By Rishika Sharma, on December 14, 2022

Dream getaways: Get some ticks on your bucket list in 2023

You’ll often find us talking about ’bucket lists’ on our podcastblogs, or social media. But while there’s a common understanding of what the term means, how many of us know where it actually comes from?

It turns out that the term ‘bucket list’ originated with the 2007 film of the same name. Starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, Bucket List tells the story of Edward and Carter, two terminally ill cancer patients who head off on a road trip to complete their wish list of to-dos before they die. Screenwriter Justin Zackham is widely credited with coining the phrase after being inspired by the English idiom ‘to kick the bucket’. He created his own list – ‘Justin’s list of things to do before he kicks the bucket’, which became his springboard to write the movie. 

Despite their morbid connotations, bucket lists are generally about seizing the moment, and the euphoric and momentous pride that comes with doing the things, seeing the places, and having the experiences you’ve always wanted. One survey shows that 95% of Americans have a bucket list, 77% of which feature travel-related goals. So in this week’s episode of Out Travel The System, we’re catching up with the woman who literally wrote the book on bucket-list destinations – specifically, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die – to get more of our listeners and readers out on their dream getaways in 2023.

Patricia Schultz is a New York Times journalist and well-seasoned travel expert. She’s most famous for her best-selling book, which, in 2023, will have been inspiring travel wish lists for 20 years. Essentially a travel fanatic’s encyclopedia, 1,000 Places To See Before You Die has also inspired a Travel Channel and Discovery Channel spin-off series, as well as US and Canadian versions of the book. So, ahead of its vicennial, we caught up with Patricia on her biggest learnings from a career dedicated to making travel dreams come true. Here are her lessons:

Carpe diem
“Since the book was published, there have been various revisions and there will also be one ahead of the 20th anniversary next year because I’m always having to pull places. Look at the situation now in Ukraine and Syria, or the many places that didn’t survive the pandemic. The notion behind the book is to drive people to act on their travel wish lists sooner because my biggest lesson has been that nothing is guaranteed, so experience the world the way you want when you can.”

Invest in travel
“Travel can be expensive, and cost is one of the reasons that people tend to put off the trips they’ve always wanted to go on. But my next lesson is to do what you love, and if travel is what you love, find ways to make it happen. For example, I think of travel as a priority investment, so rather than 11 new pairs of shoes, the new iPhone, or a car, spend the money that would go on these luxury items on a dream trip instead. Also, consider things like credit card options to help finance your travels.”

Plan smarter
“Rather than rule something out because it’s too expensive, I suggest planning and researching to understand how far-fetched your dream destination actually is. For example, if going to the Monterey Jazz Festival is on your list, is a long weekend or three-night break enough rather than a whole week? Or, on the flip side, with an African Safari, for example, a week is likely not going to be long enough and worth the investment when you consider flights, transfers, et cetera. Look at both time and money to consider how possible a trip is.”

Plan B doesn’t mean worse
“Another tip is to be resourceful. Consider alternative destinations if what your dream getaway is centered around is an experience. Or look at alternative dates and options if you’re looking to go to a specific destination. For example, for a wilderness safari, if Africa is not going to be feasible, consider Denali National Park instead, where you can observe incredible wildlife in the inside passage in Alaska. Or, if what’s drawing you to Cappadocia is the hot air balloons, perhaps a more feasible option than Turkey could be a trip New Mexico’s Albuquerque’s Hot Air Balloon festival instead. If you want to go to the Maldives, you can still experience the crystal-clear waters and amazing beaches, but consider looking at local guest houses if those overwater bungalows are not feasible. Or with St Barts and the Caribbean, if you go during the off-season, you’ll still have the amazing weather and the same vibe but with fewer crowds, and when accommodation is not as expensive. However, with bargain hunting, don’t lose sight of what you’re going for. For example, there’s no point going to see the Northern Lights when Iceland is cheaper during the summer because you won’t see them. Or, you don’t want to save up and head to Asia because you just found reasonably priced flights during monsoon season because you’re never going to make it outside of your hotel lobby.” 

Don’t hold back for others
“Another big lesson is to rely on yourself to make your travel dreams come true. If I’d waited for anybody else to suggest a destination or organize plans for me, I would have missed 80% of the opportunities that I’ve had. So, look at dream destinations like a solo trip rather than following someone else’s dream, because life is short! 

Also, sometimes people wait until retirement to take their dream trips (editor’s note: in our vacation deprivation study this year, we learned that more than 50% of respondents felt guilt when they took time off), but circumstances change all the time, and you could suddenly find yourself out of work. So go while you can.”

