How to Make Your Dream Bucket List a Reality

Tips for crossing off bucket list destinations.

This week Roam offers up Travel Smart, with our writers' and editors' best tips, hacks and resources for ensuring smooth, successful travels. Tune in daily for new content and fresh ideas to save money and get the most out of your trip.

 Make a Plan + Write It Down

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I had an English teacher who once said, “It’s just a dream until you write it down. Then it becomes a goal.” Whether your goal is shopping at designer boutiques on the streets of Paris or bungee jumping in the breathtaking landscape of New Zealand, having a concrete way to display and visualize what you want to work toward can help hold yourself accountable. Start a trip fund and contribute money to a glass jar each week. Hang up a map with your dream destination marked.

 Go Off-Season

Opt for visiting a dream destination in its off-season. Lodging prices are usually lower, plus there will be smaller crowds. When planning, make sure the top attractions and museums you most want to visit will be open because some businesses in the tourism industry close for less popular times of the year.

More Tips for Making It Happen

US Virgin Islands

US Virgin Islands

A Caribbean vacation isn't out of reach without a passport if you stick to the US Virgin Islands: St. John, St. Croix and St. Thomas (pictured here). Since they're US territories, a driver's license or birth certificate will suffice. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Vieques, Puerto Rico

Vieques, Puerto Rico

Another option in the Caribbean is Vieques, a small island that lies about 8 miles east of Puerto Rico. Along with the Puerto Rican mainland, it is a United States commonwealth with a strong Spanish influence. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Culebra, Puerto Rico

Culebra, Puerto Rico

Culebra, another island municipality of Puerto Rico, offers some of the Caribbean's most serene beaches. 960 1280

Getty  

San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Not to be overshadowed by its islands, Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan, is steeped in Spanish heritage and culture without sacrificing waterfront sunsets. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Whistler, British Columbia

Whistler, British Columbia

Have your sights set on a Canadian ski vacation? You can hit the slopes of Whistler Blackcomb, but not without restrictions. First, you'll need to travel by land, and second, you'll need either an enhanced driver's license or a US passport card. These travel documents were created in conjunction with changes to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative that took effect in 2009.  960 1280

Thinkstock  

Key West, Florida

Key West, Florida

Who says you can't find an island paradise in the continental US? Just off the coast of Florida, Key West is the southernmost city in the country and is unlike anywhere else. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Guam

Guam

Guam is the westernmost US territory, and while it's known for its military base, it's also one of the leading tourist destinations in the Western Pacific. This tropical paradise features beach clubs, luxurious accommodations and world-class golf courses. 960 1280

DuReMi, flickr  

Hawaii

Hawaii

Of course, if you want to be on an exotic island far, far away, your first thought should be of Hawaii and the islands of Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai and Maui. 960 1280

Rhiannon Taylor  

American Samoa

American Samoa

You can also experience the heart of Polynesia and Samoan culture in the 5 volcanic islands that make up the territory of American Samoa. 960 1280

Walter Spina/iStock/Getty Images  

Swains Island, American Samoa

Swains Island, American Samoa

If you're feeling adventurous, travel to Swains Island in American Samoa, one of the territory's 2 atolls (coral islands) halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. 960 1280

Wikimedia Commons  

Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands

Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands

Your last option for a tropical vacation without a passport is Saipan, one of the 14 lush Northern Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth. The Micronesian paradise has been called "America's best-kept secret." 960 1280

Getty  

Barton Creek Greenbelt, Austin, Texas
Think Small

Think Small

Start with small trips close to home. As alluring as far-off places can be, sometimes all you need is short trip to quench your thirst for wanderlust. Think state parks instead of national parks for this one. An added bonus is they are significantly less crowded and have cheaper entrance fees. 960 1280

Jeremy Pawlowski  

Day Trips

Day Trips

It's easy to lose ourselves in the dreams of multi-day backpacking trips or plane rides halfway around the world, but when it comes to working a nine-to-five, chances are this isn't going to happen often, so try a day trip instead. You'll get out in nature, hopefully explore something new and still be home in time for dinner. 960 1280

Jeremy Pawlowski  

Travel With Friends

Travel With Friends

Solo trips are fun and rejuvenating, but bringing friends along can ease the burden of travel. Other people can bring new ideas for trips and different outlooks on how to travel to the table. Having an extra person or two to drive and split the cost of gas is always a big help too. 960 1280

Jeremy Pawlowski  

Travel for Work (If You're Lucky)

