Everyone has some sort of bucket list. As with anything, everyone does things a little differently. Some people choose to keep track in a journal or notebook or even a folder on their computer. Some call it a vision board or dream board. Others choose the more cerebral approach, keeping it all trapped between the ears. But regardless of the nature of the list, most bucket lists include (or are completely comprised of) travel. Unlike many bucket list items that farfetched and unrealistic, travel is completely doable. But you need a plan. Because we all know that time ticks away, days run into weeks, run into months, run into years. And that 50th birthday trip you were going to take? You’re about 7 years late. If this is the year you are determined to make it happen, grab that travel bucket list and follow these five essential steps.
1. Get your passport and make sure it’s valid.
You want to be ready when an opportunity presents itself. Passports take about 3 – 6 weeks to process unless you pay the expedited fees. Well in advance of traveling, make sure that your passport is valid for six months AFTER your planned return. This is a regulation that has been implemented in the past year or so for most European countries. Check out this website where you can check the specifics of the country or countries you plan to visit. You will not be able to depart from the US if your passport does not meet the validity requirements.
2. Get real with yourself.
Really, you must do this. Don’t do it because all the cool kids are doing it. Do it because it’s what you want. Do you really want to eat fermented shark in Iceland? If so, great! But if not, don’t. Your adventure is your adventure. And if that means a not so adventurous but incredibly indulgent holiday poolside with a fruity drink and not a care in the world, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. You need to do what makes you happy, not what Instagram dictates is going to make you happy. Stay true to yourself.
3. Get a jar – put money in it.
Every single day. Even if it’s just a few quarters. Every cent counts and gets you closer to your dream. Do what you have to do to make this dream a reality. Put money aside, make coffee at home, skip dinners out for a few months, knowing that every plate of pasta you eat at home will mean a sublime dinner in a sidewalk cafe in Rome or Paris somewhere down the road. The sacrifice (if you want to call it that) will be worth it.
4. Get Together.
Meet with your fellow travelers and make a plan. The first step is to choose your travel companions. Perhaps it is decided for you – a family trip or a honeymoon for example. But if you are choosing people to travel with, think carefully about whether or not you are compatible in travel. Good friends do not always make good travel partners. It all comes down to travel philosophy- luxury or shoestring, run through and see as much as possible or slow it down and take in the atmosphere. you don’t have to agree on everything, but you do have to agree to compromise or to split up when the time is right. Decide what, where, when how much. Not everything has to be set in stone but a basic plan is important.
5. Get to know the best resources.
The internet can be invaluable but also overwhelming. It can also be misleading at times. If you are doing online research, make sure you are using reputable sites. If you do any bookings online, read the fine print very carefully. Hotel booking sites offer some great deals, but often the payment is immediate and non-refundable. A great savings if you are 100% sure that nothing is going to change. But I can tell you (from experience) that in the event that you cancel, you will NOT get your money back. When looking for great airfare, make sure you get a very clear picture about what is and is not included. Many airlines offer cut rate fares which are great until you add up everything that is NOT included: checked baggage can cost up to $75 a bag and their are much stricter enforcement on the size of carry ons. Another common practice now is to charge for every seat if you want to reserve in advance. Sure, you can wait until you get to the airport check in, but the likelihood of you being wedged in a middle seat in the back of the plane is pretty high. If you are fine with that possibility, than you can save the fee. The most important thing is to gather all the information before you make a decision, try to sort through the noise of the internet, and if you can, connect with someone who has experience in the area you are visiting, be it a friend, colleague or qualified travel agent.
Planning is essential and can actually be a fun and educational part of the travel experience. And believe me, it really is the only way to make it happen. Is travel on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments where you want to go next and how you are going to make it happen. I can’t wait to hear about everyone’s upcoming adventures!