Food and dining are becoming a more central part of many travelers' vacation experiences. AAA's latest travel survey finds that an estimated 22 million Americans expect to take a culinary-focused vacation in the next 12 months. Seventy-five percent of Americans feel that food and dining are an important part of their travel experiences. Four-in-five say they have engaged in such unique activities as touring wineries and distilleries, eating with local families, and engaging in hands-on experiences such as cooking classes led by local chefs.
The younger generation is particularly interested in culinary travel, with 88 percent of millennials having participated in food-related experiences while vacationing, outpacing members of Generation X and Baby Boomers. In fact, 43 percent of AAA travel agents report a recent increase in the number of members planning culinary-focused vacations, with most planning foodie trips to Italy, France, and Spain.
Ironically, however, travel agents also say that something to keep in mind when preparing for an international trip is remembering to budget for their meals and activities. Travelers spent an average of $63 per person, per day on food and dining purchases during their last vacation. AAA promotes planning ahead when it comes to planning meals as a key to enjoying a memorable culinary vacation.
"More and more American travelers are starting to realize how big a role food plays in certain cultures," said Marita Williams, AAA East Central Manager of Travel Promotion & Product Development. "Many of AAA's tours and packages operated by our preferred travel partners are now including culinary experiences, something clients have been asking for."
Some of those packages can be enjoyed aboard lines like Celebrity Cruises, whose ships offer specialty dining restaurant options including French, Italian, steakhouse, and seafood/sushi, just to name a few. Travelers can also sign up for culinary classes while taking tours or traveling abroad, such as wine tours in Italy.
"One of my favorite tours to recommend is our Tuscany & the Italian Riviera," continued Williams. "It features an authentic Tuscan dinner expertly paired with locally produced wine. Guests also get the chance to partake in an interactive pasta-making demonstration and the opportunity to sample wines from the vineyards of the region."
While visiting parts of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, travelers can find thousands of AAA Diamond Rated restaurants through the AAA Travel Guides and TripTik Travel Planner tool on AAA.com and in the AAA Mobile app. All restaurants must meet and uphold rigorous minimum standards to pass an anonymous inspection and be approved by AAA. A rating of One to Five Diamonds is then assigned to describe the complexity of the restaurant's service, dcor, and food. The Diamond Ratings help diners find restaurants that offer the kind of experience they prefer, whether they want affordable, family-friendly establishments or to indulge in luxurious menu offerings and first-class service. For more information, visit AAA.com/Diamonds.