As the warm, sun-kissed days of summer approach, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about and planning a summer filled with outdoor adventures that will forge lasting family memories. Summer is a season brimming with opportunities to escape the confines of indoor routines and embrace the wonders of the great outdoors. Today, Courtney Cronin of Wild Migration Family will show you how to take advantage of this precious time and create a summer bucket list for your family, filled to the brim with exhilarating outdoor activities. She’ll guide you through the process of curating an enchanting summer bucket list that promises cherished moments and bonds that will endure a lifetime.

Now is the time to create your summer bucket list

As the weather begins to transition from the coolness of winter to the warmth of summer, there is a sense of renewal and anticipation in the air. Spring brings a renewed energy and a feeling of excitement, making it the perfect time to brainstorm and plan for the upcoming summer adventures. Summer will be here before you know it, so it’s time to get started on your summer bucket list.

As a kid, summer felt everlasting. As an adult, it feels like we blink three times, and it’s over.  By starting to make your summer bucket list now, you can maximize your summer fun as you plan! You have ample time to research, gather information, and make necessary arrangements for the activities on your bucket list. Whether it’s booking campsites, researching hiking trails, or planning day trips to local attractions, having a head start allows you to secure reservations and ensure smooth logistics.

In this post, you’ll find tips and tricks for creating a summer bucket list to help set your summer up for success– supporting memorable adventures and family growth. Whether you seek thrilling escapades, tranquil explorations, or moments of pure relaxation, the options are endless for a summer filled with outdoor adventure.

What’s a summer bucket list?

A summer bucket list is a collection of activities, experiences, and goals you and your family want to accomplish during the summer. It’s a way to create a roadmap of adventures, both big and small, that will make the most of the season. By involving your kids in the process of creating a summer bucket list, you not only empower them to have a say in the family’s activities but also foster their creativity, curiosity, and sense of exploration.

Creating a bucket list together allows your kids to dream big and think outside the box while actively participating in the planning process. Making a summer bucket list together as a family not only builds anticipation and excitement but also strengthens the bond between family members as you embark on shared experiences and create lifelong memories. It encourages quality time spent together, away from screens and distractions, and enables you to discover new places, try new activities, and explore the beauty of nature together. It’s a chance to break away from routines, step out of your comfort zone, and make the most of the fleeting summer months.

We are a bucket list family

I am a BIG bucketlist person. We, collectively as a family, make one every season to ensure we are intentional about setting goals and carving out time for the things we value most. Bucket lists can help increase buy-in (from everyone), keep us on the same page, and help ensure we’re living our lives with intention. 

If you’re new to bucket lists, summer is the perfect season to start. The long days and forgiving schedule of summer make bucket lists both exciting (for dreaming) and invaluable (for structure and planning). For me, it’s crucial that my bucket lists are diverse in both intensity and scope. I include goals that are big and challenging, and also the small, easy-to-accomplish glue-like pieces that keep us moving and happy. We need it all!

How to make a summer bucket list together as a family

We always make our seasonal bucket lists together as a family. In many ways, treat it as a code we’re committing to because in order for any of the stuff to happen, we all have to be on board, invested, and involved in the pieces. Everyone also naturally has their own ideas, interests, and priorities; sharing these can be really grounding as a family. 

When planning your summer bucket list with your kids, it’s essential to foster open and engaging conversations that allow everyone’s ideas to be heard and considered. There are so many ways to frame this process, but essentially we just sit down and talk about what sorts of things we want to do and dig into this coming season.

The planning process is an opportunity to bond, communicate, and create a shared vision for the summer. Encourage your kids to express themselves freely and embrace their imaginative ideas. By involving them in the decision-making, you empower them to take ownership of the summer bucket list and ensure a memorable and fulfilling summer for the entire family.

How to plan and research your summer bucket list activities

Researching and selecting activities for your family’s summer bucket list can be an exciting and enriching process. Here are some tips to help you research and choose activities that will make your summer truly memorable:

Gather inspiration

Start by gathering inspiration from various sources. Look for travel blogs, websites, magazines, and social media platforms that feature family-friendly activities and destinations. Follow outdoor adventure pages and explore hashtags (including #runwildmychild) related to family adventures and summer activities. Pinterest can also be a great resource for visual inspiration and ideas.

Utilize online resources such as travel websites, outdoor recreation websites, and review platforms. These resources often provide detailed information about popular attractions, hiking trails, water parks, campsites, and other outdoor activities. Read reviews and look for activities that have positive feedback and align with your family’s interests.

Seek local recommendations

Reach out to friends, family, and local community groups for recommendations of things to do nearby. Ask for their favorite outdoor activities, hidden gems, unique attractions, or family-friendly events happening in your area during the summer. Local tourism websites or visitor centers can also provide valuable information on attractions and activities suitable for families.

