By Ted Bauer
Digital Content Manager
Ten years ago, foodie travel was barely a blip on the travel industry radar. Today, the World Food Travel Association estimates it’s a $150 billion niche. Culinary tourism has recently been called one of the fastest-growing specialty travel trends.
Do you want to have some unique foodie travel experiences next time you’re on vacation? Read on for tips on how to make the most of this trend, whether your goal is America’s best BBQ or Japan’s best sushi.
Connect with an Expert Travel Advisor
A good travel advisor will know everything from a city’s best restaurants to a region’s culinary specialties to how to book cooking classes and food tours. If you don’t already have an advisor, find a foodie travel specialist by browsing the catalog at virtuoso.com.
Virtuoso advisor Cathy Moha, based in Garden Grove, California, frequently organizes culinary tours for clients. She’s originally from Provence in France, and often sends clients there. France is, after all, one of the world’s culinary powerhouses. But she’s also sent clients on foodie travel experiences in Cambodia, Vietnam, Bali (“very light food, using small beets and herbs – great flavor,” she says), and Israel.
“Food is great in many parts of the world,” Moha admits. “My goal is to customize the itinerary exactly how the client wants it.”
Do Some Prep Work
Come prepared with some foodie travel ideas as well. Think about restaurants and concepts you’ve heard about, specific tours your friends or family have done, and experiences you’d enjoy. Also, consider past travel highlights that involved food, even if the overall trip was focused on something else. If you give a few nuggets like this to your advisor, that will spark ideas.
Darlene Silvestri, a Virtuoso advisor based in Lexington, Kentucky, creates food- and wine-focused trips for her clients. She’s been to Italy (another culinary powerhouse) more than 10 times – but has coordinated foodie travel experiences in other areas. “I often ask clients where they’ve been before and what they enjoyed,” she says, “and that helps me start towards their best itinerary.”
Book a Once-In-A-Lifetime Experience
Restaurants in almost 100 hotels belonging to the Virtuoso network hold close to 150 Michelin stars. And they’re spread among 13 countries. An advisor can get you a choice table at any of them.
If you want a foodie travel experience with more active participation, Virtuoso hotels have programs that let you do everything from catch your own dinner to refine your cooking skills with a chef.
One example: Cobblers Cove in Barbados. There locally born-and-raised chef Michael Harrison will let you observe his ingredient-selection process. The versatile Harrison spent years cooking in renowned restaurants in Europe and the US (where he even cooked for the first President Bush). Though he brings global flair to his food, he’s faithful to the tastes and ingredients of his island home.
Make It Special for the Kids
If children are coming along, design one or two nights around just the adult travelers and work with an advisor on child-care options.
Also consider classes for the younger set: chocolate-making sessions are popular in many parts of Europe, for example. Pasta and gelato-making are available for younger travelers in Italy. Your advisor will have plenty of suggestions for child-friendly foodie travel experiences.
Don’t Forget Drinks
Different foods pair well with different drinks, from wine to beer to coffee and beyond. Each of those can be local specialties worthy of exploring, from a visit to a Costa Rican coffee plantation to sampling wines in Australia’s famed Hunter Valley to a microbrewery in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
One of travel’s great pleasures is happening upon an unexpected find. Make time to wander neighborhoods and drop into bars, restaurants, beer halls, wine cafes, and more. You’ll enjoy the leisurely downtime and experience even more of your destination’s culinary culture.
What’s your favorite foodie travel destination?