Adventurous travelers are always looking for the next exciting trip, and these days that includes immersive experiences that go beyond the ordinary. While relaxing on a beautiful beach is still a popular choice, increasingly travelers are looking for something more, such as a behind-the-scenes tour or private excursion. Here are the fastest-growing travel experiences to try, based on booking data from TripAdvisor.
RELAX AND RESTORE WITH A WELLNESS GETAWAY
While relaxation has long been a goal for many vacationers, increasingly travelers are seeking out wellness retreats that make health and well-being a top priority. Around the world, bookings for wellness experiences increased by as much as 69 percent from last year, according to TripAdvisor, while bookings by U.S. travelers have jumped by 82 percent. Among the top destinations for wellness getaways, Iceland with its geothermal hot springs is one of the top destinations, along with the Széchenyi Baths of Budapest, the mineral hot springs of Costa Rica's La Fortuna, and the Hammam Al Ándalus Arabian baths of Granada, Spain.
LEARN A NEW SKILL WITH WORKSHOPS AND CLASSES
While paging through a paperback poolside may be all the mental engagement some people prefer on a vacation, more adventurous travelers are increasingly looking to develop new skills while away from home. Among American travelers bookings for classes and workshops have gone up by 94 percent over the past year, while global bookings are up by 90 percent. According to TripAdvisor, the top countries for picking up a new skill set include Argentina, Cambodia, and Japan. The most popular class worldwide is the Roman Gladiator School in Rome where participants don traditional battle attire and wield swords, while other top classes include surf lessons at Sydney's popular Bondi Beach, salsa dancing classes in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and pottery classes in Cambodia.
TOUR ICONIC ATTRACTIONS WITH THE WHOLE FAMILY
While many travel experiences often seem catered for younger travelers, couples, or retirees, there's a growing number of travelers looking for experiences that offer something for the whole family. TripAdvisor saw a dramatic 291 percent increase in bookings for family-friendly experiences for U.S. travelers in 2018 compared to the previous year, and they anticipate the trend to continue to grow this year. Paris tops the list of destinations for experiences the entire family can enjoy, followed by London; Florence, Italy; New York; and Faro, Portugal. Popular family experiences include guided tours of New Zealand's mesmerizing Waitomo Glowworm Caves and the family-friendly, skip-the-line tour of Paris' Louvre Museum.
IMMERSE YOURSELF IN CULTURAL EXPERIENCES
Reading about history and culture on a plaque in a museum is all well and good, but the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of historical figures and experience local culture firsthand when you're travelling takes learning to a whole new level. TripAdvisor noted a 65 percent increase in bookings for cultural and themed tours among global travellers last year and a 77 percent increase among travelers from the U.S. A guided tour of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York City ranks as the top cultural experience for travelers, according to TripAdvisor, followed by group tours of group tours of the Cu Chi Tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, and the Crime and Mob Tour in Chicago.
SKIP THE LINES AT POPULAR ATTRACTIONS WITH PRIVATE TOURS
The way travelers experience popular museums and monuments has changed in recent years thanks to skip-the-line passes and private and customized tours. According to TripAdvisor, the fastest-growing experiences of this kind of the past year was the Faster Than Skip-the-Line tour of the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, which takes small groups through the popular sights at less crowded times for a more intimate experience. Other popular experiences include the skip-the-line tour of New York City's One World Observatory, and a priority access tour of Gaudí's La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
TAKE THE PLUNGE WITH WATERSPORTS
Instead of simply enjoying ocean views while lounging on the beach, more travellers are diving into the action by participating in watersports. TripAdvisor saw a 47 percent increase in bookings for aquatic activities among global travelers from 2017 to 2018. While more adventurous travelers might consider surfing, water skiing, or whitewater rafting, those looking for slightly more subdued options might prefer kayaking or snorkeling.
PADDLE TO NEW PLACES ON A KAYAKING ADVENTURE
Kayaks and canoes offer a great way to explore areas that might be otherwise inaccessible by foot, car, or even a larger boat. Plus, you can enjoy plenty of sunshine and exercise. Kayaking and canoeing adventures are found all over the world and include a wide variety of out-of-the-ordinary excursions such as cave exploration, whale watching, waterfall tours, and river cruises in national parks.
