Deciding what to do on your next vacation should not be overwhelming. But more often than not, that is exactly what it is. When searching for ideas, all too often we find the same top 10 or 20 things over and over again.
That’s fine if you want to visit touristy areas, but what if you don’t? What if you want to experience something different? Something truly special so you can have a unique experience on your vacation?
The good news is that it’s pretty easy to find when you know where to look. There are far more resources than just the top 10 lists on Google or Youtube.
So today we are bringing you our favorite resources for finding unique ideas and hidden gems for your trip.
Youtube and Google
Okay, okay, I know I just told you the top 10 lists on Youtube and Google share the same things over and over, which is true. But, when I say you should use them for your research, I mean in a different way.
For instance, say you are searching for things to do on Kauai. That type of search usually gives you something like this:
As I said before, these are great if you want to get an idea of the most popular attractions of a destination. But if you look a little deeper, you can find the hidden gems and unique ideas you are looking for.
Using the search above, if I scroll a little further I find this:
These types of videos and blog posts are out there, you just need to look beyond the front page (though they occasionally make the front page as well).
The point here is to look beyond the “top” lists for the ones that are sharing something new. This may mean looking through a few to find them, but once you do they can be a treasure trove of unique ideas.
Now, this sounds too simple, and it is. But people tend to skip this step and miss out on a ton of new ideas.
The first and most obvious task is to ask your family, social media connections, and friends if have any recommendations. You never know who may have traveled or (or is actually from) your upcoming destination. The people who have can be an incredible resource for places to go and what to see.
What if you don’t know anyone who has been or is from your destination? Just look a little further out. For instance, reach out to your hotel concierge or, better yet, your Airbnb/Vrbo host. These people are on the ground in your destination and can give you some great ideas based on what you are seeking. Yes, they will likely give you popular spots as well, but if you let them know you want something special, they usually know the local favorites and can point you the right way.
Don’t stop there! Call other concierges and hosts to get their opinions as well. You don’t have to confine yourself to your hotel or rental.
You can also use apps such as iTalki, Tandem, or HelloTalk. These are designed to connect people for language learning. But even if you don’t plan to learn the language (which, if you are going to a foreign destination it wouldn’t hurt to learn a few phrases), you can still pick their brain. By offering to help them with their English, you can throw in some questions about their home city. And voila! New insight and ideas for your trip.
This is hands-down my favorite website to use for new ideas anytime I go to a new destination. I also use them when I’m going to destinations I’ve been to before because I can always find something new.
Now, this is not Airbnb. I’m not talking about vacation rentals. This is Airbnb Experiences and is an entirely separate offering. These are tours, activities, and excursions put together by locals and offered to small groups (often, private groups). Being designed and hosted by locals they are truly unique. In addition to that, by spending time with a local you can learn a ton about your destination and get even more ideas to sprinkle throughout your trip.
For instance, when I went to Tokyo, I used Airbnb experiences for a restaurant tour. The guide (a local to that neighborhood) took a group of five or six of us around to all the different little hotspots, one for an appetizer, another for dinner, another for drinks, and so on.
Not only was it a great introduction to Japanese cuisine but I was traveling solo at the time and met new people who I linked up with later in the trip. I also got to learn how to order, what to look for, and where to go. On the same trip, I also had a cooking lesson and a neighborhood tour/tasting that was incredible.
It’s not just food, either. In Japan, you could also dress up like a Samurai and learn to use a Samurai sword, learn to make mochi, take a hidden tour of the temples, visit nearby mountains, and more.
Airbnb Experiences has hosts worldwide, so no matter where you go you can likely find some cool new things to do.
A quick tip: I always plan these activities at the beginning of my trip because I always learn about new things I want to see or try. I made the mistake of scheduling the Japan tours at the end and then got stuck with no time left to try them out.
EatWith is an app that is very similar to Airbnb Experiences in that everything is hosted by locals. Only, with this app, it IS all about food.
Here you will find private tastings at local restaurants, meals at a local’s home, restaurant tours, and more. Though it is worldwide, it is not quite in every city yet. But each time I visit their website there seems to be more and more available.
This is another great way to find unique experiences and opportunities to learn about the food, experience the culture, and meet incredible people.
Foursquare City Guide
This is also an app but is a location-based recommendation service. When you open it, no matter where you are, it can make recommendations for things around you.
For instance, if you find yourself in the middle of Berlin and looking for a coffee shop, you pull up Foursquare and it tells you exactly what’s available near you. You can find food, things to do, nightlife, and more.
People also share reviews and tips for each location so you can choose the right one for you. Sometimes people will even write in the Wi-Fi passwords under the tips section, which is an excellent resource when traveling.
My final suggestion is excursion websites. These are often third-party companies that offer shore excursions for cruise passengers. However, you do not need to be on a cruise to take advantage of them!
My favorite here is Viator. They have a variety of activities, excursions, tours, and more for cities worldwide. They also have extra services such as airport transportation and shuttles. I usually come here to see if anything looks good for my destination. But I also use it to find private and small group transportation when I need to get to/from the airport, hotel, or cruise ship.
The reason I love them is that they are vetted experiences, so you know you’re not getting scammed. They also provide easy cancellations, payment flexibility, and support staff to ensure everything goes smoothly. They also have some amazing experiences to offer such as:
- Movie set tours
- City tours and guides (including private tours)
- Tasting tours and bar hops
- All kinds of water and land-based sports and activities
- Bike rentals and equipment rentals
- Much more
They are always worth looking through to see if anything strikes your fancy.
Finding things to do on vacation does not need to be overwhelming. There are tons of ideas to have in every destination, you just need to know where to look.
Now that you’re “in the know” about our favorites, you’ll be able to plan incredible vacations for yourself and your loved ones.
To help you plan, check out our Youtube channel for our latest guides, tips, and tricks for planning vacations as the pros do.