Japan, Honshu Island, Kinki region, Kyoto, Nishiki Tenman gu shrine

Additional tips from our data correspondent, Christie Hudson:
Every year, Expedia Partners with the Airlines Reporting Corporation – holder of the world’s largest airline ticket sales database. Together we look at billions of data points to determine the best day of the week to book a flight, how far in advance you should be planning your trip, and other money and time-saving tips. Here’s what the numbers say for 2023:

• Sunday is the cheapest day of the week to book a flight. People who book on Sundays save an average of 5% on domestic airfares and 15% on international airfares. You want to fly out on a Wednesday. Those midweek flights are about 15% cheaper than flights that depart on the weekends. 

• In terms of how far in advance you should be locking in your flight, the sweet spot for domestic travel is about a month out. For international trips, try to book up to six months in advance. Planning ahead saves travelers an average of around 10% on their airfare. 

• This one is obvious, but try to avoid taking your big dream trip during your destination’s peak seasons, US summer, or the holidays. Instead, look at the early fall months of September and October, or the winter months of January and February. Not only will save you money, but you’ll also avoid sharing your dream trip with every other traveler on the planet. However, do your research. It’s possible to find savings, but you don’t want to make tradeoffs that will negatively impact your experience.

We hope these tips will help our listeners and readers feel empowered to grab life by the horns and finally go on their big, bucket-list vacation. And if you do, we’d love to see where you get to. Tag your adventures with @Expedia and #ExpediaPic on Instagram

Want to learn more?

Listen to the podcast now, check out the complete transcript below, or catch the full conversation on Spotify or Apple.

Nisreene Atassi, Expedia Global Head of Social Media, and host: I’m Nisreene Atassi and this is Out Travel The System. This week we’re talking about how to save, plan and maximize your dream vacation. We’ll talk trends…

Christie Hudson, head of Expedia PR for North America (sound bite): Sunday is the cheapest day of the week to book. People that book on Sundays save an average of 5% on domestic airfare and 15% on international airfare.

Nisreene: ..hear from a New York Times bestselling author and veteran travel journalist…

Patricia Schultz, author of 1,000 Places to Visit Before You Die (sound bite): I understood that you have to rely upon yourself. Because if I waited around for anybody else to suggest a destination or organize it for me or, I would have missed on, I don’t know, 80% of the opportunities.

Nisreene: ..and really get down to business.

Patricia: If you really want to travel, you need a plan, and you need to do it not just when you’re retiring. People are retiring later and later in life.

Nisreene: Here we go.

[Musical interlude]

Nisreene: Planning for your dream vacation can be daunting, whether it’s prices, timing, work, or even scheduling around the kids. There’s always a reason that planning can be a really tough thing for us. But manifesting your dream vacation is actually more realistic than you think. But first, let’s talk trends.

Hi, Christie. All right. So tell us about the research for the week.

Christie: So when I was thinking about what to share for this episode, something occurred to me. Everyone has a different idea of what a dream destination looks like for them, but I think we can all agree that you don’t want to have to blow your entire budget getting there. So I thought this might be the perfect opportunity to share air travel hacks that will save you time and money on getting there, wherever ‘there’ is. Because I’m guessing your dream destination, your dream trip, wherever it is and whatever it looks like, is probably one that comes with a bit of a larger price tag on it. So I’m going to go through a couple of strategies you can use that will help your travel dollars go further.

You may not know this, but every year Expedia partners with Airlines Reporting Corporation. It’s a company that has the world’s largest airline ticket sales database. And together, we look at billions of data points in order to determine the best day of the week to book, how far in advance you should be planning your trip, and other money and time-saving tips. So here’s what you need to know for 2023. Sunday is the cheapest day of the week to book. People that book on Sundays save an average of 5% on domestic airfare and 15% on international airfare. The second point is how far in advance should you be locking in your flights? According to the report, the sweet spot for domestic travel is about a month out. But for international trips, you want to book up to six months in advance. And planning ahead saves travelers about 10% on average on their airfare. And the final tip is when to start your trip. You want to fly out on Wednesdays. Those midweek flights are about 15% cheaper than flights that depart on the weekends.

So, if you can, avoid taking these big, dream trips during the peak seasons, like summer time or the holidays. Traveling during the early fall, such as September and October, or in January and February will save you money. But it also ensures you aren’t sharing your dream trip with every other traveler on the planet. The one caveat is make sure you do your research, because you want the experiences to be available during those off-peak periods. For example, if you’re seeing the northern lights in Norway, make sure you visit when your odds of catching the northern lights are the highest. Or if Santorini is your dream destination, take note that Santorini is essentially boarded up during the off-season from late November until March. Bottom line, planning your dream trip is all about balance. It’s totally possible to find great value without making trade-offs that will negatively impact your trip. Save where you can so that you can splurge where it counts.

