Don’t Overlook Your Own Back Yard

three u.s. destinations to add to your bucketlist pin
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When creating a bucket list, far-flung destinations often spring to mind first, but we should all remember that there are some incredible U.S destinations worthy of making that list. This year in particular, when international travel is likely to remain disrupted for a while, it just might be the time to turn your focus a little bit closer to home. We’ve got three great suggestions:

#1 Alaska

Mountains, lakes, glaciers, waterfalls, and extraordinary wildlife. If you’re looking for adventure in the great outdoors, Alaska is the perfect escape to start planning now — especially after spending so much time indoors these past few months! With so many gorgeous national parks and adventurous excursions to choose from, this trip will take some advance planning — another reason it belongs on a bucket list.

two people looking at the snow capped mountains in Alaska from boat
Annie and her mom enjoying the stunning views in Alaska

There’s no shortage of natural beauty in Alaska. Denali National Park has the highest peak in the U.S., breathtaking hiking trails and amazing wildlife viewing opportunities. If you’ve always wanted to see a grizzly bear, then Katmai National Park is the place to go. Famous for their “Fat Bear Week“, you can fly into the park and stay at a local lodge while keeping an eye out for grizzlies catching salmon. To see more bald eagles than you can count, check out the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve outside Haines, Alaska. And to get the most out of any of these parks, experience them with a knowledgeable guide booked through an outdoor adventure tour operator.

glaciers in alaska

The majestic Glacier National Park lets you see a calving glacier create a tidal wave. Stand in awe of these icy giants, explore the ice caves, or see it all from above with a helicopter tour.

The best hiking, fishing, and wildlife sightings are in summer and early autumn. But don’t discount late-winter and early-spring visits. Snow-filled activities like dog-sledding, seeing the start of the Iditarod Race, and chasing the Northern Lights are in store for a February-March trip.

For a truly unique experience search the skies for the Aurora from a relaxing hot spring at Chena Hot Springs Resort.

Whatever your outdoor adventure goals, head to Alaska for the stunning landscapes and variety of adventures.

woman holding a small husky puppy

Top Bucket List Experiences

  • See grizzly bears in their natural habitat
  • Glaciers & ice caves
  • Go dog sledding and cuddle a husky pup
  • Whale watching
  • See the Iditarod Race
  • Northern Lights
  • Ultimate fishing experience

#2 Sedona, Arizona

A calming and centering experience awaits you in the unique red rocks of Sedona, where you can combine relaxation with the great outdoors. You can hike, horseback ride and golf, or lounge pool-side, dine al fresco, and indulge in a decadent spa treatment at a luxurious resort like L’Auberge de Sedona or Enchantment.

sedona night sky next to a pool
Sedona’s Dark Skies are perfect for star-gazing [Photo Credit: Mark via Unsplash]

This small Arizonan town offers a huge number of beautiful hiking trails, and even a naturally-formed ‘waterslide’ in Slide Rock State Park.  You can enjoy the jaw-dropping scenery from your balcony, or during a morning meditation session, before going out to explore.

red rock formations at sunset in sedona arizona
Sedona’s majestic red rocks at sunset

If hiking isn’t for you, off-road Jeep tours venture out into the canyons to bring you close to ancient petroglyphs and Puebloan architecture such as Montezuma’s Castle (one of the best-preserved cliff dwelling in North America). Or you can take a guided kayak river trip down to the vineyards for some afternoon wine tasting.

two women at tlaquepaque craft villiage in Sedona Arizona

Finally, don’t miss out on the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village. Modeled after a traditional Mexican village, you’ll find serenity within its walls. Browse shops and galleries where more often than not you can meet the creators. See beautiful hand-made jewelry, metal works, paintings, and other crafts before enjoying a delectable lunch.

A bucket list two-for-one, Sedona is situated only a two-hour drive from the Grand Canyon! Explore one of the seven natural wonders of the world on a day trip from your meditative and rejuvenating home base.

a woman looking up at the saguaro cacti in arizona

Top Bucket List Experiences

  • Off-roading adventure
  • Spiritual experiences among the red rocks
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Slide down a natural water-slide
  • Get up-close-and-personal with saguaros
  • Visit the Grand Canyon

#3 Florida Keys

Perhaps after all this craziness you just want to relax by the beach with a cool drink in hand. Look no further than the collection of islands at the southern-most point of the continental U.S. — The Florida Keys. ‘The Keys’ offer some of the best sunsets, seafood, snorkeling, and SCUBA around. Warm water, breath-taking parks, and the best key lime pie in the world? Definitely a location to add to the bucket list.

sunset with palm trees and infinity pool overlooking ocean Florida Keys
The Bungalows waterfront pool in Key Largo [Photo Credit: The Bungalows Resort]

Start at the northernmost island, Key Largo, with the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Explore coral reefs, seagrass swamps, and mangrove forests. Take a ride on a glass-bottom boat, kayak through the mangroves, or visit the nation’s first underwater park!

white bird against green grass in florida

Continue your journey along the Overseas Highway to mingle with the wildlife. Stop at the Wild Bird Sanctuary, the Dolphin Research Center and the Turtle Hospital.

