2020 Travel and Adventure Show Denver (Review)

The Travel and Adventure Shows are the largest series of travel shows in the United States. I had the opportunity to experience my first show in Denver on February 22 and 23, 2020 at the 2020 Travel and Adventure show.

2020 Travel and Adventure Show Denver

I had no idea this event existed and just happened to come across it. As soon as I saw what it was, I knew I had to go.

The Travel & Adventure Shows connect wannabe travelers with travel and destination experts over the course of two days. There was live entertainment and three stages where you could listen to presentations by travel experts. There were probably over 100 booths with vendors. Many vendors had raffles for prizes. Sadly I didn’t win anything. Well, I take that back. I actually won $200 off a travel package at one place. But I’m guessing a lot of people won $200 off that same travel package. It was like their gimmick to get people in.

This year’s lineup in Denver included Josh Gates (host of Discovery Channel’s Expedition Unknown), Rick Steves (host of Rick Steves’ Europe), and Pauline Frommer (Editorial Director of the Frommer’s Guides).


Ticket prices were $11 for one day and $18 for both days if you booked ahead of time. If you missed the early deadline, tickets were $15 for one day and $22 for two days, cash only at the door. https://travelshows.com/shows/denver/event-info/


2020 Travel and Adventure Show Denver
Travel and Adventure Show Denver

Prior to gaining access to the show, you have to show your ticket at the registration booth and receive a wrist band to gain access.

One challenge was that the sign above was no where near anything and it doesn’t actually say where registration is, so I had to wander around until I found it.

Vendor Booths

I want to go to Belize so was excited to see a Belize booth. However when I went to ask questions they only talked about their inclusive tours. I also want to go to Croatia and was happy to see two Croatia booths but both were just tour operators talking to me about the benefits of going on their tours.

In fact, it seemed like a majority of the booths were tour companies trying to get you to book a tour with them. I wasn’t interested as I prefer the freedom of choosing my own itinerary instead of doing what everyone else is doing on a tour.

However if you looking to book a tour, this is a great place to comparison shop and speak with the tour operators face to face, or simply to get an idea of what possibilities are out there.

Fortunately for me, some were from tourism boards of the destinations. I like those better as you were speaking with people who wanted you to come to their destination instead of booking a package with them.

San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo had a creative booth
2020 travel adventure show Denver Switzerland booth
Switzerland had a giant immersive booth

Global Beats Stage

Global Beats Stage

The Global Beats Stage featured different cultural performances. Admittedly I just saw this stage in passing as I was more interested in learning about travel from the speakers.


There are three different stages – Travel Theater, Destination Theater and Savvy Traveler Theater. Unfortunately there is only one of me and I could only be in one place at a time. These are the presentations I attended.

Rick Steves – European Travel Skills

I was originally turned off at the beginning of this talk because it seemed to me like he spent too much time pushing his tour company and why his tours are better than other tours.

Travel Adventure show - Rick Steves
Rick Steves

But you can always gather nuggets of valuable information.

A major point he made is that travel should be about experiences instead of just checking items off a list or going just to get that Instagram photo.

He made a point to note that the best travel experiences occur early in the day or late in the evening so you should plan to spend the night in the locations you want to visit. In the middle of the day is when locations feel most touristy. He gave an example of Venice when 12 cruise ships drop off 1,000 tourists each all at the same time and Venice gets mobbed until those cruise ships leave.

He also noted that he prefers towns with “uncomfortable accommodations”. Why? Because those places won’t be as touristy, especially with the type of tourist who has to be pampered, as opposed to the travelers who want to experience the local culture.

He addressed that people often bring up safety as an issue. He has been traveling extensively for over 30 years and he said, in his opinion, it has never been safer to travel the world.

Josh Gates – Adventure Awaits! Turn any vacation into the journey of a lifetime

Josh Gates

Josh’s dynamic personality captured the biggest crowds of the day.

He started talking about how every year magazines come out with the top destinations and referred to the new top destinations of 2020. He said those top lists are “nonsense” and that the best destination for 2020 is “wherever the hell YOU want to go”. Follow your own interests, not the interests of magazine editors or web sites.

He also echoed Rick Steves and said that the best memories come from the experiences in travel.

His catchphrase was “Choose the Unknown”, and commented that there is a certain fun and excitement about adventure and exploring the unknown.

He urged people to get out of their comfort zones. He even stated that the current culture in this country is geared toward comfort and ease, but “comfort will kill you”.

He asked everyone to think about some of their best travel memories and realize they were because of unforgettable experiences that were sometimes challenging.

He noted that easy travel does not stay with you. He used an example of him going to Las Vegas many times (and having a good time at the time) but none of those trips are truly memorable to him.

He said adventure travel stays with you longer.

