ULTIMATE TRAVEL BUCKET LIST: 30 things to do before 30!

ULTIMATE TRAVEL BUCKET LIST: 30 things to do before 30! Pinterest image

ULTIMATE TRAVEL BUCKET LIST: 30 things to do before 30!

Your twenties are without a doubt one of the best times of your life. It’s a time where you’re figuring everything out and deciding what you want out of life. But most importantly – it’s a time when your aim is to have as much fun as you possibly can!

With typically fewer responsibilities and things tying you down, your twenties are the perfect time to tick some epic things off your bucket list. Here is the ultimate travel bucket list of 30 things to do before 30!

1) Travel solo!

It’s first on my list of “30 things to do before 30” because in my opinion it’s the most important!

Travelling solo is a total rite of passage. It’s something that everyone should do at least once in their life, but especially before turning 30!

When you travel solo, you push yourself completely out of your comfort zone to experience new things and places. Travelling solo also gives you that much needed time to sit with yourself and evaluate where you’re at in life and where you want to go.

So go on a solo adventure and get to know yourself. This may be the only time you get to really dedicate to understanding what makes you tick.

There’s also nothing better than going on a solo adventure and not having to compromise on where to go and what you do. You are the captain of this ship and you can just enjoy the journey however you want to curate it.

Learn more about my journey solo travelling for the first time in my blog post, “Why I took a year off blogging: Break ups, backpacking and beginning again”.

Mel looking back over her shoulder
Watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat on my first solo trip

2) Go skydiving

I know the thought of skydiving for some will be absolutely terrifying. But it’s probably one of the most awesome things to knock off your bucket list in your 20s!

Skydiving is one of the most exciting and exhilarating things you’ll ever do. But it’s so much more than the thrill of jumping out of a plane, it’s about facing your fears.

People that have skydived say that a true transformation takes places within them. The fear triggers your fight or flight response and you go into sensory overload and you lose track of all time and space. It’s the closest thing you’ll get to flying and no one ever came back from a skydive regretting it!

I believe that once in a while we have to do things that scare us to really appreciate being alive and they say the best placed things are on the other side of our fears. So what you waiting for? 😉

If you’re looking for more extreme sport bucket list ideas check out my top 10.

Man tandem skydiving over palm island in Dubai

3) Visit every continent

This might seem like a big ask. But it’s just to get a taste for broadening your horizons as much as you can in order to set the scene for later.

A part from Antarctica which is more difficult and expensive to get to, visiting at least one country in each of the other continents (Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America and Australia/Oceania) are totally conquerable before you turn 30.

Even if you focus on saving up for just one trip a year – it’ll be an awesome accolade to take with you into your 30s.

Mel walking in front of one of the gates of the imperial palace in Huế in Vietnam
Visiting the former Imperial Palace in Huế in Vietnam

4) Reach the summit of a mountain

There’s nothing more physically and mentally challenging than climbing a mountain. Yet nothing more physically and mentally rewarding. Now, this isn’t me saying: “F it, let’s go climb Everest!” – especially as it has a rather high 14% fatality rate! You can start small with mountains in the UK such as Snowdon in Wales.

The great thing about Snowdon is just how accessible it is. There are routes for varying ability levels which makes it the perfect mountain for seasoned as well as first-time climbers.

If you fancy giving it a go, here are 15 tips for climbing Snowdon, to ensure you get to the top.

Mel at the top of the summit at Snowdon wearing a lightning bolt jumper
On the summit of Snowdon – pleased as punch!

5) Go diving with sharks

Something that is still unfortunately on my bucket list today is swimming with sharks…any sharks!

Go cage diving with the Great Whites in South Africa, swim alongside the gentle giant Whale Sharks in Mexico or hand feed reef sharks in the Bahamas.

Whatever capacity you swim with sharks in – it’s an awesome animal encounter of epic proportions you will never forget!

Man taking s selfie whilst swimming with whale sharks

6) Volunteer abroad

This is something I wish I had done in my 20s. Volunteering abroad is not only a life changing experience but one that will have an impact on you for the rest of your life.

