How to prioritize and accomplish your bucket list

Brunette cartoon women in Bathtub

Brunette doing research for our “bathtub” list – we want to go WAY more places than would fit in a bucket!

The American movie The Bucklet List came out in 2007 and featured Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as two terminally ill men (who seemed to be in shockingly good health) doing all the things they wanted to do before they died, or “kicked the bucket.”  The term was around long before then but it really took off in popularity after the movie’s release.

We don’t actually use that term as we have so many places to go we have a Bathtub List. It never seems to drain and sometimes it overflows. We hear about more and more places to experience and get more adventuresome and more impractical all the time.

So how do we decide where to go next and would that process help you? We can answer the first part of that question but the rest is up to you!

Sailboat chartered from Beyond Yachting in Greece

We wanted to charter a sailboat to sail off the coast of Greece for a week – and we did.

  • Get the idea.  If someone were to ask you “Where do you want to go before you die?” what would you say? Brunette’s answer was France and Blonde’s was New Zealand. So Brunette went to France as an au pair between her junior and senior years of college. Blonde went to New Zealand with a Mennonite boyfriend, cramped in the last row of a plane in the smoking section and with seats that didn’t recline. But we went!

So what’s in your bucket? Mardi Gras in New Orleans? Looking up your ancestors in Ireland? The Vatican to see if you can buy  a “Get out of Hell Free” card? Scaling Mount Kilimanjaro? Experiencing Machu Picchu? Diving with great white sharks in Australia? Renting an RV to drive around the U.S. and meet everyone named Fred Smith? Don’t you have any more imagination than that?

The Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi

Well you can picture it but not quite make it and that’s OK too!

  • Picture it – are you in a tent, couchsurfing, a hostel, a B&B, a 5 star resort, a cruise ship or George Clooney’s bed? (Get out of George’s bed – that’s where Blonde’s going.)
Blonde and Brunette laughing on boat dock in Barcelona

Our preferred answer is always “each other”

  • Who are you with? Are you going solo? With a friend? With a spouse (yours or some else’s)? With your entire family including step this and that parents and children and pets? Do they want to go? Can they afford or to go? Can you afford to pay for them? Do they have the time to go? Can you really stand that much of them for that long? Can they really stand that much of you for that long?
Dubai desert safari

We wanted to ride a camel in the desert and so even though it wasn’t the world’s most authentic camel ride we did it!

  • What do you want to do?  When you get where you’ve been dreaming of going do you want to eat, drink, snorkel, golf, have endless wild sex (if you’re a golfer we were thinking your chances of wild sex were low but then we remembered Tiger Woods) , race in an iditarod, dive deep into a wreck, sleep on a beach, shop or go to museums?  Can you do that stuff there? (This point is also known as “duh” – no iditarod in Belize for example.)
Galapagos marine iguana and Sally LIghtfoot crab

We wanted to go to the Galapagos and hike and snorkel so we checked carefully for when the water is warmest, the current is most favorable and the weather is best. Hint: It isn’t somewhere you want to go without doing your research but it’s a great place to go!

  • When are you going? If you want to swim in Australia are you aware of the fact that they’re in another hemisphere and their winter is our summer? Is there a big national or religious (or both) holiday while you’re going to be there that will have things closed and traffic and costs unbearable? (Hint: ANZAC Day.)

Are they in the midst of political upheaval? (Our plans for a summer in Crimea are on hold for the moment.) Are you going to a Muslim country during Ramadan when everyone will be hungry and grumpy and lots of restaurants will be closed? Use the internets to check on holidays and weather where you’re going.

One of our examples is that we were planning to go to Egypt in 2009. But we were hemming and hawing about how to do it. We generally don’t take group tours. We couldn’t afford a private guide. It didn’t seem wise to do it totally on our own. We read that they have really bad wine.

So we went to South Africa. We could do it on our own (except the safari part) and they have excellent wine. However, we may have lost our chance to go to Egypt for a very long time, if ever, because we never anticipated the political upheaval that was brewing and subsequently erupted.

