photo of houses on the hillside in Santorini Greece

Last Updated on March 7, 2021

What’s on your travel bucket list?  All of us have dream destinations that we hope to get to one day.  Find out some of the most lusted-after destinations in the world, and learn how to make your travel dreams a reality with small group tours at prices anyone can afford.

Especially this past year, looking forward to future travel has kept many of us going.  Perhaps you long for the beaches of Bali, the energy of Tokyo, or to trace the footsteps of ancestors in Italy or Ireland.  But with limited vacation time and funds, as well as family responsibilities, it can be hard to make these travel bucket lists a reality.

The solution: I want to inspire you with additions to your bucket list, but also share REAL recommendations for budget and mid-range tours so you can actually get there. Follow along as I share some awesome travel inspo plus top tour recommendations. Then start turning your bucket list into your favorite memories!

I’ve compiled my list from polls of dream destinations as well as up-and-coming spots where I see other bloggers and Instagrammers traveling, including my own favorites.  These itineraries are perfect for solo travelers, friends and couples, plus some options specifically for families or parents with kids and teens. 

Pin these dream destinations and tours to your travel inspo board!

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In this Guide to Dream Destinations

The Americas | Asia Destinations | Europe Destinations |  The Middle East | Africa Destinations | Oceania | Antarctica |Airfare Tips

What are Small Group Adventure Tours?

Small group tours take care of the planning and logistics of travel, so that you can focus on the experience. They make travel more attainable and affordable, with tour styles at a variety of price points. Adventure tours also take away some of the stresses of traveling solo or to off-the-beaten-path places.

I started out traveling with small group tours, and it gave me the experience and confidence I needed to travel solo later. This is my #1 tip for anyone who wants to get started traveling!

Two of my favorite adventure travel companies are G Adventures and Intrepid Travel. Read my reviews of adventure tour companies to find out why there’s a small group trip right for you.


See how industry leaders are responding to travel in the time of Coronavirus with enhanced safety guidelines and flexible booking conditions: Intrepid Travel | G Adventures: Book with Confidence & Travel with Confidence

A Tour? Really?

Yes! These are small group tours based on authentic experiences, not buses depositing you at the Grand Canyon. Plus no one will ever know from your selfies that you’re on a tour. It’ll be your secret when your trip mates help you get the perfect shot at Machu Picchu.

photo of travelers at Machu Picchu
Me at Machu Picchu with my sister, after hiking the Inca Trail on a small group tour!

Trip Styles 

In this guide, the tours I recommend will fall into the categories below. Keep in mind that the tours generally don’t include meals or airfare (but I have some airfare hacks for you later in the article):

  • “Original” or “Classic” tours: budget to mid-range tours for all adult travelers
  • “Basic” tours for 18 to thirty-somethings: budget itineraries geared toward younger travelers with active adventures 
  • “Family” tours: geared toward families or parents with children or teenagers, with family accommodation and itineraries
  • “Sailing” tours: yes, for real – there are affordable sailing adventures in many coastal destinations!
im so excited season 4 GIF by SpongeBob SquarePants
Are you excited? (I am!)

Dream Destinations in the Americas

photo of a llama at Machu Picchu - bucket list destinations
“Hey girl, you wanna see Machu Picchu? No prob-llama!”

Machu Picchu, Peru | History & Adventure Dream Destination

UNESCO site and “New World Wonder” Machu Picchu is one of the top dream destinations for many travelers. This Inca city was built in the 15th century but later abandoned. It was lost to the outside world for centuries until “rediscovered” by historian and explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911.  Perched high in the Andes, Machu Picchu is mysterious and iconic.  Get the best views of its green terraces and preserved stone buildings from the peak of Huayna Picchu, which a limited number of travelers can climb each day.  

The best time to visit Machu Picchu is in June – September during the dry winter season, although travelers who want smaller crowds and greener landscape can visit when I did, at the beginning of the rainy season in October – November.