Whether it’s helping conserve wildlife, teaching English, empowering women or assisting in construction and renovation – there is a volunteer program to suit the time and interests you have in the countries you’re most keen to travel to.

There are so many ‘volunteer abroad’ programmes for all ages but there’s something about going in your 20s that makes the trip that more special as you’re taking part in an experience that is going to help shape your perspective on the world.

Hand feeding an elephant

7) Go backpacking

Another incredible rite of passage of being in your 20s. It was always a dream of mine to go backpacking but I never got round to it in my 20s. Like with most things you, ‘plan to do someday’ there was always an excuse: not enough money, work, partner…the list goes on.

What I actually ended up learning through going backpacking is that the ‘when’ is up to you. There is always going to be a reason not to go and there will never be a ‘right’ time. You need to make a plan and just go. 

It was one of the best experiences of my life. Every day brought new experiences and challenges which I loved embracing.

Before this trip I had never backpacked, ‘roughed’ it in any sense or even travelling extensively on my own before.

I learned so much about myself and really enjoyed being out of my comfort zone. I discovered how much I enjoyed travelling so simply and could literally fall asleep anywhere! Train bunkbeds, buses, station floors…you name it, if I had a pashmina over my head I was asleep!

Girls having street food sat on the street holding bowls of noodles
Enjoying street noodles in Vietnam with new backpacker friends

8) Go on an African Safari

If you’re a lover of travel and wildlife, an African Safari is most likely already on your “30 things to do before 30” bucket list. But if it isn’t, I insist you immediately add it as going on safari is such an unforgettable experience!

Whether you want to get up close and personal with Africa’s legendary “big 5”, see the Great Migration or just take a relaxing trip to Africa – going on safari will not disappoint!

Having been on safari in Kenya, I can vouch for the fact that these amazing photos of animals getting up close and personal with your safari van are the real deal. It’s positively the greatest wildlife show on Earth and not to be missed!

Open car in an African Safari with elephants in front on the path

9) Take at least one trip with your best friends

Going on a trip with your best friends in your 20s when you have fewer responsibilities and fewer coupled up friends is crucial! As important as solo travel can be, the windows of opportunity to travel with your friends get smaller and smaller as you grow up.

We’re also so often wrapped up in first relationships in our teens and early twenties. So if you and a few of your friends are single – these trips are even more important!

One of my all-time favourite best friend trips was for my friend Kate’s 30th. We were two single girls partying and sightseeing in one of the most exciting cities in Europe. We stayed at the super fancy W Hotel on Barcelonetta Beach, went to the top of Sagrada Familia, visited Camp Nou, went on the cable cars to Montjuïc Castle and partied for three nights on the go. It. Was. So. Much. FUN! 

The bonding you experience while travelling with your friends is like no other.

Two girls outside the W Hotel sign in Barcelona
Celebrating Kate’s 30th birthday in Barcelona

10) Go bungee jumping

Bungee jumping won’t be for everyone but it’s one to bookmark if you’re looking to face your fears!

But it’s not just about conquering obvious fears like the fear of heights or open spaces. Bungee jumping can also represent the fears you want to conquer in your life and this is the perfect way to face those head on…literally.

There are so many epic destinations with incredible views where you can go bungee jumping which will only add to this awesome memory.

Some suggested destinations by bungee enthusiasts include, Macau Tower in China, The Pipeline Bungee in New Zealand, The Verzasca Dam in Switzerland and the Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa.

So enjoy the view and add a dash of adrenaline to that next big trip!

Girl bungee jumping from a platform against a blue sky

11) Experience living abroad

Increase your independence, your confidence and your worldly experience whilst getting out of your routine by living abroad. Travel always broadens your mind but living abroad you appreciate a country’s culture and heritage on a whole new level.

It’s also an amazing way to gain valuable life and professional experiences too. So far I’ve lived in the UK, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE and I’d love to live abroad again someday!

