travel advice

LONG TERM PLANNER: 9 steps to creating your own 5-Year Bucket-List Travel Plan

bucket list

Your husband dreams of visiting the D-Day memorial near the beaches of Normandy. Your daughter has been dying to see the Great Wall of China ever since she learned about it in Social Studies. You have been secretly dreaming of setting sail on a cruise to Greece ever since you watched the movie”Mama Mia.”

Like many, your family has big dreams of seeing the wonders of the world but also struggles to come up with money for summer camps, save for college, and pay the mortgage. So what does a family do when they have unending travel ambitions but limited funds? They create a 5-year Bucket-List Travel Plan.

If you are like me, you have reluctantly observed that you can’t afford to go on the BIG trips to Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Giza, or that Mediterranean cruise every summer. You might be able to pull off a big trip like that every 5 years though if you plan ahead and plan well. This year our family decided to stop dreaming and start planning and created our 5-year Bucket List Travel Plan.

If this plan sounds right for your family, here are 9 simple steps to making your dream a reality:

Step 1: Create individual Wishlists and share them with your family

Have everyone create their own bucket-lists and share them with the family. Make sure each person prioritizes the trips that are the most important to them. If you have younger kids, you might need to give them suggestions and have them decide which are their favorites.

When voicing your individual bucket lists, be sure and point out WHY you feel the family should choose this destination or experience as the next family vacation. Be persuasive. Family trips are a compromise but your powers of persuasion can definitely have an impact. Adjustments to individual lists can be made after hearing everyone read their list out loud.

Step 2: Determine the Order of the trips on the Travel Plan

Here are some things to consider when determining the order:

Analyze Age/Interest Differences– Determine if a 9-year old will really enjoy seeing the Sistine Chapel or would you be better off taking them to Disneyland Paris? Will your 5-year-old reasonably be able to make it on an 18-hour flight? Analyze the stage of life for each family member and decide when the best time is to take each trip.

-Timing– You might not want to plan that once-in-a-lifetime African Safari if you do not think the kids are old enough to remember it in 5 years. That 4-week trip to Australia and New Zealand might not be possible if your son has Football training in the middle of summer break (the only time of the year you could take a 4-week long trip). Some trips you might find are best to leave until after the “kids” are no longer kids and you are not dealing with school/activity schedules.

-Prioritize common choices- Discover which Bucket List trips all family members have in common and prioritize them. If you see that snorkeling the Great Barrier reef is listed on everyone’s list then maybe that should be high on the Family travel plan. If you find you are the only one who wants to see Machu Picchu, then it might be best left as a solo trip.


Step 3: Identify what the family wishes to accomplish and take away from each trip

The purpose of a trip can be very different for each person. Are you seeking education, relaxation, learning a skill or new language, sightseeing, or meeting people from different cultures? Make sure you not only agree on the destination for your next Bucket list trip but also ensure the trip follows its purpose. Determine as a family the purpose of each trip and plan accordingly.

Step 4: Create your 5-year Bucket-List Travel Plan

As a family, write out a timeline of the 5-year Bucket-List Travel Plan. Determine the best time of year to travel to each Bucket list destination. What is the weather of your destination like during different times of the year?  What times of year will be crowded or hectic? When is pricing more reasonable? Are there festivals or activities you would like to attend during a particular time of year? What dates will work best for your family to get away?

Step 5: Estimate the cost for each Bucket List trip

Research your destination online and start planning the trip.

-Determine how many days you would need to travel there and accomplish the purpose of the trip whether it be sightseeing, activities, cultural experiences, or relaxation.

-Based on current pricing, estimate the cost of flights for your family.

-Estimate costs for lodging for your family for the duration of your trip

-Determine daily food, transportation, and activities costs including admissions to museums or points of interest.

-Research Escorted trip options and compare with creating the itinerary on your own


Step 6: Open a  5-year Bucket List Vacation fund and start saving.

In order to conquer the Bucket list, you need to create a 5-year Bucket List Vacation fund. After estimating the cost of the trip and setting a date for your first trip, you can determine how much you will need to save each month to have enough money for the trip. Be sure to take into account when you will need to book the trip and pay any deposits and when you will need to pay the remainder of the trip cost.

Our family currently has money automatically deposited each month into our Vacation fund. We determined our Europe vacation will be about $10,000 and we had a little over 2 years to save that money since we wanted to travel to celebrate our 5-year Wedding anniversary and our daughter’s 16th birthday.

We have been putting $400 each month into the vacation fund so we would reach our goal in about 2 years. Of course, our first trip on the list we have a lot less time to save than the typical 5 years.

If we had 5 years, we could have had about 4 years to save enough for the airfare and deposit for the hotel or escorted trip and then another year to save for the balance and extras. In this 5-year scenario, we would only have had to save $175-$200 a month for the vacation fund.

You can always save a little extra for the other small trips you take each year as well.  I also suggest adding a portion of any bonus checks or tax refunds each year to help keep the Vacation fund healthy.

Step 7: Plan the first Bucket-list trip!

About 9-11 months before the trip is set to begin, plan on booking your hotel and airfare and placing any initial deposits. You can book this online yourself or have a knowledgeable travel consultant help you plan the trip. Reach out to friends and family that travel often and get recommendations on travel consultants or trip plans that worked for them. You should have enough saved up at this point in your fund to pay all the necessary airline and deposit costs.

Before finalizing the trip be sure to confirm time off work and check your calendars for important holidays or events to be sure you have chosen dates that will work for your family. Make sure everyone has passports or will be able to get them soon. Look into travel insurance to protect your deposits.

Step 8: Book small trips in between the Big Trips

Plan small getaways or inexpensive trips on the off years in between the Bucket list trips. You will probably find that the travel itch will need to be scratched from time to time leading up to the BIG trip. Use the money from the Vacation Fund to help pay for these small inexpensive getaways.

Step 9: Revisit your Travel plan annually

Have your families interests changed? Are you in a different phase in life and want a different type of trip? You might come home from Italy with a passion to go back and explore deeper. Your kids might discover their passion for Scuba diving in Cozumel and diving in other locales becomes the priority. This vacation plan is as flexible as you want it to be. It can be changed easily as the family’s priorities and dreams change. I hope you all find this helpful in your travel journey. Happy Planning!


Our Families 5-year Bucket List Travel plan (Always subject to change):

2020: London, Paris, and Edinburgh

2025: Alaskan Cruise

2030: Spain/Italy/Greece Mediterranean Cruise

2035: Australia/ New Zealand (20 year Anniversary)

2040: Egypt and Israel

2045: South Africa and African Safari

2050: Machu Picchu

2055: Thailand/Philippines/Malaysia