SUBMERGE YOURSELF IN A SNORKELING EXCURSION
While some adventurous travelers go all out with scuba diving trips, snorkeling excursions offer the advantage of seeing marine life up close without going through rigorous training or using elaborate gear. And while you could just pop on a snorkel and take a look underwater yourself, many travelers opt for guided excursions, so that they're more likely to see an abundance of colorful marine life, coral reefs, shipwrecks, and more. In Cancún, you can even snorkel in an underwater museum of submerged sculptures placed there to help preserve the nearby coral reef from too many visitors.
LEARN LOCAL FLAVORS IN A COOKING CLASS
Tasting the local specialties is such an important part of traveling, and TripAdvisor notes that over the past year bookings for food and wine experiences increased by 47 percent, and they expect the trend to continue. By taking cooking classes, you can take those flavors home with you and appreciate them on a deeper level. In many of the best cooking classes, participants tour a local farmers market to shop for ingredients before heading to a kitchen to learn new techniques. Best of all, you get to feast on the fruits of your labor at the end. Great cooking classes can be found all over the world and throughout the U.S.; sometimes they just require a bit of searching. Some of the most popular destinations for classes include Thailand, Italy, France, and New Orleans.
ENCOUNTER EDIBLE DELIGHTS ON A FOOD TOUR
Eating your way through a new city with a local expert to guide you can make for an unforgettable experience. Most food tours offer behind-the-scenes access to places that otherwise might be difficult to get into, and they can introduce you to places known only to locals. According to TripAdvisor, popular options include the Rome Food Tour by Sunset, the Paris Secret Food Tour, and the Little Havana Food and Walking Tour in Miami. Don't forget to also look for local food festivals, and drinking tours for the adults.
GAIN A NEW PERSPECTIVE ABOARD A LOCAL CRUISE
While some vacationers prefer to forget their worries on a large cruise ship sailing the high seas, increasingly travellers are seeking out shorter cruises that navigate smaller waterways. Whether it's an architectural tour along the Chicago River or an evening sightseeing cruise in Budapest on the Danube River, these smaller trips afford a chance to explore a city from a fresh angle, all at a leisurely pace and sometimes with food and drinks. TripAdvisor saw a 46 percent increase in bookings for cruises, sailing, and water tours among American travellers and a 44 percent increase globally.
INDULGE IN EXCLUSIVITY ON A PRIVATE DAY TRIP
When traveling to a new destination, it's easy to get caught up exploring places in close proximity to your hotel. Yet seasoned travelers know that just venturing out on day trips can bring once-in-a-lifetime experiences. And private tours can offer access to places where you may not otherwise gain entry. TripAdvisor saw a 47 percent increase in bookings for private and custom tours over the past year, and they expect the numbers to continue to rise. These exclusive adventures might include touring a volcano, ziplining through the trees, visiting a remote village to learn about traditional customs, touring nearby wineries, or getting a priority look at the highlights of a city on a walking tour. Private tours can get a bit pricey, so keep an eye out for off-season discounts or split the cost if you're traveling with a group.
FIND BALANCE ON A CATAMARAN
For the uninitiated, a catamaran is a boat with two parallel hulls and an adjoining structure designed to offer increased stability and, in some cases, speed — not to mention it looks really cool. In recent years, catamaran cruises have become increasingly popular, offering a smooth trip with plenty of room to move about on the deck. Catamarans also don't typically need as much water beneath them, so they can more easily approach shallower areas where vacationers might want to explore. Some of the world's most popular catamaran tours depart from Hawaii, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica, but you can find them all over.
UNEARTH CULTURAL RELICS ON AN ARCHAEOLOGY TOUR
For travelers who crave a close look at history, archaeology tours are offered around the globe, including sites in the U.S. These tours typically are led by knowledgeable lecturers and archaeologists and offer an unparalleled glimpse of everything from ancient ruins to prehistoric excavation sites. While some tours take only a day or two, others, like the ones led by the Archaeological Institute of America, last as long as a week or two.