Nisreene: All right. Thanks, Christie. Always so helpful.

[Musical interlude]

Nisreene: Today we’ll be joined by a true expert in planning these one-of-a-kind vacations, Patricia Schultz. She’s a New York Times bestselling author and veteran travel journalist. One of her most notable books, 1,000 Places to Visit Before You Die, has inspired thousands of getaways and vacations, including so many of my own. So whether it’s budgeting for that next extravagant trip or maximizing the time you have now, we’re going to deep dive with Patricia on how to plan and actually take the wildest vacation of your dreams.

Hi, Patricia. Welcome to Out Travel The System. It’s so great to have you on the show today.

Patricia: Oh, thank you. This is a real joy. Thanks very much.

Nisreene: Well, I want to just sort of start off by talking about your famous, famous book, 1,000 Places to Visit Before You Die. I want to just sort of ask you a little bit of background about that, because I think it’s a book that I know super well, and it’s one that I think a lot of people probably still reference today when they’re looking at, you know, planning their their dream destination. So why did you write that book to begin with?

Patricia: Well, actually, it’s been 20 years next year. But let me go back to that time in my life when there simply was no book like that that was as comprehensive and global and all-encompassing. Somebody had told me years prior to that, “If it’s not on the shelf, then write it.” And I thought, “Well, that’s an easy enough concept,” but imagine putting together a book of this kind. And I found well, actually, I was approached by a publisher and they gave me one year to write it and two if I needed it. And, in fact, it took eight because, hey, it’s a big world and I didn’t realize what I was getting into. But I was such an insatiable traveler and I had so many interests, really, across the board that when this publisher gave me carte blanche to do a book of this kind, that was to be my favorite… a kind of, you know, glorious list of all of my favorite places and things and hotels and lodges and natural beauty and man-made beauty and festivals. And, you know, not just in America or North America, and not just Europe, but, you know, literally the globe. I thought that it was, you know, very ambitious. Could I do it? I wasn’t so sure, but I was certainly up for it. And I would have appreciated a budget or an advance, maybe, that was a little more generous. But I was, you know, a seasoned travel writer at that point and we’re nothing if not resourceful. I loved every minute of it. I mean, you know, I kept reminding myself that you have to do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life and, you know, so forth. But it was quite a challenge…

Nisreene: I’m sure, I’m sure.

Patricia: It kind of revolutionized my life though, because, since then, every waking moment and every trip and every journey and every, you know, research is something that ultimately goes into the next revisions. So we do the revisions quite as often as we can, but just the revisions alone – the world is forever changing. I’m always pulling places, you know, like poor Ukraine, poor Syria. Places that you think are going to be here forever, in fact, aren’t. There is no guarantee. And that’s really the notion behind this book, that you should postpone no pleasure. You know, carpe diem, make it happen. We all have a bucket list. We all have a wish list. And to make that come true as soon as possible.

Nisreene: Let me ask you this, Patricia. How much of your own sort of bucket list or dream destinations went into inspiring the travels for the book? Because, obviously, you had to you had to narrow it down. So how much of your own personal sort of bucket list or travel dreams went into figuring out the places that made up the thousand?

Patricia: Well, I think pretty much everything on my bucket list. And, you know, previous, recent, and sometimes not-so-recent experiences also became part of the thousand places. I didn’t have the luxury to revisit a lot of the places I had already visited, because I was looking to visit those that I knew belonged in the book but I hadn’t yet seen. But those that had been visited, I vetted them and researched them and, you know, brainstormed with a network of travel writer friends and colleagues that I had to make sure these places were still as fantastic and wonderful as I imagined them to be, because you know how you kind of romanticize these places that you haven’t been back to. But, so every place in the book has been seen by me to the degree that I’d say 80% were personally experienced or personally visited. And then the other 20%, you know, I keep working on in time to hopefully incorporate them into the next revision. And, as I said, next year, 2023 is our 20th anniversary. So we’re doing a revision and an update and it will be quite an update because it follows the pandemic, when so many places have not quite survived.

