Bucket lists have been surging in popularity for the over 50s, with exotic holiday and must-see tourist attractions around the globe topping the lists. Bucket list ideas can be anything you like to get ticked off and completed as you get older. Items on your bucket list are personal to you but can range from travelling or learning a new language to finding love or discovering your ancestral past.

The majority of over 50s now have bucket lists – according to a 2015 survey by Prudential, 90 per cent of over 55s have written a bucket list.

Travel ranks top for the over 50s who have a bucket list, according to Age Partnership 2017 research. It found that 53 per cent cite travel as their number one aspiration, and seeing the Northern Lights is the most popular, followed by bucket list holiday ideas such as driving Route 66 in the US.

Bucket list ideas – what is a bucket list?

A bucket list is simply a list of all the things you want to try as you get older, such as goals you want to achieve and life experiences you want to have before you die – or ‘kick the bucket’.

Bucket lists can include anything: things you want to experience, places to go, people to meet, books to read and foods to try. A bucket list doesn’t need to be grand or filled with huge goals. A simple list that details some of the things you want to achieve or experience, big or small, is perfect. What is a bucket list comes down to your own desires and goals.

If you’re stuck for bucket list ideas, then once-in-a-lifetime holidays are a great starting point. As we age, life becomes more about collecting experiences and enjoying wonderful moments, as opposed to buying material things.

Unlike previous generations, today’s bucket lists for men and bucket lists for women aren’t limited to day trips to one of the UK’s coastal towns. Instead, bucket list ideas are built around the search for adventure and excitement.

Why write a bucket list?

Coming up with bucket list ideas is surprisingly challenging but incredibly rewarding. Writing down your dreams and goals gives you a chance to stop and reflect on what you want to experience from life. It helps you focus on what you can do to live life to the fullest.

A bucket list can quickly and easily transform into a plan. Creating a list can give a renewed sense of purpose, and something to aim and plan for. Researching bucket list holiday ideas helps keep your mind sharp and curious, learning about new cultures and destinations. It can also motivate you to take the leap and head off to your dream destination to experience life to the fullest.

The best bet when writing a bucket list is to remove all limits. It’s a dream list, and even it seems a distant possibility, jot it down on the list.

Bucket list ideas – best bucket list holidays to consider

One person’s bucket list may be completely different from another’s – and there’s no need to add bucket list holiday ideas just because they’re considered a dream destination. However, most people harbour a desire to visit spectacular places before they kick the bucket. We’ve collected together ten of the most popular bucket list holiday ideas to help fuel ideas for your own bucket list.

See the Northern Lights

Seeing the aurora borealis – commonly known as the Northern Lights –tops the bucket holiday list of many people. One of nature’s most stunning phenomenon, this ethereal colour display lights up the night’s sky from November to March, only in Arctic regions including Scandinavia, Canada, Greenland and Alaska.

Northern Lights Alaska
Aurora borealis over the tree line in Fairbanks, Alaska

Nearly 40 per cent of people say they would like to see the Northern Lights in their lifetime but few have achieved this by the age of 50, due in part to the difficulty and relatively high cost of travelling to see the Northern Lights, and their sometimes reluctance to appear.

However, viewing the Northern Lights are a great addition to a bucket list. Many travel firms offer dedicated Northern Lights breaks and holidays to a range of easy to reach countries such as Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland.

Discover more on the best places to view the Northern Lights.

Travel on the Orient Express

For many people, a trip on the Orient Express is a top bucket list idea. The setting for Agatha Christie’s murder mystery novel and the location of several films, this icon train evokes a world of bygone glamour and dashing adventure.

It’s worth adding to any bucket list. From the beautifully restored interiors to exquisite fine dining and discreet but attentive service, a journey on this 1930’s train is an incredible experience. The original Orient Express ran between Paris and Istanbul but there are several new journeys you can take. One of the most popular is the one-way trip between London and Venice which costs from £2,365 per person including meals.

Orient-Express UK reservations

Drive Route 66

When it comes to road trips, few are as iconic as the USA’s Route 66, so it’s no surprise it tops many people’s bucket list. Route 66 is a 3,495km (2,448-mile) road that cuts a swathe across the United States all the way from Chicago to Santa Monica in Los Angeles. It is the quintessential American road trip and a trip of a lifetime, taking in eight states and three time zones as you wind your way to the West Coast.

Plan your drive carefully and ensure plenty of stops en route. Along the way, you’ll see vintage motels, old-school diners, restored gas stations and towns that seem to be content to remain as if trapped in the 1950s. People come from all over the world to get their kicks on Route 66, and a mustang convertible is almost essential.

