BY LISA SANDS
As you map out your next vacation, consider these emerging travel styles.
As any traveler knows, the hassles of “getting there” can consume precious days off from work, not to mention undermine a major goal of the vacation itself: relaxation. So, why not let the journey, not just the destination, be a core element of the trip? Three journey-focused vacations that do just that are river cruises, luxury rail travel and chauffeur-driven trips. Imagine boarding a ship for a cruise on one of the world’s storied waterways, unpacking once, and arriving in a different historic port or charming town each morning. Or board a luxury train to traverse vast countryside in comfort as you visit hard-to-reach locales, take in epic scenery from a domed railcar, and enjoy five-star cuisine and interesting narrative.
Perhaps you’d like to customize your own itinerary and visit places not on the typical tour list, with a knowledgeable chauffeur guiding you through twisting country lanes and glittering cities of Europe. While hiring a chauffeur sounds like something for the rich and famous, it can be surprisingly affordable and provides a vacation that can’t be replicated (your Facebook friends will be so envious!). Nevertheless, if your dream journey is to drive across Europe rather than be driven, you’re in good company. A recent AAA survey revealed that nearly 77 million U.S. adults have driven a vehicle internationally. Just make sure you get your International Driving Permit from AAA before you get on the Autobahn.
Today’s grandparents are typically far healthier and more adventurous than their own grandparents were, and they have the free time and disposable income to take four to five vacations a year. According to a recent AARP study, 15 percent of Baby Boomers say that one of those annual trips will be with their grandkids. Also known as “skip generation” travel (leaving the middle generation at home—to give the parents a break), these trips are often tied to a milestone such as a birthday, an achievement such as college graduation, or an exploration of an ancestral destination, enabling grandparents to leave behind a legacy of family heritage as well as shared memories.
Other top vacation choices for grandparents and their grandkids include active vacations such as touring U.S. national parks or exploring Europe on a moderately paced walking trip, or they might include soft adventures—for example, exploring the lost city at Machu Picchu or the cloud forests of Costa Rica. No matter what their destination, these multigenerational travelers are looking for mind- and body-enriching trips that include upscale accommodations, great food and fun activities for all ages.
Anyone can be a tourist, but it takes curiosity and empathy to be a mindful traveler. As we search for meaning in our complex lives, having significant experiences with loved ones while connecting with people in other cultures has become a valued component of a vacation. Look for locally guided vacations or sightseeing experiences that include genuine, immersive opportunities to allow you to truly get to know a place and its people. For example, on a recent trip to Portugal with Trafalgar Tours, our small group was invited into the home of Manuel de Almeida, owner of Herdade Monte Negro, a horse ranch established in the 18th century. After talking to us about the Lusitano stallions and life on a remote ranch, Almeida and his family shared the midday meal with us—all of it prepared with foods from their farm.
Culinary pursuits are integral to experiencing a destination, and the trend is to go beyond eating at popular top-rated restaurants. Visitors today want to sip craft cocktails in a hidden speakeasy, join in at a “pop-up” venue featuring a celebrity chef, dine in a private apartment with a family in Paris, or share a bottle of wine with the winemaker during a farm-to-table lunch in a Tuscan vineyard. Or, the experience can be as simple as enjoying a cappuccino at the same little café each morning while watching the town come to life and conversing with other early birds to learn more about where to eat, places to visit and other hidden gems to make your trip even more special.
According to market intelligence firm Euromonitor International, just 100 destinations worldwide attracted 46 percent of all travelers. As a result, those popular places are getting more crowded and more expensive as demand outpaces infrastructure. Of course, you must visit such iconic sites as the Eiffel Tower, the Roman Colosseum and Big Ben, but you don’t need to overnight in their shadow.
A trend called second-city travel is on the rise; guests looking to explore a major city based on its draws are choosing to stay in nearby locales that are less frequented and less expensive. Examples include staying in Utrecht, a college town 25 miles outside Amsterdam, or in Manchester, an easy train ride into London or Liverpool. You might still fly into the major city’s airport and perhaps spend a day touring the famous city. Bonus: you can experience public transit and a little more local flavor in the process. In addition to the second-city trend, experienced travelers are choosing to visit remote destinations and far-flung places that haven’t yet been overwhelmed by mainstream tourists—think Vietnam, Cuba, Egypt, the Galápagos or even Alaska’s interior, which are still unspoiled and offer authentic cultural experiences. A trusted travel agent who understands your travel dreams and has traveled extensively can recommend a place that’s off the (literally) beaten path.
From idea-generation and information-gathering to booking tours and sharing reviews and photos, our use of technology has dramatically changed the travel experience. Thanks to augmented reality (AR), you can “walk” through a cruise ship long before you embark on it. Once at your destination, AR allows you to navigate foreign streets or tour world-renowned museums while listening to audio that notes points of interest. You can also use a variety of mobile apps to make dining reservations, plan sightseeing on the fly, check currency exchange rates and communicate in another language with someone you’ve just met. Your phone now serves as your camera, your guide and your wallet, and at some resorts and on cruise ships, it’s also your room key.
If you’re like most people, you’re probably already getting suggestions from your smartphone for places you might enjoy visiting. Prompts such as these might lead you to discover the perfect idea for a micro trip—another emerging trend. A micro trip is a keenly focused experience that must be expertly planned to make the most of a short time frame. This type of trip might center on hard-to-get tickets to the year’s biggest Broadway spectacular, a long-awaited dinner reservation at one of the world’s leading restaurants, or a visit to our Nation’s Capital on the exact dates when the cherry blossoms are at their peak. To make the most of a micro trip, you’ll need more than technology on your side; you’ll need an expert travel agent to handle the details, so be sure to get in touch with AAA.Read more articles