One of my favorite movies is Pixar Animation Studios’ Up. There’s plenty to glean from the story. But one of the takeaway messages is that you shouldn’t put off adventure; because if you do, someday you’ll look back and regret you never made that trip.
If you have a long-since-expired passport, use your Samsonite suitcase as a storage bin or can’t recall the last time you looked for lodging when you tired of driving, perhaps you need to adventure beyond your armchair watching The Amazing Race.
While “it’s a small world after all” applies in so many ways (especially with the Internet), it’s also still a very large world in terms of geography, climate, architecture and culture. There’s an awful lot to experience outside your comfort zone (or, if it floats your boat, within the ultimate comfort zone of tropical breezes, massages and mai tais).
So come with me (not literally, because I drive a small car and have my own agenda) to the Second Annual San Diego Travel & Adventure Show at the San Diego Convention Center.
Taking place Feb. 14-15, the show is produced by Unicomm LLC, which also presents travel shows in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and, new this year, Philadelphia.
“About 74 percent of attendees find a vacation at our shows. That’s what they come for,” says Unicomm CEO John Golicz.
Last year’s San Diego show attracted 12,800 potential travelers to see 150 exhibitors. This year’s show will cover half again as much floor space (75,000 square feet) and more than 200 exhibitors — from nearby destinations (Baja California, Palm Springs and Twentynine Palms) to far away (Africa, Indochina, Samoa and Tobago) and points between (or, more precisely, at more and less distance). Options range from the watery (beaches, paddle boarding on Lake Powell, cruise ships, etc.) to terra firma (trekking in Nepal, a luxury train in Africa, casinos, etc.).
“Exhibitors are a source of information about how to travel locally — everything from the best time of year to what to bring,” John says. “The interactions between exhibitors and attendees is where the magic happens.”
In addition to exhibitors, the show features speakers (including Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan and Patricia Schultz, author of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die), global music and dancing performances, and world cuisine chef demonstrations. There also are a few activity areas — good for try-before-you-buy exposure or just for a fun diversion to reset your mind should the multitude of choices begin to seem overwhelming: a pool for mini scuba-diving lessons, an area to test your navigational skills on a Segway and a rock-climbing wall.
John’s No. 1 tip for attendees: “Come early and plan to stay at least five hours.”
He further recommends planning your day so that you don’t miss the speakers you want to hear (“You can get lost talking with exhibitors”), especially for the celebrity speakers that draw standing-room-only crowds.
If you have a destination or two in mind, locate the exhibitors providing that destination on the convention hall map. You’ll find it on the travel show website (see below), as well as in handouts provided at the show and in an app (new this year) for your smart phone.
Even if you have a destination in mind, John says, “Don’t forget to walk around; you find all kinds of options you may not know about.” He relates an anecdote of one visitor who told him, “I came here looking for a trip to go surfing in Costa Rica and met an African Maasai and now I’m planning a safari.”
John’s last tip is to be sure you ask exhibitors about trade-show specials (discounts or value-added offers). Often, they provide a code that extends the special up to 30 days after the show.
According to John, attendees at last year’s San Diego show were fairly well equally distributed among age groups: 65 and older, 18 percent; 55 to 64 years old, 30 percent; 45 to 54 years old, 22 percent; 35 to 44 years old, 15 percent; and 25 to 34 years old, 15 percent.
So whether one relates more to Up’s youthful Wilderness Explorer Russell or the elderly and obdurate Carl, there’s clearly something for everyone when it comes to travel.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.travelshows.com/sandiego.