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Vacation Planning

Never have to take a vacation from your vacation again

By | Travel Tips | No Comments

Ever get home from a vacation only to feel like you need another week to recover from it? You have every intention of fully relaxing and enjoying every second of your trip … but somehow with trying to get from place to place with all your luggage on your own, figuring out what you actually want to do while there, and wishing you had planned out more details ahead of time, you end up exhausted.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you had a wonderful and memorable vacation. But there is another way of taking a trip that takes away the stress of trying to organize all the details on your own. Next time try leaving the vacation planning to a travel professional.  Whether it’s through a tour operator on a set itinerary or a more customized trip through a travel agent, leaving the details to those whose job is to plan an amazing vacation for you will allow you to truly relax and fully enjoy something that you’ve most likely been looking forward to for months!

Reasons to leave the vacation planning to the professionals:

  • Save time Time is money and you can spend hours researching various aspects of your vacation on the Internet and still feel like you don’t have a good idea of what you want to do, where to stay, or where to eat. Save some time by letting a travel professional figure it out for you.  If you have your heart set on going to a specific restaurant or seeing a specific sight, let them know and they’ll be happy to build that into your itinerary.
  • Knowing where to go A lot of times we take vacations to explore new destinations. But unless you know a local that can show you around, you may not know the best places to visit while you’re there. Sure, you can do your own research ahead of time, but you may only be able to find the more touristy spots.  A travel professional has the knowledge and the connections to create a vacation for you that you may not have even known was possible.
  • Leaving the details to the pros Sit back and relax. When working with a travel professional, they’ll take care of making any reservation you might need including hotel, dinner, or excursions. All you have to worry about is showing up and enjoying yourself, instead of keeping track of every little detail you may or may not have thought about ahead of time.
  • Troubleshooting Sometimes things just don’t go as planned which isn’t always a bad thing.  But for the times when a major hiccup occurs during your vacation like a missed flight or a hurricane is heading your way, it’s great to know you have someone in your corner to help you work through your options. When on a group tour or when working with a travel agent, you have a fallback person that will help you figure out what needs to happen next and when possible, complete whatever task needs to occur.
  • Save money Tour operators and travel agents a lot of the time can get you better rates than if you just booked something on your own.  This is due to the travel professionals having existing relationships with local businesses or getting a discount because of bringing in a group of people rather than just you and your travel buddy.

Next time you’re planning your vacation, remove the stress of figuring out every little detail and contact a travel professional.

Lodi Vineyard - 5 myths about wine tours and why they are wrong

5 Myths About Wine Tours And Why They Are Wrong

By | Wine | 2 Comments

Wine + Travel can equal an unforgettable vacation.  But organized wine tours can seem a bit intimidating for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons are just misconceptions though and aren’t necessarily true. Here are five myths about wine tours – along with why they are flawed.

You have to already be a wine expert to enjoy a wine tour.

5 Myths about Wine Tours - Giovanni presenting about Italian wines

This is absolutely not true! The number one reason people travel in general is to learn and experience new things. Essentially, a wine tour’s purpose is to learn more about the vineyards, wineries, varietals, climate, cuisine, and even history of a specific region. What better way to learn about wine than through a hands-on experience? Even wine experts will admit that they don’t know absolutely everything there is to know about wine – it’s impossible! So don’t be shy while on a wine tour, ask as many questions as you’d like.

 

A vineyard in the mist - 5 myths about wine tours

Wine tours are expensive.

This one can be true for some wine tours – but if you do your research you can find ones that aren’t going to break the bank.  We at Taste Vacations offer a variety of wine tours that can fit a range of budgets.  For instance, our Sonoma Wine & Walking tour is only $1,200 for a 3-day trip with a personal wine guide. Or if you have more room in your budget and your calendar, you can take a 6-day Basque Country & Rioja Food & Wine Tour for $3,500.

 

 

2

The only places to go on a wine tour is Napa Valley or France.

Yes, Napa Valley and regions in France like Champagne or Bourdeaux are extremely well known for their wines – but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy a wine tour to a lesser known region. In fact, you may enjoy it more. When you seek out the smaller wine regions, you begin to feel the passion of wine and winemaking. You can usually spend some quality time with the people behind the bar or even in the vineyards or cellars. Plus every wine region typically has one or two varietals they are known for so you won’t be lacking in good wine either.

