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What's on Your "Wanderlist"?

Updated: 4 days ago

Do you suffer from wanderlust, daydreaming of all the places in the world you want to see? Where do you want to wander - what’s on your “wanderlist”?

  • Is it clear turquoise water, white sandy beaches and no agenda other than what book to read?

  • Are you more of an adventurer looking for that combination of physical challenge and relaxation – hike and zipline a volcano one day and lie on the beach the next?

  • Are you a national park junkie ready for action-packed days to see all that beauty?

  • Do you want to immerse yourself in the cultures of other countries and continents, checking each city and site off your list?

  • Or, like me, do you want all of the above and just have to figure out how to fit it all in before your kids head off to college?

I recently spoke with a new client who asked me how I decided on our vacation destinations every year because the whole process seemed overwhelming to her. I explained that it all starts with my wanderlist – those bucket list destinations that I know I want to experience with my family. I have a travel notebook that I keep within arm’s reach and I add to my wanderlist regularly.

Top of my “Wanderlist”

Your wander list is likely different than mine, but all wander lists start with dreams – dreams of destinations and dreams of adventures you want to experience and share with your family. I spent a month in Italy after grad school and it’s probably my favorite place on Earth - so far! So Italy is at the top of my list to share with my family. But I have no idea which area of Italy I'll prioritize first - Florence, Tuscany, Rome, Venice, Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast, Lake Como, the Dolomites, and more!

The Philippines, where my husband’s parents immigrated from, is also at the top of the list, so we can show our kids their roots. My husband's mom lives there now, so we'd have family to visit as well as plenty of islands to explore!

And then there’s Africa. I get goosebumps thinking about experiencing Africa with my kids, so I’m in the middle of learning the best way to make that happen for us and for my clients. Make sure you're on my subscriber list so you're notified of the Africa educational webinar!

Of course, there’s so much more on the list, but those are my top bucket list dreams.

How to Prioritize Your Wanderlist

To prioritize, I start with our vacation windows. For us, that’s the kids’ school breaks and when my husband can get time off. He can secure vacation around the kids' spring break and fall break, but he’s not yet senior enough to get Christmas break or summers off. So those destinations that are best experienced in the summer are noted in my wander list but will have to wait a few years.

I have a wander list calendar with our vacation windows laid out for the next several years – all the way until my oldest graduates high school as I try to fit it all in before he leaves the nest! Pardon me while I go have a good long cry.

Brady, my oldest, living his best life in Hawaii!

I try to balance each year so that we break up the long Midwest winter with at least one tropical getaway. I also try to pair the big budget trips with a less expensive destination.

In terms of timing, I know most people don’t want to hear this, but it’s best to plan a year out. In fact, accommodations for many destinations, like national park lodges, sell out 12 months in advance. So that’s when I start planning and booking, but I have an idea of where we might go several years out, which helps me be strategic about our decisions.

How to Budget for Your Wanderlist

For us, travel is clearly a priority, so we budget and live our lives with travel in mind. We have two Chase Sapphire credit cards – one for personal and one for my business expenses – that we use for everything so that we get maximum points. And we are signed up for all the airline frequent flyer programs, including the kids. Those points and miles mean we rarely pay for our airfare and can sometimes use points for some of our lodging, too. Plus, owning a travel business definitely has its perks, and I can often get special discounts or free stays. Of course, I try to get my clients the best deals as well!

As a family, you have to decide how much you are able and willing to set aside for travel. But I say dream big with your wanderlist and pare back as the budget requires. If you think strategically about your wanderlist calendar, you may be able to fit in more than you expected. I also believe you’ll be much happier doing one big unforgettable bucket list trip every year versus a couple smaller trips that are less memorable.

My Wanderlist and Travel Calendar

Here’s a look at my wanderlist - bucketed by budget and time requirements. "Large" destinations require 10 days or more, a long flight and the biggest budget while "small" destinations require a smaller budget because they can be done in less than a week, are an easy flight or may be drive-able. "Medium" destinations are somewhere in between. I fill in openings in the vacation calendar with "small" destinations to balance out the bigger budget trips. Lastly, the destinations that are best visited in the summer are starred, so I know those can only be slotted in once my husband is senior enough to secure time off in the summer. Destinations we've already visited are not included in the list unless they're a family favorite and can serve as a smaller budget trip to fill in holes.

Here's how that wanderlist might play out on our travel calendar, which I've laid out for the next several years. The close-in years are fully-formed whereas the out-years are still in the dreaming stage. But it helps to see what might be possible, where we have holes, and which destinations we didn't get to!

Create your wanderlist with your family. Or if you're like me and know it will be a more productive discussion if they have something to react to, take a crack at it yourself first. Let each family member vote on their top 3 destinations to help you prioritize. I actually think brainstorming wander list ideas is best done while on vacation. Everyone is in that vaca state of mind already, and you're all together with plenty of time on your hands!

Wanderlist Inspiration

Through Show Them the World's relationship with Gifted Travel Network, we have access to exclusive invite-only luxury programs like Virtuoso, the #1 luxury travel consortium. Virtuoso offers an online tool called Wanderlist where you can find new travel ideas, add them to your Wanderlist, and share with your travel party for inspiration at your fingertips!

For more inspiration, check out my blog and the book 1,000 Places To See Before You Die. If you'd like my help designing your next dream vacation or crafting your wanderlist, schedule a call here!


Heather Vergara is a former PepsiCo marketing executive who left the corporate world to be a Mom and never found her way back. Instead, she focused on her passion for travel and adventure and created Show Them the World, a travel concierge service for busy families longing to reconnect and see the world together. In less than four years, she's helped more than 300 families experience Hawaii, Alaska, Costa Rica, France, England, Greece, Italy, Croatia, Portugal, Spain, the Caribbean, National Parks, and more to come!

Heather has an MBA in marketing from Indiana University, a Digital Marketing Executive Education certificate from Columbia University, and a BA in Journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She lives with her husband, two kids, and two furry dogs in Zionsville, Indiana.

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