodie or wine lover?
- A hiker and camper?
- A music lover?
- A thrill seeker?
- A sports fan?
- A book lover?
- A birder?
- An animal lover?
- The family historian?
- ______________________ fill in your dream!
We’ve listed some ideas below, but would love to have you add suggestions for other dream locations in the comments!
2. Cross out anything on your list that is unattainable
Unfortunately some dreams may be physically impossible and we need to accept that. But before you cross off the idea, look to see if you can modify your dream to something that is possible. For example, most of us can’t climb Mt. Everest, but if that’s been our dream, maybe we could make a trek to base camp in Nepal.
Other destinations may be too dangerous to visit now, but might be possible in a few years. Keep those on your list with a note to reconsider in a few years.
3. Set priorities
What is most important to you? This can be difficult if you have a lot of bucket list trips. Consider that you were getting a opportunity to go to any of your picks. Which would you choose? Then consider you didn’t get an opportunity to take the trips. Which would you be most disappointed to have missed?
If you travel with a partner, each should set their priorities separately and then discuss.
Note: I use a spreadsheet to list and evaluate our options. This is an easy way to see what trips will fulfill both my husband and my priorities. Neither one of us may get our #1 pick, but we know we’ll both be happy with #2.
4. Estimate costs for the top priority trips.
Estimate airfare, car rental, or other transportation expense, cost of accommodations and meals, and anticipated activities. Add the cost of travel insurance if you expect you’ll need that. Divide by the number of days to get a sense of how pricey the trip is.
5. Be realistic about your abilities and your budget.
Abilities and Fitness Level – Can we really keep up with the proposed itinerary? For example,
- We bike a lot at home, but can we bike 8-10 hours a day through Europe? Would it be better to book one or two day tours in between a more leisurely vacation? Or as we did, book a bike and barge trip in the Netherlands with our friends of similar fitness levels.
- African safaris involve long flights, very early mornings, and climbing into safari vehicles. This might be difficult with mobility issues.
Budget – Can we really afford the trip? Is there a less pricey option? Or could we establish a savings plan towards the cost of the trip?
Consider traveling in the off season, or shoulder season to save some money. Combining destinations can save you money in the long run.
If budgeting will take an extended time, consider scheduling a lower priority, but less expensive trip, while you save. Check to see if there are destinations closer to home that might satisfy your passion. For example, if you live in North America-
- For history, beaches, cycling, and culture head to New England. Boston or Plymouth.
- There are mountains, ocean, and art in Seattle, WA and the Pacific Northwest.
- The Canadian and U.S. National Parks are phenomenal destinations for adventures, history, and fun.
- Costa Rica is a nature lovers dream and quite reasonably priced!
- Beach lovers will love Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the islands of the Caribbean.
- Those looking forward to experiencing a formal tea in London, can find some of the best afternoon tea spots in the U.S. and Canada.
Consider your future abilities as well.
As older travelers the ‘future abilities’ is most important. We’re active now, but know that’s not guaranteed in the future.
Dave and I have chosen to take the more physically difficult journeys first and have deferred the more sedate ones. We are booked for Machu Picchu next year, and look forward to European river cruises when we’re a bit older.
6. Choose a trip that is within reach physically, financially, and satisfies all travelers priorities. Compromise is key here.
You’ll probably come up with two or more trips that meet your criteria, as we did in our spreadsheet above. You’ll have to decide which ones to do first and which ones will need more planning time.
In our analysis, three trips tied for top priority – Galapagos and Machu Picchu, Costa Rica, and New Zealand. At the time, New Zealand was closed to visitors, so we put that aside until it became a viable option. We booked Costa Rica (traveled 1/2022) and began researching the Galapagos and Machu Picchu trip (now booked for 4/2023)
7. Pick a time frame based on how long it will take to reserve and budget for the trip, etc. Then Book Your Trip!
Once you’ve chosen your destination, begin planning for sustainable options for tours and lodging. If this trip is YOUR trip of a lifetime, it’s likely someone else’s too. Let’s make sure our tourism contributes to preserving these beautiful spots.
Click on the pin to read more about a dream destination.
Inspiration for your Trips of a Lifetime
An African wildlife safari is the ultimate bucket list trip. It is at once a wilderness adventure and a luxury retreat. If you have ever…
How to plan a trip to Europe which is both exciting and relaxing. Combine city days with slow travel to make the most of your…
If there’s anything more fun than planning a trip, it’s planning with a like-minded friend. I’m fortunate to have one of those friends. We research…
You wake early. A million stars shine overhead, with the smudge of the Milky Way clearly seen. An occasional bat darts by as it gathers…
Costa Rica has been on my travel wish list for years. In fact it was so high on the list that we’d considered moving to…
Traveling to Egypt is on most people’s Bucket List. Who wouldn’t want to cruise the Nile River? See the famous landmarks in Cairo and Luxor?…
Ideas to Help You Choose Your Trips of a Lifetime
- Acropolis Museum
- Egyptian Museum
- Louvre – Paris
- Gaudi’s architecture – Barcelona
- Metropolitan Museum – NYC
- Vatican Museums – Rome
Wine & Food Travel
- Champagne-Ardenne – France
- Istanbul – Turkey
- Mendoza – Argentina
- Napa – USA
- New Orleans – USA
- Tuscany – Italy
- Barcelona – Spain
- Buenos Aires – Argentina
- Broadway – USA
- Havana – Cuba
- Nashville – USA
- Sydney Opera House – Australia
- Vienna – Austria
Camping & Hiking
- Antelope Canyon
- Appalachian Trail – USA
- Canadian Rockies
- Camino de Santiago – Spain
- U.S. National Parks
- Wadi Rum, Jordan
Historical & UNESCO Sites
- Angkor Wat – Cambodia
- Berlin Wall – Germany
- Dubrovnik – Croatia
- Forbidden City – China
- Ha Long Bay – Vietnam
- Machu Picchu – Peru
- Pyramids – Egypt
- Rhodes – Greece
- Venice – Italy
For Thrill Seekers
- Grand Canyon – USA
- New Zealand
- Victoria Falls – Zambia & Zimbabwe
- New Zealand
- Stratford-on-Avon – UK
- Trinity College Library – Dublin
- Prince Edward Island – Anne of Green Gables
- Rome –Angels and Demons
For Sports Fans
- Boston Marathon – USA
- Kentucky Derby – USA
- Olympics – ???
- St. Andrews golf – Scotland
- Tour de France
- Wimbledon – UK
Do you have a bucket list? We’ve shared ours on our Favorites and Still to Do page.
Books to Inspire Your Trips of a Lifetime List
- 1000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz
- The Bucket List: 1000 Adventures Big & Small by Kath Stathers
- Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (fiction. Free with Audible trial)
- World’s Best Travel Experiences – National Geographic
Find more books on select destinations – Reading the World