Before my youngest daughter was even born and my oldest was barely seven years old I set out with the goal of getting them all around the world before they left for college. It was a tall order and I knew it would be a challenge. And I’ve done a pretty good job of it with a lot of forethought and planning. My oldest didn’t quite make it before he left home, but since he recently graduated from college and moved to Hong Kong I’d say “close enough”. The other three have all done it with my youngest boasting 24 countries before her tenth birthday. Traveling with my kids has been one of the greatest joys for me and I think it’s given them confidence, resilience and independence. They’ve learned so much about history, culture, science and people. It’s given them context for what they learn in school and opens their minds to new ways of looking at things. Not to mention it’s just a whole lot of fun for all of us.

I realize getting your kids all the way around the world though isn’t on most peoples top priority list, but I am certain almost everyone has a few really great ideas of things they’d like to do with their kids—a family travel bucket list.

One thing parents of young children are told over and over and over again is “Enjoy it while it lasts.” Or “They grow up so fast”. And it’s so true. Sleepless nights, endless carpools and then college applications. Snap. Snap. Snap. And they are off! Vacations are the time we take pause from the daily grind of child rearing to simply enjoy time together. Considering how busy life is it is no wonder that so many fall into a rut of taking the same or similar vacations year after year. While family travel traditions are so nice to have it is so important to also have vacations where you do something extraordinary—once in a lifetime. This is where your family travel bucket list comes in.

So much of the joy of travel takes place before we depart. It’s the anticipation of all the exciting things awaiting us or the sense of calm we get when we envision lying on an exotic far away island beach. It makes sense therefore to plan ahead. Whatever the age of your children making a family travel bucket list not only ensures the years won’t pass before we get a chance for that once in a lifetime trip we’ve always wanted to take but it also gives you plenty of time to enjoy the anticipation. So whatever the age of your kids take a moment to imagine something extraordinary you’d like to do with them before they grow up. I’ll touch on how to make your bucket list a reality in a future post, but for now just let yourself dream without worrying about budgets or time off work or all the million things life throws you that make it seem impossible. Just dream. Come up with three or four really great ideas—extraordinary and above and beyond what you would normally do for a vacation. For most people the bucket list is already somewhere in your mind. There are places you’ve always wanted to go and places that have always mystified you. If you are having trouble though here are some ideas to get you started.

Consider the past. What are your family’s cultural roots? If you are of Irish descent a road trip around Ireland visiting villages and castle and kissing the Blarney Stone might be a perfect thing to put on your bucket list. Korean American families may really enjoy visiting the traditional markets of Seoul followed by some time on the beach in Jeju or Busan. Latin America, China, Africa, Eastern Europe…… wherever your family roots are there are fantastic journeys awaiting.

Consider your hobbies. Do you like to hike? There are so many fantastic hiking opportunities not only in the US, but how about something a bit different like Kings Canyon, Australia or the Dolomites in Italy. There’s the Dragon’s Back in Hong Kong or the Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan. Are you a water sports enthusiast? There are so many options for scuba and snorkeling in Australia and Pacific. You could do the Great Barrier Reef of course, but also the lesser known, but even more amazing Ningaloo Reef. Closer to home Belize is a wonderful place for water lovers. Whatever hobby you want to share with your kids there is a place where they can experience it with you.

Consider favorite books. While visiting Moscow my mom really wanted to spend a night at the Metropol because of her love for spy novels. I’ve always wanted to do an Anne of Green Gables tour of eastern Canada. I just read that they are going to play Pa’s fiddle at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri—what a great stop on a Little House Road Trip that would be! A Harry Potter trip to the UK or a Madeline trip to Paris….

I love thinking of all the possibilities! Safaris, biking through France, camping on the Outback, cruising the Suez Canal…… I could come up with a family travel bucket list a mile long so please let me know if you are having trouble. The world is so wonderful and there are a million ways to share it with your kids. Just open your mind, don’t limit yourself and consider you can go almost anywhere. (Except war zones. I won’t help my client if they want to travel in a war zone or somewhere else equally unsafe.)

Anyway the point is you need to think about it now. Kids really do grow up fast and planning ahead not only increases the likelihood that you will make these dreams a reality it gives you time to plan and anticipate. In future posts I will touch on how to make these dreams a reality—as a travel agent that is a huge part of my job and I have lots of ways to make things happen. Your job is just to come up with the dream.