Travel Shows Offer Families Ideas, Savings and Fun
Have you ever taken your family to a travel show? Several major cities across the US have travel shows, often put together by a local media company.
Despite cold, windy weather, my family usually treks to the far west side of Manhattan for the New York Times Travel Show in January. It can be mini-vacation in itself and a source of inspiration and travel ideas for the year ahead. Here’s what to expect:
The Times show, and I imagine most others, is organized by geographic regions: U.S. and Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa and so on Each of the geographic zones has a stage where shows and cooking demonstrations happen throughout the day. Look for especially colorful costumes and distinctive music around the Caribbean and Asian booths.
In addition, tourism offices, tour companies. African safari groups, cruise ship lines and travel product companies host their own booths. Many give out food and drink samples—we got to try some very fancy New York State maple syrup, Jamaican ginger beer and Taiwanese bubble tea and Turkish bread this year. Look for small freebies like Mardi Gras beads from Louisiana and salt water taffy from beach destinations.
Each year, the Times show has at least a few unique activities. This year Visit Canada hosted a refrigerator full of Canada-themed giveaways that opened if visitors could say, “I am Canadian” in three languages. Curacao used virtual reality goggles to give visitors a mini-beach break.
There is always a family area with different activities. One year the Morgan Library let kids make their own paint from bugs, stones and flowers; another year Sea World hosted small-animal encounters. This year kids could dress up like explorers for their own National Geographic cover photo.
Of course, the point of travel shows is to share information about destinations and travel services. I’ve taken advantage of this as much as I can. When my in-laws proposed an Alaskan cruise a few years ago I talked with several cruise companies about the pros and cons of taking a preschooler on this type of trip (and ultimately decided we would get more out of it if we waited a few years).
This year I stopped by the booth for Guadeloupe, a Caribbean island we’re visiting later this year that is less well known to Americans and for which I’ve had a hard time finding information.
I‘ve also used the show to find out what’s new in some of our favorite destinations like maritime Canada, Vermont and the Florida Keys and with cruise lines like Disney and Royal Caribbean.
Some of the tour and cruise ship companies offer discounts if you book at a travel show. If you think you might take advantage of this, consider who you might book with and do some price research online before you go to make sure they’re offering real savings.
Many booths do a vacation giveaway raffle. It doesn’t hurt to sign up for as many as you come across; you might win! Just be ready to receive promotional emails and postcards afterward.
Plan to pay $10-$20 for adult tickets; kids usually get in for free. Often tickets are cheaper if you buy ahead online. And discounts are often available. For example, American Express might offer a discount if you use its card to buy your tickets. And the Times usually discounts tickets for its subscribers.
Where to Find Travel Shows
Travel shows of one sort or another hit most major cities; many are held over the winter when families are looking for activities to get them out of the house. Here are a few we found to check out for 2016.
- The Travel and Adventure Show hits San Diego, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Philadelphia between January and March.
- AAA hosted travel shows in Tulsa and Oklahoma City in January.
- AAA hosts a show in Columbus, OH in January, too, and smaller expos around the country throughout the year.
- The Boston Globe’s is in February. It has a beer pavilion!
- The Philadelphia Inquirer’s is in April/May.
- There is a Travel Expo in Edison, NJ in March
- The Oregonian Media Group has it’s Here & There Travel Fest in the fall.
- There is a World Culture and Travel Expo in Atlanta in early spring
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