Culture, cuisine focal point of new culinary vacations

- For some, vacation means heading to the beach, a theme park, or to a new destination. It's a chance to experience a new place, a different culture, and new kinds of cuisine.

As the travel product manager for AAA, Julio Soto is mixing the love of food with travel, creating packages for culinary vacations.

He says the interest in these types of trips is being driven by millennials and social media.

"They are the ones moving towards culinary rather than any other age group, because they are the ones who want to take the picture of the steak or the lobster or the paella or  what have you and they want to share it immediately while they are doing it and I think that in and of itself has revolutionized the way we think of travel as it relates to culinary experiences," said Soto.

Tampa native and winner of season seven of Fox's "Masterchef," Shaun O'Neale is on board with the idea, literally. He offers cooking demonstrations to fans on the "Masterchef" Culinary Cruise.

"The love that you get from the fans is incredible. These people want to soak up knowledge they just want to learn and they want to eat and that's what we're there to do we give them our different styles so they get our different takes from every "Masterchef" contestant. It's an amazing time," said O'Neale.

And the Bay Area is also making its mark on the culinary travel map. There are culinary tours offered in places like Ybor City and Sarasota that are drawing visitors from all over.

Mike Goldman and his mother are visiting Sarasota from Wales.

"We love coming to look at new places and doing a culinary tour. It gives you the restaurants but also gives you the flavor of the local food," said Goldman.

Goldman's guide is Maggie Deitsch with Key Culinary Tours.

"A lot of people on the tours are real foodies," said Deitsch. "They travel around the world just to chase food in different areas of the world. Then you've got people that are newbies. They're learning about foods."

And while these tasty trips may expand your waistline, they shouldn't break the bank.

"There are culinary experiences that can fit any budget these days," said Soto.

For more information on the "Masterchef" Culinary Cruise, visit http://www.masterchefcruise.com/.

For more information on AAA travel, visit https://northeast.aaa.com/travel.html.

For more information on local culinary tours, visit https://keyculinarytours.com/ and http://yborcityfoodtours.com/.

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