Travel for Work (If You're Lucky)

Unfortunately this is not something that my job allows but many people do have jobs where they travel. Friends of mine who have been bitten by the travel bug do their best to tack on an extra day to business trips so they can use that time to explore a new location. 960 1280

Jeremy Pawlowski  

Take Advantage of Long Weekends

Take Advantage of Long Weekends

Veterans Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day — these holidays offer most of us an extra day off from our desk jobs. Take this time to drive to that location that you've always wanted to go to that just seems a bit too far for a standard weekend. Don't worry, the couch will still be waiting for you on Tuesday. 960 1280

Jeremy Pawlowski  

Combine Locations

Combine Locations

Just because you can spend weeks at some national parks and still not see everything they have to offer doesn't mean you have to. Combining locations that are close to each other is a good way to make the most out of a limited amount of time. Not only will you still be able to see the most noteworthy sights, but the variation in landscape will leave you feeling more fulfilled in a short period of time. 960 1280

Jeremy Pawlowski  

Do Your Research

Do Your Research

Don't be afraid to ask for recommendations from the people who spend their time in the place you're visiting. Whether it's a local resident at a gas station or a park ranger, get the inside scoop on where to go and what to see from those who know the area best. This allows you to maximize your time during a short stay. 960 1280

Jeremy Pawlowski  

Be Cheap

Be Cheap

Yes you heard me. Buy plane tickets well in advance. Consider hotels, motels and cabins a luxury while traveling, relying on campgrounds or finding a friends couch to crash on instead. As they say, a penny saved is a penny earned, and if it means the difference between another trip or not, then it is well worth it. 960 1280

Jeremy Pawlowski  

Helitrax
For Adventure Seekers: Telluride, Colorado

For Adventure Seekers: Telluride, Colorado

Experienced skiers can take it to the next level by spending the day heli-skiing, which, like it sounds, is downhill skiing on a course accessible only by helicopter. For $1,235, Telluride Helitrax, in operation since 1982, offers daylong excursions that include 6 ski runs, a guide, equipment and food. Helicopters take groups of four to an elevation of at least 10,000 feet, where skiers are surrounded by majestic backcountry terrain while on empty slopes. If that’s not enough, customized tours are also available. 960 1280

Jeff Cricco/Telluride Helitrax  

For Culture Vultures: N.Y.C.

For Culture Vultures: N.Y.C.

Start the clock by catching a matinee of Hamilton, Broadway’s hottest hip-hop musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton. Plan ahead, since tickets tend to sell out months in advance. Cap off the day with an adults-only sleepover at the American Museum of Natural History, where guests can enjoy live music, presentations and the chance to explore the museum all night long. The $350 price includes a buffet dinner, cots and more. 960 1280

© AMNH\R. Mickens  

For Girlfriend Getaways: Miami

For Girlfriend Getaways: Miami

Sunshine, spa treatments and drinks are all that are needed for a quick getaway, and one can find all that and more at The Standard in Miami Beach. It’s removed from the madding crowd, and guests can luxuriate in a Turkish Hamam and take a yoga classes by the water. Leave time to head to nearby Miami Beach for dinner at celeb hotspot Matador Room, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s latest Miami venture offering Latin-fusion fare. Sit on the terrace for ocean views and lush, foliage surroundings. Follow up with poolside drinks at the sophisticated Delano South Beach, where you can camp out in a lantern-lit private cabana before it’s time to head home. 960 1280
For Foodies: Culinary Institute of America: California, New York, Texas

For Foodies: Culinary Institute of America: California, New York, Texas

Boasting such notable alum as Anthony Bourdain and Cat Cora, many a foodie has daydreamed about enrolling at one of the nation’s best culinary schools. While that’s not realistic for most, what is possible is taking a half-day cooking class. Each location offers a bevy of year-round options, from global street food to holiday favorites. Classes include lunch, CIA apron and chef’s hat. For the ultimate experience, two- to five-day boot camps are a must for when time isn’t of the essence. Of course, the upside to taking an afternoon class, particularly at the CIA in California, is the opportunity to have dinner just a quick 20-minute ride away at French Laundry, considered one of the top 10 restaurants in the U.S. The prix fixe chef’s tasting menu costs $295 -- be sure to book two months ahead. 960 1280

