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



new york city travel, travel advice

Best and Worst from my NYC Dining experience

Food is important. Can we all agree with that? It keeps us alive, fuels our bodies, and often times monopolizes our minds throughout the day (or maybe that is just me).

Selling travel for over 16 years has taught me how important your food and dining experience is when you assess your overall travel experience. Let’s face it good or bad, food can make or break a vacation.

I will preface this by saying that I am not a food critic. I love food but cannot even put myself in the category of “foodie” because I love my Pan-seared Filet Mignon along with a side of some good ole boxed mac and cheese. I have met few casseroles that I did not like. However, I do appreciate good food and for most of my travels, food plays a big role in my planning and trip experience. New York was no different.

Most people think of bagels, pizza, hot dogs and cheesecake when they think of NYC. Or perhaps they think of swanky restaurants with $30 martinis and foie gras. We did try all of these staples (we passed on the foie gras) while we were there and really enjoyed them however we felt if this was all you ate while in New York you were missing out.

New York City is a melting pot and with its diversity brings a variety of cuisine. The food reflects the people and the heart of New York City. The place where people come to make their dreams come true or to find a community that accepts and welcomes differences.

We personally loved walking the streets and seeing an Irish bar sitting next to a Cuban restaurant then turning the corner and finding a tiny Thai place. The restaurants were as charming and unique as the people. Of course, we did not have enough time to fully plan or try even a small slice of the NYC pie but I wanted to share some of our personal favorites (TRY) from our short trip and places you might want to PASS by. Please also note our breakfast was included at our hotel each day so we do not have breakfast suggestions.




This meal was a favorite for our trip to NYC and we sort of stumbled upon it walking around the theater district near our hotel. It is a tiny little restaurant with a charming atmosphere with hanging lanterns and muted lighting. We loved our noodle bowls and found the pricing very reasonable for New York City. We will definitely return if in the area.


2.) Carlo’s Bake Shop- Cannolis

We tried the cheesecake and cannolis and found the cannolis to be the real winner. They were incredibly crunchy, creamy and not overly sweet. Absolutely delicious. Busy place and very little seating but grab some cannolis and take them to a local park and enjoy!


3.) Juniors – Cheesecake with strawberry topping or Red Velvet cake

We tried both and found them to be delicious. I know everyone has their own preference with cheesecake but I found this recipe to be perfect for me with a hint of lemon.


3.) IndiKitch

This was our first experience with this New York regional chain. We absolutely loved it. It was like Chipotle with Indian cuisine. Fast, easy, affordable and delicious. I would recommend stopping in if you find one while in the city.


4.) Spicy hotdog at one of the food carts in Central Park

A hot dog is not a culinary masterpiece but I recommend checking out some street food while in NYC. We tried a spicy hot dog from a cart in Central Park and found it really delicious. They had creperies, gyros, and all kinds of other street food carts and trucks to choose from around the city. You can grab some food and sit on the stairs of the Met or on the patio at the New York City Library (A.K.A. Lion’s library) and people watch if the weather is pleasant. We saw a lot of people enjoying this city pleasure. Next time, I will need to remember to do this more.



5.) Los Feliz Taqueria by chef Julieta Ballesteros

Our New York city friends took us to this gem while visiting. We highly recommend the Quesadilla de Flor de Calabaza and a Spicy Cilantro Margarita if you like spicy! Thanks to our NYC friends, we were personally introduced to chef Julieta (a one time contestant on the hit TV show Iron Chef) and treated to a special sampling of ceviches and churros, followed up with shots of tequila from one of the restaurant’s dozens of tequila options!




1.) Loeb Boathouse- Visit but do not eat dinner

Beautiful atmosphere and location right on the lake in Central Park, however, the food we found to be overpriced and bland. Service was less than stellar as well. I ordered the Filet and it had very little seasoning or flavor. Jason ordered the Salmon and it was again flavorless. We loved watching the gondola rides and rowboats passing by with skyscrapers in the backdrop but should have just gone to the self-service bar and patio area instead of the more formal dining room.



2.) The View Restaurant

This restaurant sits 48 floors above New York City.  The revolving floor makes a 360° turn every hour, ensuring an ever-changing perspective of this celebrated city.

Again, we went for the atmosphere and unique experience of seeing the city skyline as the bar slowly rotates. However, the drinks were VERY overpriced and you had to pay a cover charge in order to get seated. We just went for dessert and found they only had a dessert buffet which was very expensive so we just had a couple of drinks and left. The views were very good but the restaurant was dated and there were screaming kids everywhere.  They also had some technical difficulties a few times with the rotation mechanism that made us nervous. I would probably never go back.


3.) The New Amity  restaurant

Not much to say with this one. It was boring, non-descript diner food. We both stumbled into this place starving and desperate for lunch and a place to sit. It did satisfy both of those needs, but if you have a choice, there are a lot better places to eat in the city. We both ordered burgers and fries and they were similar to what you would find at an amusement park concession stand. Taste and price!


4.) Broadway Deli-

We wanted to try one of the things New York is known for- Delis. Jason enjoyed his Reuben but I found my Italian sandwich pretty average. We both agreed the food was just ok.


5.) Angelo’s Pizza 

Another, just okay, place we stumbled upon for lunch. The waiter was friendly and prompt and the pizza we ordered was fresh and tasty but nothing extraordinary. Honestly, I have had better pizza at home in Lexington, KY. I am sure there are much better pizza places in New York to try instead.