The family travel bucket list

People often talk about their bucket list – the experiences (often travel-related) they want to have done before they “kick the bucket”. Most people don’t start contemplating it until they’re faced with their own mortality and realise they are running out of time.

However families have to think about their travel bucket list much sooner, as the opportunity for family holidays diminishes as the kids grow up. Not long after they’ve morphed into those strange, monosyllabic creatures known as teenagers, they’ll want to be off on their own adventures.

What’s a bucket list and why do I need one?

As a family with young kids you might think you have forever to plan family holidays. But trust me, you will run out of time. Someone told me recently I only had only six or seven summer family holidays left, based on the fact that my son is now 11. And while that concept breaks my heart just a little, I’m glad I’ve taken advantage of every opportunity to travel with my kids when they’ve been young, and we’ve had some extraordinary experiences together.

What should be on my bucket list?

What rocks one family’s boat won’t interest another and budget constraints are real, when mortgages or rent have to be paid and children fed, clothed and educated. You can think about your bucket list in a number of ways: by ticking off destinations, by honing in on specific experiences, and by understanding the windows of time you have left for certain holidays.

As with most things, the best way to achieve your travel goals is to plan ahead. Think about the “big” trips you want to do – Europe, USA – and plan shorter trips ones around that. If you know you are travelling, say, to Europe in two years’ time you can take advantage of well-priced early-bird fares when they are released.

Now and Then trips

I have a list of what I refer to as my “now” and “then” trips – things to do before or after the kids reach a certain age.

With infants and toddlers simple bucket and spade holidays work well, but so too do city stays where you can get around with a stroller and work sleeping routines into your activities. Having those sorts of holidays breaks you in as travelling parents so you can get more adventurous later on. (And if you really want to get good at it, then buy our book.)

Once your children start school, learn to read and become inquisitive about more than just their immediate environment the world opens up in extraordinary ways. These are golden years for family travel with myriad possibilities but some things are best done sooner rather than later, before the magical innocence of childhood disappears forever.

A perfect example of this is visiting Santa in Finnish Lapland, where kids can visit a reindeer farm, take a sled ride and go snowshoe walking and it’s all about the wonder of Christmas. For obvious reasons you’ve only got so long to make this work.

Conversely, a multi-night bushwalking holiday might best be left until your youngest child is robust enough to hike the required distance and carry a backpack without complaining.

Earlier this year I ticked a major item off my travel bucket list with a trip to southern Africa. We went on two amazing safari adventures in Botswana’s Okavango Delta and in South Africa and explored Cape Town and its surrounds. (Watch the video on our South African safari). Of course having ticked it off the list, we just want to go back to both countries and do it all again. Which means my bucket list isn’t getting any shorter any time soon.