Finally, cross the Seven-Mile Bridge and finish your journey in Key West. You can visit Ernest Hemingway’s house ( with its 50+ cats) and take a selfie at the southernmost point of the continental U.S.

The road trip from Key Largo to Key West is only two hours, leaving you plenty of time to sit back and relax. The Keys are their own paradise, of course, but you can also take it up a notch with a stay in a luxurious beachfront bungalow.

The Bungalows Resort soak with a view

In Key Largo, you’ll find the all-inclusive The Bungalows Resort — a beautifully peaceful location with luxurious adults-only private villas. Their stand-alone bungalows come with a waterfront view and a soaking tub on each outdoor veranda, and you can relax in the spa, pools, or with a morning yoga session. You can also venture a little further south for the luxury of a private island resort and spa at Little Palm Island. Here, guests arrive by boat or seaplane, and enjoy adults-only luxury with an optional all-inclusive plan that makes the experience complete.

Top Bucket List Experiences

  • Jetpack water flight
  • Snorkeling coral reefs
  • Dolphin Research Center
  • Turtle hospital
  • Hemmingway’s House
  • The southernmost point of the continental U.S
  • Key lime pie and conch fritters
  • Airboat through the everglades

Whether you are building your bucket list around adventure, relaxation or luxury, there are some fantastic options close to home. It’s not about how far away you travel, but the unique experiences you have, the breathtaking things you see, and the lasting memories you create. If you’d like to start planning a bucket list-worthy trip to any of these destinations send us an email!

Building Your Bucket List

How to Build Your Travel Bucketl List Infographic
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Where have you always wanted to go, and what have you always wanted to experience? As we gaze wistfully out our windows during quarantine, dreaming of the day we can travel again, it seems that “someday” is always in the future. Well now is the perfect time to start planning!

Maybe you have a rough bucket list- you want to visit Machu Picchu or Hawaii; perhaps you’d like to go wine tasting in Argentina or on a safari in South Africa. But how do you actually make that happen? We’ve put together a step-by-step guide to building a list that takes you from vague dreams to concrete plans.

Part 1 – Dreaming

Get inspired

If you don’t have a travel bucket list yet, or if you haven’t thought about it in a while, the first step is to start dreaming.

screenshot of annies escapes Instagram

Go onto Pinterest and Instagram, look up articles with bucket list travel destinations. Check out the UNESCO World Heritage site and read travel blogs. Be inspired!

Then take thirty minutes and write down every idea you can think of. Write without limitations, without worry about finances, time, or feasibility.

Pare it down

Look at what you’ve madly scribbled down in the past half hour and begin to really consider each place. Why is it on your list? What excites you about going there?

compilation of animal photos from different vacations
Do you dream of interacting with wildlife?
sunrise off the deck of an over water bungalow in Moorea
Is relaxing in an over-water bungalow in French Polynesia your idea of paradise?

Pare your list down to only the most exciting places. Try to keep it to a manageable size (five to ten?) You can always add on as you make your way through this exercise.

Prioritize

Now that you have a list, it’s time to put it in order. For each place on your list identify three things:

1) Physicality: Are there any physical challenges presented by this destination or experience? Consider if it will require strenuous exercise or activity, or if it’s a place you can kick back and relax. More physically demanding trips should probably be moved up on the list (if you’re dreaming of hiking the Inca Trail in Peru, for example, you might want to do that while you’re younger) while other more relaxing destinations might be perfect for when you’re retired (winetasting in Tuscany can be done at any age!)

Hiking in Azores, Portugal

2) Cost: You don’t have to get into specifics at this stage but briefly consider the overall cost. Maybe rate the places on your list with dollar signs from least expensive ($) to most expensive ($$$$). Is this a place you’d want to splurge on the finest luxury resort, or invest in pricey private experiences? Or is it someplace that can be done on a more moderate budget?

3) Travel Partner: Some trips are perfect solo adventures, others are the romantic getaway every couple needs. There are places you want to experience with your best buds and places you’d love to take your grandkids to go see some day. Write down your ideal travel partners for each place.

two versions of the bucket list

Make a fresh bucket list in order of physicality (from most to least physical), cost (from least to most expensive), and travel partner (from single to grandkids). This should help you determine which life stage is best for which destination/experience.

Research

Next we move into preliminary research and this current pandemic is the perfect time for it! Not only are you likely stuck at home with time on your hands, but many places and natural wonders have set up virtual tours! You can utilize these to decide if you want to go see that museum in person, or if the botanical garden is worth the hype. You don’t need to pin down everything exactly– just use this time to form more detailed dreams.

Once you have a few more specifics you can write down an estimated length for each trip. For example: if you’re researching Iceland and you find you want to do The Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle, and Hike a Glacier and see Icelandic Ponies then you know your Iceland trip will need to be more than a weekend.

blue lagoon
golden circle
So much to do, so little time in Iceland

While you’re researching, pay careful attention to climate and seasonality.

