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Planning the bucket list post retirement

I am trying to decide how to approach this bucket list. How many trips/weeks of travel per year can a person take before they run together? Which ones need to be done before age 70, and then before 80? Assuming 2 trips per year, what would be a good plan?

For 2023 I have these planned:
Israel and Jordan
Czech Republic, Vienna, Budapest

This is the rest:
Tasmania hike (visited all the other states previously)
New Zealand (3rd trip but hike the Milford Track this time)
Russia (St Petersburg, Moscow)
Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma/Myanmar
East African safari
South Africa, esp for the spring wildflower bloom in Namaqualand so late August/Sept. The W Australia wildflower bloom was amazing in 1989.
Brazil, Iguazu Falls, Buenos Aires
Lofoten Islands, Norway
Nepal (trekking)
Antarctica and South Georgia (cruise)
Patagonia (hiking, Torres del Paine)

Posted by
5108 posts

I had 5 trips planned for my first year in retirement. I ended up cancelling 3 and adding 2 due to Covid so I ended up with 4 trips. ( one to London, one to Alaska, one to North Carolina, and one Caribbean cruise). It did not seem like too much. For year two of retirement I have 2 RS tours back to back scheduled for Sept and another trip to North Carolina in November. I’ll have to get started on 2023 soon to finish it off :)

Posted by
3105 posts

If it were me I’d be sure to take at least one physically demanding (trekking, hiking, guided) trip per year beginning now. I’d balance that out with a second trip from the list. If you can afford more, perhaps a third. I’d save any cruises for much later after retirement.

Posted by
3650 posts

Pulling out the treks and cruises

Nepal physically demanding (October to avoid winter snow, spring dust, summer monsoon/leeches?)
Tasmania + NZ (maybe combine 2 treks in different countries on one long trip? Could recharge at friends' homes in between). (Dec-Feb)
Torres del Paine (ARG) physically demanding (Dec-Feb)
Alaska (summer)

Antarctica and South Georgia (Dec-Feb)

I believe the East African safari season is July/August, so that could be combined with Namaqualand.

Posted by
6868 posts

I'm nowhere near retirement but totally agree with prior posts. Prioritize the physically demanding and logistically challenging trips first while you're young/ish, in good physical health, and flexible. European cities can wait, too easy. I was thinking about Russia the other day and felt sad that I didn't get to see it when I had the chance - I am really not sure the international relations and VISA requirements will thaw in my lifetime, and I'm in my 40s. Maybe it will be possible to go one day once they will grant tourist VISAs to Americans but the stigma will be there, for sure. I missed the boat on Cuba too, and now things are back to the status quo after an opening disappeared too quickly.

Posted by
3258 posts

I agree with those that say you should get on the most physically demanding trips sooner rather than later. I've just turned 70, and my darling daughter has pointed out that my hope of an African safari is probably out of the question now, due to chronic back issues. We will put our proposed Egypt tour on the front burner, before any more body parts start to fail.

Posted by
3650 posts

Agnes: Yes, countries do come and go as far as accessibility. I actually had a ticket with a stop in Burma in 1988 but the country closed to tourism, and it is closed again now. Ditto Russia, which may be open but is not an acceptable choice.

Posted by
1786 posts

No advice, except you can take as many as you want as long as being gone is taken care of. My list?
Barcelona - 10 days; Dubai/Jordan - 3 weeks; Scotland with a dip into England - 5 weeks; Poland/Hungary - 6 weeks; England for a concert - 10 days; German Christmas Markets - 10 days. I will let you know if they all run together! So far not - ha!

For this year I left time in between trips for quarantine if necessary. And probably got a bit carried away, but I am not getting younger or more agile. After this year, my goal is to be gone longer, if I find I like it this year- saves on the physical stress of adjusting to time zones so often, as well as the cost of flights with making more and shorter trips. I will probably end up each year with a combination of longer solo trips and shorter trips with friends.

Maybe a repeat to Andalucia and Ireland
Then a somewhat slow spring/early summer Albania - Northern Greece, maybe 6 weeks
Summer - probably Glacier NP, with maybe an extension into Canada from there.
Fall - Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia, probably 7-8 weeks.

Then the next three year plan includes: New Zealand; Malta-Sicily-southern Italy (long); Crete; Alaska; Bulgaria-Romania, maybe with Turkey (long); Japan; Norway; more Switzerland-Northern Italy (long); Belgium; southern France; northern Spain; Wales; more national parks here. Not yet sure how I will piece some of these together and which may end up being the trips with friends. And order will depend on many factors.

