(BPT) - Americans are on the move: logging two billion business and leisure trips of 50 miles or more from home for at least one night last year alone, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Today, more people are looking for authentic travel activities – ones that are outside the traditional museum or monument visit. To get more out of your next vacation, consider expert advice on how to break out of the tourist rut and have a truly authentic local experience.
“The single biggest thing you can do to trigger these experiences is to talk to people – talk to locals,” says Reena Ganga, Gadling blogger and Wanderplex Founder. “But since that’s easier said than done, I think there are several ways you can try to foster interactions with locals and put yourself in a position to create great travel memories.”
Hyatt House, an upscale extended stay hotel brand located across the United States, has teamed up with Ganga and America’s favorite lifestyle maven, Martha Stewart, to help vacationers learn the tricks of travelling like a local with the following tips:
Reena Ganga’s tips:
* Trek like the locals. Don’t limit yourself to sightseeing buses or taxis. If the locals travel in communal mini-vans or via bike, do it too. Locals who aren’t used to seeing tourists take that form of transport often find their tenacity endearing and will make the effort to talk to them.
* Go off the beaten path. Make time to head to the smaller, secondary cities when you travel. These are often the places that feel the most culturally distinct. If you’re in a big city, head outside the tourist zones and into interesting neighborhoods where the locals spend their time.
* Choose a place that feels like home. Instead of staying in a traditional hotel, think about staying in a serviced apartment or an extended stay hotel like Hyatt House, where you have a living room and kitchen. Then head out to the local market and talk to the vendors. You’ll discover the produce and products that are special to that area, and you never know where the conversations will lead.
* Eat with the locals. Don’t just eat at chain restaurants that you’re familiar with or that only have English menus. Go where the locals congregate. Whether it’s a mom-and-pop restaurant or a street stall, local eateries are likely to have more authentic food and the locals are often eager to tell you about the food, how to eat it, etc.
* Put away technology. If you find yourself lost while traveling, don’t immediately refer to maps on your phone – stop and ask a shopkeeper for directions. If you need a restaurant recommendation, don’t just search online. Ask locals for their tips – it’s a great excuse to strike up a conversation.
Keep in mind, traveling with a local mindset means taking a new approach to packing, too. Stewart offers these smart packing tips:
* Distribute weight evenly. Pack the heaviest items, such as shoes and toiletry bags, at the bottom. Pack socks inside shoes to prevent footwear from getting squished.
* Skip checked baggage. A canvas bag with a sturdy strap is great for packing for any length of trip. Remember, if you forget something, often hotels can help. Hyatt House has the Hyatt Has It – Borrows program, which can supply everything from a phone charger to yoga mats.
* Carry-on with care. Because you never know when weather or unforeseen events will cause travel delays, pack a carry-on bag containing items you would be very unhappy to lose, such as medications and toiletries.
* Stay clean on the run. Travel-size packaged antibacterial towelettes are great for keeping your hands and face clean.
* Regulate wrinkles. Use large drycleaner bags to pack bulky sweaters or cardigans. The plastic helps prevent wrinkling.
* Secure belongings. If you’re traveling a long distance, use a lock and key or combination lock to protect your belongings.
These simple tips make it easy to travel like a local and get the most out of your next vacation. You’ll be delighted by the unique memories and wonderful stories you get by traveling with a local mindset.
Sources: Martha Stewart Living, June 2003; Martha Stewart Digital, Article: Smart Packing Tips; Martha Stewart Video – Organizing: Helpful Tips for Packing Travel Bags; The Martha Stewart Show, Season 7, Episode 7099 (How to Pack a Suitcase Lightly for Easy Travel)