Mel taking a selfie wearing an abaya and head scarf with the background of a mosque and elaborate decorated ceiling
Visiting Dubai’s Blue Mosque

12) Travel to one of the least-visited countries in the world

Stray away from the well-worn paths of the thousands of tourists before you by travelling to one of the least visited destinations in the world. Some of the most magnificent places have yet to be explored by many foreigners and there are loads of destinations that are little-visited that are prime pickings for exploration!

Countries such as Dominica in the Caribbean, Moldova in Europe and the Solomon Islands in Oceania get fewer than 150,000 visitors per year and are well worth visiting! You’ll be able to enjoy a more authentic experience and be a trail blazer for your fellow travellers.

After all this is what travel is all about!

13) Get a travel tattoo

This one won’t be for everyone but if you’re already toying with the idea of getting a tattoo – during an epic adventure is the time to do it! It’ll serve as an awesome visual souvenir of your time travelling and you’ll have some cool ink to show off to everyone once you get home.

I very nearly got a tattoo whilst I was backpacking just before the pandemic but I was concerned I was being too impulsive (I’m notorious for getting carried away!).

I’ve always wanted to get a travel tattoo but I’ve gone back and forth so long on placement and design I just couldn’t commit. But now I think it would be so cool to have one.

Girl sat on a tree stump overlooking a lake in the forest

14) Travel through Europe by train

Europe is so well connected through its extensive train systems that it makes for the perfect road (or track!) trip.

Travelling by train through Europe is actually a lot more efficient and affordable than flying. Plus you won’t lose loads of time through transfers and the multiple layers of security at the airport.

You can just kick back and relax whilst enjoying the changing landscapes and wake up rested and ready to explore in your next destination.

It’s a great way to “road” trip without the difficulty of reading maps and road signs in a foreign country and you get to save money on hotels too.

Orange train on a track in the middle of snowy mountains

15) Try out van life

I’m slightly biased on this point as I’ve been obsessed with van life for years! Ever since I saw the documentary, “Expedition Happiness” where a couple from Berlin travel across Canada, the US and Mexico in their converted school bus – I was hooked! I’ve always been drawn to the sense of freedom that van life seems to bring.

It’s a great way to slow travel through different countries with all the comforts of home on wheels and super cost effective too! You don’t have to factor in rent, utility bills and annoying neighbours whilst you travel. It’s just you and the road baby!

So why not give it a try? You don’t even have to go to the extreme of spending a fortune renovating a van and selling all your belongs. There are loads of companies that rent vehicles out so you can just trial it as a lifestyle.

Mel in a green field with a blue bus in the background
Trialing van life by staying in a converted American school bus in Cumbria

16) Go wild camping

Nothing will make you feel more like a true adventurer than going wild camping in a fabulously mountainous destination!

Enjoy a night under the stars, reconnecting with nature and your fellow travellers whilst disconnecting from the stresses of every day life.

The great thing about wild camping is how accessible it is to everyone, yet not a lot of people have tried it. So make it your mission to give it a go in your wild and free 20s!

Two tents wild camping with mountains and a lake in the background

17) Travel somewhere it’s difficult to get a visa

Countries such as Russia, Saudi Arabia and China all have lengthy visa processes which can deter travellers from going. But this is exactly why you should apply and go because fewer travellers will ever get the chance to! But trust me, I know the pain of visa applications!

For my 30th birthday, my family and decided to forego the usual family tourist spots and go to Moscow for a week – I was so excited! We applied for our visas around 4-6 weeks before but with only a couple of weeks to go they still hadn’t arrived.

We called and chased and no one seemed to know what had happened to these visas. In the end, after much pressing (no one had thought to contact us and ask) it turned out we had to provide additional details on my then boyfriend’s job. He worked for a media organisation at the time and they were suspicious of his “true” intentions for entering Russia.

After clarifying with a written reference that his job was not in journalism but in developing software the visas were issued. They arrived the afternoon before the morning we flew out – it was stressful!

But Russia turned out to be like nowhere I’d been before or since! We visited Red Square, Saint Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin, The Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics, the Moscow markets and even a very pickled Lenin! Lenin was freaky though – I wouldn’t recommend doing that.