Most visitors reach Machu Picchu by train.  But in the last 20 years, hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu has become a rite of passage for adventure travelers.  I trekked with my sister, and it was one of my most challenging yet ultimately fulfilling adventures yet! 

Discover the mysteries of Machu Picchu yourself with these tour options from $1079:

Inca Trail Trek | Machu Picchu Adventure| Peru Family Experience

Best Mexico Ruins - Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza - Pyramid of Kukulkan

Mexico: Maya Ruins & Day of the Dead | Bucket List Destination for Culture & History

Mexico is one of my own favorite travel destinations, with stunning natural landscapes, rich culture and history, and fantastic regional cuisines.  Two Mexico attractions in particular are bucket list items for many travelers: seeing Mayan ruins and experiencing the Dia de los Muertos festival.

Mayan ruins stretch from Cancun throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, with Mexico’s most famous being Chichen Itza, seaside ruins at Tulum, and Palenque set deep in the jungle. 

The annual Day of the Dead festival is celebrated at the end of October each year. In particular, Oaxaca and Mexico City are popular places to experience the holiday.  In Mexico City, explore Day of the Dead history and traditions including street festivities and the famous parade.  For Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca, learn about the holiday’s history and culture with traditional cemetery vigils, local parades, and visits to the surrounding villages.

Immerse yourself in Mexico’s history and culture with these tours starting from $1070:

Mayan Encounter | Classic Mexico Adventure | Day of the Dead in Oaxaca | Mexico City Day of the Dead

photo of the Galapagos Islands - dream destinations

Galapagos Islands | Nature Dream Destination

The Galapagos Islands are known for their diversity of plant and animal species, including many not found anywhere else in the world. For true nature and adventure travelers, visiting the Galapagos is at the top of their dream places to visit. See sea lions, tortoises, marine iguanas, and an array of birds, plus experience active hiking and fantastic snorkeling in one of the world’s most special destinations.

Check out these pared-down affordable itineraries to make your Galapagos dreams a reality, starting from just $1349:

Galapagos Adventure [18-39] | Galapagos Island Hopping | Family Land Galapagos

Asia Bucket List Destinations

photo of lush green rice fields in Bali - dream places to visit

Bali, Indonesia | Beaches, Temples & Culture

Bali is a dream destination for so many travelers.  Known as the Island of the Gods, Bali has long been a place for people seeking balance through meditation and yoga.  It’s also a popular destination for surfing and active adventures.  Explore volcanoes, tour ancient temples, and relax on its beaches: white sand in the south, and black sand on the northern and eastern coasts. 

Much of the tourism in Bali is centered around its cultural capital, Ubud. But throughout the island you’ll discover ornate Hindu temples, lush landscapes, and friendly people. The best time to visit Bali is the dry season, April through October; avoid the rainy season October – March.

I was lucky to get to see Bali’s green rice terraces, Monkey Forest, temples, and waterfalls, as well as beaches and snorkeling in the Nusa islands.  If you’re looking for a destination with nature, culture and adventure, Bali belongs on your bucket list too! 

Bliss out on the beaches of Bali and its close neighbor Lombok with these dream destination itineraries starting from $930:

Beautiful Bali | Classic Bali & Lombok | Bali Family Holiday with Teenagers

photo of an overwater deck at the Maldives

Maldives: Beaches Dream Vacation Spot

It’s hard to think of a travel spot more iconic than the Maldives: a remote tropical paradise with luxury overwater bungalows and unspoiled white sand beaches.  Made up of over 1,000 islands, the Republic of Maldives is a haven for travelers who want to swim, snorkel, scuba, and relax on secluded beaches.  The Maldives are a popular honeymoon destination, but there’s no reason to wait to check this destination off your bucket list.  

Make everyone you know jelly with your Tiktoks from the Maldives. Set off on a liveaboard cruise on a traditional dhoni sailboat priced from $899:

Maldives Island Hopping |Maldives Dhoni Explorer | Maldives Cruise [18-39]

photo of Halong Bay in Vietnam with karst formations

Vietnam: Classic Backpacking Destination

Vietnam has become a major Asia travel and backpacking destination thanks to its gorgeous natural landscapes, busy cities, and rich cultural and historical sites. 

