What's on your family travel "bucket list"?

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You've heard of a "bucket list" -- the list of places you want to visit, experiences you want to have, tasks you want to accomplish before you "kick the bucket."

But there are deadlines other than death that deserve a list. On my recent extended business trips, I've made a bucket list -- a spreadsheet of things I'd like to see and do while I'm in the area. The idea is to consolidate in one place all the interesting possibilities I've gleaned from the AAA Tourbook, Yelp, the local alt-weekly, the tourism brochures in the hotel lobby, so that when I have a free evening or if I'm stuck away from home over a weekend, I don't waste my free time trying to figure out how to spend it.

I wish I'd made a bucket list back when my wife worked for American Airlines. We took some wonderful trips -- Ireland, Scotland, central Europe, Kauai -- but looking back, there are a lot of places I wish we'd visited when it was cheap and we had the time.

Another deadline worthy of a bucket list: Childhood's end. We have only four more years before my oldest fledgling leaves the nest. There is a sweet spot for family travel -- when a child is old enough to remember the trip but young enough to still have a sense of wonder and excitement about visiting new places. And there are wonderful memory-making places that are thrilling for a six-year-old but boring for a 12-year-old.

A Branson timeshare salesman once asked me and my wife: "As Christians you have a plan for your eternal life, but do you have a plan for your vacation life?" (I had to stifle a loud and long laugh.) The only definite plan I had then was not to spend every vacation in the same condo development, but now I can see the point of having a plan.

A recent article on CNN.com listed 15 places kids should see by age 15. It's a good list, if weighted toward the coasts and away from the heartland; all the attractions are worth experiencing. So far, unfortunately, we've only been to three: the Grand Canyon (only the oldest), Walt Disney World (the oldest two), and the National Mall in Washington (all three). (Several of the ideas should be read as encompassing their surroundings: E.g., a visit to Alcatraz should also involve riding a cable car and exploring Chinatown, seeing the National Mall would include seeing the Smithsonian museums and government buildings that frame it.)

Here are a few places I'd add to the list:

  • The Alamo: A monument to heroism and sacrifice.
  • Kennedy Space Center: Even though it's about to become more of a historical artifact than a working space port, it still represents some of America's (and mankind's) greatest achievements.
  • The Cosmosphere: The history of space flight from the German rocket program to the International Space Station, with artifacts like Gus Grissom's Liberty Bell 7 capsule and Odyssey, the Apollo 13 command module. Just four hours away in Hutchinson, Kansas.
  • Bartlesville Playground (aka the Kiddie Park): The sweet spot for this park is ages 3 through 8, although there are rides for older and younger children (and a few for grownups, too). I have many happy memories of this place as a child and as a parent. We make the 40-mile drive there at least once a summer.
  • Silver Dollar City: a wonderful combination of thrill rides, old-time music, living history, and spelunking. Last year we had passes and spent over a week there over the course of the year.
  • Knoebel's Grove or a similar old-fashioned, family amusement park: No theme, just plenty of rides to make you spin, splash, and soar.
  • A ride on a historic steam train: A must if you've got a Thomas the Tank Engine fan in the family.
  • Local history: For Tulsans that should include the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, the Tulsa Historical Society museum, Gilcrease Museum, and the 45th Infantry Museum in Oklahoma City.

And that's just the USA. I'd love to travel all over Europe with my family.

What's on your family travel bucket list? Leave a comment, and let us know.

RELATED (2014/10/03):

These two links are specifically aimed at the parent of a high school senior and they're mostly not about travel, but they're worth thinking about, even if your kids are younger:

NBC Today: 13 things to do with your kids before they leave for college
Grown and Flown: The Parent's 'Last Call' List for Senior Year

Ideas include paying a professional photographer for family photos (including extended family, if possible), looking at baby pictures, talking candidly about your own failures and successes, taking a one-on-one road trip.

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You've heard of a "bucket list" -- the list of places you want to visit, experiences you want to have, tasks you want to accomplish before you "kick the bucket." But there are deadlines other than death that deserve a list. On my recent extended busine... Read More

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2 Comments

Shadow6 said:

If you go to the Kennedy Space Center you can make it a "twofer" by stopping off in Orlando and taking in the Universal Studios theme park.

My Florida vaca was the best ever. Kennedy is amazing. Stay at the Wakulla suites in Cocoa Beach. We went there in the late 90's, and it felt like we were in a hotel from the '60's (in a good way) The beach is 100-200 yards away. Now, there's a reason why it's called COCOA beach; the sand is brown, and the water is not blue, it's kinda dirty brown too, but it's still a fun time, and you can still dig for and then chase crabs with the little one. Go find I Dream of Jeannie Boulevard and get the family picture by a street sign. If you go in the summer, realize it's probably going to rain in the afternoon 50% of the time, so plan your activities accordingly. (Naps are a fine activity, but with kids, well, rots of ruck)

c prichard said:

You are right, We had a bucket list for our three kids when we were raising them. We went to I.D.O.J. blvd a few times and k.s.c. and many times to disneyworld it actually was where we went for thanksgiving each year, we didnt really have family that wanted to do holidays so we early on made the decision to go where nobody could ruin our holidays or the kids memories. We made our kids first and not friends or family, now that they are grown we are so glad we did. now they take their kids to florida and disney etc. my daughter named her daughter cocoa. anyway its good for my heart to see someone else did this also. thanks

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 31, 2011 1:51 AM.

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