I have a spreadsheet (surprise) with a tentative schedule through 2025 and a separate spreadsheet begun for a number of them, where I add notes that will help me determine how long I want to stay, since that isn’t determined by work, weather particularly, or other responsibilities.

You might think about taking one of the more physically demanding trips early and then decide if you need to put a second one in for that year. Most of our trips require a good deal of walking but not all of yours are trekking - so not all equally demanding. And a bad knee or similar could sure throw a wrench into a more difficult trip for the future. Then there are all the other factors that could influence a decision! I aim to stay one year ahead on definite planning and have an option ready to go in case one of them doesn’t work out.

Posted by
6866 posts

Good luck. I hope your 401K's and IRA's perform better than mine for the last 4 months. LOL!

We're 13 years into retirement and still have that yearning for international travel. We no longer travel in the U.S. on vacations.

Posted by
1068 posts

I see I am in good company.

In 2015 I was not a traveler. In 2016, the plan was one trip every other year. That didn't last even one year, so it turned into a trip every year. That was working until 2020 when there was no trip at all. I am making up for it by taking 2 trips this year. I have just cleared it with DH, who no longer travels and stays home and takes care of everything, that 2 trips a year would be OK. The pattern of escalation can't continue because I am running out of PTO!

I am soon to be 57 and working full time, but I already have significant osteoarthritis. Trying to fit in as much as I can now.

Posted by
2225 posts

Continuing the theme of doing the more physically challenging things on your list first: I suggest an extended stay in New Zealand - devoting as much time as you can spare to exploring what we consider to be the most beautiful country on earth, with enough epic hikes to keep you busy for months. The scenery is universally gorgeous everywhere, though our personal preference is the South Island - particularly the area around Queenstown.
I'd also second the idea of a trip to Tasmania. The national parks there rival NZ for jaw-dropping natural beauty ... which is saying plenty believe me.
Just a thought, but if you do make it to NZ consider including some time on Stewart Island - it's one of those "back of beyond" experiences that you'll never forget.

Posted by
608 posts

Like others, definitely do the more physically demanding trips first. Alaska can be, it depends on what you want to do there. I highly recommend getting into the interior deep into the bush. It is not where the usual traveler goes, but so worth it! We go every other year and love it. We have family that lives in the bush, so are spoiled in that respect as we go visit them at a handful of family cabins in the area. No roads to get there, so we either drive to Coldfoot and they pick us up there in their bush plane, or we take a charter to Bettles and then either a float plane to a lake an then hike for 5 hours or do the float plane and take the canoe. The canoe has to be taken out of the water and moved over land a few times. But a trip like this is amazing! Granted, our specific trips cannot be done by anyone that is not invited, but there are places I noted bush that do and I would really look into that for a unique experience.

Posted by
1654 posts

IMHO "physically demanding" also includes very long plane rides, hot climates, and high elevation. So if it were me, I'd move up Peru (elevation), NZ/S. Africa (long plane ride) and Cambodia/Vietnam (the humidity is murder!)

Also, nice list. I'm 13 months out from starting my pension/sabbatical and need to get going on my list :)

Posted by
2458 posts

Tom, that is a very impressive, also ambitious list. We retired during covid and have started our traveling. We plan on doing 3 trips per year. This year was Sicily, just returned, Croatia/Slovenia in June, and Spain in October. Our two furthest flights are in 2023 - Israel, Egypt, and Jordan in March, and Japan in September. We’ll throw in Paris and London in April. For place like cambodia, vietnam, india, etc, we figure we will visit by cruising. Much easier and I’m not too comfortable planning these countries. One big decision we have made since reutrning from Sicily is that all future trips will be business class. No exceptions. We have saved our entire working career for retirement or that rainy day. We tell each other that it is finally raining and we are going for it. Luckily for us we have no mortgage, no CC debt, no loans, children who have good jobs, families, and houses already, and we each have pensions. My friend’s husband had a Brain stroke in January, same ages - we all went to school together, so we are not guanteed tomorrow, so we are going for it while we are healthy and have the means. Hope the same for you.

Posted by
2160 posts

My list? All the places in Europe that I have not been! Which is most of the continent!
Outside Europe; Japan and Peru
We will kick off retirement with a World Cruise on Viking!

