Collaborative consumption is not only changing the way we manage our stuff, but also the way we travel. Savvy travelers have long known that it's best to skip tourist traps and go where the locals go. Because the sharing economy facilitates exchanges between real people, it's the perfect way to travel like a local (while saving money).
If you're making travel plans, these 24 apps can help you make the personal connections you'll need to create an unforgettable trip filled with authentic experiences.
Once you've decided where to go, it's time to figure out where you'll stay. Peer-to-peer (P2P) platforms like those below allow you to tap into a global network of spare rooms, couches, and vacation homes so you can skip the hotels and live in a real neighborhood at your destination, at least temporarily.
From flats and rooms to treehouses and boats, this leading travel-sharing platform allows you to stay in unique spaces in 192 countries, often for a fraction of the price of a hotel. In-network features allow you to read host reviews and see if you have contacts in common before booking.
Similar to Airbnb, except that with Couchsurfing, no money changes hands and you will always stay with a host. This is how Couchsurfing makes it easy to learn about a new culture first-hand, practice a language, or get the inside skinny about the local area. Even better is that Couchsurfers organize regular events in hundreds of cities around the world, so there’s always something to do and new friends to meet.
Tripping has partnered with top accommodation sites like HomeAway and Flipkey (among others), so you can easily compare the world’s best peer accommodation and home rentals by price, reviews, ratings and location.
Traveling with a big group or looking for something that's a little bit more long term? HomeExchange is one of the world's biggest home swapping platforms. Membership gives you access to 50,000+ listings in 150 countries. Their unique search tool makes it possible to find those looking to share their home in exchange for a stay in yours. Even if you can't find a perfect swap, many of the accomodations are available to rent for a reduced price.
Billed as the first family travel network, Knok is designed for jetsetters with little ones in tow. Membership provides access to "thousands of like-minded families, who let each other stay at our beautiful homes when we're not there," explain the founders (and parents of two) Laura and Juanjo. Each family creates a family-friendly guide that's unique to their location, thus sharing their favorite local activities that children love. Visitors are also automatically connected to trusted local babysitters if grown-up time is needed! Knok has over 1,000 destinations, but is mostly focused on the U.S. and Europe.
BONUS: If you happen to be traveling in Seoul, South Korea and are seeking an authentic cultural experience, be sure to check out Kozaza.com. Designed to help people share space Korean style, Kozaza is focused on stays in Hanoks, traditional Korean houses, and currently has about 1,000 listings.
P2P Tours & Experiences
Now that you've found a place to stay, it's time to think about what you'll do once settled at your destination. These P2P activity platforms will allow you to skip the long lines at tourist traps and see the area from a local's point of view.
The SideTour community is full of passionate hosts, each screened to ensure every experience is memorable and safe. Browsing this platform for opportunities in your destination city will reveal handpicked activities--from one-of-a-kind dining to something a little more adventurous--all hosted by talented locals excited to show off their hometown. Includes opportunities for individuals, private groups, and company retreats. SideTour currently operates in New York City, but plans to serve cities around the world.
You could buy an "insider guide" for your destination. Or you could just book an experience on Vayable. This platform makes it easy to book unique experiences offered by local insiders. There are activities available in hundreds of cities around the world, and incredible sounding trips like "East London Street Food Tour" and "Bioluminescent Kayaking Adventure"! Vayable is based in San Francisco, and its most active cities are in the U.S. and Europe.
This well-established platform (including the Viator Tours & Activities App) allows you to pick the collective brains of a planet full of travelers, making it easy to zero in on the perfect destination and activity. Gain access to the best local activity providers, all pre-vetted by Viator. Check out verified photos and reviews before you choose, and travel with confidence knowing they offer 24/7 live support. Features guides in dozens of countries around the world.
Looking for an all-in-one tool to compare the offerings of multiple accommodation and experience-sharing platforms? Outpost has got you covered. You can search and compare places to stay, ride sharing opportunities, and peer-to-peer tour services all in one convenient place. It's quite possibly the fastest, simplest way to travel like a human.
Spotted by Locals is a series of blogs, mobile (iPhone, Android) & PDF city guides with up-to-date insider tips by city loving locals. Available for 39 European and nine North American cities, Spotted by Locals features content created by handpicked (and vetted!) "Spotters" who live in the city they write about. They speak the local language, write only about their favorite spots, and keep their articles up-to-date so that you can have the trip of a lifetime.
BONUS: Traveling to Spain? Be sure to check out Trip4Real.com, a Barcelona-based P2P experience marketplace. Headed to South Korea, Indonesia, or the Phillipines? Letsplayplanet.com is a new platform that connects travelers who are looking for authentic local experiences and locals who can provide it, encouraging everyone to travel in a more sustainable way.
One of the best things about traveling is getting to try a new cuisine. Just as the sharing economy has transformed accommodations and activities, peer-to-peer dining is opening us up to new friendships, one meal at a time.
Anyone can eat in a restaurant while on vacation. EatWith is a global community that invites you to dine in the homes of local food lovers around the world. Connect with amazing hosts, share stories and unforgettable experiences, and enjoy delicious native cuisine. Operational in over 20 countries in North America, South America, Australia, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
Frustrated by too many impersonal and sterile restaurants, world traveler Noah Karesh founded Feastly to reintroduce the original social dining option: the home cooked meal. Use this platform to find homemade meals prepared and served in a cook's home. Most active in San Francisco, Washington D.C., and New York City areas.
