Summer is just around the corner and I have been counting down the days for our summer trips. We have an excursion to cross through the Canadian Rockies and a few beach vacations this summer. I love having a trip to look forward to, even if it’s just a weekend getaway.
When I think back to when Ian and I took our first trip together five years ago, I have to laugh about how much we’ve learned about traveling since then. Not to say we know a great deal, but we have come along way from those tourists carrying our rolling luggage through the cobblestone streets of Italy. We’ve learned you can go on vacation to see and experience everything a place and culture has to offer, or you can stay in your comfort zone, only visiting tourist sites and not truly taking in much at all. In our opinion though, there are really two kinds of trips: Vacations and Expeditions. Vacations are where you visit somewhere with the intention to relax somewhere beautiful, take your time and breath. Expeditions are when you visit somewhere with the intention of fully experiencing the culture, navigating all corners of a city / country has to offer and really broadening your horizon to what other parts of the world are like. I think both kids of trips are important, and we try to do some of both every year.
When it comes to traveling, it can be easy to visit somewhere and stay in a tourist bubble and not see much at all, so I thought I would put together a few tips on traveling like a local and not a tourist.
Pack as Light as Possible
We believe to truly experience a city like a local, it means not carrying you’re whole house with you. Pack only the essentials, wear neutral colors, and stay somewhere with a laundry machine or find one close by if needed. Having a simple wardrobe allows you to wear things in a versatile way and not having to pack as much as you normally would. I learned this the hard way when we went to Italy. I came wearing really cute outfits, but they weren’t practical for our travel and made me stick out like a sore thumb. Try to dress like a local and you will feel like one too.
Stay Somewhere Unique
Hotels can be a really good option for staying somewhere central to the heart of the city, but you can often find amazing homestays like HomeAway which can be an even finer option. They can have more beautiful views and be located in areas that make you feel like you are a part of the city. We just booked a great condo above a restaurant in a little mountain city in the Canadian Rockies right downtown. We have amazing views and an entire kitchen and living area (which is great when you are traveling with your whole family). HomeAway has more than 2 million unique places to stay at prices for anyones’ budget, and it’s the world’s leading online vacation rental marketplace. Here are a few great rentals I’ve had my eye on here and abroad.
This adorable cottage we stayed at in Franklin, Tennessee (You can see a few pics above.)
Eat Like a Local
I’m not going to pretend that we didn’t eat at McDonalds once when we were in Europe, but those fries where calling my name. haha. Really though, if you want to avoid screaming that your a tourist, look for the hole in the wall favorites that all the locals eat at. Every culture gathers around to eat in different ways, so it can really deepen your appreciation of a place to eat the cuisines the way natives do and how they do it. We’ve had some amazing food everywhere we’ve visited, and a lot of times it’s because we had to get outside our comfort zone a little bit. Not to mention, you’ll probably eat cheaper too.
Respect the Customs and Meet New People
Not every country wears shorts or talks on cell phones in public or tips the same for meals. So before you visit somewhere, make sure you read up on the culture or you may be getting yelled at for not keeping right, paying for refills you thought were free or taking pictures in a place that’s restricted. In today’s world, it’s easy to offend anyone, but as long as you handle things with humility, say your sorry and learn for the next time, the people who call that place home or almost always understanding. There are tons of resources to help you learn about the culture of the place you are visiting. Don’t be afraid to meet new people too. Meeting locals will help you better find those hole in the wall restaurants, practice the language and find the off beaten path you need to make your trip more memorable.
Make Time for Wandering
Whether it’s staying an extra hour or two to watch the sunset, turning down the tiniest alley to find the best gelato in the city, or getting lost in the hills of a country while driving on the wrong side of the road, those experiences are what help you remember a place better than you would have otherwise. They are also the experiences that help you appreciate a place for what it is. Explorers discover new worlds, and that’s part of what makes traveling like a traveler, and not a tourist, so invigorating.
I would love to hear what your tips are if you are an avid traveler or if you have a fun trip planned this summer and where you are going.
Have a wonderful day!
*This post was sponsored by HomeAway. All opinions are my own.