Of course you can’t travel to Russia right now, but you get my point. Apply for those difficult to get visas because you’ll thank yourself for it later when you return home with loads of cool stories.

Mel in front of the kremlin in Red Square Russia
Outside Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square

18) Go to a cultural festival

Whether it’s celebrating or a matter of life and death, each country has their own unique celebration or festival that makes visiting so much more fun!

At the top of my bucket list I’ve got, Diwali – India’s festival of lights, Dia De Los Muertos – Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebration, Mardi Gras – New Orleans’ end of pre-Lenten season celebration and Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

Attending festivals like these is an amazing way to get to know a country’s cultural heritage better. It also offers you a chance to be part of a large scale celebration alongside locals.

Woman dressed up in a red head dress and outfit with her face painted like a skeleton during a parade on Day of the Dead in Mexico
Day of the Dead parade in Mexico

19) Go to a international music festival

Enjoy the glitter, music, drinking games and general vibe of debauchery while there is no responsibility in sight!

Whether it’s Coachella in the States, Glastonbury in the UK or Tomorrowland in Belgium – experience at least one internationally renowned music festival in your 20s!

Music festival stage at night with big screens and fireworks going off in the sky
Tomorrowland in Belgium

20) Learn how to make a traditional dish from a local

All of us have memories of food that take us back to a certain time and place. For me, whenever I eat crispy spring rolls and Thai red curry, I’m transported back to my time in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This is why I highly recommend you learn to cook a traditional dish from a local. Not just to add to your life skills but to help lock in those memories that can often slip away overtime.

Any memory involving food is vivid and sometimes feels more evocative than other types of memories because they’re linked to our senses. Plus, learning to cook from a local is a lot of fun too!

While I was in Chiang Mai I was taught how to make various dishes at a local culinary school and loved it. I even went food shopping with the teacher to a local market to get fresh ingredients.

Take the time to learn a national dish from one of your favourite countries and let those sweet travel feelings wash over you in the future.

Mel in the kitchen at a cooking class wearing a blue apron and white chef's hat

21) Learn to scuba dive

I started learning to scuba dive when I turned 30 and really enjoyed it but sadly gave it up once life started getting in the way. I wish I’d finished the qualification now with the amount of travelling I went on to do. It’s never too late to start again though!

Scuba diving allows you unique access to things that not everyone gets to see such as a wide variety of marine life, coral reefs, caves and even ship wrecks. It takes time to get qualified but it’s so worth it!

Blonde woman scuba diving next to a reef with orange fish

22) Make friends whilst travelling that you’ll stay in touch with for life!

I love the way that travel brings people together. The great thing about travelling (particularly in your 20s) is how easy it is to make friends on the road. On any normal “holiday” I’m guilty of just wanting to relax and hang out with the ones I’m with. You’re away for such a short period of time, you just want to switch off. But when you’re able to travel long-term, it’s so much easier to make new friends.

Some of the most inspiring and fun people I’ve ever met have been while I’ve been travelling. It’s even better when you just know you’ll be friends for life too! As the great Charles M. Schulz once said: “In life, it’s not where you go – it’s who you travel with.”

Check out more inspirational travel with friends quotes.

Group of friends hiking messing around

23) Go on a trek

I’d never really been properly hiking before the pandemic. But as soon as everything shut down and we had to stay two metres a part, hiking became a real escape.

I’ve always appreciated a fantastic view – who doesn’t? But I found the process of getting to a viewpoint through hiking so much more rewarding. Not to mention I love being outside in nature and getting that blood pumping!

There are so many treks that I have on my bucket list including the Base Camp of Everest, Mount Kilimanjaro and the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. But any trek that takes you out of your head and puts you in the moment is a winner. It’s the ultimate test of your physical and mental capabilities as you climb towards a once-in-a-lifetime sight.

Hiker on Everest

24) Stay in a luxury hotel for a night

You don’t often think about luxury when you’re in your 20s. But I urge you to do it now before mortgages and kids get in the way!