Posted by
1913 posts

Tom — I would combine Peru and Galapagos, and move them up on your list. Peru has lots of high altitude hiking, and Galapagos was fairly active. We did a National Geographic cruise that had lots of hiking & snorkeling; just getting in and out of the zodiacs multiple times daily required balance & was a challenge for some. It was such a great adventure that I would encourage you to do it before health issues crop up.

Posted by
3650 posts

I am reconsidering Peru timeline as suggested because of the altitude. I have problems with that. We had a favorite campsite (walk-in from car 75 yards) in Rocky Mtn National Park located at low 8000s and it really wiped me out lugging the tent and camping gear without gasping for air, and that was 10 years ago. Cuzco is at 11,000 ft. There used to be a flight from Bogota (7000 ft?) nonstop to Cuzco and spending several days in Bogota would be a great way to acclimate, assuming the flight is restored.

Barbara: I hope you liked Sicily.

And RE India: There's not much of value to see in India that is accessible from a cruise. IMHO Bombay is a big miss, the Elephanta caves are junk and so are the city sites, and the local culture, the way people there act and treat each other, it's icky. You will want as a minimum to see:

  1. Delhi and Agra,

  2. A desert city in the NW like Udaipur or Jaiselmer and Jodhpur, or all three. Jaipur is closest to Delhi but IMO least interesting.

  3. Southern temples like the Hoysala Empire temples at Belur and Halebid west of Bangalore, and some gopuram style temples like the ones in Madurai.

  4. After seeing Petra in Jordan it would be interesting to experience the much larger carved out buildings near Ellora (an overnight train ride from Agra or flight from Delhi) which are one solid piece of rock with the native rock around them removed, and the nearby Ajanta Buddhist cave frescos which are very good, moving.

  5. A tiger, there are several possibilities

  6. A Ganges pilgrimage site, Varanasi is the big one, but Rishikesh nearer Delhi (never been) could work.

Sorry for using the traditional city spellings! I would be happy to help with an itinerary of your own, the ManInSeat61 has great advice about the Indian trains.

Posted by
2458 posts

Sicily was better then I expected. So green. Had a great time, would definately recommend visiting.
Tammy, my husband wants to go on a world cruise but it would be too long for me. Would love to read a trip report about that trip.

Posted by
13044 posts

The Torres del Paine are on the Chile side of Patagonia, not in Argentina. That 14-mile RT hike was the most strenuous of all the daily hiking we did in Patagonia—-including the entire “W” inn-to-inn trek in Chile, then various hikes around Fitz Roy in Argentina from a base near El Chatén (a beautiful lodge I highly recommend). I was glad we did this when we did—I was 70 and my husband 74. I don’t think my knees would handle that rugged terrain very well now.

The good news about Patagonia is that the altitude is very low, as the mountains are close to the sea there.

If you have difficulty with high altitude, you might reconsider trekking in Nepal, or do it soon. I know I can comfortably handle hiking up to 11,000 feet, as we do that every summer in the Wasatch mountains of Utah. But Nepal elevations are beyond my reach and we have taken that “off the list”

Hiking in Alaska, like Patagonia, is also at low elevations (unless you are considering something like climbing Denali). And it is pretty easy hiking, whether on trails or trail-free tundra, compared to the rocky, rugged Patagonia terrain. The main issue in Alaska hiking is bears, and it is best not to hike alone there.

Posted by
3650 posts

You are right of course about Torres del Paine, in a mixed up area as far as boundaries are concerned.

Nepal elevations are beyond my reach and we have taken that “off the list”

I have trekked in Nepal without issue, but would like to do something else next time. I think you are referring to Everest Base Camp as being high (17,600'), trekking out of Pokhara can be high (Thorung La Pass, 17,700') but it can also be among oranges and still see high mountains, occasionally going up to 11,000' (Poon Hill), and then turning around at Muktinath, 13,000').

Posted by
343 posts

Are you retired? Do you have good health? You can have a list as long as you like - ours was longer. But 1 week into our first post-retirement trip - China-Turkey via the Silk Rd my partner ended up very ill. That was 2018. He's more stable now - but he walks slow like an old man (he's only 69) - and I'm not sure that our planned trip to the Balkans this year will go well as I seems incapable of walking even on the flat at a reasonable pace (and the Balkans aren't flat).

