08/28/2014 03:26 pm ET Updated Oct 28, 2014

How to Make Your Dream Trip a Reality

Shutterstock / Maria Skaldina

By: Ed Hewitt, Features Editor of

Whether it is written down or just lurking somewhere in your subconscious, many travelers have a travel bucket list of sorts -- a wish list of trips they absolutely must take in their lifetime.

If you have a travel bucket list and want to start checking things off it, here are some tactics to get you started, keep you on track and get you there.

Decide Now Is the Time

The biggest and most often cited roadblock to tackling a dream trip is that the time doesn't seem right: work is really intense at the moment, or you just started a home renovation, or you don't have the energy to make it happen.

These are all real and valid concerns, but it is critical to realize off the bat these issues will never really quite go away. The truth is that what a lot of folks are looking for is not really the right time, but instead the perfect time. And that time will truly never come. Settle instead for a time that you can actually do something, even if you have to sacrifice other things.

Write It Down

Writing down your bucket list, more or less in the order in which you rank each destination, is a good and oft-recommended way to make it just real enough that you can actually start doing something about it. Once it is written down, it is something you can use in a few different ways:

  • As a guide for when you are poking around the Internet, reading or goofing off.
  • To help you see if everything on the list stands up to repeated scrutiny; some items on the list might not seem as interesting after you have looked at them several times.

While you're at it, you might also write down the reasons you can't get started on your bucket list -- all the excuses may seem like just that once they are written down.

Run It by Other People

Sharing your bucket list with friends, family or even a dedicated site like can give you several things:

  • Motivation: As with a lot of things, telling someone else you are going to do something often provides a bit of inspiration actually to do it.
  • A dose of reality: A bucket list is often reflective of our idealization of a place or trip, and not necessarily what it is really like to go there. When you share your list with folks who may already have bagged a few of your choices, you can get a sense of what a place is really like.
  • Good and hardscrabble ideas: Putting your network of friends and family on the task of making your trip a reality offers you an instant team of schemers and thinkers who can bring any number of ideas or surprises to the table.

Narrow It Down

Once you get a sense of where you might go and more or less when you might pull it off, narrow down your choices to the trips you most want to take. Unless one destination rates well above and beyond the others, I recommend starting to research two or three of your top choices.

Focus first on practical things like what time of year you can get off work versus the best time of year to go there, how much time it takes really to do the destination justice and how much money you will need to pull it off.

Save for It

This is probably the most personal of issues, as everyone's financial means and demands are different and complex. The fallback "skip the latte and put the money in the bank" has become a dreaded cliche for good reason -- and for most coffee drinkers, this is not a negotiable purchase anyway.

The idea of saving on overpriced and non-essential purchases is the right one, but you want to take actual money and make it pile up, not just skip a coffee and hope you put that money to better use later. Here are a few tangible tactics that really work for most folks:

  • Get a big container and put every spare cent (and bill) you have in it. The last time I cashed one of these in, it came to over $1,100.
  • Set up an automatic transfer into your banking account of X dollars per week or month, and don't turn it off until you have enough money for your bucket list trip.
  • Instead of just thinking about saving when you need coffee, set up constant reminders in your environment that will help you save money all the time. Put a picture of your chosen destination next to your home computer to keep you from spending money online, or use it as your phone screensaver.

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