There’s a lot of talk these days about “authentic travel.” More and more, travelers don’t want to see the only polished, touristy image of a place, nor do they want to do things on vacation that they could do anywhere in the U.S. The spirit of authentic travel is seeking out the true experience of a place: what makes it unique, how local people live, what it would be like to spend day-to-day life there. Even within the U.S., more of us are looking for a true taste of place: what makes New Orleans different from New York City, the Outer Banks of North Carolina different from Malibu, and Aspen, Colorado different from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Gary Arndt writes in The Atlantic that authentic travel is a myth, an impossible goal–that the very act of coming to a place as a tourist, observing it and bringing your own expectations, will artificially color your experience.
Still, whether or not fully authentic travel is possible, you can get much closer to the true feel of a place with some planning. Renting a vacation home instead of staying in a hotel is one of the keys to a more authentic experience. You can live more like the locals do. Your vacation rental home can help you enjoy authentic travel in many ways:
Get to know real local people. Even in a rented house or condo, you can usually limit your interactions with people beyond your family and friends, if you want to. However, you can also choose a vacation home in a residential neighborhood, where you’ll frequent local restaurants and shops, meet your neighbors, and get to know local folks. As Travel + Leisure writer Adam Sachs explains, perhaps the best way to get a real feel for a place is to get to know the people who live there and love it.
Help protect what’s unique about your destination. As early as 2007, USA Today reported on the growing trend of geotourism: traveling to learn about a place’s unique history, culture, and resources, and using your trip to help preserve that uniqueness. Geotourism is even more popular today, and it ties in with the concept of vacation rentals for more authentic travel. By renting a home, you’re helping support the local economy,often without disturbing the nature of the community the way hotels and other obvious tourist attractions do.
Find the balance between realism and luxury. Lonely Planet Author John Vlahides asks, “Luxury or budget travel: Which is more authentic?” People who rent vacation homes can strike a balance between the two extremes for a more unique, authentic travel experience. A vacation rental home can offer more space and amenities than most hotels. A full kitchen, a yard, a hot tub, or a large living room for family gatherings is certainly luxurious on vacation. Still, renting a home can save you money, and allow for other money-saving activities like doing laundry and cooking meals at home–all while living more like the locals do. If authentic luxury travel is possible, a vacation rental home is the way to do it.