AAA survey reveals an estimated 22 million Americans will take a culinary vacation this year

TOPEKA – Food and dining are becoming a more central part of travelers’ vacation experiences for Kansans and many Americans. In fact, AAA’s latest travel survey found 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 and 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 while traveling.

Kansas has no shortage of unique, local and diversely tasty restaurants and culinary experiences. From legendary down-home, must-visit restaurants and flavorful ethnic cuisines to the newest “locally grown ingredient” and vegetarian/vegan eateries and food trucks, there are offerings to meet foodies’ tastes in all corners of the Sunflower State.

The Kansas Office of Travel and Tourism provides a handy guide to dining experiences and food destinations, including many varieties of restaurants as well as wineries/vineyards and breweries/distilleries throughout the state at www.travelks.com/restaurants/. The site also provides breakdowns of food categories, including BBQ, steak, fried chicken, local favorites, farm to table, bakeries and coffee shops, and more. At www.kansastravel.org/kansasrestaurants.htm, you can find a list of some of the oldest, best known Kansas restaurants, as well as many out-of-the-way or unknown gems.

“There is no better way to learn about a destination and immerse yourself in the local culture than by experiencing its unique food and dining customs,” said Bryan Shilling, AAA managing director of Travel Products and Services. “When planning a culinary vacation, seek the advice of a trusted travel advisor, who can help customize a trip that matches the individual traveler’s dining preferences.”

Travelers may visit AAA retail offices across Kansas – including Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan, East Wichita and West Wichita – to consult with a AAA travel advisor for recommendations on travel itineraries, including culinary travel experiences, in Kansas and elsewhere.

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 one of the top mistakes travelers make when preparing for an international trip is not planning their meals and activities in advance.

“Travelers spent an average of $63 per person, per day on food and dining purchases during their last vacation,” continued Shilling. “Meals can quickly become a significant portion of a family’s vacation budget. That’s why planning ahead is key to enjoying a memorable culinary vacation.

AAA’s report presents the findings of a telephone survey (landline and cell phone) consisting of 1,013 adults living in the continental United States. Interviewing for this survey was conducted March 9-12, 2017. This study has an average statistical error of ±3.8 percent at the 95 percent confidence level for all U.S. adults. Additionally, AAA/CAA travel executives responded to an online survey conducted Feb. 10-24, 2017. Each travel executive was asked to respond on behalf of all travel agents at their club, and responses were weighted by the number of full-time travel agents at that club. The club travel executive survey represents the input of 2,110 AAA/CAA travel agents.