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Culinary Travel for Foodie Retirees

Culinary Tours – Perfect Solution for Foodie Retirees

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Culinary tours are becoming more and more popular with retirees. According to AARP’s 2017 survey, travel is at the top of 83% of Baby Boomers’ bucket lists and they chose “to travel to experience a new destination” as a key motivation for taking a trip. This aligns well with Taste Vacations’ own beliefs –  we feel the best way to experience a new location is through its cuisine.

In fact, we were recently featured in an article in Kiplinger, a personal finance publication, titled, “For Retirees on the Go, Culinary Tours Put the Focus on Food” by Beth Brophy.  The article highlights the different aspects of culinary tours and provides some guidelines on picking the right trip for you. Below is an excerpt from the article:

“These days, ‘foodie’ travelers … for whom food and wine are often the most memorable part of the trip, have many choices. Travel companies offer a wide range of itineraries in the U.S. and abroad that revolve around eating and drinking, shopping in local markets, cooking with chefs, and visiting and sampling the products of artisanal cheesemakers, boutique vineyards, olive oil producers and organic farms…

Doing some research before you choose a culinary tour is essential. Here are some factors to consider:

Have you talked it through? “Only about 20% of our travelers call us first,” says [Allan] Wright, who says he can help guide choices. For instance, he says, it’s helpful to know if someone prefers white wine over red, or is gluten-free or a vegetarian. “Argentina is not the best choice if you don’t eat meat,” he says, but “we can accommodate everyone.”

You can read the full article on Kiplinger’s website.

Wine Tourism in Spain

Is Spanish Wine Country the Next Big Thing?

By | Wine | No Comments

Wine tourism in Spain is not easy. Unlike a lot of other wine regions, most wineries in Spanish Wine Country do not post visiting hours and open their doors to just anyone driving down the road seeking to visit.

Instead, visitors to Spanish wine regions generally have to make advance reservations, which is not easy to do for independent travelers who don’t necessarily know which wineries they wish to visit or even how to speak the local language.

Perhaps this is why we find many small wineries in Spain are scarcely visited. In Rioja, which is as beautiful as the most well-known European wine regions, the only crowds we see are at the well-known, tourist-oriented wineries. When we visit smaller wineries, we are often the only ones there.

And this lack of visitors is compounded when one considers Americans. For some reason, traveling the wine routes of Rioja just has not made it to the priority list of most American travelers. For a tour company like Taste Vacations that loves getting a real experience, this has all worked to our advantage.

But this might be changing.

According to a new report published by ACEVIN, the Asociación Española de Ciudades del Vino (Spanish Association of Wine Cities), the Spanish wine tourism market grew by 21% in 2016. This number only includes winery visits and visits to the wine museums located along specific wine routes. If they included accommodations, restaurants, shops and wine-route related activities, the number would be even higher.

So what does this mean? It could mean that Spanish Wine Country is on the cusp of being the next big wine region for tourism. But that kind of change doesn’t just happen overnight. We will have to see if wineries decide to align with other regions on how they operate and welcome guests on their grounds or if they will keep some of their mystery and prestige intact. Only time will tell.

For the time being though, Taste Vacations will continue to enjoy being the ones to unlock the hidden gems of Spanish Wine Country for our fellow wine travelers. If you’re a person that likes to avoid crowds and take in more unique, intimate experiences, join us on the Basque Country & Rioja, Spain Food & Wine Tour.

North Carolina Toast

#BMTC17 – A Week of Tasting and Learning in Asheville

By | Beer, Taste Vacations | No Comments

Beer Marketing and Tourism ConferenceLast week, Taste Vacations participated in the first annual Beer Marketing and Tourism Conference (BMTC), hosted by our sister company, Zephyr Conferences. We listened, learned, and networked with just under 250 of our peers in one of our nation’s beer mecca’s – Asheville, North Carolina.

