Published January 2021
You’ve been looking forward to your vacation for weeks, and maybe even longer. Your bags are packed and you’ve made a checklist of must-sees and must-dos. But what if your bucket list is leaning toward off-the-beaten-path activities? What if you’re wondering how to travel like a local instead? Finding the hidden gems in any destination adds a more unique experience to your vacation. Sure, there’s a lot to love about the big-hitters, but they can mean crowds, long waits, and steep prices.
If you want to travel like a local, consider booking a vacation home instead of a hotel. Not only will you be staying somewhere more unique, but you’ll have the time and space to experience your surroundings just as if you lived there.
Craftsman bungalows tucked in cute neighborhoods, sprawling beach homes in exclusive resorts, a cluster of cabins in the mountains—location is so important to feeling like a part of the community when you travel. In many cases, hotels are in more developed areas of town, away from the sights and activities that locals choose to visit in their free time.
And a vacation home is often more unique on the inside, too, like showcasing local artwork or shells collected from the beach that’s just outside. Many homes are thoughtfully decorated by owners who visit the destination often and know the area. Sometimes you’ll even find helpful area guides created by our homeowners.
Looking for somewhere to eat or shop? Sure, you could head to the first place you find on Google, but that’s probably where all the crowds are headed, too. Instead, try taking a walk around the neighborhood. Acquainting yourself with the area is the first step to travel like a local. It’s how you find hidden cafes, delightfully divey locals-only bars, or coffee shops where you can catch an open mic night.
Give yourself space to unpack and settle in for the long haul. You’ll thank yourself later. With all the extra room of an entire vacation home, you can bring along all the things that make you feel more at home, from kids’ toys to breakfast smoothie blenders to yoga mats. Keeping up with your daily routines—and avoiding the hotel clutter—is an easy way to feel at home when you’re traveling somewhere new.
Think about it: when you’re at home, do you order out for every meal of the day? The answer is probably no. Instead, save some money without skimping on local fare by cooking meals in your full kitchen. Visit nearby farmers’ markets, cheese shops, delis, and seafood markets to assemble a menu of locally sourced ingredients. (We think it’s the most delicious way to travel like a local.) And don’t forget to reward your hard work with a little something from the wine, beer, or spirits scene.
If you’re visiting somewhere that’s particularly beautiful, you’re probably going to want to explore it as much as the full-time residents do. But renting outdoor equipment like boats, fishing gear, or bicycles can be pricey. Luckily, vacation homes can help you avoid the added cost. Unlike hotels, they offer storage for whatever hobby gear you want to bring along, from boat docks to space for your skis and snowboards. Even better, some vacation home owners provide equipment you can borrow (for instance, on Vacasa.com you can filter your search for homes with bikes or kayaks available).
When you book a vacation home vs. a hotel, you’ll have everything you need at hand—and that means more time to spend doing what you want. Instead of driving to the nearest Starbucks, enjoy slow mornings with a cup made right in your vacation home. Keep staples in your kitchen to avoid darting out for kids’ lunches or midnight snacks. And if you spill a little pasta sauce on your shirt at dinner, just toss it in the washing machine. Having everything in one place makes everything more convenient. Just think of the hidden gems and unique places you can find with all that extra time.