Nisreene: How do you feel like bucket-list vacations maybe have changed a little bit since the book was first published? I can imagine or I would assume that the way people think about travel today is obviously different than what it was 20 years ago. I personally feel like travel is way more accessible today than it was, probably, 20 years ago for a lot of people. So, I’m curious – from your perspective, how do you feel like bucket-list vacations or these dream destinations have changed in people’s minds or how people think of those types of trips?

Patricia: Well, I think a lot of that is because we’re all 20 years older and – you know, 10 years older, depending upon exactly what point in time we’re comparing this to. But it also means that it’s 20 years of, you know, hopefully climbing our own personal ladders in terms of economic or financial situations where we may have a little bit, you know, a few more dollars disposable and we’re not quite the, you know, budget, the shoestring-budget travelers that we were 20 years ago. I certainly am not. And so we have more in the bank or we have more credit cards that will get us to places that are more remote, more farther afield, but like you said, are very accessible to us. I mean, whoever would have thought 20 years ago that everybody you knew was going to Antarctica or had been to Mongolia or was going on an African safari to celebrate their 40th? I mean, these were considered really, you know, beyond luxury-type of fantasies. We’re also now post-pandemic and people have realized that there are no guarantees and you kind of have to see these places now because you don’t know what the future holds, do you?

Nisreene: No, you really don’t. And that’s so true. And it’s interesting that you brought up Antarctica and someone sort of going there repeatedly. But what that, you know, what that reinforces is that everybody sort of has their own unique view of a dream destination. It is just so specific to each person. Where I want to go is different from where you want to go. And where you want to go is different from your friend who wants to go to Antarctica.

Only 35% of Americans have passports…

Patricia: Amazing, right?

Nisreene: So how should people apply their dream travel destinations or, like, how should they start to think about a dream travel destination for themselves?

Patricia: Well, first of all, I think the operative word is ‘think’. We rely on our, you know, office mates, on our siblings, on our spouses or significant others. I, so much from the beginning, understood that you have to rely upon yourself, end period, amen. Because if I waited around for anybody else to suggest a destination or organize it for me or, you know, kind of light a fire under me to go to a particular place, I would have missed on, I don’t know, 80% of the opportunities. So I also encourage people to look at their dream destination as if it may be a solo trip and not to follow somebody else’s dream. You know, life is short. You have to do your homework. I mean, I love that kind of thing, but I also understand that it’s overwhelming. I think 1,000 Places, it’s remarkably helpful in that between two covers you have the wor ld organized into regions, so maybe you just know it’s Southeast Asia, or maybe you have, you know, your relatives, you’re third-generation, Eastern European, or maybe, you know, you saw a book about China or a country that just resonates with you and then, you know, kind of do a deeper dive into that and see what’s available and what are the attractions and the highlights, and see if it’s someplace that you need to see before you die. That’s always the easiest part, getting out the front door. But organizing and determining where you’re going is the clincher.

Nisreene: All right. Well, let’s talk about that a little bit. So what do you think are the most important things for people to remember when planning or saving for a dream trip?

Patricia: So a lot of it depends on just how far-fetched it is. I mean, are you going to, you know, to the Monterey Jazz Festival in San Francisco, where you need a really comfortable long weekend of three nights and four days? Or are you going on an African safari, where it’s going to take you three nights and four days just to get there between the connections and, you know, jetlag wasting you for the first 24 hours. So time is a big deal and it’s usually time and money that will determine where you can afford to go, both time-wise and money-wise. And most trips that I always took were beyond my budget. But you know what? I don’t mean to sound irresponsible or, you know, extravagant, but credit cards are a wondrous thing. You know, the money always comes. You know, you may pay 23% interest rate, but those trips always get… You know, those million-dollar experiences always get paid off in the end and you’ve walked away with the, you know, the vacation or the journey or the experience of your lifetime. But do determine how much you want to spend and what kind of time you have. And then, hopefully, you’ve got a bucket list of your own. You’ve seen a movie, you’ve seen a documentary, you’ve gone out with, you know, a guy from Amsterdam and you’re desperate to see where he came from because you’ve never been and you’ve heard only wonderful things. And, so, kind of narrow it down to three or four and see what’s feasible. And if that doesn’t happen, like I said, solo travel is a wonderful thing. I can’t encourage it enough, even if it’s your first time.

Nisreene: I have this image of you, Patricia, as, like, a young woman with just absolutely insane credit card debt, all due to travel, which I feel like is almost, like, to a certain extent, a much more respected credit card debt to have versus just, like, shopping or whatever.