With the growing number of breweries opening throughout the country, competition is getting increasingly tough. The Beer Marketing and Tourism Conference provides an opportunity to keep abreast of the latest information, trends, and technology in the industry as well as provide a perfect environment for collaboration and partnership building amongst breweries, brewpubs, beer tour operators, and more. This year the schedule included topics such as:

  • Digital Marketing in the Beer Industry
  • Tap Room Management
  • Working with Beer Bloggers
  • Lessons from Other Craft Beverages
  • Creating Beer Tourism in Emerging Beer Regions
  • Tips from the Heavy Hitters – Sierra Nevada, Dogfish Head, & Deschutes

It is easy to see why North Carolina hosted this inaugural event given that it boasts the largest number of craft breweries in the American South, with more than 203 breweries and brewpubs, and with Asheville being one of the U.S. cities with the most breweries per capita. (And to top things off, North Carolina even has their own toast – featured in the header image.)

Not only did the conference provide a great learning environment for the Taste Vacations’ team, but it also gave us the opportunity to scout out a new North Carolina Beer Tour for you!  We are still putting the finishing touches on it but be sure to check back soon or sign up to receive updates as we are planning on launching it by fall of this year.

Small Group Tour

The Overlooked Benefits of a Small Group Tour

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You may think that personally planning every last detail of your upcoming vacation is the best way to have a memorable vacation. Or you may only think of the massive get-on-the-bus-get-off-the-bus trips when you hear the words “group tour”. But there is one type of trip that can often be overlooked – the small group tour.

Small group tours provide a number of benefits over trying to plan a whole vacation on your own and certainly offer a more intimate and engaging experience than the 50 person plus group tours.

Small group tour

Small Group Tour vs. On Your Own

  • The only thing you have to plan is how you are getting yourself to the first meeting spot. After that, your transportation, accommodations, meals, and activities are taken care of for you – with some flexibility built in so that you can switch things around if something unexpected comes up.
  • You meet like-minded, fun people. If you’re going on a food, beer, or wine tour, you already have a built-in common interest with the other people going on the trip with you. And those commonalities help to facilitate deep and engaging conversations that help to enhance your vacation experience.
  • You have the opportunity to do exclusive experiences that you otherwise not have access to.Tour companies work hard at building relationships with local restaurants, wineries, breweries, and other establishments to create unique and interesting experiences not available to the everyday traveler. Even doing the most extensive online research may not reveal some of the experiences that are only available by going on a tour.
  • You see the great places outside of the touristy areas. Like the bullet point above, some tour companies pride themselves in their local partnerships and love to get off the beaten path to show their tour guests something only the locals know about.

Small group tour

Small Group Tour vs. Large Group Tour

  • Most small group tours are not just a get on the bus get off the bus tour.  Small tour group companies their numbers low so that you don’t have to feel like cattle getting herded from one tourist trap to the next.
  • Guides don’t have to cater to a large number of people so your preferences will be considered. If you have 50 people on a tour, there isn’t enough time or resources to cater to everyone’s preferences.  On a small group tour, it is more likely that if you mention liking something or wanting to check a particular place out, your guide can either adjust the tour schedule accordingly or at least provide some recommendations on where to go when you have some free time.
  • It stays intimate and authentic. The fewer people that are traveling with you, the more up-close-and-personal experience you’ll have, wherever you are vacationing.
  • You can get stay at boutique hotels and get into less touristy restaurants.  There are infinite options of amazing restaurants and accommodations all around the world but you are significantly limited when you are trying to fit 50+ people at one sitting or in one hotel.

Next time you are planning your vacation, consider a small group tour – it may be the perfect fit for you!

 

The Do's and Don'ts of a Beer Tour

Know Before You Go: The Do’s and Don’ts of a Beer Tour

By | Beer, Travel Tips | No Comments

Going on beer tours can be a lot of fun – though most beer is made using the same process, you can still learn something new on every tour.  To help your beer tour experience go smoothly, here’s a few do’s and don’ts  to take into consideration before you go.

Beer Tasting SamplesDO try a few samples or a flight of beers before ordering a pint. It’s the best way to try a good variety of beers to help evaluate what that brewery does well. If you aren’t sure what you like, it’s also an economical way of figuring it out. If they don’t do a full sampler, ask for a tasting of a beer. Most breweries will give you a couple of ounces to try before getting a full pint.

DON’T wander off on your own while touring a brewery.  Not only is it rude but you could be putting yourself at risk of slipping and falling, burning yourself, or getting hit by equipment. So stay safe and stay with the group.

