How to Find Under the Radar Travel Spots
Don't get us wrong: We love a good guidebook. But when it comes to finding under-the-radar travel spots-the little seafood joint with no sign that was the highlight of your Caribbean trip or the candle-lit hut in Austria where you sipped mulled wine with the locals after sled runs under the stars-you usually have to dig deeper than the official editor-approved must-do's. Here are a few ways to go about unearthing travel tips that will really make your vacation one to remember.
CONNECT WITH LOCAL EXPERTS
Websites like CouchSurfing, Hospitality Club, and Airbnb that offer the chance to stay in the homes of local hosts (sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee), join events, or meet for a drink with people all over the world are virtually guaranteed to see you diving headfirst into a cultural adventure no guidebook could offer. But you can also use CouchSurfing and Hospitality Club as resources for getting travel information by posting questions on bulletin boards frequented by members.
Once at your destination, make an effort to chat up the locals around you, too. A friendly "I'm sorry, I'm not from here. Can you explain to me how tipping works in your country?" is an easy way to introduce yourself as new to the city and start a conversation at a bar or cafe. Ask bartenders for tips on where to find the best late-night restaurant and ask chefs at restaurants where they like to eat on their nights off. Flight attendants can be a very good resource, too, as they often work the same routes and lay over in cities long enough to be up on the coolest new thing-just make sure you approach them after the in-flight service, when they're not too busy. Most likely, they'll be flattered you asked and have lots to share.
HONE IN ON HYPER-LOCAL WEBSITES
Tim Leffel, author of The World's Cheapest Destinations, says that when looking for hotel, entertainment, and restaurant suggestions while traveling, he turns to "hyper-local websites edited by people in the know who go out frequently and know the scene." Leffel cites websites like Time Out Miami and Daily Candy Miami as good sources for finding savvy dining and entertainment recommendations in that city. "And for hotels, I've had great success using websites that specialize in a certain region," he says, pointing to Travelfish for Southeast Asia and EuroCheapo for Europe.
In the same way scanning your friends' Spotify playlists can put new bands on your radar, popping onto certain message boards sheds insider light on travel topics. Leffel points to message boards like Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, Fodor's, and FlyerTalk as useful. Simply eavesdrop on the back and forth or join the conversation and post your own questions. Trip Advisor's citizen reviewers are another vocal bunch:In addition to sharing information on hotel stays, they're also likely to share restaurant picks and the like in their reviews.
Be careful when appealing to your social media networks for travel advice, especially if you have hundreds of random "friends" whose travel tastes are less familiar to you than photos of their kids and what they had for dinner last night.
"Friends and friends of friends can get you started, but only if they share your tastes and know the scene well," says Leffel about crowd-sourcing for travel tips on sites like Facebook. "I could ask 10 people I know in my own city about great restaurants, and most of them would give me terrible answers: They're not very adventurous and they go to the same few places they know already. Or they don't really eat out much," he says, "So appealing to people blindly on Twitter and Facebook can lead you down some very blind alleys."
But if you have well-edited friends lists, of course, sites like Twitter and Facebook can be a jackpot. "I've built up such a network of well-traveled readers through my blog that if I need a quick tip on a destination, I often can post on Facebook and get the exact answer I need. Ditto to using Twitter," says travel writer Kristin Luna of popular travel blog Camels & Chocolate. Also, if you post your travel finds on sites like Facebook and Twitter-in essence, promoting your own travel insight-people might be more likely to help you out with their insight when you put out a request for advice.
More tips to help you travel better:
Group Trips: How to Plan a Smooth Getaway
Flying With Kids: How to Avoid a Cataclysm in Seat 9B
How to Communicate Abroad When You Don't Speak the Local Language
How to Relieve Stress on the Road