That need for face-to-face connection is what inspired Colunching. The tool, which includes listings from all over the globe, is all about communal dining- a mix of sharing unexpected encounters around a great meal. Kind of like the Meetup for informal meals, all you do is sign up for a meal, and then see where the food (and friendship) takes you. Operational in 19 countries, including China, India, the United Arab Emirates, and Australia.
This is the platform for hosts who love to entertain travelers. The host cooks and shares a meal with a small group of diners, at his or her place. It could be a family house, a typical Parisian apartment, a shack on the beach or an artist workshop. If you’re looking for an authentic experience, you’ll be well served! Active in the United States and several European countries.
BONUS: If you're not going on vacation, but would still like a culinary adventure, check out ShareYourMeal.net. Founded in the Netherlands by Marieke Hart and Jan Thij Bakker, ShareYourMeal makes it possible to share your cooking with people in your neighborhood. Whether you create culinary delights or mac and cheese...ShareYourMeal let's you share a meal with neighbors. Don't feel like cooking? Find out what meals your neighbors are sharing, reduce food waste and meet new people! Active in the U.S. and 12 European countries.
And if you're in South Korea, check out ZipBob.net, a very active peer-to-peer dining platform based in Seoul!
No matter how cool the shared accomadations might be, you won't want to stay cooped up inside. Use these transportation sharing options to meet locals and get around at your destination.
BlaBlaCar is a trusted community marketplace that connects European drivers to passengers looking for a ride (usually between European cities). With over 1 million users each month, BlaBlaCar is much more than ridesharing. The service is completely insured, and thanks to the profiles and multiple user "experience levels," it's making car travel between cities more social, money-saving and efficient for Europeans.
Carpooling.com makes ridesharing easy, safe and accessible to all. In just a few seconds, drivers can offer empty seats and passengers can book a ride to their destination. People can check user profiles and choose who they want to ride with, how much space and comfort they need, where they want to meet and what they are willing to pay. Currently Carpooling.com serves 40 countries (mostly in Europe and the Mediterranean), but there are plans to launch a US version soon.
Uber connects you with a set of professional wheels (think independent taxis and limo drivers) ready to take you to your destination within a metro area at a moment's notice. However, if you'd like to enlist the services of a something other than Uber's famous "black cars," the cheaper UberX service allows you to hire a local driving everything from a Toyota Prius to a Cadillac Escalade. Now operating in 33 countries and hundreds of cities.
Easily spotted by the big pink mustache on each participating car, Lyft allows regular vetted folks with a car become your personal driver. It's a lot like Uber except you'll be hitching rides from your peers instead of professional drivers. Like Uber, Lyft is mostly for rides within a metro area. Lyft is known for the quirky and fun personal service of their drivers. Currently operating in the United States only.
Would you rather explore from the vantage point of a bike seat? Or perhaps a snowboard? Spinlister makes it easy to search for and reserve bikes, skis and snowboards offered by locals. Spinlister is operational around the world, but most of the listings are in the U.S. Don't see a listing for your destination city? BikeShare.com has a fantastic list of bike sharing programs in communities all over the world.
Flying to your destination? FlightCar lets people parking at the airport rent their vehicles out to other approved traveling members. Every rental is insured up to $1 million, and every renter is pre-screened. Members get free parking, a car wash, and get paid if their car is rented out. Approved members renting a FlightCar get the lowest rental rates guaranteed, with free insurance, free extras, and no fees.
Learning and Working
If you're a member of the mobile workforce, chances are you'll be sneaking a peek at a few work emails while you're away. You may even be seeking a change of scenery to get the creative juices flowing for a new project. If so, the following collaborative tools will come in handy.
Want to bring back more than pictures? How about a working knowledge of a new language! Meet2Talk helps you find members near you who would like to swap languages. You learn their language, and they learn yours. Once you are connected, you decide where and when to meet...and it's free! Check here for a guide about how to share languages by the founder of Meet2Talk.
22. Coworking Spaces
Looking for a temporary desk and a solid Wifi connection? The coworking movement consists of over 3,000 shared workspaces all over the world. If you're a member of a coworking space already, the Coworking Visa Program makes it possible to visit participating spaces at no additional cost. Also check the Coworking Wiki for a massive global directory of coworking spaces. Like to manage things from your smartphone? Check out Shareable's list of coworking apps. And there's no need to limit yourself to coworking spaces. Platforms like Seats2Meet (Europe, Africa, and Asia), DesksNearMe (worldwide), and WorkSnug (worldwide) can help you find all sorts of flexible workspaces, from libraries to coffee shops to design firms.
23. Wifi Sharing
In today's Internet-connected world, adventure can be just a click away--provided you have a good Wifi signal. When traveling, finding a Wifi connection that is both reliable and affordable can be difficult, but as always, the sharing economy provides some interesting alternatives. CrowdRoaming turns phones into WiFi hotspots so international travellers can tap into local users’ smartphone WiFi and surf without costs. Wireless network Fon does something similar via the Fonera Wifi router. If you sign up for Fonera, which offers free lifetime membership with the purchase of a router, you join a network of more than 12 million Wi-Fi hotspots around the world. If you find a fellow user’s signal in the area, you just enter your Fonera username and password to connect to their home network.
24. Google Translate
Let's face it, the one thing that would really help us travel like locals is to speak the language! That's where Google Translate comes in. Available as both an iPhone and Android app, as well as a web platform, Google Translate allows you to translate phrases into the local language just by speaking, typing, writing or taking a picture. Featuring over 80 languages, you can also translate offline while traveling. No internet connection needed. Top Image via Brinerustle.
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