 

Wine corks in a wine shop - 5 myths about wine tours

It’s going to be all about wine 100% of the time.

If you are booking a one-day wine tour, then yes your tour may be all about the wine. But if you are looking for a multi-day wine tour, you can find options that blend a few different interests into a fun and engaging itinerary. For instance, on our Tuscany Food & Wine Tour, you’ll not only taste some of the finest wines this region has to offer, but you’ll also enjoy truffle hunting with a local agriculturalist, dine with the president of the local La Strada dei Sapori, “The Road of Taste”, and learn about barista training and coffee roasting at an Italian cafe.  Though we love to learn about wine, we try to also provide a fuller picture of the region’s cuisine and culture.

 

Grapes in a vineyard - 5 myths about wine tours

People on wine tours are pretentious.

Yes, there are pretentious people in the wine industry – we know, we’ve met them. BUT that doesn’t mean everyone is. Honestly, we’ve met far more genuinely passionate people who are excited to share their knowledge and enthusiasm about their wines. We’d like to think Taste Vacations fits into the latter category. We are serious about creating memorable wine vacations but like to keep things casual and fun. When researching a wine tour operator, pay attention to how they describe their tours. If it sounds pretentious online, there’s a good chance the tour will be that way too.

 

 

How to avoid getting sick while traveling

How to Avoid Getting Sick While Traveling

By | Travel Tips | No Comments

We are in the middle of the holiday season which for most people means traveling to and from family and friend gatherings. Not only does this mean that you may be vulnerable to your adorable little nephew’s cold that he got from daycare, but you are most likely getting exposed to a large number of other people who may be sick as well.  We thought it would be helpful to provide a few tips on how to avoid getting sick while traveling.

Drink More Water. 

Drink More Water - How To Avoid Getting Sick While Traveling

Staying hydrated can be one the best actions you can take in fighting off an impending sickness. It oxygenates your blood and flushes out harmful toxins from your immune system. It allows you to digest your food better saving you from potential stomach aches. And, it helps organs like your eyes and mouth to retain moisture and repel foreign particles or contaminants that could cause infections. So keep a water bottle with you whenever possible.
(Photos source: Rubbermaid Products)

Boost Your Immune System. 

You may already be taking a daily multi-vitamin but during cold season that may not be enough. Try taking a few Vitamin C supplements and using a nasal spray before you get on the plane.  The Vitamin C will help fight off the airborne germs that are sealed in once they close the cabin door of the plane.  The air is quite dry when flying so spraying a few puffs of nasal spray will help your nose stay moist and therefore able to flush out the germs.

Stay Active.

We get it – most holiday celebrations involve food and drink, but it’s important to stay active while traveling (or anytime really). One of the best ways to fight off unwanted germs or infections is exercise. It not only helps get rid of toxins in your body when you sweat, but it has been proven to strengthen your immune system. Instead of sitting on the couch after a big meal, gather your family or friends to head out for a nice long walk.

Wash Your Hands Frequently.

How to avoid getting sick while traveling - wash your hands frequentlyYou already wash your hands whenever you have used the bathroom (hopefully!) but when you are traveling and even during cold season in general, you should wash your hands more frequently. Just think of how many door knobs, counters, or arm rests you touch while you travel. Now think of how many other people are traveling through the airport or have been on the plane before you. Washing your hands more frequently helps prevent the germs that you’ve been in contact with throughout your day from getting into your system. Those anti-bacterial soaps that were so popular a few years ago have proven to be less effective – nothing beats good old soap and water.

Avoid Touching Certain Surfaces 

Sometimes it is impossible to avoid touching germy surfaces – you most likely will have to use the bathroom at least once on a longer flight, right? But there are a few other germy surfaces that can be more easily avoided.  The website, Travelmath, did a study of the dirtiest surfaces on an airplane and in airports. The number one offender was the tray table. They speculate that they are the worst due to the littler turnaround time airline staff have to clean a plane between flights – bathrooms on the other hand always get cleaned. You may want to think twice before placing food or even your laptop on a tray table, but if it can’t be avoided, the best thing to do is to wash your hands frequently and try not to touch your face, mouth, or eyes.

Hopefully, these tips will arm you against potential germs and help you avoid getting sick while traveling this holiday season – warm wishes and stay healthy!

Announcing: 2017 Prices Reduced Based On Your Feedback

By | Taste Vacations | No Comments

Starting with our 2017 tours, Taste Vacations will be changing the cost of our tours.
We will reduce the average tour cost by $920 and the average cost per tour day by $153.