Patricia: Yeah. Do you need 11 pairs of shoes every third month or do you need the new iPhone, you know, every year? I’ve never had a car. I mean, my transportation was an airplane instead of, you know, monthly auto loan payments. So it’s all about priorities, I think, and when travel is foremost on your list of what’s important to you… Warren Buffett just published a very long – I mean, you had to read for 20 pages before you got to the outstanding four words that he said could revolutionize your life. And I’ll cut to the chase. Those four words were “Do what you love”. And when travel is what you love, then you make it happen. You know, whatever it is you have to do to make it happen, it gets done if you want it to. No more excuses. Life is too short. And we saw that with the pandemic.

Nisreene: I absolutely love that. And I encourage everybody listening – go get that credit card.

Patricia: Or three.

Nisreene: Or three. Well, so, you’re kind of an expert in amazing destinations to go to. So tell us about… based off of your recent research – and you said you do updates a lot. So based on everything that you know today, tell us about some of the recommendations that you have for dream destinations. What are your top five places right now?

Patricia: Well, more so than… In some cases they are specific destinations and in other cases they are experiences, which can be had in a variety of usually similar, but not always, destinations. But the African safari experience, to me, just blew me away. And I was a late convert because I’m a New York City gal and, you know, camping… (Laughs) It takes forever to get there, is not inexpensive, there are too many places closer to home that were also on my list that are also places I wanted to see first, I thought. But somehow I wound up… I was invited or, you know, my friend was… Whatever, I got there and, oh my gosh, it really is just such a very, very, very special experience. So that, to me, is one of the top, top.

Nisreene: Anything for, like, the less adventurous?

Patricia: So safari-wise, you can do Denali National Park, you can go watch the wildlife in the Inside Passage in Alaska. For those traveling domestically, that is far apart from the safari experience. If nature is your thing, I discovered this expression called ‘forest bathing’. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.

Nisreene: We just spoke about it to somebody about that, actually, on the show.

Patricia: The more you do it, the more you realize how invaluable it is and what a beautiful experience it is. And look, in America, we have 63 national parks. They are hundreds of thousands of trillions of square footage or mileage or acres of some of the most beautiful, beautiful countryside and topography and landscape in our country.

Nisreene: What about people who are seeking, sort of, maybe some rest and relaxation?

Patricia: Well, nature will do it for you. I mean – and, you know, you arrive, sometimes, at these gateway towns or cities and, you know, you’re the 73rd car back and you think, “Oh, it’s going to be me and everybody I was trying to avoid in Glacier National Park or in Acadia National Park, in New England, in Maine. But once you get past that bottleneck, there are usually hundreds of miles of marked trails and walks and treks within these national parks. You know, just find yourself a lookout with a big rock and nobody around for miles and sit and drink it all in and be recharged so that Monday morning, you’re back in the office feeling like you can take on the world.

Nisreene: What about beach?

Patricia: So there’s something magical, right, about an island, but also just the coastlines of the world. French Polynesia – which is sometimes referred to as Tahiti, but the country of French Polynesia is over 130 islands, and there are direct flights from the West Coast. So four, six, eight hours, you can be in destinations and cultures entirely foreign and unique to your own. Oh, but French Polynesia. That’s pretty astonishingly gorgeous. That’ll just take your breath away. Those islands are incredible. There are five different island groups and what we usually hear about is Bora Bora and Mo’orea and Tahiti, and they’re all in the same island group. So they’re pretty, incredibly… So it’s very expensive, however. But now what the local government is doing is encouraging people to stay in what are called guesthouses. We all have seen photos of those overwater bungalows and villas that is everybody’s idea of the perfect honeymoon or just the perfect R and R, you know, whether you’re alone or with, you know, your sister. (Laughs) Not as romantic, but oh, are they beautiful? But now you can stay on land in some very beautiful, comfortable and often right on the beach guesthouses for a fraction of the cost.

Nisreene: Any other tips for visiting some of these dream destinations and how people can sort of go about making it a reality, like avoiding certain times so that it’s not as crowded or anything along those lines?

Patricia: Well, I’ve also found that, you know, you think you need to go to Cappadocia in Turkey to take the hot air balloon and, you know, travel over this incredible lunar, otherworldly… But, you know, we have here, in our backyard, things that are quite similar.

Nisreene: Yeah. New Mexico has that – has, like, a big hot air balloon festival. Yeah.

