Best Tips for a Unique Vacation Experience
It’s no secret that today’s travelers want a unique experience when they travel. They want to avoid feeling like a tourist, to get off the beaten path, and see a new city through the eyes of a local. But a truly authentic experience is hard to come by — especially if you’re not a seasoned traveler. So we asked the experts (aka travel agents!) to share from their years of experience.
Travel advisors, your answers did not disappoint! Below are just a few of the awesome suggestions we received.
What advice do you give your travelers seeking a unique, one-of-a-kind experience abroad? How do you help them avoid tourist traps? Or find the secret breakfast spot all the locals love?
1. Become a “temporary citizen”
“My best advice to my clients traveling internationally is to change their mindset to become a temporary citizen of that country and not an American traveling abroad. Example: Rome has been around since before Christ. The USA has only been here a few hundred years. Life will function differently in Italy then it does here. Embrace it, rather than getting frustrated. Observe what the locals do and do the same if possible. Next, eat like the locals. If the menu is printed in English, consider looking for a restaurant that has the menu on a chalkboard and uses the freshest ingredients bought from the market that morning. Most of my clients tell me those are the best two pieces of advice they have ever gotten.”
– Connie J., Iowa
2. Look for “dog people”
“I always tell people no matter what city you’re visiting to search for people walking dogs. They are typically always locals and they are “dog people” meaning they are kind-hearted. I find these individuals to always be approachable, friendly, and ever-ready to share information on where to go and what to see locally, how to get there, and where and what to eat that’s off the beaten path. I’ve found myself in hole-in-the-wall restaurants and bars surrounded by locals or experiencing sights that aren’t in the tourist guide books.”
– Mary R., Florida
3. Do something new. Eat something new.
“1. Do something you’ve never experienced before 2. Always eat the things that you cannot get at home 3. Don’t be afraid to venture out. Mix and Mingle with the locals in their environment.”
– Brittany W., Missouri
4. Visit an emerging destination
“Seek out cities that are rarely mentioned and consider countries that have recently emerged or have changing social dynamics. Read, look at maps and read more, put aside your fears and survey your destination and soundings. Try to locate a “walking tour” and look over restaurants and smell the aroma, ask about the cooking and ingredients, most places will work hard at earning your business.”
– Robert B., Georgia
👉 Related: 30 Emerging Destinations to Know About
5. Book your trip during “off-season”
“If you want to avoid the tourist traps, avoid being a tourist. Travel like a local. Do a little research and book (or have your trusted agent) your travel during “off-peak” season. This will vary by location, but off-peak season usually means fewer tourists and more locals. While you’re out and about ask the local taxi driver or shop owner for their favorite places to eat, dance and unwind.”
– Ayanna L., Maryland
6. Look for a local festival
“Besides doing research to inform my clients of cool spots on their destination, I like to find out if there are any cultural events or special festivals happening during their stay. These events are perfect for a true local experience. I also tell my clients to speak with the locals. In a few minutes of conversation, you leave with valuable information about the best places to explore, eat and how to get away from tourist traps.”
– Denilze S., Florida
7. Tour the city with a local
“Withlocals is a fantastic tour operation that sets travelers up with “experts” in their chosen city. You can take an art tour of Paris with an actual artist. You can spend the day with 2 hours wondering around a city with an actual historian. These tours are intimate and customizable and you will come away with the feeling that you are a local.”
– Marlena B., North Carolina
8. Head to a grocery store or market
“I always tell my clients to go to the local grocery store/ market for lunch. Grab what looks good and go eat in a park. You will truly be eating what the locals eat, hanging out with locals and likely saving money. The grocery store and pharmacy are also great places for “authentic” souvenirs, like beauty products used by French women or my 5 Euro pizza plate purchased in Naples!”
– Susan G., Illinois
9. Attend a local sporting event
“I try to find a quiet bar, pub, or tavern and chat up the bartender, assuming I speak the language. They’re incredible sources of information about unknown places to go, where to eat and events you shouldn’t miss. Another way to connect anywhere with anyone is to get involved in local sports and games. Attend a match of any kind – sometimes the neighborhood team gives you a better cultural experience than the pros. See if there’s a local club meeting where you can talk directly to the people who play. Or better yet, sign up for an experience that lets you try it out yourself.”
– Mike K., Kentucky
👉 Related: Why You Should Meet People While Traveling
10. Leave room for spontaneity
“I encourage travelers to leave open time in their itinerary. Don’t plan every moment of every day. That way they discover some local things on their own and that’s always fun!”
– Melinda W., Florida
What do you tell your clients looking for a unique experience? Let us know if the comments below!