The idea of creating a bucket list has been around since long before Covid-19 upended our lives in 2020. But with leisure travel coming to a virtual halt over the past year and a half, people are feeling more motivated than ever to make their dream trips happen.
That said, it’s a big world out there, and narrowing down the options can be intimidating. Where do you even begin?
Here are 13 tips for creating your travel bucket list.
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Many classic trips are so popular they almost go without saying for someone who’s building their travel bucket list. Hike to Machu Picchu. Scuba dive on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Wander the cobblestone streets of Paris. And there’s nothing wrong with these popular trips. After all, they’ve become the classics for a reason!
That said, digging a little deeper to learn about more out-of-the-way destinations is extremely worthwhile. There are likely many places and experiences that would top your list – if you only knew they existed.
Travel newsletters are one way to discover new trip ideas and learn more about the ones you were already considering.
Scott’s Cheap Flights is a great resource for finding airfare deals. They also send out weekly destination newsletters focusing on a place’s history, unique offerings, and suggested activities. Recent features have been St. Martin/St. Maarten, Istria, and Minneapolis.
To sign up, create a free account with Scott’s Cheap Flights. From there, you can use the upper right-hand menu to visit your profile and customize your email settings. This way you’ll only receive the info you’re interested in.
Passion Passport also has a great travel newsletter that comes out about twice a week. You can sign up here. Recent topics have included How To Spend One Day in Tallinn, Estonia, A Surfer’s Guide to Florida Beaches, and Northumberland Travel Guide: Visiting England’s Quietest County.
Browse Annual Travel Lists
Annual travel lists are another great way to learn about new places. Here are the 2021 lists from The New York Times, Travel and Leisure, and Lonely Planet. These are an interesting and easy way to discover new ideas, and since they only come out once a year, it’s a fun tradition to peruse them. They can also help you gauge where the growing hot spots are – and then it’s up to you if that means you’d like to visit them or avoid them!
Plan a Movie Night
Movies and books are the perfect way to temporarily transport yourself to another place. Dip your toe in a whole new continent, no plane ticket required. As you’re watching or reading, keep in mind the settings and activities that jump out at you.
Here are a few of my favorite travel movies. Some of my most beloved trips were inspired by this collection.
- La Gloire de Mon Père | The south of France
- Under the Tuscan Sun | Tuscany
- Tracks | The Australian outback
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty | Iceland and Greenland
- Crazy Rich Asians | Singapore
- Where’d You Go, Bernadette | Antarctica
- Funny Face | Paris
- The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants | Greece
- Home for Christmas (Netflix series) | Norway
Bonus: other than Funny Face and Home for Christmas, these are all books, too!
Speaking of books, Peter Mayle’s series on Provence is one of my favorites. Another of his books – A Good Year – was adapted into a film in 2006.
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Read Travel Blogs
Is this suggestion a little biased? Maybe! That said, I love reading about other people’s adventures and travel blogs are a huge source of trip inspiration for me.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Oregon Girl Around the World: Erin is originally from Oregon and has lived in Denmark since 2014
- Anywhere We Roam: Mark and Paul share trip advice and stories along with stunning photography
- Suitcases and Sandcastles: Clare curates one of the top UK Family Travel Blogs and writes about destinations all over the world
- Rebecca and the World: Originally from Australia, Rebecca has also lived in Papua New Guinea, Argentina and the USA and has visited almost 40 countries on six continents
- The Common Wanderer: This site, also featuring absolutely beautiful photography, is curated by Australian couple Mark and Mim
- The Sandy Feet: Freya is “an environmental scientist by trade and a traveller by choice… sharing practical advice and attainable adventures”
Talk to Friends and Family
Don’t forget about one of most valuable resources you have: the people around you! Getting ideas and advice from loved ones is helpful to get a more “unfiltered” idea of a place.
Create A Place to Save Your Ideas
Creating saved albums on Instagram is one of my favorite ways to keep track of trip ideas and advice.
Follow a few travel accounts on Instagram for daily doses of inspiration right to your feed. Use the bookmark button, located just below each photo on the right-hand side, to save posts. You can then organize posts into albums sorted by destination to easily find them later.