The country is flanked by rugged mountains bordering Laos and Cambodia in the West, the South China Sea to the East, and the Red and Mekong Rivers in the North and South.  You’ll want to see the colonial architecture of Hoi An, vibrant Ho Chi Minh City, and the dramatic karst scenery and floating villages of Halong Bay.

Vietnam is over 1,000 miles long and the climate varies widely by region, from temperate in the north to a tropical climate in the south.  This makes planning a visit tricky, but generally the best time to visit is spring, from March – April, or October.  Generally, Vietnam has two monsoon seasons, between October and March in the northeast and between April and October everywhere but the mountains. 

Go crazy pho Vietnam (pun alert) with these affordable tours starting at $1169:

Classic Vietnam | Vietnam Family Holiday with Teenagers

Dream destinations - Thailand

Thailand | Temples, Beaches & Friendly People

A Thailand and Cambodia trip with G Adventures (then Gap Adventures) was the start of my travel addiction! I always recommend Thailand as a good destination for new travelers. It’s an easy place to travel, including on a budget, and has long been a popular destination on the Asia backpacker trail.

Bustling Bangkok is a must-see, with its iconic temples, canals, tuk tuk rides, and street food. Thailand’s north has its own treasures: ancient capitals, elephant conservation, and experiencing the Thai way of life in local villages. And of course, Thailand’s beaches like Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, and Krabi are the perfect way to end a trip.

The best time to visit Thailand is between November and early April. This is the driest time of year, since the rainy season runs from July – October.

Plan an adventure in the Land of Smiles with these budget tour options starting at $779:

Bangkok to Chiang Mai Express | Thailand Island Hopping | Thailand Family Holiday

Dream places to visit - Cambodia


Cambodia is home to the temples of Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. Exploring here feels like stepping back in time, discovering the Khmer temples deep in the jungle. Reliefs and statues seem to tell ancient stories, and tree roots have reclaimed some of the temples, including “Ta Prohm” made famous by Tomb Raider.

Cambodia’s tumultuous recent past can be felt in its capital of Phnom Penh. The brutal Khmer Rouge, a Marxist regime in power from 1975-1979, claimed the lives of up to two million people. Much of the tourism in the capital is centered on this, but it gives an important context to country’s past and the spirit of the Cambodian people.

Along with Machu Picchu, Petra, and the Mayan ruins at Tikal, the temples of Angkor Wat belong on the bucket list of every adventure traveler. Try to visit for sunrise if you can!

Many Cambodia itineraries begin in Vietnam and end in Thailand, which lets you experience the history and culture of the overall region. Check out these super-affordable options starting from $637:

Cambodia Experience | Cambodia: Ancient Ruins

photo of blue tiled tombs at Gur-e Amir in Samarkand

Uzbekistan & The Silk Road | The OG Adventure Route

When I visited Uzbekistan, following in the footsteps of Marco Polo along the Silk Road, I truly felt I had become a traveler.  The Silk Road connected eastern China to what is now western Turkey, a 4,000-mile passage that connected East with West for more than 1500 years. 

Uzbekistan sits in the middle of this route, and includes the ancient cities of Khiva, Bukhara, and Samarkand.  In the last few years, Uzbekistan has again begun embracing tourism. It’s welcoming travelers to discover its intricately-tiled blue-domed mosques, colorful bazaars with carpets and pottery, and traditional cuisines of plov and shashlik.

The best time to visit Uzbekistan is during spring from April to May, when weather is temperate and flowering trees bloom.  And again in autumn, from September to early November.  It’s best to avoid the summer, when temperatures soar to over 100F.

I loved the history, people, and cuisine of Uzbekistan. Set off on your own Silk Road adventure with these tours from $1399:

Highlights of Uzbekistan | Best of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan

photo of the pink city of Jaipur in India

Jaipur, India | Culture & Photography Dream Destination

India has long been a classic journey for travelers, with its array of hectic cities, bustling markets, history sites, and holy places.  And in a country full of colors, Jaipur, known as the “Pink City,” is a photographer’s dream. 