Some places are beautiful pretty much all year round, while others have severe rainy or cold seasons. Some bucket list experiences only occur at certain times of year (like the cherry blossom festival in Japan, or whale watching in Alaska) Find out if your activity is tied to certain months or get an idea of which months to avoid.

Part 2: Planning

You have your list of places, you have some basic parameters for each one and now it’s time to start making a 5-10-15 year plan!

Milestones

The first step in planning is to look at your life. Do you have any big milestones coming up in the next five or ten years? A big birthday? A big anniversary? Any special occasions that might be perfect to pair with a bucket list trip?

day market in austria

You could celebrate your 50th with a river cruise down the Danube!

Start plotting your travel timeline with these big events in mind. Using these mile-markers will help you visualize a more concrete timeframe to put your trips into motion.

Solidify Your Plans

bucket list

You did it! You made a bucket list, prioritized it, and gave some thought to timing. You just need to take the final step: start penciling it in!

If you reach out and share your list with us we can walk you through when to start planning and what kind of a budget to set aside, and we can also keep our eyes out for new and exciting offers for the destinations on your list!

You may not be ready to book anything right away, but we can start making plans so that when the world opens back up you’ll be ready to start checking items off your bucket list!

Romantic Travel is better than chocolate

4 surprising romantic destinations pin
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It’s Valentine’s Day, romance is in the air and the pressure is on to spoil your loved ones! While chocolates, flowers, candy, and cards are all very nice, the most romantic choice is something you can cherish forever: an experience. Romantic travel isn’t just sunsets and champagne. It’s not only for anniversaries and honeymoons. You can infuse romance into all of your travels. Sharing breath-taking landscapes, unique cultures, quiet strolls, or wild adventures will bring you closer than ever to the one you love!

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’ve put together four surprisingly romantic places to take your lover’s breath away.

Croatia

a seaside city in Croatia set into the mountains
[Photo Credit: Conor Rees via Unsplash]
a winding street in Croatia
Get lost with your love in the romantic winding streets of Croatia [Photo Credit: Dario Veronesi via Unsplash]


From beautiful Venice-like winding stone streets to wide tree-lined “lover’s lane” promenades, Croatia is the perfect place for a romantic stroll. You can enjoy the lush citrus gardens and turquoise sea or sip wine while exploring the ancient vineyards, orchards, and olive groves of Hvar Island.

To really amp up the romance, consider taking a private boat trip to a secluded island for a special dinner or going on a fairy-tale day trip to Montenegro.

Bali

infinity pool Bali

Bali is the perfect place to restore your mind, body, and soul. With a wide choice of beautiful private villas, Bali is a romantic, intimate setting to rejuvenate and refresh.

Stroll along stunning beaches, swim under waterfalls, relax by your private plunge pool or trek to the top of Mt. Bator to watch the sunrise together. In the afternoon, you can experience the meditative nature of the many temples that adorn these islands. You can even take part in a Balinese commitment ceremony to celebrate the love you share.

couple at a temple in Bali
Honeymooners Alicia & Jay visit Bali read about their honeymoon here! [Photo Credit: Alicia via Shared Adventures]

New Zealand

New Zealand mountains shrouded in clouds
New Zealand landscapes will take your breath away [Photo Credit: Peter Hammer via Unsplash]
the night sky with purple nebula in New Zealand
The wonders of the night sky in New Zealand [Photo Credit: Hamish Dowson via Unsplash]

New Zealand is a trip full of adventure, adrenaline, and bucket list experiences. The sheer natural beauty of the country makes it the perfect destination for a heart-pounding, breath-taking romantic “escape”.

From Zip-lining above the canopy to Heli-hiking along the Franz Josef Glacier, your options are boundless. You can spend your days cave-rafting under glow-worms, hot-air ballooning over the stunning countryside or wandering through the gentle hiking trails with a private picnic. End your evenings snuggled up with your loved one and wonder at the universe in one of New Zealand’s dark sky sanctuaries.

Argentina 

Argentina is so in love with romance they take an entire week to celebrate Valentine’s Day! “Sweetness” week started out as a gimmick from the candy companies, but it’s a tradition this romantic country has really embraced. For a way to extend the romance of Valentine’s Day, consider traveling during sweetness week from July 13th-20th.

Teatro Colon in Argentina
Teatro Colón [Photo Credit: Annie via Shared Adventures]
wine tasting in Mendoza
Wine tasting in Mendoza [Photo Credit: Annie via Shared Adventures]

The core of Argentinean romance is in its culture. See an opera in the stunning architecture of the Teatro Colón, sip wines in Mendoza, or dance the sensual tango till you drop.

Iguassu falls with a rainbown

With an extra touch of unexpected, you can go on a ‘Glaciers Gourmet’ cruise, where you can enjoy a view of the huge glaciers of the southern hemisphere and a gourmet luxury lunch. Or visit Iguazu Falls and pause for a smooch under a rainbow


You don’t even need to be a romance expert to come up with the perfect getaway — you have us! The possibilities are boundless and with some careful planning, we can make infusing romance into your travels a breeze. So this Valentine’s Day, over dinner, start chatting with your love about where you want to go next!

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)