Fresh olives in Casablanca
Fresh olives in Casablanca

Culinary travel is one of the fastest growing travel trends providing foodies the opportunity to combine their love of food with travel to new destinations. By land and by sea culinary travel excursion opportunities abound. In a Travel Industry Association study released by the U.S. Travel Association, it is estimated that 17% of American leisure travelers (27 million travelers) engaged in culinary or wine-related activities while on trips in the last three years. And, the foodie  momentum continues.

So how to you embark on your own culinary travel experiences? Whether you are a die-hard foodie, the occasional foodie or the casual foodie, there are lots of culinary options to fit your interests:

The die-hard foodie:

*Seek trips that are designed to offer hands-on culinary experiences.

*Select travel itineraries that offer epicurean adventure ( trips in California, culinary cruises, Ecuadorian or European culinary trips).

*Look for organized food tours or do-it-yourself tours that sample various local wineries and restaurants (i.e. wine and food trails).

*Try local delicacies. Everyone’s version of ‘food’ differs depending on where you are in the world. Take a stab at local delicacies (if you dare) and add a completely new element to your culinary desires.

The occasional foodie: 

You’re not a chef, but you do enjoy whipping up fine cuisine and looking for ways to expand your skills.

*Arrange cooking excursions at your destination. My recent trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand provided endless opportunities to learn how to make authentic Pad Thai with local chefs. You can find local cooking classes in almost every destination offered by local restaurants or hotels.

*Hit local food fairs or festivals that feature local food.

Chiang Mai produce
Chiang Mai produce

The casual foodie:

You want to enjoy the locals spices and food flavors specific to your destination.

*Hit local markets for the freshest food and produce.

*Research what foods your destination is known for and seek out opportunities to try them in the most authentic way. I enjoyed many bowls of Pho (a hearty soup) in Vietnam prepared in many ways by local chefs!

According to the International Culinary Travel Association, food and drink are no longer something you enjoy while traveling, but they are essential players in travel decisions. There are many ways to incorporate the joy of food into your next trip. Part 2 of my culinary travel series looks at the booming popularity of culinary cruising. Stay tuned.