Last Updated on April 4, 2018 by Janet Frost
Last weekend I did a little vicarious traveling. I attended the Travel and Adventure Show in Chicago. In the Midwest we get through winters by dreaming and planning of distant shores. A travel show is a perfect opportunity to explore and learn about a multitude of travel options under one roof. Major cruise lines were present, AAA had a massive booth, ecotourism, adventure travels and wellness tourism were represented. Every continent, many countries, most states and a vast number of islands were hawking their destinations. By the end of 5 hours my head was spinning and my swag bag needed wheels. As I spent the next week sorting through glitzy promotionals I had to ask myself: “What travel style is best suited for me?”
Organized Group Tours vs Self-Planned Travel
Travel bloggers have this debate quite often. I will own up to being a bit judgmental about organized group trips. Unfortunately, group tours have a reputation of elderly tourists piling on and off a bus for the early-bird specials. Some of this is based in fact and some is a misconception. The major issue with group travel is the difficulty finding an authentic experience with 30 fellow bus passengers or worse, 1000+ fellow cruise ship dwellers.
Cruises/Coach Bus Tours
Organized group trips are not my chosen travel style. However, there are some real advantages to these groups. Cruise-lovers tout the joys of 24 hour food and stress-free family time. They do seem to be a great solution for a multi-generational excursion. The biggest advantage of group travel is that all the thinking and planning is taken care of. Most organized groups also have educational programming available, so that you come away somewhat informed about the destination. On a coach bus trip you can cover a lot of distance while someone else deals with driving and traffic. Large groups often provide reduced entrance queues and fees.
Special Interest Tours
I believe the common flaw of the above group tours is their size. The smaller tours often focus on a special interest or activity, such as bicycling or photography. Well organized groups often help you explore places you might never have found on your own. In addition, they will provide equipment, expertise, and any necessary specialty transportation. A smaller group offers the opportunity to meet fascinating locals and fellow travelers. That being said, a truly difficult fellow traveler can suck the oxygen out of the room on a small group trip.
Discover Your Travel Style
I hit the Chicago Travel and Adventure Show with a list of must-see exhibitors. It will come as no surprise that I circled every diving booth. I have already identified that as a favorite travel style for me. We have reached a point of needing new horizons for our diving so these groups looked like they could take us to new seas. Some of these would be small group travel.
- DUI-Diving Unlimited International. This organization is the world leader in drysuits. A drysuit is special dive gear designed to keep a diver completely dry and warm in very cold water. The travel arm of this group puts together amazing land and sea trips to destinations like Iceland, Greenland, Tasmania and Antarctica.
- Deep Blue Adventures is a travel agency specializing in scuba diving packages
- Caradonna Adventures is a travel agency putting together trips for diving, adventure and wellness. We used Caradonna for our trip to Palau 3 years ago and their service was spot on. They arranged the lodging and dive operation.
Some New Ideas
Contiki-Travel with No Regrets. This is a tour group specifically for 18-35 year olds. So, I know I am too old for this group. However, I was at the show with my Millennial son and he was very excited about this organization. I quizzed the rep about what Millennials want or get from their tours that us old farts don’t. A study on Millennial’s travel style by AirBnB reports:
They’re seeking adventurous, local, and personal experiences when they travel—they’re looking for something that’s new and unique. They opt for accommodations in cool, local neighborhoods that let them discover hidden local places (rather than being close to top tourist attractions), they prefer active vacations full of exploration and adventure (as opposed to relaxation), and they will choose local restaurants rather than those they’re familiar with from home.
Well, I actually love this travel style too……but I am still not invited on a Contiki trip. Luckily, many Baby Boomers are also looking for this travel style, so the travel industry is trending towards the unique experiences.
World Expeditions They claim that they will take you off the beaten path on a sustainable and responsible adventure. This is a new group to me, but they had some exciting options in their beautiful magazines. This rep really, really wanted me to do a hiking trip to the Himalayas. Ahhhhh, it is more likely I could join the above 30 somethings to party in Amsterdam than hike in the Himalayas. Nonetheless, they had expeditions all over the world and I think I could find something better suited.
Catch another Travel and Adventure Show
There might be one coming near you: Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas, Denver, Chicago, San Diego, Washington D.C. and San Francisco
These shows travel around the U.S. during the winter months. Many of the large organizations are at all the shows, there is also a significant number of smaller and more local travel experts at each show. For instance, at the Chicago show, the Midwest was heavily represented. City visitor and tourism boards from towns the size of Ottumwa, IA to cities like Milwaukee or Indianapolis had booths. You can find that unique experience that fits your travel style in exotic destinations AND in the cute town down the road. So Go Learn Things about your personal travel style.
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