Earlier this year, we sent out a survey asking for your input on various aspects of Taste Vacations’ offerings as well as your own personal travel preferences. The result? We found you like our tour offerings and our focus on providing truly memorable, authentic experiences. However, you are more focused on these experiences than you are staying in a fancy hotel.

That is good news – because we feel the same way!

With our sister company Zephyr Adventures, we have been running active tours around the world for 19 years with a focus on the local culture. We have always chosen centrally located, high-quality hotels but avoided the five-star options because, frankly, there is a large premium for those options.

However, when we started Taste Vacations, we strayed from this philosophy thinking that those interested in our food and drink tours would prefer that extra luxury. That was our error as it didn’t really reflect who we are and, we now know, it doesn’t reflect who you are either.

What does this mean in practice? We will still be staying primarily in four star hotels, seeking out the local option that is centrally located and with excellent service. We will be dropping five-star options that simply raise the cost of our tours without a corresponding benefit. And we have even dropped a couple of tours (Napa Valley Wine and Kentucky Bourbon) where the costs of the location made the tour expensive no matter the hotel.

The result is that $920 drop in our average tour price.

We are excited to move forward with this new direction and promise that, although we have reduced the cost of our tours, the quality of our unforgettable vacations will remain at the highest standard.

Haro, Capital of Rioja Wine Region

4 Interesting Facts about the Rioja Wine Region

By | Taste Vacations, Wine | No Comments

The Rioja wine region in Northern Spain is famous for its high-quality wines, scenic patchwork of vineyard-covered hills, medieval villages, and stunning winery hotels. It also has an incredible history, exquisite cuisine, and a captivating culture.

Here are 4 interesting facts about the Rioja wine region that you may not know:

 

1.  If wine were to stop being produced in Rioja today, the wine region could continue to provide wine for many years to come. This is due to the nature of the wines that are produced in Rioja as well as the labeling laws that have minimum age requirements which cause producers to hang on to their wine from anywhere between one and twenty years, depending on the type of label they are looking to classify their wine as, before releasing them to the public.  With their cellars filled with aging wine, producers could easily supply their customers with wine for many years.

 

2.  Rioja has phylloxera to thank for its fame.  Though the wine region dates back to the year 873, it gained popularity after French vineyards were devastated by phylloxera, a microscopic aphid that caused the Great French Wine Blight. Vintners flocked to Rioja and joined up with local vineyard owners to create the reds now known as Rioja. (You can also read about how Carmenere was saved from extinction by phylloxera)

 

3.  Variety is the spice of life – and Rioja’s got plenty.  Rioja boasts more than 600 wineries spread across the subzones of Rioja Alta, Alavesa and Baja. With over 140,000 acres of cultivated land, Rioja yields 250 million litres of wine annually, 85% of which is red. And since Rioja wines are typically a blend of a few varietals, you essentially have a never-ending wine tasting possibilities.

 

4.  Rioja hosts an annual wine fight.  Every year thousands of locals and tourists come together at the end of June to celebrate the La Batalla de Vino de Haro. As a part of the festival, people climb a nearby mountain and throw red wine on each other. Some might see this event as disrespectful being disrespectful to the wine itself … but it is quite the spectacle to watch!


Interested in checking out Rioja for yourself? There’s still room on the 2017 Basque Country & Rioja, Spain Food & Wine Tour!

Beer tasting

Beer Tasting: How To Improve Your Sensory Analysis

By | Beer | No Comments

Wine isn’t the only beverage that deserves to be tasted, analyzed, and appreciated.  Beer has so many different styles, flavors, textures, and nuances that you have a plethora of options to try. Though a beer tasting can feel more “accessible” to the every day person than a wine tasting, it can still be intimidating to try to analyze what you are drinking.  Here are a few tips on how to help hone your skills and improve your sensory analysis:

Beer Tasting Tips

    • Follow Wine’s Lead. You should conduct the same tasting process as you would with wine. First, look at the beer to observe its color, head, and consistency. Next, swirl your beer to bring out the aromas, smell it, and note what scents are coming to mind. Lastly, sip the beer and let it hit your whole palate before swallowing. Pay attention to not only the flavors you are tasting but the texture and consistency.