Route 66 holidays: plan your Route 66 holiday

Christmas shopping in New York

There really is no better time to visit the Big Apple than the festive season. During November and December, New York is famous for its over-the-top Christmas decorations and seasonal activities.

Bucket List Christmas in New York
Christmas skating at the Rockefeller Center.

From shopping at Macy’s on 34th Street and watching the Radio City Christmas Spectacular to visiting the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and ice-skating in Central Park, there’s loads to do and see. Just remember the credit card!

Visit the Great Barrier Reef

From the commercial glitz of shopping in NYC to the splendour and beauty of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef is in stark contrast to New York. It is the oldest and largest coral reef in with the world, a living organic wonder that is home to over 400 different types of colourful coral.

Bucket List Great Barrier Reef Australia
Aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia

As well as coral, the reef is alive with diverse biology big and small – from tiny, colourful tropical fish to giant clams, sea turtles and dolphins. There are many ways to see the reef, but the best include getting wet – diving on the reef is supervised but there will be just you surrounded by an aquatic wonderland.

Go on Safari

Luckily, the world has mostly moved on from safari equating big game hunting or animal exploitation. Today’s conservation-orientated safaris offer the chance to witness nature in all its splendour from comfortable vehicles.

Bucket List African Safari
A safari in the Masai Mara, Africa

Africa is home to a vast array of safaris, and planning takes time and effort. But the reward – lions, elephants and zebra in their natural habitat gets you closer to these magnificent creatures than ever before. One of the best bucket list holiday ideas is to head to Tanzania, where the Serengeti National Park and the famed Ngoromgoro Conversation Area are must visits.

Visit the Grand Canyon

An astonishing, horizon-filling natural wonder, the Grand Canyon attracts over six million visitors each year in Arizona. It’s best to book far in advance, as hotel accommodation in the park is limited and you’ll be best placed staying as close to the rim as possible.

Bucket List Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon at sunrise with the Colorado river

During the day the view is stunning but it takes on additional splendour as the sun sets and casts incredible shadows across the landscape. Deer and elk are out in abundance at night too, and there are restaurants and hotels to retire to in the evening. A shuttle bus service runs along the South Rim, or you can spend the day walking its many trails.

Visit the Taj Mahal

India’s Taj Mahal with its white marbled dome is an instantly recognisable global icon. Created as a mausoleum, it is an unmissable experience and one of the most photographed buildings in the world.

Add this to your bucket list ideas collection and you can walk back in time to experience a building that has been described as the largest labour of love ever built. Built between 1631 and 1648, the Taj Mahal was a loving tribute to Shah Jahan’s wife Mumtaz Mahal, who had died in childbirth.

Take the trip to Agra in India to pose in front of the Taj Mahal for an iconic photo that many a celebrity and fellow traveller has taken before you. Over three million visitors descend to the UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s best to visit between October and March for milder temperatures and to avoid the crowds.

A little-known secret is that while it closes at night, it sometimes opens for night exploration when there is a full moon – so plan your trip carefully.

Route 66 tours: choosing a Route 66 holiday

Visit Egypt’s Pyramids of Giza

Their construction has fuelled countless academic debates and textbooks, but there is no doubting the sheer scale and majesty of the Pyramids of Giza. Ideal for any bucket list ideas scratchpad, the Giza plateau on the outskirts of Cairo houses three Great Pyramids, the Great Sphinx, several cemeteries and other archaeological sites.

Bucket List Pyramids of Giza
The Pyramids of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops) is the biggest of the three pyramids. One of the ancient seven wonders of the world, it was constructed over 4,500 years ago and is open to exploration.

By visiting the pyramids, you’ll get the added bonus of visiting Cairo and its archaeological museum where you can immerse yourself in ancient Egyptian culture – making this bucket list addition ideal for archaeology buffs.

Trek to Machu Picchu, Peru

For something a little more adventurous – and involving a fair bit of trekking – put a visit to South America and Peru on your bucket list ideas pad. Machu Picchu is one of the most famous sites in the world, and previously inaccessible to all but the bravest of adventurers. It wasn’t until the 1911 publication of Bingham’s book Across South America that this 15th-century Incan stone high in the Andes became more widely known.

Bucket List Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The good news is that a lot of the original Incan design and architecture has survived, allowing you to gaze and wonder at the stone ruins and plazas. Looming above Machu Picchu is the Huayna Picchu mountain, it’s mist-covered slopes adding convincingly to the atmosphere.


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