But with so many more things to explore – the Taj Mahal, rural life in Rajasthan, the heart of Hinduism in Varanasi, and temples across the landscape – a full trip to India should be on every traveler’s dream places to visit.

The best time to visit most of India is during the cool, dry season, between November and March.  But the country is large, so temperatures can vary by region.  Many travelers wish to visit for the colorful festival of Holi, which occurs in most cities on the day after the full moon in March.

Delve into the history, cuisine, and spiritualism of India (with a side of Bollywood and iconic photo ops) on these budget tours starting from just $829:

Golden Triangle | Essential India

Sri Lanka - Bucket List Destinations

Sri Lanka | Nature & Culture Bucket List Destination

This island nation might be small, but there is a bounty of nature, history, and beauty among the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.  Located just off the Southeast tip of India, Sri Lanka is a destination for beaches, jungles, temples, and wildlife.

A trip to Sri Lanka offers the chance to see elephants in their natural habitat at the country’s national parks.  Visit spice and tea plantations in the central hill country, spend time in colonial towns, and explore temples with thousands of years of human history.  Sri Lanka’s coasts are the perfect place to snorkel and relax on the beach at the end of a trip.

The best time to visit Sri Lanka varies by region: for the southwest coast, visit between December to March, before the monsoon season.  In the East, visit from May – September for less humid weather.

Discover the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’ with these tours, priced from $977:

Sri Lanka Express | Sri Lanka Family Holiday  | Sri Lanka: Spice Gardens & Seasides [18-39]

Dream Travel Destinations in Europe

photo of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland

Ireland | History, Landscapes & Culture

So many travelers have Ireland on their bucket list!  Known as the Emerald Isle due to its green landscapes, Ireland was home to writers like Yeats, Joyce and Wilde.  Top Ireland sights include the capital Dublin, the picturesque Ring of Kerry, and dramatic scenery of the Cliffs of Moher and Giant’s Causeway. 

Ireland has a maritime climate, with relatively mild winters and summer temperatures in the 70’s.  The best time to visit is from April through until September, but expect rain and cool weather even then!

I haven’t yet been to Ireland. But having met travelers from Ireland around the globe, I definitely want to visit its friendly people and beautiful landscapes. 

Getaway to the “land of Saints and Scholars” with these itineraries starting from $2199:

Highlights of Ireland | Northern and Southern Ireland

photo of houses on the hillside in Santorini Greece

Santorini, Greece | Top Dream Vacation Destination

Santorini is a dream island vacation destination in Greece, located halfway between Athens and Crete.  Part of the Cyclades Islands in the Aegean Sea, Santorini is best known for its whitewashed cliff top villages with sweeping views of the azure sea. 

But the sea below hides a secret: there was once a single island here until a 16th century BCE volcanic eruption.  The resulting caldera, or crater, is now mostly-submerged and surrounded by dramatic cliffs, picturesque towns, and volcanic sand beaches.

Most visitors to Santorini stay on its largest island of Thira in the towns of Fira, its capital, or best-known Oia.  But there are many wonders to discover here, including the ancient ruins of 3 civilizations like the Minoan town of Akrotiri, black and red sand volcanic beaches, fantastic local wines, and hikes for views of the caldera. 

The best time to visit for warm weather and fewer crowds is April to May and September to October.

Got Santorini or Greece on your bucket list?  Make it happen with these affordable tours including sailing trips starting from $1257:

Sailing Greece | Athens to Santorini | Ancient Ruins & Iconic Islands

Italy: Rome & Amalfi Coast | History & Landscapes Bucket List

photo of Positano Italy Amalfi Coast - houses on the cliffside

Is there anyone who doesn’t have Italy on their bucket list?  The sights of Rome and charming towns of the Amalfi Coast are some of the most-lusted-after spots in Italy and the world! 

