Off The Beaten (Tourist) Path

It's time to out the travel guides down, and skip the tourist trap attractions and experience a city like a local.

Off The Beaten (Tourist) Path travel tips

First thing firsts, if you want to experience local culture when traveling, stay away from tourist sites and tourist attractions. We all know that those experiences are far from truly experiencing local culture. Sure, you may want to explore the Colosseum in Rome  or visit Boca in Buenos Aires--but think about it this way...when you visit New York City, do you really get a New York experience by staying in Time Square? Do as the locals do. Travel with as few plans, commitments and reservations as possible. Be your most uninhibited self.

Easiest way to get the local knowledge is from the locals. This is true. Most people are proud of their home and love to tell you about it. One trick is to go to a restaurant early, like so you are the only customer - the staff will talk to you; sit at a bar and talk to the bartender, the always are in the know.

Ask your waiter.

Ask your cab drivers (use discretion here - cab drivers often get kickbacks for nightlife type activities).

Ask people you meet at the bar, or the cafe, or people you run into in the lobby of your hotel.  

Ask random people on the street.  

Rent places via AirBnB or Couchsurfing and ask your host.

As long as you are polite and use good judgment on when you are asking someone (i.e., don't interrupt people) usually people are happy to help and make recommendations.  Almost everyone wants visitors to enjoy their city/country and leave with a good impression.

Don't be intimidated by language barriers. Explore other forms of communications. Bring postcards from home to show and share. Draw pictures. Pantomime.

Be willing to try (nearly) anything. Food is a good example. Local "delicacies" may be intimidating, but you can pretty safely assume they aren't killing anyone.

Lastly, smile! People will respond best if you are approachable and polite. Well, at least this has worked for me!

Share your tips on Instagram!

Local Bloggers and Influencers Are The Secret for Insider Scoop

A wasted afternoon at a tourist-trap attraction?

Yup, been there; it has happened before.

A clear memory of this was in 2009 on a trip South America; getting stuck in the tourist trap that is La Boca in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Known as the birthplace of the tango, La Boca, a one-time shipyard has a famous walkway, El Caminito, where tango dancers perform and artists exhibit their work on this colorful street.

The true grittiness of the neighborhood is lost and now it is essentially a tourist trap, full of people touting for business. It is filled with over priced tourist trinkets and t-shirt heaven; faux tango eatery and photo hustlers are in abundance. The only genuine thing left is Boca fútbol stadium 4 blocks north, with a soccer museum charging $12USD entrance. A wasted afternoon indeed.

I wish we would have been warned that this place was the equivalent to San Francisco's Fisherman's Warf or Khao San Road in Bangkok. If only we would have known a blogger... or local for the inside scoop!

Every major city has bloggers obsessed with what's new and great in their backyard, particularly in regard to restaurants. Using Google Blog Search to find bloggers in whatever city you are visiting is a great place to start. You can also use Instagram by searching in the search or through geo tags.

Bloggers and influencers are a phenomenal resource but do not just read what they are writing: Contact them for personal recommendations. The more specific your request — and the more you flatter them for their insight and wit — the more likely you will be to pique their interest and get a response.  

Being from San Francisco, there is no denying that it is a foodie's mecca of must-try places. One might ask: "What's your favorite vegetarian-friendly restaurant within walking distance of the Hotel Vitale on Mission Street? We are looking for a place with a romantic vibe, ideally because it is our anniversary. We'd be so grateful for your help because you obviously know what's going on in San Francisco!" Bloggers love to provide tips and recommendations on their city!

Have I tried this? Yes!  

I've had plenty of people ask me as well via Instagram, and I've shared some of my insights as well.

While in Hoi An, Vietnam, I got in touch with via Twitter with Jodi from Legal Nomads, connected me with two bloggers that were currently in Hoi An--James from Nomadic Notes and Leif, a freelance travel writer and Lonely Planet author.

Gregg and I got the opportunity to have a Cao Lau dinner and share travel stories with James and Leif, followed by a fruit shake along the river. We also did research online as to what online travel bloggers recommend. Many recommended Ms. Chien's Pho Cao Lau Hu Tieu in the Central Market. The steaming bowls of pho were amazing!

By browsing Instagram, you can also get ideas in where to venture next. So, if you are unsure of where to head to, ask local bloggers!

Cover Image Credit: @amybuglione, Instagram; First published June 25, 2013; Updated August 14, 2017.

Insiders Guide to Airplane Ettiquette

14 Common SenseRules We Wish Everyone Would Follow When Flying. #5 Should Be Mandatory.

Okay, so there isn't exactly a handbook on how to behave on an airplane, otherwise known as airplane etiquette but there are some tips to make your flying experience a pleasant one for everyone around you, including you. To play your part, I've put together a list of 14 basic rules of airplane etiquette, based on my own flying experiences.

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1. Reclining your seat.

Rule number one: there’s a legitimate safety reason why airlines seats need to be in the upright position at certain times. Mealtime is no exception. Don’t recline your seat when you’re eating. Do you know what that does to the person behind you? You know exactly what it does!

2. Be aware of the people around you.

That means keeping your headphones at a reasonable volume, not loud enough for the rest of the plane to know your business. This goes for LOUD conversations, too.

3. Armrests wars.

As for the dreaded armrest debate, here’s my take on it is this: The person in the middle already has it bad enough, so let them have it. But, you should feel free to say something if their elbows start invading in on your space.

4. Bringing food on the plane that smells.

I love tuna fish sandwiches, but I don't necessarily want to smell it for a whole 5 hour flight, neither does everyone else on the plane.

5. Mind your body odor.

Wear deodorant (and don't fart.) I don't even know what to say to this aside that it should be mandatory before boarding a plane.

6. Letting your kids run wild while you have noise canceling headphones on.

You may be exhausted, but they are your responsibility. This isn't a daycare.

7. Insisting on a conversation when its obvious your neighbor doesn't want to hold one.

The earphones are a dead give away.

8. Loud conversations.

Your neighbor and those 10 rows back don't want to hear about you shenanigans from the night before.

9. Getting up to use the restroom every 20-minutes when you picked the window seat.

This needs no explanation.

10. Remember how security works.

This is all about thinking a few steps ahead, so you get through the screening process as quickly as possible. Before you get to the x-ray machine, take everything out of your pockets. Put it all in your bag, or the pocket of a coat that you'll put through the machine. When you belongings come out, collect them quickly and move to a spot where you’re not blocking anyone. Then you can put your shoes and belt on.

11. Don't hog the overhead bin.

Carry-on space is at a premium these days. If you have two carry-on bags, keep the smaller one at your feet.

12. Don't get hammered.

Having a few drinks is a fine way to pass the time, but keep yourself in check. You open the door to annoying everyone around you, reeking of booze, and needing to get up to use the lavatory every 20 minutes.

13. Respect the lavatory.

This one's simple: Don't take a lot of time, and don't make a mess. There are probably people waiting to get in there, and they deserve a clean lavatory as much as you do.

14. Get off the plane politely and efficiently.

Remember that everyone is as eager to get off the plane as you are. Don't crowd into the aisle if there isn't room, and let everyone ahead of you get out before making a move.

Do you agree with these rules?

Insider's Guide For Traveling as a Woman