If you’re nearing or have already begun your retirement or you’re dreaming of the day you’ll retire, we have a question for you. What are you going to do with all your time? Maybe you used to fill your calendar with activities related to raising a family and attending to career responsibilities. Now you’ve earned your retirement and finally have a chance to enjoy your newfound freedom. But how do you do that?

Here’s the fun part. Make a bucket list. What skills have you always wanted to learn? Where have you always wanted to visit? Are there any people in your life you’d like to prioritize? Your list should emphasize what’s important to you and the things you want to accomplish and check off your list. With this guide, we aim to help you do just that. And you don’t have to wait until retirement – you can start checking things off anytime!

Your Bucket List Should Reflect You

Before you Google, “things to add to my bucket list,” remember that no one should dictate what’s on yours. Your bucket list should be unique to you. Don’t feel pressure to add expensive trips or over-the-top activities to your bucket list, unless you truly want to. Consider what you’ve always wanted to do, your past dreams and current passions. Then make sure your bucket list reflects your desires.

Bucket List Do’s and Don’ts

Consider the following do’s and don’ts before you create your bucket list.

DO Consider Your Priorities 

Do you want to see more of the world? Add a few trips to your bucket list and start planning. Would you like to spend more time with loved ones? Consider adding regular visits to your list, or even a big move if you live far away. Are there experiences you’ve missed out on? Hey, if you always wanted to sky dive and are still fit to, why wait any longer? Or maybe there’s a certain skill you always wished you had. If you admire people who can play the piano, add lessons to your bucket list.

DO Decide Whom You’d Like to Include

This includes people you love spending time with and anyone you haven’t seen in ages but want to visit. You should also include friends or family who’d make checking off items on your bucket list even more enjoyable.

DO Keep It Focused and Manageable

In the end, your bucket list shouldn’t have a thousand things on it. When you read each item on your list, you should have a good idea of how and when you will be able to do it, which brings us to…

DON’T Add Items You Can’t Realistically Attain

If you have heart issues, for instance, maybe avoid running that marathon. Or if you need to be conservative with your finances, consider including just one—not four—international trips.

DON’T Add Something to Your List Simply Because You Think You Should

Make sure you actually care about doing it. For instance, if traveling isn’t your cup of tea, don’t add far-off adventures to your list just because other people do. It’s more than okay to pursue experiences closer to home.

DON’T Risk Your Finances

You can include a couple splurges on your list as long as they work within your budget, but also look for free and/or inexpensive items to sprinkle into your list.

5 Steps to Create Your Bucket List

Now with these practical guidelines in mind, let’s start creating your personal bucket list by following the steps below.

  1. Write down everything: You may want to start with several lists to consider every angle. Make a list of important people. What amazing places would you like to see? And don’t forget about ones you’d like to see again. Make a list of events you’d like to attend and goals you’d like to achieve.
  2. Take your time: No need to think of everything all at once. That could make this a chore. Just keep your bucket list in mind for a week or two. Even read other people’s bucket lists for inspiration—as long as it doesn’t tempt you to stray from your true personal desires. If something comes to mind that gets you excited and inspires you, add it!
  3. Sit on it: Let your ideas ruminate. What do you keep returning to in your thoughts? What are you most excited about?
  4. Pare it down: After letting your bucket list ideas simmer, it’s time to trim the fat. Reread your list. Is there anything on the list that you forgot about? Then maybe you can cross it off. Did you include anything that’s completely unrealistic based on your physical capabilities, current world conditions, your finances or your time? Remove those. This allows you to focus on things that not only get you most excited, but will keep you from being distracted by unattainable goals. In short, you’ll be more likely to stay positive and enjoy completing your bucket list.
  5. Prioritize: Once you’ve refined your bucket list items, decide which one-time experiences and trips are most important to you. Do the same for any ongoing goals such as spending quality time with grandchildren once per week.

Tips to Actually Do the Things on Your Bucket List

Don’t underestimate the importance of good planning when it comes to following through on your bucket list. After all, creating your bucket list is a fulfilling activity by itself, but don’t you want to do the items on your list?

Decide on a Timeline

Look at your list in two categories: ongoing goals and one-time events and experiences. Plan how they’ll relate to each other over time. Ongoing goals could include those piano lessons or visits with family or friends. If you want to achieve that item, do any relevant research, such as finding a piano instructor, and mark them on your calendar. Once you have those taken care of, you can determine where on your calendar the one-time trips and events will fit.

Do Your Research

This is especially important for any events or experiences on your list. Prioritize them based on outside factors like:

  • The seasons and weather
  • World events
  • Tour schedules (if, for example, you want to attend a performance)
  • Your own physical strength (anything that involves hiking might be better done sooner rather than later)

Get to Planning

Break each item into steps and set deadlines for yourself. If you’re planning a trip, your steps could include:

  • Researching times of year to go
  • Reading about excursion activities
  • Booking travel (lodging and transportation)

Setting Up a Vacation Bucket List

The term bucket list gained popularity after the release of a 2007 movie of that name, in which two terminally ill men use their last days on earth to tick off all the things they want to do before “kicking the bucket.” If that seems morbid, you can call yours a dream destination list, a list of vacation goals, or anything else you prefer.

To make your bucket list, sit down and think about all the places you’ve ever wanted to go. If you’re planning on traveling with a partner or friend, plan your lists together to see where they overlap. Your list can be long or short, specific or vague. It can be built around one large trip or consist of many smaller trips. You may find that some travel ideas from your younger years won’t seem as interesting now, and that’s fine – you don’t need to include them.

Although every person’s list will vary, here are just a few examples of what a traveler might include, for purposes of inspiration:

  • The grand tour: Take a long European trip, going from country to country.
  • The themed trip: Pick a theme, based on a hobby, interest or passion of yours, and turn it into a route. For example, if you love reading about military history, see all the historic forts on the coasts of America. Or you could visit all the major battlefields and memorials in a country whose past piques your interest. If you’re a big fan of an author who writes about an intriguing place, or a TV show filmed somewhere spectacular, map the locations involved.
  • The heritage trip: Seek out your ancestral roots and plan a trip to the country or region where your family originated. Another version might be to travel to the places where your parents lived when they were young, or to revisit your childhood hometown.
  • The American checklist: Travel to every state in America, see every state capitol building, stand on the highest peak in every state, or visit all of America’s national parks.
  • The physical challenge: Go bungee jumping, skydiving or zip-lining. Climb a mountain. Bike across the country. Complete a famous hike like the Appalachian Trail or Inca Trail.

Or, your list can be composed simply of a mix of random things:

  • Countries like South Africa, Georgia, Portugal or Japan
  • Cities like New Orleans, Vancouver or Edinburgh
  • Types of trips like a long road trip on back roads or a train across the country
  • Experiences like a spa weekend, solo trip or hot air balloon ride

Whether you’ve been retired for years or you’re a ways off, it’s never too late or too early to create and start checking off your bucket list.

The Extra Mile Community Bucket List

Time to share and get ideas from each other. In comments, let readers know what vacation, skill or hobby you plan on adding, or have already added to your bucket list.  Which items have already been completed?