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The Recipe for Great Trips

Every great trip follows a recipe for success.

In 2018, chef and food writer Samin Norsat made a splash in the culinary world with her cookbook “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking.” She built her book around the simple assertion that no matter where in the world you go, the best food had those four elements in common.

What’s true in the kitchen is also true on the road. I’ve found that the best trips, like delicious food, all share some fundamental traits.

Whether you take your groups to visit museums, explore the outdoors, walk in the footsteps of history or enjoy live entertainment, make sure your tours include these five fundamental elements.

1) A Memorable Meal

Great food can bring warmth and excitement to even the dreariest day. Don’t overlook the power of a meal to add sizzle to your travel packages. Make it a priority to include at least one genuinely memorable meal in every trip your group takes. And remember, the best meals aren’t always the most expensive ones: Beachfront barbecues, food tours or hands-on culinary workshops are great ways to create food memories without the fuss and expense of gourmet dining.

2) A Delightful Surprise

Before they sign up for a trip, travelers want to know where the tour will be going and what they’ll be doing when they get there. You should always market your trips based on marquee destinations and attractions but should never reveal everything on the itinerary. The best trips always have a surprise, flourish or twist. This could be something simple, like a small gift or souvenir, or something major, like a concert or show you didn’t advertise.

3) An Engaging Host

The best way to get to know a destination is to get to know the people that live there. To do that, you need more than a group leader or a tour guide; you need a host with a warm, welcoming personality. The best hosts go the extra mile to build friendships and make travelers feel genuinely welcome. If you can’t find a tour guide with that disposition, look for a chef, a docent or another local ambassador with a big personality to greet the group and love on them a little.

4) A Good Night’s Sleep

Nothing makes me feel quite so relaxed as a great bed and a leisurely breakfast. But too many tour schedules are so packed that I don’t get to enjoy either. Early mornings may be a necessity at certain points along the way, but don’t schedule any more than necessary. Try to make sure that trips include at least a couple of nights at enjoyable hotels, and give your travelers ample time to relax in the evening, sleep in before breakfast and enjoy the amenities.

5) A Sense of Fun

Going on vacation should never be work; so why do many group tours feel like such a grind? Probably because the itinerary reads more like a to-do list than an adventure. The best trips blend learning opportunities with lighthearted moments, and a sense of fun undergirds everything the group does. Make sure your travel itineraries include plenty of enjoyable activities. And try to foster a culture of laughter no matter where you go.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.

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