Themed Travel

Tourists Visit Normandy For 70th Anniversary Year Of The D-Day Landings
Ilia Yefimovich / Getty Images

Vacationers are increasingly looking for trips that match their interests. Building a trip around a particular theme offers the opportunity for true connection with a region, historical event, performing artist or other special interest.

There are many types of themed travel. Let's take a closer look at four popular themed travel options: themed tours, themed cruises, special interest conventions and do-it-yourself themed travel.

Themed Tours

Themed tours may last for an afternoon, a day, or longer. They are built around a particular time period, event, author's works and life, architectural style or any other interest that might attract a group of people. Most themed tours are led by experts who provide insight into the events, places and people related to the theme.

Themed Tour Examples

Popular historian and author Alison Weir has opened her own themed tour company, Alison Weir Tours, Ltd. At least one historian leads each tour her company offers, providing insights into the people, places and events of the Wars of the Roses, Tudor Era, Elizabethan Age and English royal residences.

Ellwood von Seibold's D-Day Battle Tours offers day tours of the D-Day battle sites in France's Normandy region. Von Seibold and his team offer "standard" tours of the British, Canadian and American D-Day battle sites as well as customized private tours. 

The National World War II Museum, based in New Orleans, Louisiana, offers specialized tours in Europe and at the museum, including journeys to World War II battlefields and tours of the New Orleans area. 

Themed Cruises

No matter what type of music you enjoy, you can find a themed cruise that features that genre. Some music cruises are "private" cruises. Only passengers who have paid for tickets through the coordinator of that cruise can participate in special concerts and events; other passengers on the ship may get to experience one concert or none at all. For example, Sixthman charters ships and puts together a themed cruise with a headline act such as Brantley Gilbert or KISS. You can sail on jazz, Irish music, Elvis Presley and Soul Train themed cruises as well as cruises featuring just one band or artist.

While music cruises are by far the most popular type of themed cruise, you can find cruises that emphasize food and wine, TV / film / media and dance. To learn more, check the Theme Cruise Finder website, talk with your travel agent and ask your favorite cruise line about themed cruises.

A Sampling of Themed Cruises

Holland America Line offers a Malt Shop Memories cruise each year, featuring performers from the sock hop era of the 1950s and early 1960s.

Celebrity Cruises offers wine immersion cruises, where you can learn all about wine tasting, wine and food pairing and wine regions around the world.

Kalos Golf brings golf aficionados to famous courses around the world via luxury ships.


All around the US you can find conventions that bring like-minded people together around specific themes. Some conventions are one-day events, while others last for three or even four days. For example:

Fans of Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy-Tacy books gather every other year for a convention in Minnesota. Activities include walking tours of the Mankato and Minneapolis neighborhoods that Lovelace used as the setting for her books, book signings, day trips to places mentioned in the books, such as Minnehaha Falls, a costume parade and a silent auction.

Pet lovers can attend one of the many Pet Expos that take place each year. The Great Indy Pet Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana, is a two-day event that features events for dog, cat, llama, alpaca and angora goat owners. The Expo offers an enormous shopping venue, presentations by veterinarians, agility and grooming contests and more. You may be able to find a Pet Expo closer to home, too.

If you've ever loved comic books or superheroes, Comic-Con International, held every year in San Diego, should be on your travel bucket list. This convention features autograph signings, film screenings, games, artists' exhibits and much, much more. It also sells out extremely quickly, so you will want to plan far in advance.

Do-It-Yourself Themed Travel

It's easy to build your own themed travel experience. Consider where you might want to go and themes you might wish to explore. Once you decide on a region and theme, get a map and start planning your journey. If your interests are shared by many, you'll probably find plenty of information online and in travel guidebooks. For example:

If you grew up loving the Anne of Green Gables series, you can join the many readers who flock to Cavendish on Canada's Prince Edward Island to see the Green Gables house, the "Lake of Shining Waters," "Lover's Lane" and other landmarks mentioned in the books. While bus tours to Anne-related landmarks are available, you can design your own Cavendish adventure. All you need is a car and a map or guidebook.

Readers who enjoy the works of Mark Twain can travel to his boyhood home in Hannibal, Missouri. In Hannibal, you can see Twain's boyhood home, the Justice of the Peace office where his father presided, the home over Grant's Drug Store where Twain and his parents lived and the home of Laura Hawkins, Twain's inspiration for the intrepid Becky Thatcher. You can also visit the museum to see Twain memorabilia, historical exhibits and Norman Rockwell paintings and lithographs of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

If road trips appeal to you, head for the National Road (Route 40) or Historic Route 66. Route 66 is one of the most famous highways in the United States. I features quirky landmarks, small towns and even a theme song. The National Road predates Route 66; it was built in 1811 to connect Maryland to the Ohio River, which, at the time, was the frontier. The National Road was the first federally-funded "highway" in the United States. In Illinois, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, you can retrace the steps of the pioneers and traders who traveled the first true American highway.

Fans of historic roads might wish to consider a journey on a world-famous road. Visitors to Rome can walk, drive or ride bicycles on the old Via Appia, which connects Rome to the Adriatic Sea at the port of Brindisi. It takes several days to drive the entire Via Appia / S. S. 7, the modern road that mostly parallels the ancient thoroughfare, because the road leads you through the mountains. Driving part of the Via Appia will bring you a new appreciation for the ancient Romans' engineering skills.