In Rome, must-see sights of course include the Colosseum, Sistine Chapel, and Trevi Fountain, as well as amazing food, wine, and world-class art.  The Amalfi Coast has hiking for wooded and coastal views, cliffs lined with colorful Mediterranean architecture, and beaches framed by picturesque towns.

The best months for Italy travel are from April to June and mid-September to October, when temperatures are mild and crowds are less. 

Escape to your dream destination of Italy with these tours priced from $1880:

Rome to Amalfi | Italy Real Food Adventure | Amalfi Coast Sailing Adventure

photo of the House of Parliament in Budapest Italy at sunset

Budapest, Hungary | History & Culture Destination

Budapest has jumped to the top of many bucket lists in the last few years.  Bisected by the Danube River, its regions of Buda and Pest are connected by eight bridges, including the iconic 19th-century Chain Bridge. 

In Buda, take a funicular to the top of Castle Hill to reach Old Town. Then explore sights like Buda Castle, St. Mattias Church, and Fisherman’s Bastion, a turreted fortress with city views.  

In Pest, visit the Hungarian Parliament, Great Market Hall for snacks and souvenirs, and the Shoes on the Danube memorial.  Be sure to also see St. Stephen’s Basilica including climbing (or taking the elevator) to the top for views of the city. 

Throughout Budapest you’ll also find ruin pubs, the city’s famous hidden bars in abandoned buildings, and historic thermal baths fed by the more than 100 hot springs beneath the city.  The two most popular are the outdoor Szechenyi Baths and indoor Gellert Thermal Bath. The latter is also a prime example of ornate Art Nouveau architecture found throughout the city.

The best time to visit Budapest is between April to September for warm weather. However, I loved visiting in December for Christmas markets and cold weather perfect for the Szechenyi Baths! 

Try these tour itineraries for experiencing the best of Budapest and the region, starting from $1599:

Budapest to Bucharest | Budapest to Sofia Adventure by Rail | Budapest & Europe Christmas Markets

photo of Lisbon Portugal

Portugal | Dream Destination for Beaches, History & Foodies

Named as the Travel + Leisure “Destination of the Year” in 2016, Portugal has seen an explosion of travel in the last few years.  But for good reason: it’s a quick flight within Europe or from the East Coast of the US, and appeals to foodies, culture lovers, wine connoisseurs, and beach-goers. 

Be sure to visit the historic sights in the capital of Lisbon, fairytale palaces of Sintra, and tiled churches and port wine houses in Porto. And don’t miss Portugal’s gorgeous Algarve beaches.

The best time to visit Portugal is from March – May, when spring flowers begin to bloom and the crowds are less.  Or visit in autumn in September – October, when days are still warm, the countryside turns golden, and wine grapes are harvested. 

Discover the history, culture and cuisine of Portugal with these tour options, from $1147:

Highlights of Portugal | Best of Spain & Portugal | Spain & Portugal: Flamenco & Tapas [18-39]

photo of Scottish heather

Scotland | Top Dream Country to Visit

Scotland has always been a bucket-list favorite for many travelers. Now, so many more are dreaming of Scotland now after getting hooked on Outlander! 

Delve into history in Edinburgh with its famous castle, and stroll the shops and restaurants of the famous Royal Mile to the 16th-century Palace of Holyroodhouse.  Hike to Arthur’s Seat for panoramic views of the city and tour the National Museum of Scotland.  In Glasgow, explore its museums, music scene, and Victorian and art nouveau architecture.

But no trip to Scotland is complete without the Highlands and the Isle of Skye for history and stunning landscapes.  Tour the iconic Eilan Donan castle, see the infamous Loch Ness, and visit Culloden Moor, the site of the Jacobite rising of 1745. 

Stay in the picturesque town of Portree, hike the iconic Old Man of Storr, and witness the stunning natural beauty of Scotland at Kilt Rock and Glen Coe.  And don’t forget a whisky distillery tour!  Be ready to take a million photos – when I visited Skye, the scenery was more beautiful with each step I took.

