Now that the kids are out of the house, it’s time to check off that bucket list trip you’ve always wanted to take! But which escape is best now that you don’t have to worry about kids? We’ve partnered with Susan Lanier-Graham of Wander With Wonder to show us just which bucket list trips and experiences you need to tick off your list.
I have been fortunate to have taken some amazing trips during my lifetime, starting when I was a child. Later on, my husband and I traveled with our son. While I enjoyed that stage of my life, it has been a completely different experience to plan amazing bucket list trips now that we are “empty nesters” and don’t have to travel on anyone else’s schedule. Here are some of my suggestions for the best bucket list trips for empty nesters and boomers.
Enjoy Butler Service in Bali
I had always heard Bali was a honeymoon dream destination, but I discovered it’s ideal for those of us who are “empty nesters” and celebrating the ability to once again travel alone after raising families. This paradise is a true bucket list destination. There is something magical about sipping a cocktail while watching the sun going down over the Indian Ocean in Jimbaran Bay.
But for me, the verdant rice fields and tranquil temples of Ubud, about an hour north of the coast, stole my heart.
The perfect bucket list hotel for empty nesters is Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Ubud. This magnificent resort was a treat for our bucket list trip. We had our private butler escort us to our riverfront villa and it was our dream escape — especially the large private pool where we lulled away afternoons. Of course, the butler also arranged for elegant meals, spa treatments and tours of Ubud to explore the temples and local markets.
Take an African Safari
One of the things I always wanted to do but felt wasn’t possible with a young family was to go on an African safari. Our safari in Zambia was more than I could ever have imagined. I was captivated from the moment we arrived, with the smells and sounds around us. We spotted dozens of what our driver identified as Puku — a common antelope I thought were beautiful and elegant.
As we explored more of Zambia, we often hopped on tiny planes or boarded boats to navigate wide rivers. I was in awe of the wide plains where zebras and elephants strolled as casually as deer in the fields here in the U.S. The giraffe seemed to run by magic and hippos chomped loudly in the grass as monkeys yelled from every tree.
Exploring Zambia, and seeing the mighty Victoria Falls during the day was spectacular. Hearing a lion roar in the wild is a rare bucket list moment that went beyond my wildest expectations. But then night came to the African plains. It started with the traditional sundowner. Our guides set up a toast as the sun dipped below the horizon. The sounds changed as night slowly arrived. There are so many luxury camp choices and, even for this non-camper, I loved being close to nature but still cozy and comfortable.
Spend a Summer in Provence
Oh, what is more bucket list worthy than luxuriating in France’s Provence region? Bucket list trips here are among my favorite.
I love spring days there, and our bucket list trip began months earlier by picking an out-of-the-way retreat in a restored medieval village. We knew we wanted to be in a small village near the wine regions of Provence, so we were able to do a search on Travelocity for just that type of place. We discovered the medieval village of Castillon-du-Gard and the luxury escape at Le Vieux Castillon.
The views from the hotel’s patios and luxury restaurant were breathtaking, showing off the verdant valley. There is a strong sense of history and we could feel all of that history as we tasted some of the most amazing flavors and sipped French wines from the hotel’s restaurant or strolled the cobbled-stone streets of the village each evening.
The area is ideal for exploring. It is a short drive down the mountainside — or a leisurely hike down walking paths — to the Pont du Gard, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This Roman aqueduct dates back to the 1st Century AD and offers a magnificent look at life in Roman times.
We also took time to explore nearby Nimes, another famed Roman outpost in Southern France. We enjoyed the gardens throughout the city, took a self-guided tour of the Arena, and sampled the local cuisine.
Cruise Down the Nile River
My husband and I used to dream of seeing the Great Pyramids at Giza, definitely a bucket list trip. But there’s so much more to seeing Egypt than the pyramids and the Sphinx. There’s no better way to see the country and its people than to book a Nile River cruise.