DO ask questions and chat up the bartenders, brew masters, other brewery workers, and your fellow beer tour guests. You never know what you might find out about the brewery, a particular beer, or hey, life in general. Also, if you genuinely like a beer, let the staff know.

DON’T just assume that food will be readily available at a brewery.  Most smaller breweries do not serve food, but a good number partner up with food trucks that may visit their breweries on a rotating basis. Or if a food truck isn’t available, you may have the option of bringing your own or ordering food to be delivered directly to the brewery.  Call ahead to check what the food options are before you go.

Beer-paired dinner

DO buy yourself a souvenir of a beer that is only sold at the brewery itself by either purchasing a bottle or if you aren’t flying home, bring your own growler to fill.

DON’T drink too much. Nobody likes that guy on a beer tour, plus the brewery or establishment you are at has every right to ask you to leave. So know your limits and pace yourself. And this should go without saying but, DON’T drive impaired.

DO try the food-beer pairing recommendations (if available), especially if you are at a beer-pairing lunch or dinner. It may not be what you would typically order on its own, but there is a reason the chef and brewmaster recommend the two together.

 

Have any Do’s or Don’ts of your own to add? Feel free to leave yours in the comments below.

Or put these to the test on our Belgium Beer Tour or Colorado Beer Tour.

 

 

 

 

Reasons to Tour Chilean Wine Country

6 Tantalizing Reasons to Tour Chilean Wine Country

By | Taste Vacations, Travel Tips, Wine | No Comments

We recently posted 10 Reasons to Visit Argentina Right Now, but in case you needed even more motivation to visit South America, we asked Taste Vacations partner, Greig Santos-Buch, the founder of Winederlusting.com, to provide 6 tantalizing reasons to tour Chilean Wine Country.

For those of us who have a thirst for adventure, legendary scenery and complex wine without the price tag, one country is emerging amongst seasoned wine travelers as THE go-to New World wine destination. That country is Chile. But specifically, what makes this South American destination so special?

The Landscape is Incredibly Diverse

To begin, Chile is the second longest country in the world just behind Brazil. It spans roughly 4300 kilometers from North to South, with its widest point reaching no more than 356 km (only 112 miles!). The snow-tipped Andes Mountains dominate the landscape to the East, with the majestic Pacific Ocean and Coastal Mountain Range bordering the West. To the North, you’ll find the Atacama Desert, which offers some of the clearest and driest skies in the world — a premier destination for stargazers. If you travel far to the South, you’ll eventually run into Antarctica, but not before passing through beautiful Patagonia.

Chilean Wine Country

There Are Over 13 Unique Wine Regions to Visit

As more and more producers from around the world become conscious of Chile’s undervalued terroir, the country has recently exploded with a number of high-quality wine producing sub-appellations. These span almost the entire length of the country, beginning as far North in Atacama as Valle Copiapo, all the way down to Valle Osorno.

Aside from a diverse array of soil compositions and microclimates, innovative producers are crafting deliciously balanced and refined white and red wines. Many of which you’ll likely already be familiar with (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay stand out particularly in quality). Plus, since the country is still so undervalued on the wine front, some of the finest wines of Chile can be acquired at local wineries and stores for as little as 2,000 CLP. You can learn more specifics about Chilean wine regions and their grape varieties on Winederlusting.com.

The Carmenere Grape Variety Finds Its Best Expression

A grape originating from and once believed to be best suited to the terroir of Bordeaux, France, Carmenere has essentially become Chile’s premier grape variety. This luscious red grape commonly produces black and red fruit forward wines, with no shortage of veggie-esque flavors — not unlike that of green bell pepper.

The largest area of Carmenere production is concentrated throughout Chile’s Central Valley, although plantings span as far north as the Maipo Valley — near Santiago — all the way down to the Southern appellation of Valle Maule. This grape is so popular to both locals and foreigners alike that there’s actually an entire festival dedicated to its greatness during the third week of March every year in the Maule Valley.

Chilean Wine Country

Chile’s Geographical Location is Convenient

Chile is a convenient travel destination, but not because it’s necessarily easy to get to or navigate. Rather, it’s located near several other highly sought-after travel destinations.