Scotland’s busy tourist season in summer is also its rainy season.  The famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the world’s largest arts festival, is held each August.  I visited in September and had many sunny days,. I recommend the spring or early fall as a great time to visit for less crowds. 

I visited Edinburgh for work and then extended my trip with a tour to the Isle of Skye. There are several short break options like this, and Scotland’s local tour operators have the best ratings I’ve seen in all of my travels. Check out this 3-day Skye and Highlands tour or this 5-day Best of Scotland from Edinburgh.

Or set off on a complete Outlander pilgrimage with these longer tour options from $1640:

Highlights of Scotland | Scotland Family Holiday with Teenagers

Iceland - bucket list dream destinations - Adam Biernat Photo
Image credit: Adam Biernat Photography

Northern Lights & Iceland | Dream Nature Experiences

The small island nation of Iceland is an adventurer’s dream: hot springs, waterfalls, volcanoes, and even the Northern Lights. 

Most tourists here choose to follow the scenic “Golden Circle” loop, visiting geothermal springs and geysers, the waterfall of Gullfoss, volcanic black sand beaches, and Skaftafell National Park to hike Vatnajokull, Europe’s largest glacier.

For hiking, the best time to visit Iceland is in summer, when midnight sun and warmer temperatures prevail. But to see the Northern Lights, February, March, September and October are typically the best time to visit Iceland.

Escape to the “land of fire and ice” with these Iceland tour options priced from $1549:

Iceland Northern Lights Escape | Iceland Northern Lights & Golden Circle | Best of Iceland

photo of Dubrovnik Croatia on the Adriatic Coast

Dubrovnik, Croatia | Bucket List Beauty & Charm

Dubrovnik landed on everybody’s bucket lists thanks to Game of Thrones, where it served as the fictional city of King’s Landing.  But Dubrovnik, and Croatia as a whole, does look straight out of a fairy tale even without any CGI! 

Nicknamed the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” the Old Town of Dubrovnik is full of cobblestone streets, palaces, and churches, all located within medieval city walls.  Just outside the city, Dubrovnik’s Adriatic beaches make for a good day trip, as does Lokrum Island, with a monastery, botanical garden, and beaches of its own.

Dubrovnik itineraries often include Split, Korcula, and Hvar, more maritime cities brimming with history, charm, and architecture. 

The best time to visit is in May and June or September and October when the weather is sunny and perfect for swimming; avoid the busiest tourist season of July and August.

Fall under Croatia’s spell with these affordable tour options priced from just $807:

Sailing Croatia | Explore Croatia | Zagreb to Dubrovnik [18-39]

photo of Tbilisi Georgia

Georgia | Culture & Nature Dream Destination

The buzz about Georgia (the country) as a travel destination has been growing among travelers and Instagrammers.  Located at the intersection of Europe and Asia, the Caucasus region has a wealth of cultural, natural, and foodie experiences to explore. 

Wander the cobblestone maze of streets that make up the capital Tbilisi, tour a 12th century monastery, and hike on a glacier, then indulge each evening with Georgian food and wine.  (If you haven’t yet discovered buttery, cheesy khachapuri bread, here’s a recipe to make it from home!)

The best time to visit Georgia is April to May for adventuring in comfortable temperatures, or in September and October for autumn color.  Some tours of Georgia also include neighboring Armenia to fully explore the region.

Check out these affordable tour options starting from $1649:

Georgia Adventure | Best of Georgia & Armenia

Dream Destinations in the Middle East

photo of the Great Pyramids in Cairo Egypt - bucket list destinations

Egypt | UNESCO Sites & Beaches Bucket List

Egypt is home to one of the world’s earliest civilizations and seven UNESCO-designated world heritage sites.  It’s known, of course, for its history and ancient archaeological treasures including the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx.  But some travelers might not realize that it is also famous for its beach resorts and scuba diving!

Travelers to Egypt must visit the buzzing capital of Cairo, the pyramids at Giza, and Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, where treasures from ancient tombs and even mummies themselves are on display. 

