Travel Tips

How To Travel Like A Local And Find Hidden Gems On Vacation

4 tips to take the road less traveled

The Vacationeer
Modern buildings of Honolulu, Hawaii along the beaches of Oahu and Diamond Head in the background at sunset

Travel is more than just an escape from the everyday; it’s an opportunity to experience new cultures and support local communities. Sixty-eight percent of travelers search for lesser-known vacation spots before they become popular, and seventy-nine percent want to see and participate in the lives of locals, according to American Express Travel®.

Still not convinced? Here are just a few reasons why you should consider traveling off the beaten path on your next vacation.

  • Discover the next travel trend like goat yoga before it goes viral.
  • Avoid crowds of tourists that tend to flock to popular attractions.
  • Learn more about local cultures — directly.
  • Invest in small businesses and give back to the communities you visit.
  • Get more bang for your buck.
  • Bring home souvenirs you’ll cherish, not just keychains and shot glasses.
  • Travel more sustainably by mitigating overtourism.

Of course, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are four tips to help discover a destination’s hidden gems.

Colored buildings and cobblestone streets in Montmarte, a neighborhood in Paris, France at sunset 

1. Plan Ahead

With any vacation, a little planning can go a long way. Luckily, there are plenty of resources to help. Browse your destination’s tourism board website for ideas and inspiration. Then check out Atlas Obscura for unusual things to do. For example, search for hidden gems in Paris, France.

Paris is home to world-renowned art museums, from the Louvre to the Musée d'Orsay. But don’t forget to visit Paris’ other fantastic museums, such as the Museum of Magic, the Gallery of Paleontology and a Romanticism museum with a secret courtyard garden.

Fellow travelers are also a great source of vacation inspiration, such as Hilton Grand Vacations’ Explorers. Our Explorers are Owners who share their vacation stories and travel tips. See what Owners loved doing in New Zealand, Japan, Europe, the Baltic Sea and across the American West.

Tanzaku, small pieces of paper with wishes written on them, and hung on a tree as part of Tanabata festival at night 

Research local events to find festivals and other occasions you may otherwise miss. Spring breakers from all over swarm Tokyo’s streets to celebrate the season and picnic alongside banks of cherry blossom trees. However, Tokyo is also a year-round holiday hot spot, offering exciting festivals, such as Tanabata, an event in early August featuring colorful lanterns and streamers, parades and food.

Finally, remember that some popular attractions are worth seeing. After all, there’s a reason that places like the Eiffel Tower and the Strip are iconic.

2. Be Willing To Wander

As you plan, don’t be afraid to leave time to wander. Many hidden gems and local favorites are just down the street from main attractions. Near the Tower of London, find a hidden paradise at St. Dunstan in the East, a lush garden in the ruins of an Anglican church. Or explore Brick Lane, a London neighborhood full of Indian restaurants, street art and vintage stores and part of Jack the Ripper’s stomping ground.

Tip: Download a map of the area in advance in case internet is spotty or to help you spot interesting landmarks and businesses.

St. Dunstan-in-the-East, an Anglican church in ruins with a garden in London, England 

3. Talk To The Locals

Find out where to go and eat from the locals themselves. Ask concierges, taxi drivers, waiters and bartenders for their recommendations. Or search ShowAround to hire locals to give you a personalized tour of their city. Instead of a bus tour, opt to take a walking tour or culinary excursion, often led by residents. For example, Vancouver, Canada, offers a variety ways to see the city, from brewery tours to sunset dining cruises. Maximize your touring time, even if you only have a few hours to explore.

Learn the local customs before your trip and be ready with some key phrases if you’re traveling someplace that speaks a different language. Also, don’t be afraid to take public transportation, which is often faster, cheaper and an easy way to get around.

4. Go During Off-Season

Off-season travel is a great way to enjoy a destination at a more relaxed pace and sometimes even have an attraction all to yourself. Every destination is different. For Oahu, Hawaii, peak season runs from December to April and then July to August. So book during May, June and September and enjoy fewer crowds in Honolulu while still luxuriating in beautiful weather.

Read “How To Plan A Perfect Vacation, According To The Experts” for more planning tips.

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The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer is a collective of Hilton Grand Vacations storytellers whose goal is to inspire travelers to go further. We're always on the lookout for new destinations to explore, useful travel tips, and unique ideas to help you plan the most memorable vacations possible.

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