It doesn't feel great to be in a massive crowd of people who are obviously tourists, even if you are one too. But how to avoid those masses while still seeing the highlights of the cities you visit? Well, it's an intentional task to pull off, but that's why we compiled a list of three unexpected things you should do in every city you visit. That way, you can snap that selfie with the Statue of Liberty in the background while still experiencing the sweet taste of street food the locals order.
Take a Day Trip
Whether you're staying at a resort in the Caribbean, exploring the Louvre in France, or cruising the streets of San Francisco, it can be easy to get focused on one spot. If you're staying in a resort, the temptation could be to stay by the pool or beach all day and soak up the sun's rays while sipping on tasty drinks. There is undoubtedly a time and a place for relaxation on a trip. But you may have no idea what you're missing if you don't leave the confines of your resort.
Likewise, if your destination is a city with major attractions, there are probably a lot of other captivating sites nearby that aren't going to be as crowded. If you take the time to venture away from your destination city, you may find you create your best memories doing the things that weren't even on your radar.
I recently went on a two-week road trip with my family. We hit a lot of popular destinations — Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, and the Redwoods. But do you know what my very favorite day was during the trip? A day we spent traveling down the coast of California from Salinas to Big Sur, splashing in the ocean whenever we pleased and eating and drinking at some excellent local eateries. Had we stayed in our destination city of Monterey, we would have missed an incredible day of exploring the changing coast and spending time at local hotspots.
Eat and Shop Local
Those tourist shops and restaurants are right there in your face at most destinations. But often in resort towns and major tourist destinations, a lot of that money you are dishing out into the "local" economy is actually going into the pockets of corporations. Next time you travel, be mindful about supporting local shops and eating local too. Mobile RVing has a great blog post with lots of practical examples of how you can do this.
One of the most obvious ways to support the local economy when you travel is to eat at local restaurants. Sure, when everyone is tired after a long day of sightseeing, it can be easier to roll up to Red Robin, where everyone knows what to expect. But when you go the extra mile and find a local restaurant on Google or Yelp you will get a unique experience to treasure forever. You could even ask a local what their favorite restaurant is. Worst case scenario — you get some weird food at a hole-in-the-wall pub and laugh about it later.
Depending on where you are, shopping local can seem harder than eating local. One way to do so is to find a farmer's market if you need groceries. Farmers markets can also be a great place to get souvenirs from local craftspeople. Local honey, candies, or handmade crafts make for better gifts than gaudy souvenir shop trinkets anyway. If you need to pick up clothing items you forgot, try to find a local clothing shop as opposed to a big box store. Yes, all of these things take extra effort. Is it always doable? Maybe not. Everyone has those moments when they just need to run into a Walmart and grab a few essentials they forgot to pack. Or maybe you've got to grab a Starbucks coffee because you need caffeine to stay sane during your travels. But when possible, eating and shopping local is the best way to be a responsible tourist and will enhance your trip with unique experiences as well.
Record Your Memories
This suggestion is for journalers and non-journalers alike. Keeping a travel journal, saving ticket stubs, and creating a keepsake as you go is an incredible way to capture your memories in one place. The temptation is to think you've got things documented well enough with social media posts and that you will remember the rest. Social media is a helpful tool to keep track of your memories, but it usually doesn't record the details, such as where you ate for breakfast each day, interactions you had with the locals, or the things you learned not to do.
Keeping a travel journal isn't just good for posterity. It's also helpful if you return to the same destination or have a friend or family member going to that place asking for tips. You might vaguely remember that amazing sushi place you went to five years ago when you were in Chicago. But will you be able to accurately recommend it to your co-worker who is going there next month?
Do yourself a huge favor and keep a travel journal, recording facts and details from every city you visit. Whether it's a quick, solo business trip, or an extended vacation with your family or friends, keeping a travel journal is a gift you give to yourself. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. Simply take 10 minutes each evening, or even the next morning if you have to get to your hotel room and crash. Jot down the lows and the highs and any other details you want to remember. You won't regret it!