Patricia: And the countryside alone. The topography in Bryce National Park in Utah is pretty similar to what people get on a flight 11 hours to visit in Turkey. Is it the same thing? No. But let’s say you don’t have a passport or you don’t have the money to do something more farther afield. So, you know, don’t be in a, “Woe is me. I can’t afford it.” Be resourceful and look around to what we have more immediate… And consider shoulder season, consider off-season – but be careful, because you don’t want to save up and go to some place that, suddenly, is looking very reasonably priced to find out that yeah, it’s monsoon season and you’re never going to make it outside of your hotel lobby. So just do your homework, you know, make sure that things aren’t reduced and, you know, 60% less for an air ticket for a reason.

Nisreene: You sort of touched on this a little bit, but I wanted to dig in a little more. You mentioned the Warren Buffett comment about doing what you love. But I think, in general, people think about travel, “Oh, I’m going to wait and do my big dream vacation either when it’s my honeymoon or when I’m more financially stable” or “No, I’m going to wait until my kids are in college and when I’m retired.” Why do you think people shouldn’t put off those dream destinations or those dream trips?

Patricia: And it’s the biggest problem that I see in our mindset as Americans.

Nisreene: It is a problem. I agree. It’s a big problem.

Patricia: It is. And people are locked into this bet that they’ve made with themselves that they’ll finally do it when they think they can. But stuff happens. And not just pandemics and not just, you know, global plagues and not just, you know, world-civilization-altering things. But, you know, you lose your job or, you know, you have a family situation or suddenly you need to care for your parents who, until that moment, were relatively fit and healthy. Or you’re in this sandwich generation where you’re caring both for your kids as well as your parents…

Nisreene: Or there’s a global pandemic.

Patricia: Knock on wood, that may never happen to the world again.

Nisreene: Look what happened to Notre Dame.

Patricia: Whoever thought, right? I mean, there are these iconic places and destinations. So really, there are no guarantees. That’s simply it. There are no guarantees.

Nisreene: That’s very true. Very true. So if we think about these types of trips, some could be a little bit daunting for travelers. What do you think might be sort of easier than what people might think and, like, what is harder than what people might think in terms of specific types of trips? Like, to me, a safari feels like the hardest, most complex type of trip, whereas I think a lot of people just associate the farther away it is from where they live, the more complex and the harder the trip’s going to be. What do you think makes a specific trip a little bit more difficult for a traveler to navigate versus one that might be a little bit easier?

Patricia: I think that for every destination in the world – with very few exceptions anymore, it seems – there is a tour operator that specializes in that. And people who think that tour groups and organized trips and expeditions and et cetera, land excursions, are going to be beyond their budget and just over-the-top and not feasible for them – that’s so not true anymore. So if you were trying to create that experience, be it a safari or, you know, three cities in ten days or a destination maybe in the Middle East, like Jordan or Egypt, which is in Africa, but generally loosely considered the Middle East because they’re Arab and Muslim. If you try to arrange those hotels and the guides and, you know, the admission costs to see everything that you see on the itineraries of these group tours, you wouldn’t be able to come close to what they’re offering it for. So I think that tour groups are a very easy way to make these things that just seem bigger than life… Where do you even start? “What do I see? What is there to see? I want the maximum. I want the best out of this this trip or this experience because I’m only going to Egypt once to see the pyramids,” or “I’m only going to to Buenos Aires once to, you know, to the wine country and the pampas and the gauchos and the steak restaurants and the…” you know, everything, the tango lessons. So you’re only going to do it once, and you want to do it… So before you write it off as saying it’s just not possible, you know, do a little bit of homework and you’re usually very positively or pleasantly surprised. A lot of it is very reasonable.

Nisreene: Yeah. All right. Well, let’s talk about budgets a little bit. What do you think somebody maybe needs to budget – and this can be, let’s talk about the lower end and maybe the higher end. What’s the smallest budget you think somebody can have and really do a bucket-list destination?

Patricia: Well, that’s a pretty loaded question.

Nisreene: Let’s say international.

Patricia: What’s your bucket list?

Nisreene: Oh, touché, Patricia, touché.

Patricia: And, really, because we were saying before that it’s such a personal thing. Travel’s a really personal thing. I mean, a lot of people wouldn’t get on a plane to go to Berlin if the ticket was given to them. And a lot of people will save for years, because, you know, they’ve been to Bavaria in Germany and they want to go north. Berlin is happening, it’s very cool and happening and kind of trending and a very progressive city. So, you know, what ticks off everything for one person may just leave the other one cold and indifferent. And that’s why often you should wind up going alone, because, you know, you need to find somebody who has similar tastes as you.

