picnic-1208229_1920A few years ago, I was traveling to New York when I realized that many of the cities I had visited lately were starting to blend together. There was nothing that stood out to me about the cities, and I started wondering if I was the only person feeling that way. After doing some research, I came across analysis done by Eric Fisher based on the geolocation of Twitter images by users visiting the city and users who were local to the city. The results of this project shaped the way I travel to this day. By avoiding the typical tourist destinations, I have been able to appreciate each city for its unique destinations off the beaten path. This following tips will help take the guesswork out of “local” travel to let you experience your next destination like you’ve been living there for years.

Stay with Airbnb

One of the reasons every city started blending together for me was where I was staying. Every franchised hotel looks like the one before it. Before you make any hotel reservations, check out Airbnb to get a genuine feel for the city. The concept behind Airbnb is simple and rapidly taking over the travel industry: someone in a location has a spare room, so they rent it to someone else traveling to that destination. Resting your head in a building built in the 1800s just outside of the city limits will trump any experience you can have where they offer continental breakfast.

Turn your phone off

It seems counterintuitive for someone to turn their phone off in a strange city in 2016, but to me, it is one of the most important ways to truly experience somewhere new. On your first day there, make time to walk around and take in the sights by truly experiencing them. If you see anything that you absolutely need a picture or video of, there will be time for that later in your trip. Make sure you know where you are staying before you leave, but don’t be afraid to get a little lost and venture off the beaten path. Always have at least one other person by your side before you set out to explore.

Talk to the locals

There are a plethora of travel apps that will give you the best-rated restaurants, shops, and attractions in any given city. The problem is, the majority of those destinations are voted on by people who do not actually live in the city. If you want the best Italian dining experience while you travel, talk to someone who has tried more than one Italian restaurant in the city. Walk into a small business and ask someone working there for some recommendations. It is likely that they will recommend another small business, which is where you’ll get your most authentic experience.

The idea of “local” travel is not just a unique way to experience a new city, but it is also a way to support the businesses that are the foundation of that city. Whether you are out to eat, seeing a show, or buying souvenirs for your family, you’ll have a better experience with the locals.