I’ve been lucky enough to spend a night in two of the most luxurious hotels in the world. One was at the Burj Al Arab when my best friend’s parents had a membership at its sister hotel, The Jumeirah Beach Hotel. They spent two years saving enough loyalty points to win a night’s stay for a family of four. Luckily I got to tag along as the fourth member of the Hamam family!

It was a bizarre experience. Bizarre in that you can’t believe that anyone could live a life of luxury like this all the time! We stayed in a hotel “room” which was essentially a duplex apartment. It came with a hot tub, sea views and a 24 hour personal butler. Prices start from around a heart-stopping £1,000 per night and go up to almost £3,000. It was so much fun living the life of luxury for one night though.

Keep an eye out for deals and low season prices though – you’d be surprised. Even the most expensive and most luxurious hotels in the world don’t want to have empty beds.

Mel stood in front of the Burj Al Arab wearing blue overalls
Outside the Burj Al Arab in Dubai

25) Fly business class

Speaking of luxury – next up on this “30 things to do before 30” travel bucket list is fly business class. I preface this by saying it doesn’t have to be a long expensive flight! But after years of budget airlines and tight economy seats, treat yourself to just one flight as a Queen.

Again, keep an eye out for deals on this one. If you opt for a mid-range airline and fly low-season you could find it’s not much more expensive than economy. And it’s just for one trip to enjoy the extra leg room, better food and fewer crying babies!

26) Attend a major international event

The World Cup, the Olympics, the Common Wealth Games…whatever you’re into! Enjoy being in the thick of an international event at least once before you’re 30. It may be more expensive to travel during the event but it’ll be a travel memory you’ll always treasure.

In years to come people will say: “Remember when….” and you’ll be able to say: “I know I was there!” and be able to follow up with the most awesome stories!

Skiers with the olympics symbol in the background

27) Visit a remote or deserted island

There’s nothing like getting off the beaten track than by visiting a remote island. I did this while I was backpacking on a small island in Cambodia and it was so cool! There was no wifi or signal on the island and no electricity in the beach cabins. It felt like we were the only people in the world.

At first I was a little rattled as I liked staying in touch with friends and family back home. But after a night, I loved the simplicity of life on the island. No stress, no responsibilities, just a hammock and star-filled sky. It was amazing.

Mel walking over a bridge on an sandy island with palm trees in the background

28) Go wild swimming

Wild swimming is fantastic if you love being in nature and feeling the rhythms of natural water flow. And if you’re reading this blog – I can already tell that this is you!

Wild swimming is a great way to make exercising fun whilst you’re travelling. Especially when you’ve been throwing back a few too many piña coladas whilst lying by the beach! Although tbf – is there really a cocktail limit whilst on holiday?

But wild swimming isn’t just good for your physical fitness, it also does wonders for your mental health. Swimming in cold water in particular will give you a sense of elation and relaxation. It even relives symptoms of depression and boosts your immune system.

If you dare – go skinny dipping to up the ante! 😉

Dark haired girl with her back to the camera wild swimming in a lake with green mountains in the background

29) Learn a language abroad

One of the greatest ways to connect with people from another country is by speaking their language. It deepens your connection to their culture and fosters an appreciation for the traditions, religions, arts, and history of the people associated with that language.

There are so many cognitive benefits to learning a language as well, including: improved memory, enhanced concentration and better listening skills.

There are courses you can take at home and loads of free online resources you can check out. Honestly though, there is nothing like going to the country and learning from the locals.

It’s so much easier to learn a language when you’re in the thick of it and have no other option. You’ll also pick up more words than you ever would learning from an app and you can’t measure the gains you’ll experience from practising every day with native speakers.

30) Make a list of everything you want to do before you turn 40

So, you’ve conquered your “30 things to do before 30” travel bucket list. Now it’s time to set a load of new travel goals to achieve before you hit naughty 40!

How many things have you achieved on this “30 things to do before 30” travel bucket list? Are there any you think I should have added? Let me know in the comments below! 😄

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