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13 Unique Travel Experiences That Put All-Inclusives to Shame

Step out of your comfort zone and away from the lounge chairs and cocktails. Here are some travel experiences that'll put your previous all-inclusive trips to shame.

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Poolside red cocktail served cold at pool bar at sunny summer day. Summer holidays, travel, people and vacation concept.
Melana Lettering/Shutterstock

All-inclusives are (mostly) the same

If you’ve stayed at one all-inclusive resort, you may have stayed at them all. But traveling can be much more adventurous than sitting on a beach sipping cocktails. And if you’re willing to step outside your comfort zone, you won’t be disappointed by these unique travel experiences and activities that put all-inclusives to shame, according to travel experts. Book one of these unusual hotels while you’re planning. Click on to learn more!

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machu picchu
via tripadvisor.com

Glamp on the Inca Trail

Glamping on the Inca Trail to reach Machu Pichu is one memorable travel experience that Angela Rice, a co-founder of Boutique Travel Advisors, highly recommends. It was the highlight of her trip to Peru! The private guides shared the rich history of the Inca and pre-Inca people. Other amenities, including daily massages, four-course meals, and wine in the evenings, made the adventure that much more fun. “The long and strenuous daily hikes provided a sense of achievement as we arrived at each private campsite,” Rice says. “The views were magnificent, and often to our surprise, we had the trail entirely to ourselves, including the ability to explore privately.” This alternative strategy made the large crowds at Machu Picchu less disappointing.

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food foraging Sweden
via visitsweden.com/ediblecountry

Cook like a Michelin-starred chef

Food-lovers who enjoy nature and don’t mind getting their hands dirty will love the Edible Country program in Sweden. Here’s how it works: You book a table at one of 13 locations. The chefs designed a nine-course menu that guests can prepare and cook for themselves, outside, with ingredients they forage from the wild. There is a collection of handmade wooden tables with ready-to-use kitchen kits, cooking tools, and menus at each spot. Guests reserve, go to the location, and get to work foraging and cooking their own delicious meal from nature. You can book the table for free, but add-ons like a local chef or foraging guide are available, too. People who prefer eating indoors might want to book a table at one of these weird restaurants around the world.

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rocky mountain train tour
via tripadvisor.com

Take a train through the Rockies of Canada

The Rocky Mountaineer train in the Rockies of Canada not only puts all-inclusives to shame but Amtrak, too. Kristen Heptinstall, a travel agent with Sager Fairytale Getaways, says she always hears wonderful things about this unique Canadian travel experience. “The reviews I hear are that the food on-board and the views are both top-notch,” Heptinstall says. The tour takes passengers through otherwise inaccessible terrain. The reviews on TripAdvisor say the trip is not only stunning but equivalent to traveling like royalty. Tack on more visits and check out these other popular vacation destinations in Canada.

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carnival mask painting
via tripadvisor.com

Make Venetian carnival masks

Celebrate the Carnival of Venice and make an elaborate mask with the help of a master artisan. Creative experiences like this one allow travelers to learn about local culture from locals themselves, and leave with something unique to their destination, says Laurel Greatrix, a TripAdvisor spokesperson. You’ll learn the art and history of traditional mask-making in a maximum group of four people per tour. So you and your mask will get plenty of help and attention. Don’t wait to book this activity because Venice is one of the breathtaking places you should visit before they disappear.

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sushi making class
via tripadvisor.com

Serve up your own sushi in Tokyo

Explore Tsukiji, one of the most famous fish markets in the world. Early birds will want to see the 5:00 a.m. live tuna auctions, but the real action is with the tours. Opt for the sushi making experience, and you’ll not only tour the market with a professional sushi master who has more than 10 years of experience, but they’ll also teach you how to make sushi yourself.

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hat making class
via tripadvisor.com

Design a hat with a hatmaker

Anyone with a flair for French fashion will love this workshop led by a French hatmaker who’s worked at some of the most famous fashion houses. Travelers learn traditional techniques, see pieces worn by the stars, and create their own hat to take home, Greatrix says.

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gladiator school
via tripadvisor.com

Take classes at Gladiator school

The Colosseum in Rome may not be one of the secret enchantments of Rome, but it’s definitely worth seeing. After snapping a couple of pictures, however, this bucket-list sighting is quickly over. For a longer, more exclusive experience, check out Gladiator school classes. The two-hour class taught by members of the Historic Group of Rome teach basic gladiator sword fighting techniques. Dress up in traditional costume, and brave souls have the option to participate in a Gladiator tournament. After class, visit the Gladiator School of Rome Museum to see weapons and artifacts, included with your ticket.

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floating vacation rooms
via tripadvisor.com

Float on a lake in a tent camp in the jungle

Jurga Rubinovaite, from family travel blog Full Suitcase, recommends staying in a floating tent camp like the one on a lake in the middle of Khao Sok National Park in Thailand. Although a floating camp sounds daunting, it’s not as scary as you might think. The tents are comfortable and equipped with a hot shower, electric lighting, beds, and a hammock. TripAdvisor describes it as a combination of an African Safari tent idea located in Thailand. You’ll also get to wash, feed, and interact with elephants. There’s no riding out of respect toward the animals. This trip ticks of two fun bucket list adventures.

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dog sledding

Dog sled before seeing the northern lights

Rubinovaite and her family highly recommend dog sledding in Norway and Greenland, too. There’s someone there to drive the sled while you enjoy the beautiful views. After the ride, you can meet the dogs and a few of the puppies, too. You can also opt for a longer multi-day dog sledding expedition.

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Denali Backcountry Adventure
via tripadvisor.com

Disconnect in the Alaskan wilderness

Reconnect with nature and disconnect with your phone on this trip. Cassandra Brooklyn, travel expert and owner of EscapingNY, recommends taking one of the guided bus tours from Denali Backcountry Adventure for a down-to-earth experience. There’s no Wi-Fi or cell phone service nearby. So while you’re on the tour learning about the area and seeing animals safely but up-close, there are no distractions. You can also try your luck at gold-panning or take a nature trail walk. There is Wi-Fi back at the lodge, so you can post your pictures once you’re back. For people who like to plan ahead, note that Alaska is one of the perfect summer vacation destinations.

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night time sled
via tripadvisor.com

Take a nighttime sled ride in Switzerland

Live out your childhood dreams with a sled ride in the Swiss Alps. The four-hour adventure has round-trip transportation so you can save all your energy for sledding. You’ll meet your guide and travel toward the base while seeing beautiful views. On the sled run, you’ll see gorgeous meadows and frozen waterfalls. Warm-up afterward with a Swiss cheese fondue.

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boiling river
via tripadvisor.com

Swim in the Boiling River in Yellowstone National Park

After exploring Yellowstone National Park, make your way to the beautiful Boiling River. Don’t worry—the water isn’t actually boiling. The cold Gardner River meets the Mammoth Hot Springs to create this natural wonder. This hidden gem is worth the visit, according to Rubinovaite. Make sure you bring your water shoes as the floor is rocky. Stop at another hidden gem in Wyoming, or any of the hidden gems in every state, too.

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via tripadvisor.com

Take an African safari tour

Tanzania is one of the most popular travel destinations in Africa. You won’t miss lazing about on a beach while you’re taking in the very best of Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater. This is a little bit of a cheat as this unique experience does include lots of food and travel extras. It’s the closest option to an all-inclusive vacation.

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Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is a former staff writer at Reader’s Digest. There’s a 90% chance Emily is drinking tea right now, but when she’s not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts and liking one too many astrology memes.