Almost everyone loves to travel, and for good reason. It’s obviously fun and horizon broadening, but traveling also is good for your health. It can build both social ties and deepen personal interactions. Taking a solo trip can boost your independence, confidence, and self-reliance.
But more than that, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee, traveling also can lower your risk for such health conditions as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and more. If that doesn’t convince you to pack your bags and use some of your precious vacation days, we’re not sure what will.
Maybe you already know how important it is to travel, but there’s something else standing in your way. If it’s not being great at planning or not wanting to spend a bunch of money, you’re in luck. We’ve been there and done that, and we’ve got some tips for you. Not only will these secrets to travel like a local save you some time and money, you’ll end up having the best time of your life.
The 10 tips below will have you jet setting in no time. Are you already an experienced globetrotter who has some other tips to share? We’d love to hear them. Have you tried any of the tips on our list? Let us know, and don’t forget to SHARE so everyone gets the travel bug this year!
Learn (Some of) the Language
If you’re visiting multiple countries or taking a shorter trip, it might not be realistic to try and become fluent in a new language. That shouldn’t stop you from buying a phrasebook and dictionary though. Learning some key phrases and mastering some introductory talking points will make your life so much easier once you get where you’re going. Don’t just learn how to ask for the check and directions; practice some basic conversation starters, too!
Don’t Stay at a Hotel
Not adventurous enough to try couch surfing or staying at a hostel? That’s ok, you still don’t need to resort to a hotel. Try an Airbnb before you go that route. For one, it’s likely to be way less expensive. Also, you’ll have a much more authentic trip if you’re staying in an actual neighborhood than a hotel full of other tourists. Sure, the concierge probably has some suggestions, but we guarantee your Airbnb host has better ones.
Ditch the Bus Tour and Make a Friend
In that same vein, you should skip the bus tour, too. Sure, you’ll cram in a lot of the must-sees (according to who?), but you’ll just be seeing the sites, not experiencing them. Instead, give City Socializer a try. It pairs likeminded people for real-life activities. Everything from grabbing drinks to checking out an art show is on the table. If you’re just dying for a tour (understandable, you are in a new place after all), there’s also Vayable, which connects you to locals and insiders who give you tours of their own.
We know, we know, you’re on vacation. But being on vacation doesn’t have to mean lounging about being a vegetable (even though that is pretty awesome). Particularly if you are going to a more exotic place, it’s important to not just exploit the locals’ home. Do a quick Google search before you go and find some volunteer opportunities that are in your comfort zone and will give back to wherever it is you’re going. Just a few hours out of your trip could make a huge difference.
Put the Phone and the Camera Away
You just shelled out a (probably) significant amount of money to go some place. Of course you want to document it for the people and home and so that you can look back on your excursion for years to come. However, there’s a fine line between documenting an amazing trip and actually having an amazing trip. Try unplugging from Wi-Fi and social media, and putting that cap on your DSLR lens, for just an afternoon or evening. Ideally, you’d be able to do it for a whole day, but we’re optimistic over here, not delusional.
Leave the Beaten Path (and Don’t be Afraid to Get Lost)
As much as we caution you against wasting your time at tourist traps, there are tons of sites to see that are worthwhile. Don’t skip those. Don’t rush through them. Don’t only experience them from behind a lens. But once you’re done with the highlights that everyone else is sure to be visiting too, try checking out some less well-known places. Visit the local library. Take a few wrong turns (safety first, though). Don’t be afraid to put your guidebook in your pocket and get a little lost.
When in Rome…
You know the saying, but you probably haven’t thought of it in terms of wardrobe. Do some research before you get to the shopping and packing phase of your pending trip. We’re not suggesting you abandon your personal style completely, but do some planning so you don’t stick out like a sore thumb. We’re all for originality, but you don’t want to make yourself a target, either.
Eat the Signature Food
Barring any serious dietary restrictions, step outside your comfort zone and eat the local fare. Dining at chain restaurants and hitting up Starbucks instead of getting an authentic caffé aren’t doing you any favors. You don’t have to give in to the more adventurous delicacies like snails and insects, but walk just a wee bit on the wild side when it comes to cuisine in a new place. You may just discover a new favorite!
Take Public Transportation
Aside from being a parasite on your budget, taking a taxi everywhere axes the opportunity for impromptu exploration, meeting new people, and doing some grade A people watching. Not to mention public transportation will save you a lot of time in places with heavy traffic, like Rome and London. If this is a bit too much for you and you refuse to part ways with your affinity for taxis, there’s still something you can do: Talk to your taxi driver. Ask them what their favorites are (restaurant, food, neighborhood, anything!). Chances are they’ll give you some great insider tips.
The Off-Season Is Your BFF
This one is important. You obviously want to avoid extreme or poor weather as much as possible, but you’re more likely to have an authentic and amazing trip if you go during the off-season. Not only will you have fewer crowds to contend with, you’re likely to save some money too. Flights and accommodation prices usually take a pretty nice dive during the off-season.