Sick of Tourist Traps? 5 Ways to Vacation Like a Local

There’s nothing better than checking out a new destination for your summer (or fall) vacation. While most travelers head out with the intention of delving into all sorts of cool activities, it’s sort of hard to do without several weeks of intensive research. What started out as an adventure can easily turn into nothing more than a daily back-and-forth from your hotel room to some restaurants. Jet-setters are fighting back, and it’s catching on. Many companies are doing what they can to connect vacationers with experiences they wouldn’t otherwise know about. We’re listing five different ways you can immerse yourself in any location to get the most out of your next trip, and skip any of those irritating tourist traps.

1. Next-level concierge

tablet, concierge, hotel

Couple chcecking into a hotel | Source: iStock

Hotel concierge services used to be pretty lackluster. Usually, they would pull out a map, circle a few destinations that ended up being tourist traps, and leave you generally confused about where you were in relation to anything. Some inns, like Hotel Jerome in Aspen, Colo., offer walking tours to help familiarize you with a town’s unique culture. But you don’t have to be at the mercy of one person. Services like Chicago’s Concierge Preferred take the same concept and multiply it by providing access to information from hundreds of local hotel professionals. You can target a neighborhood or even a specific interest, such as haunted locations, for different tours.

Inns are even embracing the digital age. eHotelier reports many stays offer access to tablets that let you do everything from check into your room to browse tons of activities. Now you don’t have to wait for the concierge to arrive in order to figure out where to get the best tacos in town.

2. Dining with locals

Beijing market

Sometimes the best food is right out in the street | Source: iStock

Food lovers often travel to eat, so it can seem like a complete waste of time if you aren’t able to sample some of the local delicacies while away. The best way to eat like the locals is to eat with them, and now you can. EatWith matches travelers with nearby home cooks, while BookaLokal is growing a network of folks who offer meals or cooking classes in their location.

If you really want the full food experience, consider one of the many culinary tours now offered. Whether you’re a pasta lover, or would rather explore Kentucky’s bourbon scene, you’ll be able to find ways to connect with nearly any location through its food. And don’t forget to seek out markets. You’ll get a feel for regional produce as well as some popular street foods.

3. Immersive experiences

rock climbing

Rock climbing so beats lounging around the hotel | Source: iStock

Visiting a few museums and going on a factory tour are sort of go-to vacation activities. You can miss out on a lot of what’s really going on when you’re stuck in a building, though. Entrepreneur says business is booming for outdoor adventure experiences like rock climbing and parasailing. But you don’t have to be an adrenaline junkie to get in on the fun. Many locations are prime spots for all sorts of outdoorsy activities that highlight everything the city has to offer. The article went on to mention Jennifer Sage, who owns Viva Travel, plans self-guided tours via bike through a few European countries.

If you’re headed someplace for the first time, it can be hard to figure out where to start. If you don’t mind spending some extra money, you can opt for an experience designed just for you. Black Tomato connects vacationers with local experts who can arrange some pretty impressive one-on-one music lessons or tours not available to the general public.

4. Alternative stays

Tuscany, Italy, home, vacation

A vacation rental can be more fun than a traditional hotel | Source: iStock

It’s hard to feel like you’re getting the real feel for a town if you’re always crashing in a cushy hotel. Options like Onefinestay and Airbnb connect vacationers with home accommodations abroad. If you opt for these service, you’ll be able to quickly fill your schedule with tons of activities and places to visit. Even if you’re clueless about what to do, your host will likely have plenty of ideas.

If you’d rather go the more rugged route, Hotel Online reveals it’s possible to sleep in a tree house complete with night vision cameras in Africa. For those who would rather spend their time outside, this might be the ideal overnight stay. And don’t forget about opportunities to camp or stay in no-frills huts.

5. Local guides

Australia, tour guide, vacation

Couple getting a guided tour | Source: iStock

Though travel guides do their best to make you feel like you’re getting an authentic experience, it’s hard to feel like you’re a part of the scene when you’re being herded around with 20 other people. That’s where sites like Vayable come in. This site matches travelers with locals who offer tours for pretty much any interest.

You can apply the same mindset to traveling within the city. If you’re not brave enough to attempt navigating mass transit, Uber and BlaBlaCar can help you get around without feeling as impersonal as a traditional taxi. You’ll be living like a local in no time.

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