 

    • Use a Flavor Wheel: Beer Tasting WheelTry to be as descriptive as possible. One way to aid in coming up with the right words is to use a flavor wheel, like this one from BeerFlavorWheel.com. (Click on the image to enlarge it)

 

    • Make It Your Own: Visualize the flavors in a way you will remember later. Not everyone smells the exact same things. You may be able to pick up a slightly different scent than your friend. For example, you might smell banana bread while your friend might just smell banana in a certain beer. Neither of you are wrong, but the more specific the scent you can identify the better.

 

    • Practice Makes Perfect: Have regular training sessions to practice in a quiet, non-distracting environment will help you improve your skills.  It’s a lot of fun to try different beers and analyze them with friends but if you at a bar or restaurant where there may be other smells and disturbances, you won’t be able to concentrate on what you are trying to do.

 

    • Smell Your Hand: If you are trying to smell the different and intricate scents of a whole flight of beers, your nose may get fatigued.  If you feel like you are starting to not smell the nuances of the beer, try smelling your hand or arm. as long as you don’t have perfume or scented lotion on.  Your own scent is a neutralizer for your nose so after smelling

 

    • Keep Track.Beer tasting notes Writing down your tasting notes will help you keep track of not only your progress, but can serve as a reference for later tastings. You might find yourself tasting a beer that is similar to something you had before. You can then look through your records to find what that beer was and what you wrote down for the tasting notes to help formulate notes for the new beer.

 

  • Have Fun. This is probably the most important step. Beer tasting and identifying can be a lot of fun.  Don’t get frustrated if you can’t seem to clearly identify a taste or smell right away. The skills will come with experience – so you might as well enjoy the journey!


Travel Tips: How to Make Your Trip Go Smoothly

By | Taste Vacations | No Comments

There are many unexpected hiccups and hang-ups that can cause your vacation to quickly go from a dream to a nightmare. With a little planning, you can lessen the likelihood of these unforeseen mishaps from completely ruining your trip and potentially even save you time and money.  

Before your next trip, check out the travel tips infographic we created, along with our sister company, Zephyr Adventures, to help make your next vacation go as smoothly as possible.

how-to-make-your-next-trip-go-as-smoothly-as-possible

You can also download the Travel Tips: How To Make Your Next Trip Go As Smoothly As Possible PDF.

Dry Farming Vines

What is Dry Farming and Why Should I Care?

By | Wine | No Comments

You may have heard the term “dry farming” being thrown around in certain wine regions, but do you know what that actually means?

Dry farming is an agricultural technique that was developed in order to grow crops without using an irrigation system. This technique has been used in the Mediterranean for crops such as grapes and olives for thousands of years. And nowadays, it specifically refers to crop production during a dry season, utilizing the residual moisture in the soil from the rainy season or melted snow from winter.

Outside of the Mediterranean, there are vineyards in dryer parts of the U.S. that have opted to utilize the dry farming technique for two reasons: grape quality and water conservation. According to the California Ag Water Stewardship Initiative, dry farming is not a strategy for maximum yield, but rather it allows nature to dictate the true sustainability of agricultural production in a region. It allows the vines to establish a natural balance of root mass, leaves, and fruit. It also helps limit excessive sugars and extracted flavors, enabling the grapes to achieve full ripeness on their own.

Dry Farmed ZinfandelSince California’s water is being very closely managed, dry farming offers an economic and eco-friendly alternative to the typical irrigation techniques. According to Wine Spectator, dry farming can save as much as 16,000 gallons of water per acre per year which is not only saving the farmers money but helps with California’s drought situation.

But dry farming is not a technique that will be successful in every wine region.  The right rootstock that can grow deep into the soil needs to be paired with the right mix of soil that can retain water well. The vines also need to spaced far enough away from each other so that they aren’t competing for the same water, cutting down on the number of vines that can fit within a plot of land.

But why should you care if a wine has been produced from dry farming or not? It is believed that dry farming yields better tasting, more nutritious products (grapes), therefore, lending itself to produce better quality and better-tasting wines, without alterations. The difference between irrigated and dry-farmed wines can be likened to eating a hot-house hydroponically grown tomato versus one that was grown our in a field – there is a considerable difference in taste!