Consider age, interests, and skill levels

Take into account the age, interests, and skill levels of your family members when selecting activities. Ensure that the activities you choose are suitable and enjoyable for everyone involved. Look for options that offer varying difficulty levels or have options for beginners and more experienced participants. Discuss your family’s shared interests in outdoor activities. Talk about the activities you enjoy as a family, such as hiking, biking, swimming, camping, or picnicking. Explore any new activities they might want to try, such as stand-up paddleboarding, rock climbing, or fly fishing.

Weather and seasonal considerations

Consider the weather and seasonal factors when planning your activities. Some activities, like swimming, boating, or water sports, are perfect for hot summer days, while others, like hiking or nature walks, may be more enjoyable during cooler parts of the day. Make sure to plan accordingly to optimize your experiences. 

Mix thrills and tranquility

Be sure to include a mix of thrilling and relaxing activities in your summer bucket list to cater to different interests and preferences within your family. This can range from adventurous activities like ziplining or kayaking to tranquil experiences like picnicking in a beautiful park, reading outside in a hammock, or stargazing on a clear night.

Look for learning opportunities

Look for activities that provide opportunities for learning and personal growth, for both adults and kids. This could involve visiting museums, historical sites, or nature reserves where your family can discover and appreciate new knowledge and perspectives.

Our bucket list planning process

There’s no right or wrong way to choose the activities on your summer bucket list. Some folks love websites and books for ideas and inspiration. We’re big map people, so inevitably, a map always gets pulled out somewhere in our planning process. 

In planning our summer bucket list, we usually try to include the following activities:

  • 1-2 big summer adventures
  • 6-10 “can’t do summer without” type activities
  • 1-2 ongoing home-based activities
  • 4-8 challenges

These numbers are obviously fluid and can be changed according to your family’s needs and desires. Every family has a different capacity and schedule. My husband is a teacher, so we have full-on open family summers. This means our summer bucket list goals are quite ambitious, to maximize our time together as a complete family unit.

Consider what would work best for your family, both for your time and your budget. You want your bucket list to feel inspiring, not overwhelming, so while you can certainly get ambitious, don’t stress out about having to do it all. Make it manageable and set yourself up for success, so don’t layer on more than you can handle.

Big summer adventures

We usually add 1-2 “big summer adventures” to our summer bucket list. These are the adventures that push your edge and require more planning and prep. Usually, this means travel, reservations, potential gear investments, and vacation time taken from work.

In order to hone in on what these should be, think about what you currently do that your whole family enjoys and is within your comfort zones, and then push into this. It’s incredible how habitual we can become, and how much we miss out on as a result. Use this summer to lean into what you love, and plan an adventure that will push you a bit further.

  • Do you always go to the same beach or trail? This summer, make a goal to check out some new places. Find trails using the Alltrails app or look up local Land Trusts.
  • Want to adventure with friends? Find a local playgroup or family meet-up, such as a Forest Playgroup or Hike it Baby branch, or set a day each week that you’re going to adventure with friends. Don’t have a group in your area? Start one! Be an adventure friend to others. 
  • Feel comfortable on day trips? Level up and plan an overnight camping trip! Check out a local campground. Don’t wait to make reservations as many campgrounds, particularly these days, book up and book up fast. If it’s your first time camping, chose a campground in an area you’re familiar with. We’ve got a great resource for parents camping with kids for the first time
  • Car camping pro? Why not try backpacking! Pick a hike-in site next time you make a reservation, or plan an overnight backpacking or canoe camping trip. Regardless of how many packing lists you check out, prepping for these trips will be a learning curve. Surrender to that reality and trust that once you can figure out how to go light in a way that makes sense for your family, the world becomes your oyster.

Plan easily doable adventures

It’s clutch to have easily doable adventures on your bucket list. These are the small activities or gatherings that don’t take a ton of planning or prep, but you want to make sure you don’t go the whole summer without missing! These can be the tried-and-true summer traditions that you do every year, or new small things you’ve been wanting to try. Write them down to make sure you don’t breeze past them.

  • Ice cream party (either at that favorite ice cream shop, or buy the supplies and have an ice cream party picnic somewhere)
  • Sunset picnic
  • Sunrise hike
  • Fish a nearby river
  • Explore a “new to you” park or hiking trail
  • Scenic bike ride
  • Baseball game 
  • Family movie night (in the backyard or at a drive-in)
  • Friend/cousin sleepover
  • Swimming at your nearby beach or pool
  • Pick-your-own fruit at an orchard
  • Fort slumber party
  • Beach BBQ with friends
  • Kids’ “yes” day (Pro tip: Set guidelines in advance to set them up for success)

Map out some all-weather challenges

Sure, sunshine and summer feel kind of synonymous, but there inevitably will be some not-beach-perfect days. With our changing climate, we never know just how many perfect summer days we’ll have each year. Therefore, we always plan for this by including some “all-weather” activities and challenges on our bucket list.

