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Trip Ideas

9 Epic Tour Packages to Polish Your Skills

Mastered the waves at your local beach? Shredded every black diamond on your favorite mountain? Sounds like it's time to take things to the next level. To help, we dug up nine tour packages that'll perfect your skills; from capturing the lively markets of Bhutan with National Geographic photographers to exacting the art of batik printing in Swaziland, here's where to head next.

A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.

See recent posts by Chelsea Stuart

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Billabong Surf with a Pro

So you’ve nailed your pop ups and your bottom turns, your snaps and your cutbacks. You’ve probably caught some sick swells in California and maybe Hawaii, but what comes next? If you’re serious about taking your skills to the next level, Billabong Surf with a Pro is ready to throw down the gauntlet. Each session – which can take you anywhere from Peru to Indonesia – 15 surfers (beginners and advanced amateurs, alike) join up with surf pros for days of hands-on coaching. Along with one-on-one instruction from pros like Dave Rastovich, Donavon Frankenreiter, and Pete Mendia, Billabong videographers are poised to capture the action, providing you the footage so you can gauge your technique and overall improvement.

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Photos by Robin O'Neill, Erik Graham


Whistler Blackcomb Ski or Ride with an Olympian

If you’ve checked black and double black diamond trails off your list of ski and board accomplishments then maybe it’s time to up the ante in a different way. At Whistler Blackcomb, skiers and boarders can sign up for full-day private lessons with Olympians like skicross gold medalist Ashleigh McIvor, freestylist and mogul master Ryan Johnson, and halfpipe specialist Mercedes Nicoll. No matter your skill level—whether you’re more comfortable on the bunny slope or the terrain park—a day on the slopes includes taking technique cues from the pros and enjoying some of the best powder around.

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Photo by Jodi Cobb/National Geographic Creative


National Geographic Photography Expeditions

It’s 2017 and everyone with an iPhone and access to Instagram fancies themselves a photographer. But jokes aside, if you’re serious about your craft, National Geographic expeditions are the workshops to end all workshops. Choose one of the weekend-long or week-long tour packages, where professional photogs will take you to Bhutan, Tanzania, Nepal, India, Cuba, and literally everywhere else you can think of. Along the way, your itinerary will include field lessons in how to best capture portraits, diverse landscapes, movement and light, and whatever unique compositional challenges your destination presents. With Nat Geo photographers at your disposal and edit and critique sessions aplenty, you’ll be leaving your trip with a whole new set of advanced skills.

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REI Adventures Climbing Trips

Looking to climb one of the world’s seven summits? Or maybe just challenge yourself on a new backpacking route? Either way, REI is on hand with expert guides ready to verse you in essential climbing technique. Currently, trips include a four-day women’s-only backcountry hike to Yosemite’s Half Dome; an 11-day trek following the scenic Lemosho Route to the top of snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro; a three-day ice climb through New Hampshire’s striking White Mountains, and more.

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Photo courtesy of Pro Dive Cairns


Pro Dive Cairns & Great Barrier Reef

Whether you’re looking to scuba dive for the first time or you’re determined to get PADI certified, we’re pretty sure that doing so among the Great Barrier Reef’s thousands of coral species, fish, and hawksbill and loggerhead sea turtles is the ultimate way to go. Five-day learn to scuba courses, at Pro Drive Cairns, include two days of classroom and pool training followed by three days of diving with a live-aboard vessel as home base. After completing four out of nine dives, you’ll earn your open water certification. PADI dive master courses, on the other hand, are 17 days and prep you for a career in the diving industry with a combination of theoretical classroom lessons and open water recreational dives.

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Indigenous Arts and Crafts, Ace Camps

If you’re more of a crafter than a competitive sportsman, we feel you. Ace Camps, which organizes educational travel workshops, offers loads of authentic, on-the-ground retreats around the world. If native crafts is up your alley, you can pick up the art of batik textile printing in Swaziland; try your hand block printing with indigo in Jaipur, India; or learn about traditional Tejido weaving and natural plant dyeing from artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico. Each week-ish long journey mixes hands-on workshops with guided destination tours, museum visits, and plenty of unforgettable meals.

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Advanced Cooking Course Cucina con Vista

Boxed mac n’ cheese might have gotten you through the glory days of college, but if you’re a couple years (or decades) out, it’s probably time to level up in the kitchen. In Florence, you can pick up Italian techniques and master the art of “Grandma’s cooking” with a little help from chefs Elena Mattei and Lapo Magni at Cucina con Vista. Classic courses—with three to four students each—range from one to four days and include lessons in preparing a typical Tuscan meal (starter, main course, side dishes, and dessert), pairing dishes with complimentary wines, and, of course, making homemade pasta. Oh, and we almost forgot to mention, the school takes up residence in a 16th-century farmhouse – surrounded by its own vineyards and olive groves.

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Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat

Year-round, on one of the Bahamas’ most pristine white beaches, experiential courses, residential studies, and teacher-training immersions are underway at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat. The Paradise Island sanctuary promotes self-transformation and physical, emotional, and spiritual healing through the practice of traditional Karma, Bhakti, Raja, and Jnana yogas, all in the discipline of Swami Sivananda, one of India’s most renowned teachers. Vacation itineraries typically include two multi-hour yoga sessions and two satsang (meditation and chanting) relaxation periods, split up with plenty of beach time, of course. The retreat is no joke, but if you want it, it’s worth it. We, on the other hand, will be over here in child’s pose rooting you on.

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Summit Mountain Biking

If it’s time to take off the metaphorical training wheels and try out a more demanding route, Montenegro is waiting. Off-road, cross-country trails weave riders through the country’s Durmitor National Park—a craggy, backcountry landscape that presents a much more challenging alternative to urban biking. Summit can arrange bike rentals for experienced riders looking to get out and go on their own, or guided excursions for beginners.

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