I can’t tell you how many people are not saving their points and it’s just like, you know, miles out the window that… You know, you may not get a free ticket every month-and-a-half, but over the course of a year you can probably accrue enough mileage points with any of the airlines to get you to Europe or to get you to, you know, to Manitoba to see the polar bears or to get you to the Dominican Republic So be very, very conscious that these possibilities are real and they’re, you know, yours for the cost of signing up with a credit card, which sometimes will have joining options that are as much as 30,000, 40,000 miles. And that’s half your ticket to Paris. So go for that.

Nisreene: Yeah, for sure.

Patricia: And so already you have your airline ticket covered, especially if you aren’t going any place in two or three years. That’s a lot of time for you to, you know, accrue those miles and get that part of the budget out of the way.

Nisreene: Do you ever find yourself wanting to sort of push people to dream bigger? Like, because I do think a lot of – you know, just going back to that stat of only 35% having passports. Do you feel like a lot of it might be sort of just, like, fear-based or not wanting to get out of their comfort zone? You know, I’m sure there’s, like, tons of people out there who take the same trip every single year and they’re going to, maybe they’re going to Florida. When you encounter these people, do you feel compelled to really encourage them to stretch their travel imaginations and to really dream bigger? And if so, what are the things that you say to them?

Patricia: So I read once – and I had to pick myself up off the floor – the number of Americans who never leave their state.

Nisreene: Oh, my God. What is it?

Patricia: Yeah, I can’t share it with you because then I would, I would ruin your day. But also, I don’t remember. I think I just blacked it out from my memory.

Nisreene: It’s shocking either way.

Patricia: Yeah, but you know, what was only marginally less shocking is the number of those who never leave their tri-state area, because that was not much better. So I think that people do everything in life out of love or fear. And fear seems to be the most predominant because it’s the scarier of the two. So people, you know, call it whatever they want or they have excuses for days or there’s all kinds of reasons. But life is so short and the world is so big. And one of the… I just wrote a book about why we travel and one of the quotes or the aphorisms I use is that somebody went to a lot of trouble to make this world and you really owe it to yourself and to them to get out and explore and see it. And like we were saying before, it doesn’t need to be extravagant. So let’s say your budget is very modest, but there is so much more beyond just the family cabin. And I think you have to make the concerted effort to open up your head to the possibilities. What’s on offer to you? What is going to fall within your budget? What has your friend been talking about that has really piqued your interest, that has become their favorite place that you never gave much thought to because you didn’t think it was for you or possible for you? So just open your head and then once you get there… Like I said, once you get out the front door, then the rest is a walk in the park. But, really, getting out the front door, as Tony Wheeler, the founder of Lonely Planet, he said, “Getting out the front door is the most difficult part”.

Nisreene: Let me ask you this, Patricia, because I feel like you probably have done an insanely large amount of book tours and, you know, interviews and things like that over the last 20 years. Does… is regret a big thing that people come to you and say, like, “I regret not traveling more when I was younger” or I, I, you know, “I only started traveling, like, later on in life”? Do people bring that up to you at all?

Patricia: Yeah. And I usually get it from older folks. And just two nights ago, at some place I was on the book tour for Why We Travel, a woman said that she so she was one of legions of people who waited until she retired. And this is especially not good because people are retiring later and later in life, often because they have to financially, sometimes because they love their job so much, So, you know, you don’t want to… “Oh, I’m so tired” or, all of a sudden, “My vacation time, I have to use it within the next 48 hours. I didn’t make any plans, so I’m going to organize my closets or I’m going to paint the deck or I’m going to, you know, I don’t know, take the kids out for pizza.” People have all kinds of excuses, but if you want to travel, you need a plan and it has to be your reality and you have to do it. And not just when you’re retiring or when you’re, you know, on your honeymoon. I mean, make that honeymoon happen alone. (Laughs) You know, if you’ve always wanted to go to, you know, St Barts in the Caribbean and you’re waiting for your significant other to appear in your life – well, guess what? That may not happen. Hopefully it does. But the Caribbean Islands, for us, are very easy and they’re not expensive. And if you go off-season when the weather’s lovelier and they’re less crowded, they’re not expensive at all.

Nisreene: True, true.

Patricia: So I think we wait for all the wrong reasons. And I hear the regret thing a lot. And this woman I met two nights ago that I was referring to, she felt very cheated, was the word, from the pandemic, because she said, “It stole three years of my life”. And she said, “At my age…” and she was definitely of an advanced age. She said, “Those three years are like ten”.

Nisreene: Oh, my goodness.

Patricia: And you don’t want to hear that.

Nisreene: That’s heartbreaking. No.

Patricia: And your knees have expiration dates, by the way. You know, you’re fit and you’re physically fit and willing to go now. But will that be the case in five years or ten years or tomorrow? Because stuff happens.

