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Let a local show you how locals live

By Liza Weisstuch
January 12, 2022
Joshua Tree National Park_California
Chon Kit Leong/Dreamstime
From dining to arts to sports, companies offer private tours and tips from local experts to cater to your interests

The idea took root when Sarah Winters and Shawn Ward, a longtime marketer and entrepreneur respectively, were vacationing with friends in the Hamptons. They wanted to go to a club but it was sort of exclusive and there was a line. One of the friends they were with was much more connected in town; he had a few words with the doorman, who quickly whisked the group inside.

That’s when it occurred to them: how cool would it be if anyone could hangout with a local while traveling? It affords you dependable advice about local haunts and hidden gems overlooked by guidebooks and, if you work it right, access to places that might otherwise be exclusive and inaccessible. And with that, Gibby Road was formed.

“It’s not that you’re told where to go. You don't get a curated list of places to check out. It’s just a chance to go around with someone—whether you know the person or not—and it’s like having a friend of a friend who’s an expert," explains Winters. "There’s this idea of ‘come with me’ infused throughout the whole Gibby Road concept.”

The site went live in in August with more than 100 local “gibbies” in three states. The guides sign up, explain the experience they offer, and provide a bio and their contact information on the website so that you can get in touch with them directly while deciding on whether to hire them. Fees are variable and range between $5 and $250. But the coolest thing about the site—and others like it—is that each individual offers highly specified tours, usually around a particular theme. You can go on a food tour in Brooklyn or San Francisco for instance, but there’s plenty that are more eccentric featuring places and things you likely didn’t know were a thing. In Detroit, for instance, you can go on a music tour with a longtime Detriot dweller and music industry vet. In Joshua Tree, CA, there’s a “surreal” art crawl with a local film producer featuring little known installations in the desert and a visit to Junk Dadaist, an outdoor museum. In Palos Verdes, CA, an adventure-loving ski instructor takes you to test drive a Tesla along the coast. Detroit’s every growing hipster haunts are the focus of a tour of the Motor City's increasingly vibrant Downtown

“Going local trend that everybody is obsessed with. You even hear it from hotels that say ‘don’t be a tourist, live like a local,’ but that’s just four walls and a bed,” says co-founder Rachel Harrison. “What really allows you to be a local is actually interacting with and spending time with locals.”

Gibby Road is very much a product of our time. After all, that “come with me” ethos that Ward describes is increasingly infused throughout most of the way we travel, from AirB&B to Uber and other rideshare services. In fact, thematic local-led tours are a growing trend. 

Viator is the elder statesman of destination tourism, having launched in Sydney in 1995. It’s a bit more slick and glossy than the newer indie start-ups, having been acquired by TripAdvisor in 2014. It’s a network of more than 3,000 tour operators around the planet and its site is available in ten languages.  Vestigo, which launched in 2015, focuses on outdoor activities, from yoga to hiking to mountain biking. It’s largely offered in Georgia, where it was founded, and surrounding states. 

Your Local Cousin is much broader in scope. Like Gibby Road, locals sign up to offer tourists tips and insight when they travel. There are over 1200 “cousins” in 250 cities in 110 countries. Unlike Gibby Road, it is not a marketplace for purchasing hours’ or days’ worth of time with a guide. (Many of its cousins are independent tour operators, though, so the connection could end up with the option of a private tour.) YLC's network of cousins is pretty broad and eccentric. There’s a fishing expert in Victoria Falls, Zambia, for instance, and an Olympic silver medalist in field hockey offering tips in Amsterdam, to name a few.

YLC’s services are communication-based, allowing you to pick someone’s brain and answer your specific questions. You can connect with a Cousin over text (20 questions for $15) or communicate through the YLC platform (3 questions for $10). Have a phone conversation with a local to help you plan your trip (30 minutes for $15), or get a custom designed itinerary for one to 11 days ($25 to $60) to use as a guide as you explore a city on your own.

“The best source of information is always a network of friends and family,” says co-founder Aarti Kanodia. “We have a family of 1200 locals who really help you explore the way you should. They're a way to get a deep dive in the city.” 

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Travel Tips

Trending 2017 trips to book now

There’s always a renewed sense of excitement, anticipation, and inspiration at the beginning of the year. Resolutions are fresh and positive change feels within reach. Most importantly (for us, at least) there are travel dreams and fantasies that beg to become realities. And my, those dreams are bountiful. Planning travel is an exercise in discipline and decision-making. And the hardest decision is the first: Where to go in 2017. CANADA CALLING Not surprisingly, Dubai, London, Tokyo, Sydney, Washington DC, Machu Picchu, and Bangkok remain on experts’ lists for destinations that continuously attract increasing numbers of visitors. But for the most part, hot spots on everyone’s must-see list change. Sometimes a city is an attraction because it is planning anniversary events, either for itself and its own founding or of an iconic historic celebrity, the way Salzburg and Vienna did in 2006 on to celebrate 250 years since Mozart’s birth. Montreal (pictured above) is a hot ticket this year because it’s commemorating the 375th anniversary of its establishment. All of Canada, in fact, will be a source of attention because the country is celebrating its 150th anniversary. That makes Canada a great budget destination for Americans at the moment, what with a strong dollar against the Canadian dollar. Only problem is that hidden gems may no longer be hidden. Canada made a very select list of top destinations that Orbitz put together. Montreal and Toronto in particular are sure to be on everyone’s radars, with the anniversary festivals and celebrations building on the 10 percent increase in visitors the cities saw last year. Meantime, according to the Conference Board of Canada, Toronto is one of the country’s fastest growing metropolitan economies. A slate of cultural happenings, like an expanded location of the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Bentway Project, a mile-long recreational space beneath the Gardiner Expressway, chances are slim that the boom will slow in 2017. WINE COUNTRY YOU CAN ACTUALLY AFFORD Another North American destination that’s sure to grow is Paso Robles, a relatively "undiscovered" Central California region that’s home to more than 200 wineries. In addition to the many tasting rooms to visit, there’s a booming restaurant scene that’s getting hipper by the minute.   NORDIC TRACKS As far as the tried and true go, though, Iceland is not losing any interest, what with its natural wonders on full display and the quintessentially Scandinavian vibe in Reykjavik, where hip artists, musicians and chefs dictate the tone of the city. Plus an increase in budget airlines offering minimal flight prices from the US is added incentive for wallet-watchers. You may want to hang tight on planning, though. According to its data, Skyskanner says the most strategic time to book is week of October 23 through 29.  And for the been-there-done-that folks, Helsinki is having its moment, according to the travel experts at Bloomberg. It’s the nation’s 100th anniversary and parties abound, like choral concerts in national parks starting end of August. Plus an Arctic Treehouse Hotel and Northern Lights Village, a glass-domed architectural feat, are just a few of the new attractions in Finnish Lapland that might make adventure-seeker get up and go. THE CARIBBEAN IS STILL HOT And for those who prefer lounging around on the beach, Caribbean destinations that are getting a lot of buzz include Saint Barthélemy, which is showing off the fruits of its years-long hotel-building boom, largely in the luxury realm. Just take note that almost everything is shuttered in September for hurricane season. Turks and Caicos is another luxurious splurge. Among the spate of new luxury accommodations, there are cabin accommodations that make for a feasible stay for families and groups. Nature lovers will love the three nature reserves and the third-largest coral reefs. On the budget side, Isabela, a surf town in northwest Puerto Rico (always one of our favorite budget destinations), is welcoming a spate of hip new resturants, cocktail bars, and surf shops, thanks to entrepreneuring Americans. 

Travel Tips

Insider's Guide to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Budget Travel is based in New York City, and we get just as swept up in the city’s holiday lights, music, and energy as any visitor. With the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade coming up (including appearances by Anika Noni Rose, Ally Brooke, Ashley Tisdale, Bad Bunny, and, of course, the one-and-only Santa Claus), we want to provide you with some of the best “live like a local” advice for getting the most out of this annual extravaganza. THE BEST WAY TO VISIT NYC ON PARADE DAY It's fun to be a “New Yorker for a day” and leave the car at home. If you’re approaching from the suburbs or beyond, hop on one of the metro area’s commuter rail trains or buses (options include New Jersey Transit buses and trains, Metro North trains, and the Long Island Railroad). (Traveling for the holiday? Check out our "Money-Saving Thanksgiving Travel Tips.") In town, purchase an MTA Metro Card (ideally, before the big day, to avoid long lines) and take the bus of subway to the parade. Or, if you absolutely must drive, park on either the far west or east side of Manhattan and take public transportation to the parade route. Of course, walking in Manhattan, with its busy avenues, eye-popping shop displays and world-famous skyscrapers, is always a good idea, and will help burn off some of the calories that you’ll be consuming later in the day. THE BIGGEST MISTAKE PARADE VIEWERS MAKE While everybody knows that the parade route leads to Macy’s, at Herald Square (the area around West 34th Street and Broadway), for televised performances from the parade’s stars, visitors should not stand below 38th Street. The area below 38th is the parade's “quiet zone,” where participants and performers prepare for their "closeup" on TV, and you will completely miss out on exciting parade music and performances in this area. WHERE AND WHEN THE PARADE BEGINS The parade will step-off at 9 a.m. at 77th Street and Central Park West. The procession will travel down to Columbus Circle, turn onto Central Park South, then march down 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) to Macy’s Herald Square on 34th Street.Want to know more about viewing the parade? The complete route can be found at macys.com/parade. THE BEST PLACE TO WATCH THE PARADE While most of us don’t have the option of enjoying the parade from a 6th-floor apartment on Central Park West like in the classic holiday film Miracle on 34th Street, we do recommend that you approach the route from the west along Central Park West or the south along Central Park South for a relatively close look at the parade’s opening energy and high spirits with the beautiful park as a backdrop. The parade should take about 90 minutes to pass you by from the opening band to Santa Claus’s sleigh. ENSURE PARADE SAFETY AND COMFORT The weather in NYC on Thanksgiving Day can range from below freezing and windy to sunny with temps in the 60s - and it can change quickly this time of year. Layer up, be prepared to keep hands and feet warm, bring rainproof jackets, and wear sensible shoes. The NYPD has a large presence to ensure a safe and happy morning for all, but follow your usual common-sense travel practices: Keep your valuables to a minimum; avoid carrying around oversize backpacks and luggage; always pay attention to your surroundings. And, as we always say here in NYC, “if you see something, say something.”

Travel Tips

Why Canada tops our 2017 travel list

For an untold number of years, Americans have held a rather narrow view, to say the least, of Canada. All too often, say "Canada" to an American and people think Montreal, a Francophile’s accessible fantasy; Niagara Falls, ice hockey, poutine, and the Toronto Blue Jays (because, well--baseball.) Chalk it up to Justin Bieber’s endless stream of chart-toppers, Ryan Reynolds’ show-stopping performance in “La La Land” and, of course, just about everything that Justin Trudeau, dreamboat-in-chief and humanitarian extraordinaire, says and does, but these days Canada is on everyone’s minds. And travel bucket lists.  It’s Canada’s moment, and not least because 2017 marks the nation’s 150th birthday. As a tribute to our 3,855,103-square-mile northern neighbor and its greatness, we did some exploring, in case you’re thinking of paying a visit this year. Not only did we find some astonishing and unique sights and destinations, we found that many of them are the best—the biggest, the tallest, the oldest, the most uncommon—in their class. In other words, Canada is not just great in a lot of ways. It’s unrivaled. Here are just a few of the reasons why. 1. NATURAL WONDERS As we did our research, we ended up asking ourselves over and over again: will wonders never cease? Of course, Niagara Falls is the belle of Canada’s natural ball, but over the vast landscape, plenty of other spectacles are worth seeing. Geographically speaking, Newfoundland and Labrador is home to Cape Spear, the most easterly point in North America and home to an iconic lighthouse, where the dawn breaks first. The Charlevoix region, an hour east of Quebec City, draws adrenaline junkies because of Le Massif de Charlevoix, a mountain looming above the St. Lawrence River with the highest vertical drop east of the Rockies. Within its boundaries you’ll also find the 11th biggest crater on earth, the still-breathtaking effect of a 15-billion-ton meteorite that crashed down between land and a river 400 million years ago, resulting in the province’s hilliest region and one of North America’s most panoramic road. In the Quebec Maritime region, the Manicouagan impact crater, which fell to earth 215.5 million years ago, is 62 miles in diameter, making it the fifth largest in the world. It's visible from space. The largest tree, a Sitka spruce casually referred to “Heaven Tree” grows in British Columbia's Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park. It's 11.5 feet in diameter and is estimated to be 800 years old. The “Hanging Garden Tree,” a vision to behold on Meares Island, near Tofino, is one of the oldest known western red cedars, estimated to be anywhere between 1,500 and 2,000 years old. Provincial Park is home to one pretty mighty tree, but Kitlope Heritage Conservancy Protected Area on BC’s central coast is the location of many, many trees that make up the world’s largest intact coastal temperate rainforest. Home to bald eagles, grizzlies and plenty more wild animals, it's over 793,208 acres and located within the traditional territory of the Haisla First Nation. If you want to check it out, it’s best reached by boat and July and August are prime time to visit. And as for water, when we talk about rivers, lakes, and oceans, we talk about depth, distance, and what lives beneath. We don’t, however, talk about speed. Unless we’re in Skookumchuck Narrows on BC’s Sunshine Coast. The water rushes along at more than 16 knots, one of the fastest flowing tidal currents on the planet. But what’s a mere breakneck tidal current in the face of a whirlpool? New Brunswick lays claim to the brutally powerful Fundy’s Old Sow Whirlpool, which, with a width of 75 meters, is the largest in the Western Hemisphere and second largest in the world. (The largest is the the Maelstrom Whirlpool of Norway.) Its sheer force is evident at the Bay of Fundy, known for having the highest tides on Earth.  2. ON THE MOVE Kelowna, a small city in the south of British Columbia, is arguably the most attractive to active, sporty types. The highest skating rink in North America sits 5,570 feet above sea level at Big White Ski Resort. It’s Olympic-size, free to use, and offers awe-inspiring mountain views. Pretty though it may be, Kelowna’s rink is practically quaint compared to the Rideau Canal Skateway, the planet’s largest naturally frozen ice skating rink, as declared by the Guinness Book of World Records. Every winter, the Rideau Canal, Ontario’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, freezes into this playscape, which stretches for 4.8 miles through downtown Ottawa and has a surface area equal to 90 Olympic-size rinks.  Attention adrenaline junkies: Peachland’s ZipZone is Canada’s highest freestyle zipline, a 381-foot thrill ride. Winsport, a sprawling athletic center in Calgary, has Canada’s fastest zipline, along which you can cruise at 87 mph. This one comes from the department things you never realized were measured but are: publicly owned waterparks. Kelowna’s H2O Adventure and Fitness Centre is Canada’s largest, with waterslides and plenty of other water runs. Add in Canada’s most extensive cycle network, a 211-mile expanse, and it’s little surprise to learn, then, that Kelowna is Canada’s fittest city. The annual HOPE Volleyball SummerFest, which takes place at Mooney’s Bay on the Rideau River near downtown Ottawa, is the largest one-day beach volleyball tournament in the world. (And it raises thousands of dollars for deserving local charities.) 3. CULTURE There’s an old joke that goes: What’s the difference between Canada and yogurt? Yogurt has an active culture. (*rimshot*) Well, turns out Canada gets the last laugh in the culture department, what with an assortment of longstanding theaters and museums and brand new institutions. In Winnepeg, for instance, Winnipeg Art Gallery is the oldest civic museum in Canada and home to the world’s largest collections of contemporary Inuit art. The city, Manitoba’s capital, is also home to Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the country’s oldest ballet company and the longest continuously operating ballet company in North America. Speaking of enduring, Winnipeg's Le Cercle Moliere is Canada’s oldest continuously running theatre company while Rainbow Stage in Kildonan Park is Canada’s largest and longest-running outdoor theatre. But there are plenty of new establishments of note, too, like the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which opened in September 2014 and is Canada’s first national museum to be built outside the capital region. It's also the only museum exclusively focused on the history and future of human rights. Saskatoon is on track to open the Remai Modern this year 2017. The museum, which comes with a $80.2 million price tag, houses the world’s largest collection of Picasso linocuts. And for all the trivia nuts out there, here’s a fun fact: St. Boniface Museum in Manitoba, which houses artifacts related to Western Canada’s French-Canadian and Métis heritage, is located in a former Grey Nuns’ convent house, which was built around 1850 and happens to be the city’s oldest remaining structure and the largest oak log building in North America. The title for the nation’s oldest, continuously operating museum, however, goes to New Brunswick Museum, established 1842. This family-friendly institution spotlight’s the region’s art, cultural heritage, and scientific history. Look at the municipal schedule of any Canadian city and you’ll easily be convinced that Canada holds more festivals than any other nation. We don’t have the international data to confirm that, but while we compile a comprehensive listing of festivals throughout the year, we can offer a few teasers: The Ottawa International Animation Festival is North America’s largest animation festival. The annual Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival (AKA: Chamberfest) is the world’s largest chamber music festival. Not to be outdone, Winnepeg: Folklorama is the world’s largest and longest-running multicultural festival, allowing visitors to travel the globe in one city at 40-plus pavilions featuring traditional food, drink, cultural displays and live entertainment from countries around the world. Meantime, Western Canada's largest winter festival is Festival du Voyageur, where Voyageur, Métis, and First Nations histories are brought back to life with music and performances, food, and lots more.   4. CULINARY Some of Canada’s restaurants have rather eccentric claims to fame. BC Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, near Golden in the Kootenay Rockies, is home to the country’s highest restaurant, the Eagle’s Eye. It’s 7,710 feet high on the summit of the Golden Eagle Express gondola. Over in Winnepeg, RAW: almond is the world’s only pop-up restaurant located on a frozen river, and Mon Amis Louis is North America’s only restaurant on a bridge. The eatery, which specializes in French-inspired cuisine, is closed for the winter, but the inspiring views of the Red River are the stuff spring dreams are made of. A bit less esoteric and a whole lot more wholesome, Florenceville-Bristol in New Brunswick is the planet's French Fry Capital, supplying one third of all fries around the world. Native sons built the first McCain Foods Limited French fry plant in town in 1957. The town is now home to the Potato World Museum.   Canada’s whiskies have been making waves and winning awards in the past few years, but one tipple that’s uniquely Canadian is Omerto, an aperitif tomato wine made by a boutique operation called Domaine de la Vallée du Bras in Charlevoix. The nation also does its part to keep up with the global craft beer scene. There’s been such a proliferation of interesting breweries operating in BC that the BC Craft Brewers Guild recently established the BC Ale Trail, an online guide that organized notable breweries into seven suggested road trips. Self-guided tours cover areas as diverse as the rugged Kootenay Rockies, the pastoral Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, and suburban Port Moody. The Trail guide links to accommodations and local attractions, as well as tips on signature pours at each brewery. You'll find options for walking, biking, or driving.  5. AND EVERYTHING ELSE Alberta deserves a section of its own, not least because the tourism bureau has plotted out a road trip of some of the most distinctive and whimsical attractions that are the largest—if not only—in their respective class. To wit: it’s home to the largest mallard duck, which has a wingspan of 23 feet, and the world’s most massive working oil lamp, which is 42 feet high and looks like something out of a Mother Goose tale. It’s on display at what is arguably the region’s oddest museum: the Donalda & District Museum, which houses more than 900 kerosene lamps dating from the 1600s and the 1960s. But Alberta doesn’t have a monopoly on Canada’s quirky attractions. The Calgary Stampede is known as the richest rodeo event in North America. Also in Calgary is Heritage Park, an interactive and nostalgic museum with displays that stretch back to Canadian life in the 1860s. It's Canada’s largest living historical village. The Town of Shediac in New Brunswick, the lobster capital of the world, lays claim to the world’s largest lobster, a sculpture that’s 35 feet long and 16 feet high. Question is, though, where’s the world’s biggest bowl of melted butter?

Travel Tips

How Not to Be a Jerk on a Plane

It seems as if hardly a week goes by without us hearing about another incident of bad behavior on an airplane. In January, for instance, a San Francisco-bound flight from Australia had to turn around and make an emergency stop in New Zealand because a man in a middle seat became irrepressibly enraged—swatting at the beverage cart, delivering a loud tirade to the other passengers, speaking offensively to a flight attendant. News reports say he was in the middle seat and was upset because people on either side were having a conversation over him. Every study and report that travel companies release indicates that air travel is on the rise. An increase in the number of aircrafts and routes and the boom in budget airlines make travel more accessible to everyone. That means flights are dependably more crowded, with jostling for overhead bin space. And with all the air traffic, waits on tarmacs can be epic. People are anxious about missing their connections and some are just anxious because, well, flying does that to people. Tensions are high for those reasons and others. It doesn’t take much to make a person snap. And anger and distress begets anger and distress. According to the International Air Transport Association, a trade organization, the number of violent in-flight confrontations is on the rise. A recent report says that the number of air rage incidents last year totaled 10,854, up 14 percent from 2014. Flight crews categorize air rage in one of several categories: belligerent behavior, emotional outburst, noncompliant behavior, and incidents involving drugs, alcohol, smoking, or sex. According to a report published in May 2016 by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, belligerent behavior and intoxication were more common in first class, whereas emotional outbursts, such as a panic attack, were more common among economy passengers. What’s more, an outburst by an economy class passenger is almost four times as likely to have an air rage incident if they’re on a plane with a first-class section. Interestingly, though, according to the study passengers are about two-times as likely to have an outburst if they boarded through first class (vs. boarding in the middle of the plane). But there are ways to keep calm at 36,000 feet and ensure that others around you do the same so that everyone arrives safe in mind and body. We checked in with Lizzie Post, president of The Emily Post Institute, host of the “Awesome Etiquette” podcast, and great-great-granddaughter of the legendary etiquette doyenne Emily Post. Here are her tips. WHAT EVERY AIRLINE PASSENGER SHOULD DO 1. If someone beside you is noticeably anxious because, for instance, of fear of flying, wait a minute to see if it passes, then ask the person if conversation helps or if he’d rather be left alone to breathe and relax. 2. If you feel endangered for any reason by a fellow passenger, quietly and patiently get up and speak to a flight attendant. Tell him or her the person next to you is agitated and you’re uncomfortable. Ask if there’s anything they can do to help your seatmate or, if it’s really bad, can you change seats. Post notes: “Be careful what level of responsibility you put on a flight attendant. They’re there to help. Let them know the situation, but speak in a calm and gentle way while seeking sympathy and support, rather than getting angry at them.” 3. When it comes to the nagging issue of reclining seats in the cramped surroundings of economy class, if the seat in front of you is reclined and it’s really interfering, instead of asking the passenger simply to put the seat up, it is preferable to first establish that you’re not being too self-centered and demanding and ask if, for instance, they can put the seat up for a little while, like, for instance, when the drinks are served.  Remember, Post says, “it’ll all be over in a few hours and don’t forget that you can get up and move around to counteract how much time you spend with the person’s head in your face.” WHAT EVERY AIRLINE PASSENGER SHOULD NEVER DO 1. Whatever you do, do not address an irate stranger on your own. “Safety trumps etiquette,” Post insists. So rather than telling someone who’s upset that she needs to sit and be quiet, seek out help from a flight attendant.  2. To avoid rustling the feathers of a potential whiner in the seat behind you, don’t recline, if you can help it. You might call this the "martyr's approach" to a pleasant flight.  3.  While you can always make a polite request if a person in front of you has the seat down, do not, under any circumstances, get ticked off if your request doesn’t work. “Every person purchased a seat and they’re allowed to use all its functions,” Post reminds.