  • Go for a hike in the rain. (One further: After, have kids create a packing list for all the things they need when hiking in the rain.)
  • Search for amphibians in the woods on a wet day (One further: Do research on the species you found and create a bio card about it)
  • Fly a kite on a windy day (One further: Go to multiple fields on a windy day, track the windspeed at each site, and compare how the kite flew differently.)
  • Create a watercolor painting on a stormy day (One further: Track the clouds with timed watercolor paintings throughout the day.)
  • Build a leakproof fort outside when it’s raining (One further: Have them sketch their structure like an engineer.)
  • Track the sounds of nature when it’s storming (One further: Research how weather affects birds, and what clues you can tune into to know when a storm is approaching.)

Engage in ongoing home-based activities

While much of summer adventuring happens outside of the home, make sure to include some home-based activities on your summer bucket list. Having some creative and engaging projects can help make home time feel both slow and meaningful. 

  • Raise a monarch (One further: document its development with a monarch journal)
  • Plant a garden (One further: Make a garden map. Track growth and harvest on a calendar. Kids create a responsibility chart for garden maintenance.)
  • Make a recipe book (One further: Have kids illustrate step-by-step recipe instructions.)
  • Make art (One further: Visit an art museum and map out key features– artist bios, art piece descriptions, etc. Have kids chart out their own art show. Kids create invites, with bios, to invite family/friends. They write descriptions for their pieces. Design their art displays. Prepare hors d’oeuvres, etc)
  • Reading Challenge (Many local libraries have excellent summer reading programs. If yours doesn’t, make your own up. A simple board game blueprint with reading time goals and incentives along the way can be magic.)
  • Put on a talent show (One further: Let each kid choose their talent to perform for an audience. Let them create tickets and a program. Invite friends, neighbors, and family. Maybe they want to sell refreshments and set up seating arrangements.) 

Curate some kid challenges

Summer is a great time to build kid life skills and let your kids take on greater responsibility. What better way to do this than through fun challenges? We always love to think about what are some of the “next level” things our kids are ready for, and how we can get some practice through fun challenges.

Integrate these into your bucket list by including a few “kid challenges.” Don’t name the actual task on the bucket list, but instead, write “kid challenge,” pick a day, and give them a card that maps out their challenge. They check off a kid challenge on the bucket list when they complete it. Some kids may need more help if these are new skills. There’s no cheating here; make a checklist of things they need to remember in order to succeed. 

Here are some fun ideas for kid challenges that not only challenge them, but teach them skills in the process: 

  • Kids pack for the beach/a hike/an overnight sleepover
  • Let the kids plan and cook dinner (from making a grocery list to serving)
  • Kids bake a dessert for a friend or neighbor
  • Have them make and deliver breakfast in bed for the parents
  • Kids do their own laundry– from hamper to drawer
  • Build map reading skills by letting them plan a route for a family bike ride

Support the spontaneous

Part of the beauty of summer is having greater time and space for spontaneity. Allow your bucket lists to hold space for the magic of in-the-moment adventures and plan-making. If you have a hard time with spontaneous plan-making, include that in your bucket list as one of your challenges! Add “Say yes to a spontaneous adventure with friends” as one of your bucket list items. Just having that intention out there may make it easier to prioritize and make happen.

Final notes on summers with kids

At best, we have 18 summers with our kids. Sure, there are lots of variables there and different definitions, but I think about this A LOT. Particularly, as my oldest is just about to turn 10, which means we’re over the halfway mark. This keeps a lot in perspective and pushes me to really make the most of each day we have together. I think about all the ways that I want him and his sister to remember the seasons of their childhood, which are all too fleeting. And arguably, there is no season more memorable than summer. 

This is the first summer in 5 years we’ll be in our home State of Maine. After traveling around North America and Central America over the last few years, I have decided that nowhere beats a summer in New England. (There’s something magical about loving where you live.) The weather is glorious, there are clean rivers and lakes, the ocean water is warm(ish), and there is a plethora of epic outdoor adventuring– from lobstering to hiking, and everything in between.

Most importantly, Maine is home, so I know exactly when my favorite wildflowers are in bloom, what beaches have the sweetest tide pools, and the best spots to watch the sunset. The summer countdown is officially on, so we’re soon to be charting out our summer bucket list– tapping into the joys of home and making sure to discover new places and push ourselves to try different things. 

What will you include in your summer bucket list?

About the author

Courtney’s the homeschooling mother of two wild and kind kids, the founder of 2 non-profit organizations, an avid traveler, and a passionate experiential educator. She has spent the better part of the last two decades traveling around the US and Central America – first as a part of her traveling high school, where she lived out of a converted school bus and slept in tents every night for 4 years, and, more recently, traveling with her family – from following animal migration routes to Mexico to fishing in Southeast Alaska. Rooted in Maine, she is passionate about immersive education. When not on the road with her family, she is busy organizing educational immersives, from tapping maple trees to tagging Monarchs and facilitating outdoor adventure programs, from hiking to ice fishing. Whether hauling lobster traps or monitoring salamanders, she works to make learning fun, engaging and interactive. She’s excited to share her love for nature, travel, and outdoor adventures with the Run Wild My Child community.

You can find more from Courtney online in the following locations:
Instagram: @wildmigrationfamily
Website: Wild Migration
RWMC posts: Courtney Cronin