5 Advantages of a Private Tour

5 Advantages of Taking a Private Tour

By | Taste Vacations | No Comments

 In addition to our scheduled public tours, Taste Vacations also offers a myriad of private tours, where you can choose your own destination and activities, and a trip date that works for you. Though we find our public tours to be a great way to meet new people who share a common interest with you, private tours are a fun way to gather your friends or family for a memorable vacation. Here are 5 advantages to booking your own private tour:

1.  You choose who you hang out with. Meeting new people on a tour can sometimes be half the fun of your vacation – but there is always a risk that there is someone on the tour that you don’t get along with which can sometimes put a damper on the trip.  By booking a private tour, you have the opportunity to gather the people you want to hang out with and feel that would enjoy the same kind of vacation as you.
 
2.  You can gain access to exclusive experiences.  Yes, you can plan your own friends and/or family vacation without the help of a tour company.  But you may be missing out on some incredible experiences that are just not available to the general public. On many of our private tours, we are able to set up exclusive experiences like private tastings with winemakers, a private luncheon at local chef’s residence and garden, a wine blending session with a winery owner, or walking tours that dive deeper than the general public tours that just skim the surface.
 
3.  You may not know what you don’t know.  You may not be aware of all the wonderful experiences available to you in any given location. Though you can do extensive research online, there are still many amazing experiences, restaurants, and local activities that may be completely new or haven’t been shared on social media yet. We have personal connections in each of the locations we run tours and are constantly seeking out new experiences for our guests. Let us help you create your itinerary by suggesting activities that may have not even been on your radar.
 
4.  Take the trip you want, the way that you want it.  We pride ourselves in creating engaging and fun itineraries but we still understand that not everyone is thrilled to be doing each of the activities we have chosen.  That’s where private tours really shine.  You choose the people you want to go with, the destination, and the activities you want to do.  With the help of our tour operations team, you can build your dream vacation.
 
5.  Go when you want to go.  We all would love to be able to drop everything and go on vacation whenever we want, but the reality is that we have many responsibilities and obligations in our lives that need to come first.  Sometimes the public tour dates just won’t fit into a busy schedule the way you’d like. With a private tour, you can schedule your vacation for when it works best for you.

 

If you’re interested in booking your own private tour, check out our Private Tours section or contact our tour operations team today.

To Travel Is To Try New Things

To Travel Is To Try New Things

By | Taste Vacations | No Comments

People travel for many reasons but I believe they travel mainly to experience new things – try new foods, meet new people, do something they’ve never done before. It is curious then to encounter people, mainly Americans, that seem to expect everything to be exactly the same as it is at home while they are traveling to new places.

I’ve just returned from a tour of Italy where I encountered quite a few other Americans. Most meetings were pleasant and people shared my enthusiasm for exploring new destinations, but a few caused me to cringe and try to disassociate myself with the situation. For instance, I was staying in a lovely boutique hotel in Lucca. It is a beautiful historic town with a large 16th Century stone ramparts built around it. It is this wall that kept Lucca quite independent and from being ruled by many of the larger Italian powers that came and went over the centuries and has secured its unique culture and cuisine.

At the hotel, they offered a nice breakfast spread that included hard boiled eggs, deli meat, cheese, pastries, and, of course, your choice of espresso, cappuccino, or even café americano. One morning, I was having a pleasant exchange with the hotel staff while ordering my morning cappuccino when an American couple came in and sat down at the table next to me. They began by complaining to each other about the breakfast selection and that the café americano didn’t taste like Starbucks back home. I tried to ignore the comments and enjoy my breakfast but had to stifle a chuckle when they then asked the hotel staff if they had an English-speaking television because theirs was only in Italian. Not only did they not seem to understand how television programming works (clearly it is not the TV that is controlling if it in English or Italian) but they were certainly not ready to embrace the Italian culture and cuisine.

For some people, instead of experiencing new things they keep their blinders on. They try to keep their same daily routines but in a different setting. How will you know if you prefer the taste of a true Italian espresso the way the locals drink it better than how you drink coffee at home? Or find a new favorite pasta dish if you continue to only order spaghetti with tomato sauce?  If you don’t get out of your comfort zone, and try new things you’ll leave Italy, a country known for its world-class cuisine, unimpressed and maybe even a little hungry.

And this, of course, applies to more than just trying new foods.  If you only do the same things you would at home, what was the point in traveling to a new destination in the first place? Clearly, you won’t love everything that you try but you can at least have a definitive opinion and maybe even an interesting story to tell when you get home.

I encourage you, wherever your next trip takes you, to take your blinders off, branch out a little, try new things, and learn a little more about yourself in the process.

 

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