Nisreene: Well, Patricia, before we wrap up, tell us a little bit about your your latest book.

Patricia: So I… you know, it was a result of the pandemic, as so much in our lives was or is. It’s ongoing. And my publisher kicked around this idea that because I had all of this time suddenly – I wasn’t going anywhere, except to the refrigerator. I’m doing a book that was about the ‘why’. You know, the ‘why’ in life is seemingly a very simplistic… You know, we all love to travel. We all – you know, who doesn’t love to travel? But why do we love to, you know? What does it do for us? So I was kind of like the Queen of the Wheres. You know, I’ve got a thousand wheres, but what is the why behind it? And I thought it would be a really easy book to kind of throw it together. But – so, when other people were, you know, organizing their closets, I was organizing my thoughts, and I thought it would take very little time. In fact, it took quite a good chunk of time, but it was a deeper dive, as that expression goes, that we’ve all been using. And, again, it’s a very personal thing for many different people, but the commonality for all of us, I think, is that it feeds our soul. I think it really feeds us and we find it special and invaluable for many different reasons. But it opens us up, it opens our heads, it opens our hearts, it opens our horizons. It’s an education. I always say that it’s a classroom. The world is a classroom without walls. And at the end of the day, it’s really, like, a win-win situation, because you’ve gone away, you know, whether it’s to the Great Smokies now during the autumn time – it’s one of the best places for leaf peeping. I love North and South Carolina. That area up in the Highlands, it’s just fantastic. You’ve had the best time and then you go home and you see things differently and you feel differently about your home. So you have a different appreciation for what you return to.

Nisreene: Travel force for good. That’s what we say.

Patricia: There’s no downside, I think. There’s no… okay, like, a dented budget.

Nisreene: Credit card debt, maybe, if you’re Patricia. But is that even a downside? Probably not.

Patricia: Probably not. Not in the big picture. Not in my book, it’s not.

Nisreene: Well, is it out? Is your book out?

Patricia: Yeah, it just came out. Yeah. And it’s so beautiful and the response has been great and I’m happy because I did take quite a bit of time to… But now, even me, you know, I try not to ever take things for granted, but especially now. I have a real respect for the possibilities that we have as Americans. Whether you’re of those that have a passport or not, we can travel and we can travel easily and we should.

Nisreene: Patricia, thank you so much for coming on the show today. And congratulations on the new book. So exciting.

Patricia: Thank you very, very much. I know, it is exciting if I do say so. Thanks for the kind words.

[Musical interlude]

Nisreene: I absolutely love the episodes where we just talk about these amazing dream vacations, because there is one thing I want you all to do is just feel like, after you listen, that you are absolutely inspired and ready to go and take that trip. So, take Patricia’s advice, use that credit card. I know I do it all the time because I’m trying to maximize all of those points and put them to good use. But just know that we are not responsible for your credit card debt. So pay off and spend wisely.

If budget isn’t an issue, what’s your dream getaway? Tell us on social and tag @Expedia and @PRX.

For more info on episodes, guests, and to find travel inspiration, visit Out Travel The System’s blog at

Well, thank you so much, Patricia, for joining us. If you’re interested in learning more about how to plan and execute that dream vacation, be sure to check out Patricia’s new book, Why We Travel: 100 Reasons to See the World. Really, really awesome, so be sure to go ahead and download that book.

If you have any questions, comments, thoughts, or, better yet, travel suggestions, be sure to DM us. We are @Expedia on Instagram. Oh, and don’t forget to give the show a follow and subscribe on your favorite podcast player so that you don’t miss an episode.
 as soon as it drops.

Out Travel The System is brought to you by Expedia, with special thanks to PRX and Sonic Union. I’m the Executive Producer and your host, Nisreene Atassi. Special thanks to the following:

Additional writing by Kimu Elolia.
Producer Rishika Sharma.
Associate Producers Syma Mohammed and Nathanael Taylor.
Production assistant is Alex Thiel and Carolina Garrigo.
Theme music and original composition by Kevin J Simon.
Music edit, sound design, and mix by Rob Ballingall, and music supervision by Justin Morris.
Executive Producer and Writer Halle Petro.
PRX Executive Producer Jocelyn Gonzalez.

Out Travel the System is recorded with Sonic Union in New York City.

Be sure to tune in next week, when we talk to Siobhan Reid about doppelgänger destinations. What are those? Tune in next week to find out.

Till next time, this is your host, Nisreene Atassi, for Out Travel The System. Find us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. Happy travels!