As you sail slowly down the Nile, you’ll feel as if you have stepped into the pages of history. See the great temples at Luxor, Karnak and Edfu. Experience the Valley of the Kings, where King Tut found his final resting place. It’s all a bit surreal as you make your way past civilizations from thousands of years ago.
Explore the Temples of Thailand
I had always wanted to visit Thailand and imagined I would prefer the coastal areas. I discovered, however, the most amazing moments awaiting for bucket list trips to Thailand are in the mountain region of Chiang Mai.
There are numerous temples in and around Chiang Mai, but my favorite was the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a 14th-century temple sitting atop Chiang Mai’s tallest mountain. We drove a tiny, winding mountain road to get there, then walked the 309 steps to reach the temples. It is a beautiful view of Chiang Mai and I could see why locals felt I could not visit their city without exploring the temple.
Experience the Real Life Fairytale of Monaco
Another one of those iconic bucket list trips for me was a visit to Monaco, the postage stamp-sized country on the Mediterranean, surrounded by France and Italy. This is the country made famous in the U.S. when American movie star Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier and became Princess Grace in 1956. As a child, I always imagined visiting this fairytale setting. My actual visit was everything I imagined and more, watching the yachts come and go in the harbor, thrilling as cars zipped around the sharp turns of the city’s streets, and wandering through boutiques for the world’s fashion icons.
Monaco was made even more famous over the years by James Bond movies. Every 007 loved the Monte Carlo casino. I was thrilled just to walk inside the historic casino in the heart of Monaco. The architecture alone is impressive. I put my 5 Euros in the slot machine so I could get a slip that shows I played the Monte Carlo casino. Unfortunately, I didn’t win the jackpot.
We hiked up The Rock to tour the Princes Palace where Princess Grace’s son retains his residence. We wandered the old winding streets and enjoyed gelato. It is truly an international destination, with more foreign languages spoken here than almost any other European city I know. Everyone speaks English as well, and I always felt welcome.
After a day of exploring the principality, we made our way back to Fairmont Monte-Carlo for some of the best views to accompany our champagne toasts. What magnificent Mediterranean views! Now that’s a bucket list trip that we had waited our entire lives to take. But it wasn’t over. We finished our evening with a bucket list dinner. We headed to Hôtel Metropole Monte-Carlo and ate at the chef’s table at the Michelin-starred Joël Robuchon. The meal was magical and those mashed potatoes — they must come from heaven.
Touring the Canadian Rockies by Train
There is something magical about train travel. I had traveled on tourist trains before. I love the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Colorado and the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in New Mexico. They’re both fun experiences and ideal for families traveling together. But for a bucket list trip for empty nesters and boomers, I wanted something much more luxurious. I wanted a train trip of a lifetime — and I knew Rocky Mountaineer was the trip for me.
For the ultimate bucket list trip through the Canadian Rockies, I suggest booking GoldLeaf service on Rocky Mountaineer. You will enjoy majestic views in the glass-domed coach, gourmet breakfast and lunch on the train and Rocky Mountaineer staff to take care of everything transferring you between the trains and your hotels.
Two of my favorite journeys, both ideal for bucket list trips for empty nesters, are the First Passage to the West and the Journey through the Clouds. As you leave Vancouver on both trips, the landscape changes from city to fields, then you enter the majestic mountains.
The First Passage to the West takes you through the impressive spiral tunnels and on to the magnificent Banff National Park. Journey through the Clouds starts out on the same path, then heads north to Jasper National Park. The Rocky Mountaineer hosts make this a life changing journey through some of the most beautiful scenery anywhere.
You’ll spend eight hours each day on the train, with delicious food and the wine and drinks flowing. It gives the two of you a chance to connect in a way you’ve not had the opportunity to connect while you were busy raising a family. This is a chance to truly embrace being able to escape and spend time crossing those bucket list trips off the list and living every moment to the fullest.
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