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Traveling big cities is exciting, but are you really getting the full experience? Staying at a cushy hotel with food chains all around and tons of shopping centers is all well and good, but what if you really want to dive in and experience a town like the natives do? How do you know where to stay, eat, and play? Here are some tips to traveling big cities like a native.
I know it’s tempting to want to check out new places when the weather is ideal, but there are so many other things you could be missing out on by only traveling during tourist season. I suggest doing some research on your destination. Find out the most popular traveling months and do the opposite of that, if you can. You never know, in your research you might find that there are certain gatherings or events that you had no idea about. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to choose whether or not it’s worth it to attend or just skip it altogether.
The first benefit of traveling in the off season is that the streets won’t be quite as crowded, which means shorter lines and less waiting for you. Next, you might even get some discounts on hotels, food, and other things that are usually priced higher during the tourist season. Again, research is always your friend. Check around to a bunch of places in the vicinity of where you’d like to stay in order to get the best deals.
Of course, some trips, like travelling New York or LA, are popular year round. So, how do you get around to the best places without running into crowds? I suggest trying to chat with some natives before you ever leave for your trip. Ask around to different travel websites and forums. Getting engaged with people who actually live where you will be travelling is a sure fire way to get you some great big city insider tips. Ask specific questions like, “where is your favorite lunch spot?” instead of “what should I do?” or “where should I go?”. All of us know that feeling when someone asks a really broad question and you’re not sure how to answer. In order to get the information that you want, I suggest coming equipped with direct questions about things you’d like to do, such as shopping, dining, and entertainment ideas. If you ever need advice while you’re on your trip, try talking to the concierge at your hotel or ask an employee while you’re out to eat or shopping (if they aren’t busy of course).
Avoiding large hotels while traveling big cities is important. Try and pick a smaller hotel, possibly locally owned, near a place that you are interested in. Try and pick an area that you’d actually like to live in if you had to live there for a while. The staff might be more inclined to help you around the city and it’s always nice to support local businesses. Unlike large chain hotels, the employees are all probably natives or close to it.
Another idea is to use a hotel service like Airbnb while traveling big cities. You can check the rating of the room and the host online in order to get the best deal. Many travelers say this was a fantastic way for them to get introduced to the area. Get in contact with your potential host and see if they are willing to give you some pointers about life in the big city.
Clear some space on your device because you’ll need to download some travel apps that will enhance your stay. Of course, there are tons of mapping apps that will help you get where you need to go, but there are also taxis (like Lyft and Uber) that are very useful when walking isn’t an option. In addition, check out dining apps, like Urbanspoon and many others, to see what kind of ratings locals give the food. What’s more, you can even go the extra mile and try out apps like TripLingo, which give you useful cultural information about the city. These types of apps will give you useful phrases that you’ll need to know if you want to get around and order food; it will even tell you phrases and gestures that aren’t polite to say. It’s always good to be in the know about these things when you plan on having conversations with locals.
While you’re traveling big cities, just remember to have fun. Having some structure to a trip is a good idea, but exploring and finding new places and meeting new people is exactly what a local would do. Allow yourself some time to just “get lost” and find interesting things as you travel. Don’t be afraid to try things that you wouldn’t necessarily try at home. That’s what travelling is all about. Experience the culture and do what the natives do!
Trisha Miller, ThatDangVegan.com | June 20, 2017