For those of us looking to taste the best wines of South America, Chile’s Central Valley is also conveniently located next door to Argentina’s Mendoza wine region. If Carmenere is the Chilean Central Valley King of Grapes, Malbec is undoubtedly Mendoza’s.

On the other hand, if you’re the kind of traveler that craves unparalleled outdoor scenery and hiking, Patagonia offers some of the finest in the world.

The Country is Affordable

Nomads and families alike who are looking to travel on a budget will enjoy touring most of Chile, although the further South you venture towards Patagonia, the more expensive things tend to get. In Central and Northern Chile, cost of living is just about half that of London, and public transport is widely accessible and cheap. In recent years, infrastructure throughout the country has improved dramatically, with very well maintained highways, bridges, and roads.

Chilean Wine Country

The Climate is Ideal for Both Vines and Travelers

Although there is an incredible amount of geological diversity throughout the country, the best wine producing regions (Central) receive a Mediterranean climate. For the most part, one can expect long, warm sunny days, with cool and crisp evenings. Snowmelt from the Andes helps to hydrate vines during the Summer season, while Winter tends to bring more rain. Even if you travel to Chile during the Winter (which happens to be Summer in the Northern Hemisphere), the season is often referred to as a “just-so Winter” — indicating that they can be chilly, but not obnoxiously cold.

Winederlusting.com, a Taste Vacations partner, is a premier media source for all things travel and wine. Our aim is to help our audience learn, grow and better plan their wine journeys around the world. We think of wine as a vessel. A method that aids in tapping into the richness of life’s fruits. Travel is the best way to acquire true wisdom; Wine is just a hug in a bottle that makes the journey that much more pleasurable.

 

Join us in exploring Chilean Wine Country on the upcoming Chile & Argentina Wine Tour >>

Argentina

10 Reasons to Travel to Argentina Right Now

By | Taste Vacations, Wine | No Comments

A perfect balance of diverse natural beauty and diverse cultural experiences, Argentina is an ideal choice for your next vacation.  Wine lovers can sip on exceptional Malbecs with the majestic Andes Mountains as their backdrop in Mendoza, urban-types can discover the diverse and rich culture of Buenos Aires, and those looking to explore the great outdoors can trek through Patagonia. There is virtually something for everyone!

 

10 Reasons To Travel to Argentina Right Now

10 Reasons to Travel to Argentina Right Now1. Taste The Wine! – Over the past decade or so, Argentina went from being unknown in the wine world to becoming one of the fastest growing exporters of wine.  Malbec is Argentina’s flagship wine, and for good reason, but cabernet sauvignon, torrentes, and shiraz have all been making great gains recently as well.

2. Pay Less Fees – As of August 23, 2016, Americans no longer have to pay the $160 reciprocity fee when entering Argentina. Additionally, as of January 2, 2017, there is no longer a VAT or value-added tax for hotel stays for international guests. A few less fees and taxes can really add up, making your vacation cheaper.

3. Beef, it’s what’s for dinner. Beef is a prime element of Argentine cuisine and Argentines take great care of their beef from grass-fed cows to their own cuts of meat to how they cook it. You can taste the difference as soon as you take your first bite of steak.

Patagonia4. Explore Patagonia – This expansive region that stretches across the southern most tips of Argentina and Chile is quite a remarkable destination.  Patagonia’s other-worldly landscapes and varied climates offer a range of experiences including relaxing along the coastline to observe its unique wildlife, cruising around by boat, or trekking across glaciers.

5. Take in a Tango, the dance of passion –  Tango is the official dance and music symbol of Argentina.  It originated in the late 19th century in the lower-class districts of Buenos Aires in predominantly in the bars and brothels. It was regarded as a crude dance by the upper class until well into the 20th century. Now you can see this beautifully passionate dance performed at many venues ranging from street corners at open air markets to fancy black-tie dance halls.

6. Enjoy Flipped Seasons – Need to get away during North America’s winter cold? No problem! Argentina is in the Southern Hemisphere and therefore has summer December – February.

7.  Wander Through San Telmo market – The San Telmo Market or the Feria de San Telmo, is one of the most popular and renowned events in Buenos Aires. Every Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm you can walk down aisle after aisle of unique artisan and antique booths, selling vintage jewelry, leather belts, pottery, trinkets, and more. It’s also a great spot to catch a free tango show!