Since travel is an investment (of time, money, etc.) then what’s the point of doing it if you are not going to remember it? To better remember travel, incorporate some elements of adventure. Even if you are a planner, leave some time free for adventure and doing things you haven’t planned.

In thinking about this, some of my best travel memories where when I had crazy adventures, like my jungle trek in Peru, my jungle tour in Ecuador, and my crazy overland border crossing to get into Cambodia.

One of his final comments was to dispel the myth that travel is unaffordable. “There is adventure everywhere that doesn’t cost anything”.

So get out of your comfort zone and go on your own adventure so you can have experiences that are truly memorable.

Angel Castellanos – The Best Travel and Packing Tips for the Ultimate Vacation

This presentation was mostly packing tips. The biggest one was pack light. Most people overpack and lug around too much stuff for the entire vacation. Think ahead about what you really need. Be organized. He brought his own carry on and spent time showing the travel and packing items he has found to be most helpful, such as packing cubes.

I admit that the more I have traveled, I have come to some of these same conclusions on my own. So if you are just starting travel, take our advice and learn to be more efficient with what you bring when you travel.

Valerie Joy Wilson – Traveling Off the Beaten Path

Traveling off the beaten path to her is “going where the locals go” versus the regular touristy places.

You need to prioritize what is important, and for her it is connecting with others and “feeling like an insider”.

She also echoed the importance of experiences and getting out of your comfort zone to have the most memorable travel experiences.

HOW do you travel off the beaten path?

  • Stay away from guide books. Read travel bloggers who are constantly traveling to new places purposely trying to find places off the beaten path. She also noted that content on travel blogs is constantly updated compared to travel books.
  • Talk to people at a local bar or restaurant.
  • Stay at a hostel.
  • She also had a 10 minute rule. Walk 10 minutes from the touristy place and you will find a place off the beaten path and feel like a local.

She concluded addressing safety, especially since she is a solo female traveler.

  • Get travel insurance
  • Don’t overshare information (don’t share where you are staying or going)
  • If someone approaches you, say someone is expecting you (so the other person doesn’t know you are all alone)
  • Walk with confidence (even if you are lost)
  • Use phone maps instead of paper maps because nothing screams “tourist” like someone looking at a map

I really liked this talk but a couple things made me start to wonder during the Q&A. Someone asked where she stays overnight and she responded that she prefers to stay in hotels. She even joked that since she travels all the time it’s sometimes nice to unwind in five star hotels. That doesn’t seem like traveling off the beaten path or like a local to me. Someone else asked how she afforded to do all this travel and she responded that it’s her job to travel just like it’s your job to go to where you work. That doesn’t answer the question. After a brief pause she sensed that she needed to expand and mentioned something that, to me, indirectly indicated that a lot of her travel is paid for by someone else in order to promote their product or destination. So I don’t think all of her travel is as off the beaten path as I originally thought. With all that said, I still liked a lot of what she said about going off the beaten path and feeling like a local, and the talk was definitely worthwhile.

Rick Steves – Best of Europe

I was planning to finish the day going to a presentation about visiting the Balkan States, but that was cancelled and Rick Steves was speaking again so I ended up going to that.

Do you want to know how to find the best of Europe? Go to the TV section of my website and watch the videos because I’ve been there and I knows what the best places are. He then gave countless examples. Do you want to go to France? I have X videos on France. Do you want to go to X? I have X videos on there.

Additionally much of the content was the same as his 10:30 presentation. He used many of the same slides, told some of the same stories and even did some of the same jokes.

I didn’t stick around for the entire talk because between pushing his guide books and website, and stating things he had said earlier, I just didn’t want to stick around and listen to his entire presentation.

Though, like I said earlier, you can always find something good if you look for it. He mentioned as the touristy places get more and more popular, lines get longer and longer. Many times those lines are to buy tickets and not to enter the site. So look online to try to buy tickets ahead of time. Also there is a trend at some places (he gave DaVinci’s Last Supper in Milan as an example) where the ONLY way to gain entrance is to purchase tickets ahead of time online.

Future Travel and Adventure Shows

In case you missed the show in Denver (or Chicago or Los Angeles), Travel & Adventure Show will be in:
Atlanta February 29 -March 1
Washington D.C., March 7-8
Philadelphia, March 14-15
San Francisco, March 21-22
Dallas, March 28-29

One Comment

  1. Perhaps you should understand that it’s everyone’s job to travel at the travel and adventure show. Professional travelers. I know Valerie has spent nights under mosquito nets on boats in the middle on nowhere Borneo, has traveled to destinations during times of unrest, and has traveled to remote places as often as she is able.
    She even shares with her audience that after she stays longer in countries after a work trip is over to go to smaller cities and dive deeper into a culture. Who doesn’t like a 5 star hotel?



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