By Ɱ (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons  

For Family-Friendly Fun: Mohonk Mountain House

For Family-Friendly Fun: Mohonk Mountain House

This sprawling, fairy tale-esque castle in the scenic Hudson Valley literally has something for everyone. Rock climbing, horseback riding and golf are among the warmer-weather options at Mohonk Mountain House, while ice skating, snow tubing and cross-country skiing are among the winter activities. There’s also an award-winning spa, watersports and a host of fitness classes. (And that’s still not everything.) Trying to cram as many activities as possible into 24 hours is a worthwhile challenge. 960 1280

By Fred Hsu on en.wikipedia (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons  

For Romantics: New Orleans

For Romantics: New Orleans

New Orleans has no shortage of romantic neighborhoods and experiences, and the food-and-music scene has some of the best ways to experience them. Start with a late breakfast at Café Amelie and sit outside in the greenery-filled courtyard for a secret garden feel. Stroll through the historic French Quarter to work up an appetite for the Creole jazz brunch at Muriel’s Jackson Square, or simply get a drink at Muriel’s bordello-themed Séance Lounge (ask about the ghost). Don’t miss dinner at top-rated French restaurant August before collapsing into a plush seat at the intimate Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse. 960 1280
For Shopaholics: Los Angeles

For Shopaholics: Los Angeles

Bypass the ubiquitous luxury chains on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and head to unique boutiques selling hard-to-find favorites. Fred Segal, Maxfield, Kitson and Madison are among the old-guard standouts, selling on-trend, high-end designer wares and more. Visit newer trendsetters include Opening Ceremony and TENOVERSIX for well-curated selections of the hottest designers and up-and-comers. Shoe addicts will find nirvana among the wall of shoes at Kathryn Amberleigh. Fans of the offbeat shouldn’t miss Just One Eye, a conceptual space that’s part art gallery, part fashion boutique, or The Well, a combination boutique/hair salon that’s perfect for multitaskers. Before heading out, pop into Poketo for one-of-a-kind gifts for everyone back home. 960 1280

Courtesy of Poketo  

For the Unconventional: Quebec City

For the Unconventional: Quebec City

Even though Quebec City is impossibly charming in the warmer months, it’s downright magical in the winter. Warm up with high tea at the iconic Château Frontenac Hotel in Old Quebec. While it’s tempting to stay there, the highlight is spending a night at Hotel de Glace, a seasonal ice hotel just outside downtown Quebec, and the only one in North America. Book the Adventure Package and squeeze in dogsledding for extra bragging rights. 960 1280
For Outdoorsy Types: Grand Canyon

For Outdoorsy Types: Grand Canyon

It’s one thing to experience the Grand Canyon from a prime viewing spot, and another from the saddle of a mule. While three-hour trips are available, opt for the once-in-a-lifetime overnight ride to Phantom Ranch, a rustic lodge located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The trail ride each way takes about five hours and includes rest stops and lunch. 960 1280
For Sports Fanatics: Super Bowl

For Sports Fanatics: Super Bowl

Yes, Super Bowl tickets are notoriously hard to score. Luckily, it’s not impossible with QuintEvents, the official provider of Super Bowl packages. To really go over the top for this year’s game, choose the "Prime Sidelines" ticket package, which nets you seats on the 30-yard line, lodging, the chance to meet players and cheerleaders and get autographs, and access to a private club serving gourmet food and drink before, during and after the game. Best of all, this package can be purchased the day of the game -- for a mere $13,000. 960 1280

 Use Points and Deals

If budget prevents you from taking your dream trip, consider ways you can earn points to cover some of the costs. Do you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card? If not, you should probably get one. Editor-in-chief of The Points Guy Zach Honig recommends this credit card as one of the best for accruing points. Not only can you earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months, but those points are more flexible because you’re not limited to using them on one airline or hotel; you can transfer the points to a partner when you’re ready to redeem, he says.

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LordRunar

 Check Off Several Bucket List Items at Once

You don’t want to overbook your itinerary to the point where you can’t truly take in the locations you’re visiting, but selecting a destination that offers multiple items on your bucket list is a great way to stretch your trip – and your dollar. For example, if visiting as many national parks as possible is on your bucket list, head to Utah where you can easily check off the Mighty 5 in one trip.

iStockphoto: HonestTraveller/gregobagel

 Consider Alternatives 

If you still can’t seem to make the time or budget work for the destination you have in mind, think about visiting an alternative until you can eventually make it to where you want to go. For example, if you have a fascination with all things French but can’t quite afford to go to France or don’t have time to take a week-long vacation right now, consider visiting Quebec City instead.

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