Blonde in a neck brace in Jasper Park, Canada

If you’re very accident prone you may not want to ride a large, wild eyed horse in Jasper Park in Canada (random example)

  • Are you capable of the trip? If you’re on dialysis you might not want to go to Bhutan. Do you want to hike the Cinque Terre but haven’t walked more than 3 blocks in the last year? Do you want to go to Mardi Gras but you’re in AA? Do you want to avoid hookers and pot? Skip Amsterdam.
Karumba Maldives

We won a contest and it provided business class airfare to the Maldives – a destination we’d always ruled out as being too expensive.

  •  Can you afford to go?  Don’t borrow money to travel – that’s never smart. But just because you don’t have the cash on hand to go now doesn’t mean you can’t figure out a way to do it. Here are some things that have worked for us:
    • Enter contests like a fiend. In a little over a year we won a free trip to Puerto Rico for 2, a couple days at Canyon Ranch for 1, a trip to Iceland for 2, free business class airfare on Qatar Airways for 2 to the Maldives, a camera, a computer and another camera.

People wonder how we win these contests and where we find them and are sure we cheat. We tell them we win them because we enter them. And we show a lot of them on our Facebook page. So if you follow it you’ll find out about a lot of good ones.

Making Your Bucket List happen

  • Maximize points. Again, this doesn’t apply unless you pay your credit cards off every month because otherwise it’s borrowing money to travel. But take out that card with 40,000 miles if you charge $1,000 in the next 3 months. Cancel it before the annual fee comes around next year if you want. Join every frequent flyer, sleeper and driver program there is. Two of our favorites are the Starwood American Express card (Westin, St. Regis, Le Meridien, Sheraton, and W’s are some of their hotels plus you can transfer points to airlines and they give you a bonus) and Chase Sapphire where you can pay your travel expenses back with your points and they don’t charge foreign transaction fees if you use their card abroad.
  • Sell stuff. Blonde used to have a lot of fancy jewelry and high-end cashmere shawls. Now she has great memories from trips those things financed and those memories are way better than the stuff was! Brunette, after the death of our parents, became a ruthless merchant selling things to finance the trip to the Galapagos and a hotel in Italy we never would have otherwise spent the money to stay in. She sold tiny pieces of glassware and a Hyundai and managed to wring every penny out of those suckers!
  • Save every $5 bill you get. This sounds really dumb but Blonde did it for years and saved over $1,000 a year this way!
  • Marry (or divorce) rich Neither of us had the sense to do this but we’ve heard it can end up costing more than it’s worth but we want you to consider a wide range of options.

If travel really truly is a passion of yours and you want to do it you will figure out how to make it happen. Maybe not as soon as you hoped or in the exact style of your fantasies, but you’ll do it.

If you say you want to do it but aren’t figuring out how to make it happen then you’re in the all talk and no action category and that will keep you on the couch watching reruns of Two and a Half Men for a long time.

And once you start emptying out that bucket list of travel dreams? You will develop an insatiable desire to continue to do more.

If you want more specifics or advice leave a comment and we’ll try to be helpful (albeit possibly in a smartypants way).

And someday you can look like this as you happily ponder your next trip.

Blonde BrunetteTravel in a bathtub (all rights owned do not copy)

Oh look there’s a crease on the map and I’m not sure we went to some of those places yet!


  1. Suzanne Fluhr (Boomeresque) says

    If you want to prioritize travel, make it a habit to live below your means. I guess this is the other side of saving money (spending less). And certainly don’t do what a lot of Americans do which is to live up to their credit limit. For example, don’t buy a new car just because you can.

    • says

      SO true, Suzanne! Just avoid debt period unless it’s to save a life is basically my motto. I save my life by traveling but not via debt. I look back in amazement at the places I went when I was younger and had very little money and wasn’t a backpacker but just made travel my priority (and still do).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *