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Want an Authentic Vacation? Travel Like a Local

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* Go off the beaten path. Make time to head to the smaller, secondary cities when you travel. These are often the places that feel the most culturally distinct. If you’re in a big city, head outside the tourist zones and into interesting neighborhoods where the locals spend their time.

* Choose a place that feels like home. Instead of staying in a traditional hotel, think about staying in a serviced apartment or an extended stay hotel, where you have a living room and kitchen. Then head out to the local market and talk to the vendors. You’ll discover the produce and products that are special to that area, and you never know where the conversations will lead.

* Eat with the locals. Don’t just eat at chain restaurants that you’re familiar with or that only have English menus. Go where the locals congregate. Whether it’s a mom-and-pop restaurant or a street stall, local eateries are likely to have more authentic food and the locals are often eager to tell you about the food, how to eat it, etc.

* Put away technology. If you find yourself lost while traveling, don’t immediately refer to maps on your phone – stop and ask a shopkeeper for directions. If you need a restaurant recommendation, don’t just search online. Ask locals for their tips – it’s a great excuse to strike up a conversation.

Keep in mind, traveling with a local mindset means taking a new approach to packing, too. Stewart offers these smart packing tips:

* Distribute weight evenly. Pack the heaviest items, such as shoes and toiletry bags, at the bottom. Pack socks inside shoes to prevent footwear from getting squished.

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