Here is a preview of some of my saved travel albums on Instagram:
A few of the many travel accounts I love on Instagram are:
Not on Instagram? Begin a Bookmarks folder on your web browser, start a Pinterest board, or create a Google Doc with a running list of ideas linking to posts and sites that catch your eye.
These are all fun and simple ways to keep track of information you want to refer back to in the future.
Incorporate Your Hobbies and Interests
What are your favorite parts of your daily routine? What activities in your local area do you enjoy? Think of ways these things can be amplified in a new place.
If you love hiking, research hikes around the world and plan trips around the ones that jump out at you. (I’ve got some ideas for you here, here and here.)
Cherish your daily coffee routine? Consider the world’s best destinations for enjoying it or head straight to the source.
Feel drawn to a certain design aesthetic? Where can you enjoy classic examples of it? Palm Springs is high on my list for its abundance of mid-century architecture.
This can be applied to anything you’re interested in, from history and fashion to art and wildlife.
Include Things You Can’t Do at Home
Amplify your hobbies and interests, yes – but be sure as well to consider what isn’t possible where you live. Hike a volcano. Visit the rainforest. Explore a national park. Get lost in a major city. Especially when you’re traveling a long way, it’s particularly gratifying to experience things you can’t enjoy at home.
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Plan With All Five Senses
Think past the pretty views you see on Instagram. What kind of trip appeals to your other senses? These may be harder to share on social media, but don’t forget about them.
What is your favorite type of food and where can you go to try the real thing? Maybe even take a cooking class?
What is your favorite type of music?
Consider how you’d like to feel while you’re away. Relaxed and recharged, or challenging yourself to something new? Basking in the sun, or escaping to milder temps? Being on-the-go to see multiple places for short periods of time, or settling into one place? Travel logistics can be tough to figure out – and even boring at times – but try not to overlook them entirely. They’ll have a big impact on your experience!
Recall Past Trips
If you’ve taken big trips before, spend some time thinking about the aspects you liked and didn’t like. We often think of travel as glamorous and stress-free, but it’s not! Sometimes you have an idea of a destination in your head that simply doesn’t line up with the real thing. Maybe a two-week backpacking trip through five different countries sounded like a dream – and then you realized partway through you were spending all of your time carrying heavy luggage and riding buses.
Try not to beat yourself up when trips don’t go as planned – it’s basically inevitable! Instead, apply what you learned to future travels. Do what you can to avoid the aspects that brought you down and play up the parts that worked well.
Think Globally and Locally
A travel bucket list is aspirational and should include your absolute dream adventures, whether or not it’s currently feasible to make them happen. That said, it doesn’t hurt to think about more realistic and doable plans as well. If every single item on your list is expensive, far away, and requires an immense amount of planning, you might get overwhelmed and not go anywhere at all.
It’s so common to overlook your immediate surroundings. They automatically seem less exciting and you might not feel they merit a spot on your list. But don’t discount something just because it doesn’t take three plane rides to reach. There’s nothing wrong with a low-stakes day trip!
Create Your List For Yourself
Your travel bucket list shouldn’t center around anyone’s dreams but yours and those you’re traveling with. A place may be generally viewed as a “must-see” destination, but if it doesn’t interest you, don’t include it. The same rule applies if someone claims you’re missing out if you don’t do x, y or z in a certain city, but x, y and z weren’t even on your radar. You know how you best like to spend your time. If something doesn’t appeal to you, move on to the next idea. There are plenty out there!
Your travel bucket list can take any form you want it to. Be as detailed or as general as you’d like. Make a formal list or keep track using one of the ways I shared above. Remove things if they no longer interest you. Rank places in importance or snag the first cheap flight you find (my personal preference). Don’t put pressure on yourself to make every item on the list happen – view it more as a helpful way of narrowing down the endless possibilities. There are no rules!
Not everyone agrees with the concept of making bucket lists, for travel or for anything else in life. What do you think about them? I’d love to hear if you have one and if so, what’s on it. Let me know in the Comments!
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