Live Like a Local: Tactics For Total Travel Immersion

ITA Group

Total travel immersion tactics: flowered balcony in Italy

Toss that dusty old Frommer’s guide in the recycle bin. Leave that Hawaiian shirt at home.

And that fanny pack? Don’t even think about it.

If you want to really get to know a destination, you’ve got to ditch the guided tour and hit the backstreets like a local. And if you’re planning an incentive travel trip, that’s the sort of experience your participants crave.

Incorporating destination-specific elements helps your people truly experience a destination, not just pass by. Take your guests beyond the surface of a destination and give them a taste of cultural flair with these tips.

Personal Culinary Experiences

Food is inexorably linked to the culture of a destination. It’s hard to think about Italy without thinking about pasta, or think about Greece without feta, olives and gyros.

More than that, the food is linked to the local agriculture and artisans who make the pasta, farm the tomatoes, raise the lamb and more. Food, people, culture—there’s so much in common.

Which is precisely why home-run participant experiences tie closely to food. There’s no better way to feel like a local than to eat like one. Give them a culinary experience they can’t get in any other place.

For instance, Flora Farms, a family-owned farm and restaurant in Los Cabos, Mexico, offers the opportunity to pick fresh ingredients, learn about the produce grown on-site and cook a delicacy with ingredients grown just a few feet away from the kitchen.

Drink is just as powerful of a hook as food, and visiting craft breweries is a great way to sample the suds that locals love.

In recent years, San Diego has rocketed to the top of many beer lovers’ must-visit list. The area beer industry has grown to the point where Stone Brewery, noted as one of the best craft breweries in the country, will be opening up their own hotel.

For a more customizable libation from San Diego, Citizen Brewers lets your participants craft personalized beers, complete with their own labels.

Distinctive Lodging

Just about anyone can book a hotel stay at a traditional mega hotel. Reserving a room there is just a few clicks away.

But to really take a detour from normal, take your participants someplace truly unique, yet equally luxurious.

A stay in a villa in the Tuscan countryside, complete with a pool, scenic views and tons of history, adds an irreplicable zest of culture. Add in a locals-only experience, such as hunting for truffles or a day hike around Garfagnana or Lunigiana, for an eccezionale experience.

Closer to home, consider a trip to a home on the range. Partner up with some real cowboys in Colorado or Wyoming to take your participants to experience the Wild West. Stay on a working dude ranch, learn about Western horsemanship and take to the countryside on horseback for an afternoon of fly fishing. Yeehaw!

Rub Elbows With the Locals

One of the best ways to enjoy a destination is to meet the people who live there to find out what they love to do and how they live. And, while there are friendly, open people in every corner of the globe, Ireland stands head-and-shoulders above others. (The Emerald Isle was even dubbed “World’s Friendliest Country!”)

Set up an experience for your participants to enjoy dinner with a local family, tour a local farm, visit stores to learn about the owners’ craft or simply enjoy a pint at the pub with a newfound friend.

While across the pond, your participants can meet up with an American expat in Paris and have them give you a tour of their favorite cafés and shops.

Taking to the streets with a local bike club would be a huge hit, especially in a bike-friendly city such as Seattle, Copenhagen or Montreal.

Or, if you’re in New York, offer a theater or improv class alongside budding actors. You never know if the next big star will be in your class!

Volunteering on Vacation

In Miami or Macau or Mazatlán, volunteering is an emotional experience. And weaving volunteering into your trip helps create memories participants won’t soon forget.

No matter where you are, there’s a local cause that would love the time and energy of your participants—and they’ll love to make a difference in the community and lives of the people that live there.

Tasks such as walking dogs at a local animal shelter, helping build a Habitat for Humanity home or delivering meals to elderly residents are needed in cities around the globe.

Or, consider a more destination-specific opportunity. If you’re at an ocean destination, volunteer with a local ecological non-profit to rescue and rehabilitate sea animals. Many museums and historical sites could use an extra hand with the preservation and rehabilitation of antique works. Season permitting, picking vegetables or helping out around a farm would be a great way to help out a local farmer and learn more about where food comes from.