I never feel guilty about spending money on a trip when I really learn something. I can’t even put a price on the experiences I’ve had on some of my trips. When there’s simply no way you could have gained the same knowledge from a book you know it’s worth doing.

From wine tasting in underground caves in Burgundy, to pig carving in San Sebastian, to a Cava drinking ceremony in Fiji, and seeing curaçao liqueur being made in Curaçao – what made these things real for me was that they were authentic, there was nothing staged. The trend towards what is termed “experiential travel” is not new, but it has been growing steadily over the past few years, particularly as the luxury travel sector – and people who travel despite the economy – are demanding more from their trips.

I admit, I do like a good “fly and flop” vacation once a year, doing nothing else but lazing around on the beach, but if you’re bored after a couple of days, then you’re probably also an experiential traveler.

Experiential travelers want to learn when they travel; they love hearing about local culture, discovering local food, having authentic experiences they could not have at home.

There are a few ways to take a learning vacation:

•    Passion point first: Focus on your interests and find out which countries or cities you’d need to go to do these things, or decide on a destination of particular interest and see what active trips are available there. As a foodie and wine lover, I always take one trip a year with these in mind. As an example, have you ever thought about being a winemaker for a day and blending your own wine? Barrel blending is a great way to learn about this. Just take a look at our Barrel Blending Camp at Judd’s Hill Winery in Napa. In this experience you’ll actually learn how and why wine is blended, get expert advice from a winemaker and walk away with three bottles of your own wine.

Learning how and why wine is blended at Judd’s Hill Winery

•    Destination first: If you have a bucket list of places you want to go, this can be another way of approaching your trips. Once you’ve booked your flights and made other preparations, you need to hunt down the best local experiences. Find out about the regional specialties and local industries – what makes this place really unique? Is your destination known for its great cuisine? Folk arts? Music? Then, follow the locals and find opportunities to take advantage of things you can only do there.

A great way to do this is to ask your friends on Facebook or check out TripAdvisor. Here you’ll find out what are the top things to do in that area and see traveler feedback. When you’re at the hotel it’s a good idea to ask the locals you meet or the concierge and describe what you’re looking to do. You can avoid mass touristy things and have experiences like nowhere else in the world.

•    What’s close to home: Local experiences don’t even have to be an overnight trip. You may find some great learning experiences close to or right in your own city. Who doesn’t love New York pizza? In this week’s experience you can actually learn how to make true Italian pizza from a third-generation pizzaolo. Check out our Neapolitan Pizza Making Class.

If tea is one of your things, or even if you haven’t yet discovered the fascinating world of this ancient drink, you’ll be fascinated when you learn about its intricacies and how to properly taste. I was fascinated by these great Tea Tasting Classes at Harney Soho.

It’s well worth investing in travel that broadens your experiences – even after the vacation is over, you’ll have expertise and skills for a lifetime. These are the trips that transform the way you see other cultures and cuisines. Plus, you’ll have plenty to share with friends when you get home.

Happy travels!

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