Every day, new travel trends pop up. This is great, because it means there are more ways than ever to take a unique and personalized vacation. This guide, created with the help of leisure travel advisors dedicated to optimizing your travel experience, explores the recent trend of experiential travel. To understand experiential trips, we’ll describe what they are and what to think about when building an itinerary. To help understand what makes experiential trips unique, we’ll compare them to immersion travel, another major travel trend. Is there a difference between the two? We think so. Plus, we’ll suggest a few destinations that make for mind-blowing experiential trips.
Why experiential travel?
Veteran travelers know that a great domestic or international destination is just part of what makes an amazing trip. The itinerary is what takes the vacation from time away to time well spent.
An itinerary focused on experiential travel is one way to get the most from any destination. Experiential travel can be thought of as interactive travel. It’s active, instead of passive, and involves engaging up close with a destination’s attractions, activities, and events. Experiential travel can be done solo or in a group. The key aspect of experiential travel is to bring an open mind to and a passion for whatever a destination has to offer.
Savvy experiential travelers know that sometimes the destination can be secondary to an itinerary. Instead of choosing the most popular destinations, start by choosing your preferred experiential activities.
Experiential vs Immersion Travel
Experiential travel might be best understood by comparing it to immersive travel. Immersive travel happens when travelers engage with the customs and the culture of a location. Someone engaging in immersion travel might work with a travel advisor to uncover important historical sites to visit and plan an itinerary that exposes them to traditional foods and cultural practices. In a word, it’s about a travel experience authentic to a destination’s past and modern day legacy.
An experiential travel itinerary can certainly include engaging with a culture’s important customs and traditions, but can also include modern attractions. In fact, immersive travel can sometimes require a light footprint with an environmentally-conscious ecotourism itinerary that respects local conservation initiatives. Cultural immersion, even through experiential travel, requires a respectful level of integration into one’s surroundings.
Experiential travelers are typically not as concerned with whether or not an activity, event, or attraction represents a region and its people’s past. They are concerned with engagement across activity types. Experiential itineraries are often jam-packed with activities that allow a person meaningful physical and emotional engagement. Some examples of experiential travel might be to attend a luau in Hawaii, take a ride in a Formula One car in Morocco, or head on a safari in South Africa. These activities may have roots in a destination’s natural or historical characteristics but are also modernized, making them an engaging experience rather than an immersive one.
Experiential Travel Destinations
Building an experiential travel itinerary means finding a destination offering deep and meaningful experiences. The countries on this list certainly qualify.
This island nation might be one of the best experiential travel destinations in the world. While generally considered more closed off in terms of its culture, the Japanese people are usually welcoming to tourists. Three hallmarks of the Japanese travel experience are experiencing its urban centers, its traditional food markets, and its religious landmarks, usually located on the outskirts of populated regions. Japan also offers a range of boutique hotel experiences that capture the attention to detail and exceptional customer service that Japan’s tourism industry is famous for. Plan your itinerary for the right time of year and Japan also hosts a number of cultural festivals emblematic of the nation’s beauty and commitment to tradition.
2. Costa Rica
While this nation often captures headlines for its affordability and exceptional healthcare system, it is also notable for its natural attractions. A detailed experiential Costa Rica itinerary can include loads of adventure including wildlife cruises, hot air balloon rides, and guided ziplining tours deep in the nation’s mountain forests.
This Mediterranean nation is a veteran traveler’s dream. Visit Morocco solo or as part of a small group for an experiential travel adventure you won’t forget. The nation is famous for its open-air bazaar shopping that will make you feel like a member of the community. After shopping, take a camel ride to discover the beauty of Moroccan landscapes. These tours of the Moroccan countryside are led by guides with a deep knowledge of Moroccan heritage and geography. Guided camel rides are popular and should be booked well in advance!