But it’s also possible to sail down the Nile en route to see the Valley of the Kings at Luxor.  Then a stop at the Red Sea for some beach time before heading back to Cairo is the perfect way to round out a trip.

Egypt is a destination that I would recommend to be seen with a tour, both based on current travel warnings and because an experienced guide can give important context for history and culture. 

Egypt’s weather is sunny year-round. The best times to visit for more comfortable temperatures and fewer tourists are the shoulder seasons, from March to April and October to November.  Winter is the busiest tourist season. 

Set off on a journey through history with these Egypt tour options starting at $1549:

Egypt Adventure 8 days | Highlights of Egypt 14 days

photo of the Treasury carved into the rock face in the ancient city of Petra Jordan - dream destinations

Petra and the Dead Sea, Jordan | History & Adventure Travel

After seeing the ancient city of Petra everywhere from travel ads to National Geographic and Indiana Jones, I had Jordan at the top of my own bucket list for a long time.  And when I finally got to visit, Jordan was even more awe-inspiring than I could have imagined. 

Bucket-list sights in Jordan include the ancient Roman town of Jerash, floating in the Dead Sea (yes, it works!), and visiting the lost city of Petra.  Add on an overnight in a Bedouin camp in the desert, and your adventure-meter will be full.  Also the food is spectacular: you’ll never be happy with grocery-store hummus again!

I traveled to Jordan on my own, but it’s definitely a destination I recommend to visit on a tour or with a buddy. It helps to split the costs, plus women travelers tend to get a lot of attention.  (Not problems per say, just leering, comments, and offers of marriage.) 

The best time to visit Jordan are spring from March to May or fall from September to November, when the days are warm but nights are cool.

Visit Jordan’s wonders including the “Rose Red City” of Petra with tours starting at just $1299:

Highlights of Jordan | Jordan: Women’s Expedition

Dream Destinations in Africa

photo of travelers riding camels on orange sand dunes in the Sahara Desert - dream places to visit

Morocco | Culture & Adventure Travel Destination

I am not alone in counting Morocco as one of my favorite destinations.  Its mix of cultures, historical sites, and landscapes have made it a top spot for adventure travelers the world over. 

Tour Roman ruins and labyrinthine medinas, then sip mint tea overlooking landscapes out of movies and picture books.  Many tours to Morocco include an overnight in the Sahara via camel, which is one of my top travel adventures to date! 

Be sure also to explore the souks and squares of Marrakech, and its idyllic Majorelle Gardens.

Morocco is definitely a destination where I recommend a tour, to bridge the cultural and language barriers. Plus, overland transport with a small group tour is significantly easier than arranging it on your own or renting a car.

Set off on the adventure of a lifetime in Morocco with these itineraries starting from $849, including the Best of Morocco tour which I chose:

Morocco Kasbahs & Desert | Best of Morocco | Best of Morocco Family Holiday

photo of a giraffe in Kruger National Park - dream destinations

Kruger National Park, South Africa | Dream Safari Destination

Every traveler I know has a safari on their list of dream destinations.  One of the most iconic safari spots is Kruger National Park, a game reserve located in South Africa. 

Here you can spot the “Big Five,” as the top five game animals are called: lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo.  Enjoy South African cuisine under the stars, head out on game spotting drives and nature walks with naturalist guides, and retire to a comfortable safari lodge.

The best time to visit Kruger National Park is at the beginning or end of the region’s dry season, between April and September. Temperatures during this time are mostly pleasant, with overnight lows in the 40s and daytime highs occasionally reaching into the mid-80s.

Typically, safari experiences don’t come cheap: in addition to offering all-inclusive once-in-a-lifetime experiences, safari operators often fund conservation projects.  But forgoing the typical “luxury” additions of a safari trip can put it within reach for many more travelers. 

Check out these pared down experiences with all of the excitement but less of the sticker-shock of a typical safari, starting from $920:

Kruger 5-Day Lodge Experience | Kruger In-Depth | Explore Kruger

Dream Destinations in Oceania

photo of New Zealand - dream destinations

New Zealand | Nature Dream Destination

New Zealand made its way onto many bucket lists thanks to the gorgeous scenery of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies.  But many travelers don’t know that there are two islands here to discover. 

