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What’s on Baby Boomers’ Retirement Bucket Lists? Our Survey Says …

Baby boomers want to hit the road – and the ocean – in retirement. That’s the message from’s Baby Boomer Bucket List Survey.

view from Alaska cruise ship

Pack your parka and swimsuit – we’re cruising to Alaska AND Hawaii!

Nearly 550 readers responded to our survey, inspired by the “Bucket List” phenomenon popularized by the 2007 movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. We presented 30 possibilities for dream trips, activities, or goals to go after following retirement. The most popular choices were related to travel, though many respondents also said they want to learn new skills, help others, or create.

So, without further ado, here are the top 10 results from our survey in order of popularity, answering the question:  Which activities would you put on your bucket list?

1. Cruise to Alaska and Hawaii

How to do it: Cruise prices vary, of course, depending on the time of year, the cruise line, and your cabin. in 2016 put together a fairly comprehensive look at the costs you should expect to rack up sailing to Alaska. Basically, you can expect fares starting around $800 a person sailing out of Seattle. Once back from Alaska, you could hop a flight to Los Angeles to depart for Hawaii. Or, for a more leisurely ride, take the 35-hour Coast Starlight Amtrak train from Seattle to L.A. From there, shows cruises from Los Angeles to Hawaii starting at about $1,300 per person.

2. Move to Another State

How to do it: First, you’re probably going to want to downsize your home. Find tips for downsizing here. You might even want to consider hiring a senior moving company, which specializes in downsizing and moving for older adults. The cost will depend on how far you’re moving and how much stuff you have to move.’s Moving Calculator can help you figure out a price. As for where to move to? Check out this list of best retirement states. And, of course, you can find lots of retirement communities on

3. Drive Across the USA

senior couple in car driving down road
How to do it: USA Today took at look at four possible driving routes across America, estimating it would take four to six days of driving from seven to nine hours a day. So take your pick of the Northern Route, Middle-America Route, Panhandle Crossing, or Southern Route depending on the scenery you want. Or, heck, drive one route from East to West and another route back from West to East. You’ve got the time – you’re retired! Along the way, be sure to pick up a National Parks Senior Pass. Driving across the USA can be surprisingly cheap, too. Blogger Nomadic Matt reports, “I found it easy to manage on less than $50 a day.”

4. Travel Across Europe by Train

How to do it: Get yourself a Eurail Global Pass! The pass is good on the national railroads of 28 countries, from Ireland to Turkey. Prices range from $597 for five days of travel within a month to $2,091 for a three-month continuous pass. And that’s first class! Cheaper Select passes are available if you downgrade and just want to visit 2-4 adjoining countries. Check out’s guide to Top Retirement Travel Destinations for suggestions on some European countries to consider.

5. Visit the Holy Land

How to do it: Any number of travel companies organize tours of Israel and Jordan. Road Scholar, which specializes in trips for older adults, offers a 15-day Israel tour starting at $4,499. Other companies offer less expensive tours – eight days for $1,269, for example, or 10 days for $1,677. Airfare is not included in these prices. Also, some companies tailor their tours for specific religions – Christianity, Judaism or Islam – while others focus on the region’s history and archeology.

6. Reconnect with Family and Friends

senior couple with family on couch

How to do it: Call! Write! Text! This one doesn’t have to cost anything unless your family and friends are scattered across the country and you want to visit them. Even then, fortunately, if you’re at least 50 years old, you can take advantage of travel discounts for seniors on hotels and car rentals.

7. Become a Volunteer or Mentor

How to do it: Here’s another bucket list item that won’t cost you anything but time. If you don’t know where to start, consider VolunteerMatch. The website matches nonprofit organizations with people looking to help. You might also look into Senior Corps, a government-run program that connects volunteers 55+ with people and organizations. Volunteers might become mentors, coaches or companions, or lend their job skills to community projects. The United Way also lists local volunteer opportunities.

8. Learn a New Language

How to do it: Check with your local college or university for language classes. In most states, public colleges offer free or reduced tuition to older adults. In Texas, for instance, you can get reduced college tuition and fees as young as 55.

9. Write a Book

How to do it: You could write a book on how to write a book. In fact, many people have. For a more structured setting, again check with your local college or university about writing classes you might be able to get into with free or reduced tuition. If you want something more casual, join a writing Meetup. Or find a local writer’s center or conference.

10. See the Northern Lights

How to do it: Get ready to book a trip to Scandinavia, Canada or Alaska between December and April, according to The University of Alaska Fairbanks also offers a good Traveler’s Guide to the Aurora Borealis. Popular Northern Lights viewing destinations include Tromso, Norway; Abisko, Sweden; Whitehorse, Canada; and Fairbanks, Alaska.


What’s NOT on Baby Boomers’ Bucket Lists

senior man skydiving

Nope, sorry. Skydiving isn’t on OUR bucket list.

According to’s survey, baby boomers are NOT looking to be daredevils in retirement. These were the five least popular choices:

  • Fly a plane
  • Go skydiving
  • Learn to sail
  • Go bungee jumping
  • Run a marathon or half-marathon


And a Few “Other” Choices

senior couple kissing

Almost 100 of our survey respondents also wrote in more personal bucket list items under “Other.” Most involved travel (including by motorcycle) and family (including genealogy). Several people said they want to travel the U.S. and Canada by train, visit all 50 states, or take a European river cruise.

Then there were the more unusual responses:

  • Take a storm-chasing vacation
  • Learn to play the xylophone
  • Ride in an Air Force jet
  • Buy a horse ranch
  • Find a husband

And, last, one bucket list item we can really endorse:

“Be Healthy and Happy … and Enjoy a Long Life!”

A quick note on demographics: Our respondents were heavily female (79%) and mostly in their 60s (53%). The most common states of residence were California, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Arizona, and Minnesota.

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  • Mark Edelen

    About :

    Welcome to the Retirement Living Blog. I direct and edit the blog for the best senior-housing and senior-living insight and advice, while also conducting search-engine optimization for the site as a whole. Follow me on Twitter @MarkEdelen.

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