How to Skip the Tourist Traps and Live Like a Local
We’ve been traveling long enough to know that we aren’t too interested in joining crowds of tourists. Getting off the beaten path and finding the “secret stuff” only the locals know about is more our speed.
But, it’s tricky to navigate a place like a local if you’ve never set foot there before, and the internet can only get you so far—unless you know where to look.
With that in mind, here are our top 3 tips for skipping the tourist traps and living like a local … wherever you are.
#1: Don’t Google it
We recently stopped in Naples on our trip through Florida. We didn’t know much about the place—we only knew that we needed a surfboard for Caleb, and recommendations on good places to eat.
Instead of Googling “surfboard rentals” or “SUP guides,” which would have brought us straight to the big companies that everyone uses, we hunted up local surf and SUP clubs. As a result, we found a fantastic local guide who gave us a private SUP tour and a killer recommendation for a place to go afterward for some food (and axe-throwing!).
That leads us to our first tip: instead of Googling the best places to visit or the top tours, search for local clubs that match your interests. You’ll most likely avoid big companies and crowded areas, and you’ll find local groups full of people who love their town and can give you insider tips on where to go.
And where possible, seek out docents rather than guides. Docents are passionate volunteers who dedicate their time as a labor of love, not as a source of income, so they know a ton and love what they do.
#2: Join state-specific Facebook groups
There are Facebook groups for just about everything, and that includes RVer-oriented Facebook groups for each state.
We’ve had great luck joining these. Most of our questions have already been answered somewhere along the line, and sometimes we aren’t exactly sure what to ask anyway. We can just read along and pick out suggestions that sound good to us. If you don’t see what you need, chime in on the board and watch the answers come flowing in. It’s like using that “poll the audience” lifeline on a game show!
Even if there isn’t always (or ever) total agreement on the best places to go or things to do in a state or a town, you’ll get a diverse range of opinions, and at least one is sure to match your tastes.
By the way, locals join these groups, too. They’re eager to share what they know with visitors, so take advantage of this inside track.
#3: Time-honored traditions
In Key West, we just happened to hit upon one of the weekends scheduled for the 61st annual Home Tours, a longtime Key West tradition we’d never heard of. We had a great time, and we saw a side of Key West that most tourists miss.
One of the best ways to see a place and mingle with locals is to participate in annual or seasonal events that aren’t marketed to tourists at all. Locals go to events like these, and you can, too—if you know where to look.
When you arrive at a campground or boondocking spot, ask around about events happening nearby. You never know what you might find!
If you’re someone who likes to plan every moment of a trip, you can do online research to find some of these events in advance. But we’d recommend building in wiggle room to your itinerary so you can join in when unexpected events like this pop up.
When you travel, don’t just check out TripAdvisor’s top 5 things to do at your destination and stop there. Seek out local clubs, groups, and traditions you’d miss if you stopped at page one of Google’s search results. You’ll be glad you did!