So, you’ve paid a lot of money for an amazing vacation. You are headed off on a new adventure or to a favorite destination you can’t wait to revisit. But, you’re wondering what will set this adventure apart. What will make it beyond the ordinary and one for the memory books?  What will take it to the next level?  If this sounds like you, perhaps it’s time to do your research and add a little extra adventure to your vacation.

When It's Time to Take Your Travel to the Next Level

Exploring Belize. Photo credit Belcamp Belize.

Some people are satisfied with just getting away. Me, well, I like to set my vacations apart from other travelers.  In the past, specialists have arranged anything from private cooking classes to private boats exploring protected areas with naturalists to hot air balloon trips to helicopter rides seeing hidden waterfalls.

And yes, we also have taken advantage of these experiences at places like Walt Disney World.  Truthfully, I am not sure we would have had the opportunities we did at Disney or my husband would have survived Disney without the “add-on” and VIP experiences, which I will discuss in a separate post.  This coming year, we have travel planned around the world and I am most excited about what we are arranging to make each trip a true travel experience.

Belcampo Belize

Our first adventure this year is a vacation planned for us by my husband; a rarity indeed and a concept probably quite unfamiliar to most traveling moms!  We are headed to Belize to go fly fishing with Orvis.  Now, before you go, “Oh, sure, he plans a fishing trip.  What’s in it for you?” let me explain.  I love to fly fish, just not as crazy about the sport as my hubby.  Our 10-day adventure will include 6 days of fishing, of which I will most likely do 2-3.  Why?  Because my hubby also picked the location for me, for what I like to do and for the experiences that are offered.  Granted he is going for the Grand Slam, too…but the experiences are amazing.

how to take your travel to the next level

Fishing at Belcampo Belize. Photo credit Belcampo Belize.

There are many different types of accomodations when fly fishing; from cabins to lodges to jungle boutique hotels.  But, he chose Belcampo Belize, which offers exclusive experiences for their guests that you can add on to their already amazing amenities.  There are two “add-on” experiences I am looking forward to the most.  The first is diving with the chef for lunch.  Yes, diving to catch your lunch.  You may say farm to table, I say sea to table.  Spending time with a chef who is so passionate about the food that is served and how it is prepared is a true pleasure and I can’t wait.

The second experience is spending a day exploring the area with a Belcampo professional to learn where the food is sourced from.  I can select from a variety available experiences, including farm visits and even forging.  While I hope to do many, I am most excited about the Toledo Culinary Tour.  We’ll be starting at the Spice Farm, which specializes in growing exotic spices.  Then, after lunch at a local café, it’s off to visit the famous Chocolate Farmer, Eladio Pop, who was featured in the documentary, The Chocolate Farmer.  Or maybe I’ll just choose to sit in a hammock and soak up the view.

how to take your travel to the next level

Photo credit Belcampo Belize.

I’ll be starting my adventure at Belcampo on March 2nd.  You can follow along at MomsGoodEats.

Ode to Joy

I have yet to experience Ode to Joy, but they are next on my list for this year.  I have to say what attracted me to this company was the name, but when I was able to speak with the owner a bit more about the experiences and concept, I was sold right away.  The experiences currently are offered all over Europe and range from food, wine, and fashion to sports, outdoors, and the arts.  I mean they will craft a Downtown Abbey, Game of Thrones, or Puttin’ on the Ritz experience for you.

Ode to Joy is just what I was looking for as part of my true travel experience.  They have hand-curated once-in-a-lifetime unique experiences that can’t be duplicated anywhere else and open doors to the unexpected and inspirational.  Using only the finest locals and experts in each of their areas, the experiences can range from solo to up to 20 people.  I mean who wouldn’t love to start their day with a Michelin 3 Star chef and owner of one of Spain’s finest, Pedro Subijana, at the market and end the day in his kitchen in a masterclass with a tasting menu and wine tasting.

how to take your travel to the next level

The locale for the cooking class in Spain. What a view! Photo credit Ode to Joy.

Ode to Joy also has adventures that you would most likely not discover on your own, like the Inis Mor Seaweed.  With local guide, Gabriel, you will learn the the ways of the island and then meet up with a local seaweed harvester in his home to learn the many benefits of seaweed.  Afterwards, you continue to Gabriel’s goat cheese farm where among other things, you get to try cheese infused with seaweed.  Okay, you have to like seaweed for this adventure!  Then, you will explore the island and can add on an optional picnic lunch, which is like a no-brainier.  Of course, I’ll be there.

how to take your travel to the next level

Seaweed Village. Photo credit Ode to Joy.

TrueGreece

Traveling with TrueGreece starts on-line or on the phone.  I found TrueGreece through a friend and I was lucky enough to connect with the founder, Christos.  I felt like I was speaking with a long lost friend.  He understood me and listened to what I wanted.  When we hung up, I felt as though all I needed to do was book my ticket and so I did.  This was a solo trip for me and I wanted to do nothing, well, except to sail, cook, and do a bit of hiking.  Luckily, Christos also made recommendations I did not even think about.

how to take your travel to the next level

My private cooking class in Greece. Photo credit Dana Zucker, Luxe Traveling Mom.

When I landed in Athens, my driver for my time there was ready for me.  He knew my hotel and my plans.  He made sure I was checked in, verified my dinner reservations, and was there to pick me up early for a little city tour before dinner.  The next day, he was there again for me with my tour guide, who was amazing.  For instance, being a local, she suggested rather than watching the changing of the guards with a huge crowd of tourists that we sit quietly on a wall with amazing views, but where we could watch alone.  It was delightful.

As an aside, if you can afford to hire a local guide, I highly recommend doing so.  You will see sights and get to places you had no idea existed.  Plus, they know the history of where you are visiting and just make the trip so much more memorable.  When it was time to leave Athens, my driver said he would be back when I returned two weeks later.

how to take your travel to the next level

Breakfast on my private patio at Ikies on Santorini. Photo credit Dana Zucker, Luxe Traveling Mom.

Each island that followed had similar experiences and the brands that TrueGreece works with, well, each one was better than the next.  I wanted small secured boutique hotels and I got them,  I wanted private cooking classes and I got them,  I wanted personalized luxury and I got it.  The most amazing experience on one of the islands happened when I wanted to head up the mountain to the pottery village and my over-the-top driver took me there.

He also knew I loved farm to table food and I loved to cook, so on our way down asked if I minded if we made a “quick” stop.  It just happened to be on his family’s farm that started half the way up the mountain and ended on the other side, just a street from the sea.  Simply breathtaking.  I met his horse, his aunt, and spent a bit of time in her kitchen.  Another trip curated with me in mind.  All of my add ons made for once-in-a-lifetime experiences and were well worth every penny and a few more!

Moral of the story here – Don’t just travel, experience!  These are the types of experiences when price really does not matter.  You are in an amazing vacation spot, and to truly appreciate the culture and its people, connecting with specially curated experiences is well worth it!

how to take your travel to the next level