By Mark Slatko
Luxury travel as we’ve known it – or at least defined it – has gone the way of the dinosaur (literally and figuratively). Today, affluent travelers are rejecting the commonplace, seeking way-off-the-beaten- path bucket list experiences: did someone say dinosaur dig with a world-renowned paleontologist?
Bespoke travel is no longer about having the biggest and the most lavish. It’s about feeling rich and inspired through personalized, unique experiences not found in a guidebook, glossy brochure or even page- one Google results. It could be a once-in-a-lifetime trip to witness the Northern Lights, or a private dinner in an 18th-century castle complete with a celebrity chef. Because while cookie cutter might work for cookies, baked-in sameness no longer satisfies the distinct cravings of today’s affluent globetrotter.
And the more unusual the activity, the better. Well-heeled travelers are requesting everything from stargazing with noted astronomers to reaching the edge of space in a MiG-29 flight in Russia. Yet while space might be the final frontier, so are down-to-earth experiences where travelers can immerse themselves in the local culture. How does herding a flock of Cheviot sheep in New Zealand sound about now? And the accommodations travelers seek are as rare and experiential as the activities themselves, from spending the night in an igloo in Norway to sleeping in the Sahara under the stars.
Speaking of rest and relaxation, today’s high-end experiential travel is the stuff dreams are made of. With the CDC citing sleep deprivation a public health epidemic, getting your share of shut-eye isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. That’s why more and more upscale hotels offer sleep-related therapies dispensed by dedicated sleep curators and sleep butlers. Also provided: room aromatherapy options, pillow menus and linens that remove bacteria for a healthy slumber. After all, getting a restful night’s sleep is nothing to sneeze at.
Of course, this new definition of luxury travel isn’t reserved for couples and small families. Multigenerational travel continues to be a firmly entrenched travel niche, as more and more extended families choose to connect through shared travel experiences. Whether you choose a European villa for a celebration with loved ones, an African safari or snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, a family trip will strengthen bonds and create memories that last a lifetime (remember that time in Australia when grandpa lost his swim trunks?).
John Steinbeck, who was moved by a desire to see his country on a personal level, once wrote, “People don’t take trips, trips take people.” Give today’s luxury travelers what they want – customized local experiences along the road less traveled – and there’s no telling where it could take you.