Do your top picks - and do them now. We are doing 2 trips this year. One was a week in Fiji - just back. The next trip is 3.5 months starting mid July. Unless you enjoy long plane rides - take fewer trips and make them longer

I've hiking the Milford and Everest Base Camp. Milford is basically just a walk - even the longest day is only about 5 hours from memory - the hard part with milford is getting a booking I believe huts sold out in minutes for the next season recently. Frankly there are better walks in NZ - Milford is the easy one - consider the Heaphy or Routeburn - but still hard to get bookings. None of these are anywhere near as hard as Nepal

Posted by
7668 posts

You could combine Egypt, Jordan and Israel in one trip.
Our doctor told us when we retired early to go on the most physically demanding trips first which is what we did. We go for a month, sometimes six weeks. The expense and hassles of the flights to get to your destination are minimized the longer you stay. Our last trip was to Egypt and Jordan as COVID was arriving. The one six months before that was to Japan and we want to return there.
We like to rent apartments and houses and stay put for a week or two at a time.

Posted by
3650 posts

Lizzie: that’s a terrible turn of events for your retirement travel. I’ve actually done the Routeburn track. It was nice, generic alpine scenery, had mostly rainy days. I liked Abel Tasman, Tongariro, and Roy’s Peak better. Actually reconsidering doing any more NZ hiking, but can still visit friends.

I was planning on combining Egypt with Greece. I’m willing to do 6 weeks at a time but spouse is not.

This is actually my second round of bucket list travel, the first pre-age 30 bucket covered Western Europe, Mexico and Central America, South and SE Asia, Far East, Australia & NZ.

Posted by
13524 posts

A1) One idea that might be rewarding and provide some order and narrowing of the field would be to look for volunteer opportunities along the way; not the exclusive part of the trip, but maybe a part.
A2) There are a number of organizations that solicit American speakers to provide immersion English experiences for impoverished or orphan youths for example.
A3) Others just need willing hands and some are looking for professional skills.

Posted by
847 posts

Most people are saying do the most physically demanding trips first as you are more likely to be more physically fit. That's not bad advice for most people. But - bad things happen unexpectedly (see Lizzie's post). It did to me. Last year, right after I retired I got cancer (no risk factors, no symptoms till I got really sick) so my elaborate bucket list is out the window. There is just no way you can know when something will happen so do the things you most want to do first, not the ones you think "make sense". Yeah there's a slight chance you'll have put off some of the 'difficult' ones until it's too late and wish you had done them earlier. But there's just as big a chance you'll find your travel dreams slashed with no notice and wish you had done the places you really wanted to see first.

Posted by
1 posts

Dear all Trekkers and climbers

Do you know what altitude sickness is? Or do you know what mountain sickness is? Can every on happen when you travel to a high altitude?
Altitude sickness can affect anyone — either you are young or old or physically fit, it does not decrease the risk.
• Depends on your height above sea level
• the time you took to make the ascent
• If you have problem on heart or lunge
What are the symptoms of altitude sickness?
When you have altitude sickness, you feel dizzy and weak, and also have a headache are the basic symptoms of altitude sickness. Sickness can affect your lungs and heart also your brain.
What causes altitude sickness?
The altitude sickness is main caused by low oxygen levels in the air at altitudes above about 2,500 metres. It occurs when the body has not had time to adjust to less oxygen.
Can altitude sickness be prevented?
When you are traveling to a high altitude, don’t forget to talk your doctor about drugs that can help with acclimatization, particularly if you have had altitude sickness before.
You can reduce the chance of getting altitude sickness by:
• You should avoid a rapid ascent from sea level — don't go above about 2,500 m or the first night's sleep
• When you reached above 3,000 meters, ascending by no more than 500 meters per day
• You should spending the night below the day's highest altitude
• You should avoid strenuous exercise before your body has had time to adjust to the lower oxygen levels
• You should avoid alcohol at high altitude
• You should rest for the 48 hours after arriving at a place of high altitude
so, if you have a problem on your lungs, heart and circulation, it is high risk of getting altitude sickness.

Posted by
5448 posts

I retired in 2010 at the age of 62 1/2 and we have punched about 80% of our list. Our list was more extensive than yours, but has many of the same places.

We did Ukraine, Russia (including a river cruise) and the Baltics, China, SW India, Singapore, Bali, Japan, and most of the countries in South America (except Brazil). Also, visited most of Europe (we lived in Germany four years).

