Retirement Bucket List

How to Create & Complete Your Bucket List

Anne Shaw and Johnna Kaplan

If you’re nearing or have already begun your retirement, we have a question for you. What are you going to do with all your time? You probably 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.

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 want to regularly spend time with, people you haven’t seen in ages but would love to visit, and people 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 1,000 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 retirement 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 retirement 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. Make a list of amazing places you’d 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 anything on there that you forgot about? Then maybe you can cross it off your list. 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 the grandkids. 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, especially 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) and 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 and 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, and all the travel experiences you’ve ever wanted to have. 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 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 countries (for example, South Africa, Georgia, Portugal, Japan), cities (New Orleans, Vancouver, Edinburgh), types of trips (take a long road trip on back roads, take a train across the country), and experiences (spa weekend, solo trip, hot air balloon ride).

It’s never too late to create and start checking off your bucket list. And what better time than now to do just that.

The Extra Mile Community Bucket List:

Time to share.  In comments below, let us know what vacation, skill, or hobby you plan on adding, or have already added to your bucket list.  Which items have already been completed?

4 Responses to "How to Create & Complete Your Bucket List"
  • Seven Movie Messages You Can Apply to Your Life Today - | August 1, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    […] Seventy-five year old actor Robert De Niro starred in a 2013 movie that illustrated the benefits of travel. As one of four long-time buddies, De Niro takes a trip to Las Vegas to attend his friend’s low-key bachelor party, a.k.a Last Vegas. The celebration soon gains the momentum of a fraternity party, reigniting their youthful sense of adventure. The Bucket List, which features 81 year old Jack Nicholson, has two buddies with nothing to lose setting out on a road trip and fulfilling their wish lists. Feeling spontaneous? Here’s a blueprint to create and complete your own bucket list. […]

  • The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Road Trip | Extra Mile | April 18, 2019 at 8:20 pm

    […] tripping: whether you’re going to visit family, hoping to check a dream destination off your bucket list, or wanting to get to know a region in a way you simply can’t from an […]

  • Extra Mile Staff | January 22, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    Hi Cindy, you can find more information here: https://www.aarp.org/auto/driver-safety/

  • Extra Mile Staff | January 22, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    Great advice Doris! Thank you for sharing.

  • Cindy Vaughan | January 21, 2019 at 1:05 am

    How old do you have to be to have a safe driver class make you eligible for a discount?

  • Doris J Moore | January 19, 2019 at 9:56 pm

    My husband and I have been blessed to have visited 39 countries as we work on our Bucket List. We started over ten years ago and it's been wonderful. With the continued blessing of good health and continued resources/finances, we plan to continue traveling the world. Our advice: don't put it off. Plan and go!

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