10 reasons to go to Argentina8. Share a mate with friends –  Yerba mate is a tea that is very popular in Argentina and comes with its own set of cultural rules. It is typically sipped out of a hollowed out gourd through a bombilla, which is a metal straw with a filter at the end of it. Traditionally, the mate is meant to be sipped and then passed around a circle of friends. When you pass the mate, you are supposed to look the person in the eye and give it to them so that the straw is facing them. You are not supposed to move the position of the straw at all in order to avoid sucking in chunks of the tea.  Oh and don’t say thank you until you have had your fill of mate!

10 reasons to visit Argentina9. Indulge in Dulce de Leche – Dulce de leche is a traditional Argentine dessert sauce made of milk, sugar, and usually vanilla extract.  You can pour it over ice cream, fill pastries with it, scrape it on toast for breakfast, use it betwen layers in a cake, or frankly just eat it straight out of the jar.

10. Marvel at Iguaza Falls –  Named one of the seven new wonders of the world and consisting of over 275 separate waterfalls, Iguazu Falls does not disappoint.  When First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt first saw the falls, she reportedly exclaimed, “Poor Niagara!”

Taste Vacations offers a Chile & Argentina Wine Tour where you can experience several of these reasons for yourself, and those that aren’t included in our itinerary can be easily added on your own either before or after the tour.

Taste Vacations Sale

Don’t Miss Out – Sale on All International Tours!

By | Beer, Food, Taste Vacations, Wine | No Comments

Still haven’t booked your 2017 vacation? Now’s the time to explore Spain’s incredible wine, Belgium’s renowned beers, or Peru’s delectable cuisine.

Book an international Taste Vacation from now until February 15th and receive $300 off *

This includes our:

So what are you waiting for? Make 2017 the year you decided to Savor Your World.

 

*Cannot be combined with other discounts and does not include private or custom tours.

Ways to Save for Your Next Vacation

7 Ways to Save Up for Your Next Vacation

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Have a dream vacation in mind but lacking the funds to make it a reality?  Check out 7 ways to save up for your next vacation without feeling like you are depriving yourself:

 

  1. Set Up a Separate Travel Fund Account To ensure that you don’t start using the money that you want to be saving for your next vacation, set up a separate savings account specifically for your travels. Just make sure you are choosing an account that doesn’t hit you up with too many fees.
  2. Make Automatic Deposits Most banks offer the ability to easily transfer money from one account to another. So once your travel account has been set up, start having a certain amount automatically transferred from your checking account each pay day. That way, you don’t even have to remember to log in to transfer it.
  3. Download a Money Saving App  Check out apps like Mint where you can consolidate your various accounts, set personal finance goals and alerts, and tag expenses by category. You can then pull reports in easy to understand charts and graphs and identify areas where you can slash excess spending.
  4. Reduce Your Energy Costs  Your water heater is most likely set higher than it needs to be. Go ahead and turn it down a few notches. Replace your regular light bulbs with energy efficient ones. Not only will you be going green, but you’ll save some money doing it.
  5. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize  At first saving money for your vacation will seem easy and maybe even fun.  But after a few weeks, you might lose track of your goal.  Try to keep it top of mind by leaving photos of your vacation destination around your house, office, or car.  The more you can stay focused on your goal, the quicker your savings will add up.
  6. Use Cash On Fun Spending If you’re like me then using cash for every transaction seems pretty daunting and unnecessary in today’s world. And life without a few treats here and there seems rather dull.  Instead of using cash for everything, try using it on things that are seen as wants rather than needs. Try taking out $50 of cash at the beginning of each week and only use it on things like coffee, tickets to the movies, etc. It will help you stop and think whether or not that purchase is really worth it. And if you have any money left at the end of the week, you can put it back into your bank account or roll it over to use in the next week.
  7. Use your Local Library First off, you are most likely already paying for the services of your local library through your taxes so why not use it? Secondly, you can save a good amount of money borrowing not only books but movies, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks, and more, rather than purchasing from Amazon or other retailers.

Taking these small steps in saving can really add up over time and put you well on your way to booking your dream vacation.

Happy saving!

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.

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