We have the East African safari in August and did the Galapagos Islands (Celebrity cruise) just recently.

Don't plan to do Cambodia, Vietnam or Nepal and Antartica.

Suggest doing a cruise around the Horn of South American with several days in Buenos Aires.
We did Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu in 2019. It was great, but we were in our early 70s. Still, we are fit for our age. We took altitude sickness pills and managed fine for four days, but at the end were very tired. Suggest doing this when younger.
PeruAgency was our tour company and fantastic, especially for the price of $799 pp.

Alaska, do a cruise that includes Glacier Bay and the Hubbard Glacier, as well as post cruise trip to Denali.

Norway, we did the north cape cruise all the way up the coast of Norway, amazing. No hurry to do that, it wasn't stressful.
In Australia, be sure to do Melbourne as well as Sydney and the Great Ocean Hwy south of Melbourne as well as the Phillip Island penguin thing. Also, do the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.

I did Egypt and Israel before I met my wife, and we plan to do those since my wife hasn't done them.
Definitely do Egypt in the Winter. Do it on a tour and do a Nile cruise. Don't try doing Egypt on your own. You need the security of a tour.
Israel is fantastic.

Your may have done the big three in Italy already, Rome, Florence and Venice. They are amazing.
Don't ignore Great Britain and the countryside outside of London.

Another tip, the older you get, the less you will want to drive a rental car. If you want to drive around in a rental car, don't wait. In fact, some countries won't let people over a certain age rent cars.

Posted by
192 posts

Multi day hiking options abound in Tassie.
Overland Track (Cradle Mountain) the most popular. South Coast Track from Meleleuca to Cockle Creek is more challenging (but not too brutal). Well worth doing either.
For SC you will fly light plane to a sand airstrip in isolated Meleleuca then hike 6 to 8 days through coastal wilderness to Cockle Creek (the most southerly bit of road in Australia). From there you can bus back to Hobart. No facilities at the camping areas except usually buried tank toilets. Water needs to be collected from streams.
We saw only 4 other people over the 7 days, all hiking the reverse direction.
Pretty amazing place.
Cradle/Overland is beautiful too. It always has good numbers on the track. There are public hut facilities, tent platforms and drop toilets at regular intervals. It is also possible to have private guided hiking staying in private hut facilities.

I have done Lukla to Everest Base Camp.
It is the only time I have done a commercial guided tour/trek. It was the most amazing experience, just WOW!!

Posted by
5 posts

I was in Egypt & Jordan in Feb-Mar 2022. Petra (in Jordan) was a slog so don't put that off too long. I made it up to the top (barely) and coming down was terrible on my arthritic knees but am still glad I did it. I agree with what others have said that you could link Egypt, Jordan & Israel into one trip. It's a long flight to get there and historically the three places are very connected. Have fun!

If you are planning Namaqualand to see the flowers, you could link that with a trip to Namibia. It is amazing and easy to cross the border from Cape Province. I've been on safari throughout Africa (SA, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe) and I think Namibia is the best place. It is because there are not too many tourists, it has decent infrastructure, and the elephants are the biggest in the world. Lots of wildlife, friendly people, incredible landscapes and amazing national parks.

I am doing the same as you... trying to get the more taxing trips in before 70. Next year is a small group cruise for 2 weeks in Galapagos, then Antarctica... after that??? I have traveled a lot in Latin America, so not too interested in Macchu Pichu, but would suggest that it is also a place to visit sooner rather than wait too long.

Posted by
2 posts

We retired 2010 and had the same questions and concerns, and pretty much the same bucket list. We started with 2 trips per year, about three weeks each. We gradually increased to 4 trips a year, most for 4 weeks (but up to 7 weeks) before Covid.

The issue of fatigue or whether the trips start to run together can be a real problem, especially if you are traveling more than 3 weeks at time, or changing hotels frequently, or the travel is physically or mentally demanding. By mentally demanding, I mean situations where you've made all your own arrangements (not part of a tour) and need to be on your game, and driving rental cars in multiple countries. That is much more exhausting than a group tour where all you do is follow the leader.

After a couple of particularly strenuous years we agreed that 3 to 4 weeks was the ideal length of time; we needed a minimum of 8 weeks between trips to recover; and that we needed to balance physically and mentally demanding travel with the "easy" trips.

Other than that, I agree with most of the other comments: do the physically challenging trips early!