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Travel Toolbox: Experiences of a Lifetime

Sometimes it takes just one extraordinary experience to elevate a normal tour into a “trip of a lifetime.”

Some group tour activities, such as visits to famous landmarks, are standard practice, no matter where you go. But in many places in North America and around the world, special activities and inclusions can give your group travelers thrills that they have likely never before encountered.

If you take your travelers to some of the world’s greatest destinations, you should also offer them access to some of the world’s greatest experiences. Here are some exceptional “once in a lifetime” travel opportunities that I’ve discovered in more than a decade of travel journalism.


Taking flight in a helicopter, private plane or hot-air balloon can give even the most jaded traveler the thrill of a lifetime. So-called “flightseeing” tours have long been popular in some of the world’s most scenic places and offer a perspective and experience that our ancestors never imagined. These excursions usually aren’t cheap — they often cost hundreds of dollars per person. But the chance to helicopter onto an Alaskan glacier, circle New Zealand mountaintops or get a bird’s-eye view of the Las Vegas strip is well worth the price.


Underwater Adventures

Some of the most exotic and beautiful sites on earth exist in reefs and protected areas below the surface of the ocean. Groups can explore those places without the hassle of scuba certification on Sea Trek or Sea Walker excursions. Those companies use special helmets attached to surface air supply tanks by long plastic tubes, allowing travelers to breathe naturally as they walk around on the ocean floor. The experience of breathing underwater and the thrill of seeing marine ecosystems up close are unlike anything available on land.


Overnight Trains

They’re not the fastest way to travel anymore, but overnight trains may still be the most charming. Trains traverse every continent, offering relaxed transport and unparalleled views of the places they travel through. Many long-distance train trips feature overnight service with surprisingly luxurious sleeping compartments and dining cars. Whether it’s traveling to the West Coast on an Amtrak train or indulging in the tradition of the Orient Express in Europe, a great overnight train trip will be a feather in the cap of any avid traveler.



You may not yet have heard of glamping — a portmanteau of “glamor” and “camping” — but you will probably hear more about it soon. Luxurious tented camps have long been popular in the world of African safaris and are growing in popularity in North America. Glamping uses tents built over permanent frames and foundations and allows travelers to be surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature while also enjoying full bathrooms, traditional beds and modern creature comforts. Many glamping facilities feature butler service to the tents and gourmet catered meals.


Incredible Accommodations

There are nice hotels, luxury hotels and then, once-in-a-lifetime hotels. Those are places that take advantage of incredible surroundings to give travelers an unforgettable overnight experience. Groups can stay in a Swedish hotel constructed entirely of ice, tree house rooms built into the canopy of a Central American rain forest or historic castles that once served the nobility of Europe. You may not be interested in spending a whole week there, but one or two nights at incredible accommodations like those can make any trip instantly memorable.