New Zealand’s South Island has mountain ranges, glaciers, and forests. While the North is renowned for gorgeous coastlines, geothermal springs, and glowworm caves.  The country also has attractions that allow visitors to explore its indigenous Maori culture and history.  Do I even need to mention NZ’s friendly people and world-famous wines?

The best time to visit New Zealand is during their summer months of December to March, when sunny temperate days provide the perfect setting for visiting beaches and hiking.   I haven’t yet checked New Zealand off my bucket list, but my sister traveled there with G Adventures and had the most amazing trip!

Get to know the charming Kiwis and their stunning country with these tours starting at $1715:

Highlights of New Zealand | New Zealand South Island Family Holiday

Bucket List Destinations - Antarctica

Antarctica | Ultimate Bucket List Adventure

For adventurers, Antarctica is truly the ultimate dream destination. Visiting the most uninhabited place on earth offers the chance to see sea lions, orcas, humpback whales, and many types of penguins against an otherworldly landscape.

Most Antarctic expeditions begin at the southern tip of Chile, literally the end of the world. Voyage by ship through the Drake Passage, a notorious body of water that stretches across 500 miles between Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands. It’s known for being some of the roughest seas in the world.

Most voyages make landfall in Antarctica at least once, giving you the chance to walk among penguins and sea lions, or hike up for views of glaciers and icebergs. And there are daily “Zodiac” trips, smaller inflatable craft that get you close-up with wildlife and icebergs.

The crew on Antarctic ships includes experts in marine biology, geology, and more, who share their knowledge along the journey. The ships themselves typically offer a bar, library, gym, pool, sauna, and more, to include a bit of comfort along with your once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

A journey to the Great White Continent takes a lot of planning and prep, including an Antarctic packing list and gear. Check out these itineraries from Intrepid Travel, starting from $5795:

Best of Antarctica from Punta Arenas| Best of Antarctica

Tips to Save on Airfare

You’re probably saying, OK Adrienne, these tours are not a million dollars, but how am I going to get there?

Believe me, I know that one of the most expensive parts of travel is airfare! So if you’re interested in a destination, start researching flight prices now to get an idea of what the average costs are.

Flight Searches and Alerts

My favorite flight search engines are Google Flights and Momondo because they also show trends. I always recommend booking direct with the airline rather than a third-party platform like Expedia, to make it easier to select seats, be clear on baggage allowances, etc. Especially now, I think it’s better to deal directly with the airlines in case of flight schedule changes or cancellations.

You can also set up flight alerts with search engines like Kayak or TripAdvisor to keep a eye on prices.

Scott’s Cheap Flights

Another great resource for flight deals is Scott’s Cheap Flights. Sign up for their free email alerts, and get notifications for deals from your local airports. (There’s also a paid service that gives you mistake fare deals, but the free one works great for most travelers.)

Turkish Airlines Layovers & Stopovers

If your home airport is served by Turkish Airlines, be sure to check their flight pricing. By flying through their Istanbul hub, it often makes flights very affordable. You can even schedule a long layover or stopover (a day or more) without an additional charge. Check out the perks they offer for free layover tours or stopover hotels – it’s an easy way to get more from your travel dollars.

New to travel? Be sure to read my 20 tips for new travelers and how to create a packing list!

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Ready to start checking things off your bucket list?

I hope this list has given you some ideas of amazing dream destinations and also affordable tours to get there. If you book one of the tours, consider clicking my links before you book. I might earn a small commission percentage, and it helps me know I’m creating content that is helpful to my readers!

Save these bucket list destination ideas for later!

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Adrienne, The Haphazard Traveler

I used to be a hot travel mess, but I got better! I kept the name and now blog my best tips for culture and adventure travel from around the globe. Follow along for travel advice, destination info, and photography from faraway lands - and at home in Washington, D.C.

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