What's your favorite way to fill your free time -- reading a good book? Working in your garden? Catching up on your favorite TV shows?
Whatever your preference, there are many of us who like to continue -- or even deepen our involvement in -- our favorite pastimes when we go on vacation. And for every hobby or leisure activity, there is an outfitter ready to help you up the ante. Below are a few ways to incorporate your favorite hobby into your next trip.
Despite persistent rumors that reading is a dying activity, a recent Harris Poll found that it was the most popular hobby for American women, with 48 percent of female respondents ranking it as a favorite leisure activity. (It ranked second in the overall poll behind watching TV.)
Reading is such an integral part of the whole idea of vacationing for many folks that it almost goes unmentioned as a niche -- many of us bring along a few novels to while away the hours on a plane or at the beach.
But if you want to take it a step farther, consider traveling to visit the homes and stomping grounds of their favorite authors, such as Hemingway's house in the Florida Keys or the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore. In Edinburgh, Scotland, you can take a literary pub tour that features dramatic readings and visits to taverns frequented by authors Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns. Check out 9 Great Authors and the Places That Shaped Them for more ideas in this vein. LiteraryTraveler.com is another good resource.
Where does a traveling TV addict go? To see the real thing in action, of course. Travel to Los Angeles or New York City (or even farther afield to London or Melbourne), and you can join the studio audience of any number of television shows. I've been in a few studio audiences over time, and they can be exhilarating ("Saturday Night Live") and very nearly drudgery (a sports show that had some production problems and practically held us hostage for six hours so that the audience did not seem to be changing during the 22-minute show), but it was interesting and memorable in every case.
There are a number of websites that help fill studio audiences, many for free or at very low cost. Here are a few:
Exercise and Fitness
In recent years, fitness travel has rapidly grown in popularity. If you want to go beyond counting steps with your Fitbit, you could consider booking the Bikini Bootcamp at the Amansala Resort in Tulum, Mexico, which involves daily power walks, workout classes and yoga routines. Or take a one- or two-week Fatpacking adventure trip, in which you can trek through the wilderness in various parts of the U.S. Wildfitness offers fitness-focused holidays in more exotic locations such as Zanzibar, Crete and Spain.
Fishing is almost by nature a "vacation" from the concerns of daily life; it's not likely you'll see someone checking email or yakking into a cell phone when he or she has a formidable fish on the end of a line. So a fishing trip is an old vacation staple.
However, as many of the most popular fishing locations close to home have become overfished and overcrowded, fisherfolk have begun venturing farther afield over the past few years. Outfitters are now offering fishing trips to places like Alaska, Central America, the South Pacific and even the Arctic Circle. Check out SportFishingMag.com/travel for ideas.
Going to the Movies
Going to the movies is more a weekend activity than a vacation activity, so we'll have to up the ante considerably here to make it worth your precious vacation time. This should do it: sign on to be a movie extra. InsideHollywood's guide will get you started; WiseGeek.com also has a short and sweet guide to the process that will be worth it if movies are your passion. One note of caution: Beware of scammers offering placement services for a fee. For the most part, these people take your money and little more.
Another popular option for traveling movie buffs is to visit sites featured in their favorite films. The following links are a sample of the kind of film tours available:
Taking a walk would seem perhaps to be the least remarkable activity among our list of hobbies -- walking is perhaps the most mundane human activity after eating and sleeping. It's also the easiest to incorporate into a trip.
Pretty much every great city has any number of walking tours, whether of a neighborhood, a park, a waterfront area, a historical district, you name it. Theme parks and zoos also often offer guided walking tours, many of which take you behind the scenes to see the inner workings of the place. The best place to find these is at the local tourism office or visitor center.
For more hardcore bipeds, possibilities range from day hikes in a national park to trekking vacations in the Himalayas and walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route across Spain. See Walking Tours and Trips for tips and tour operators.
Flower shows are a time-tested way for gardening buffs to indulge their pastime, but for the hardcore gardening traveler, try Coopersmith's, which offers tours in Great Britain, Japan and New Zealand, among others. For more garden tour companies, see this list.
If you're a music buff who enjoys going to concerts or festivals on the weekends, you'll probably find it fascinating to explore the tunes and rhythms of another land. We've rounded up nine destinations with vibrant music scenes, ranging from the Beatles' old stomping grounds in England to the pulsating nightclubs of Cuba.
Love to paint? Take a watercolor class in England's Lake District or indulge in an artist's retreat in Giverny, France (home of Monet). If you're more into crafts, consider learning to make a traditional drum in Morocco or trying your hand at bamboo weaving in Borneo. HolidayArtists.com lists a variety of art escapes around the world.
Have you ever turned one of your hobbies into a trip? Share your experiences in the comments below.