This is a topic that I’m asked about very frequently, so I thought I’d do a video while I was traveling in Hawaii, staying with my sister and her family for a long Winter retreat!
This is the exact process I use when I’m doing research on a new place I’m traveling to. It involves layering a couple of techniques together and balancing them according to:
- validity (You hate your mom’s taste in coffee, and she’s recommending a coffee shop. I love you, but sorry mom!)
- quality (If it’s online research you’re doing, is it a reputable site? Are the reviewers or critics paid and/or reputable… or are they interns who haven’t visited the place they’re writing about?)
- source (If it’s a person you’re asking, do they know a lot about what you want to experience or learn about?)
Check out the video for my tips and technique!
Also, I realize this is heavily restaurant/wine bar/coffeeshop based… but those are some of the things I love the most when I travel. Local food is at the heart of every vibrant place, and also at the center of social situations where you can really get to know the local culture. So, enjoy!
Video Show Notes
Make sure you watch the video above for elaboration on the following:
#1: Ask yourself: What does local mean to you?
You have to be specific. Do you want to go to a local dive bar or a local hip-hop club? It’s not really about gathering all your ideas and sticking to that itinerary, because you always want to leave space for your explorer mind to turn on and find magic.
#2: The Google guru.
Use the exact phrase you might be looking for—like “hipster neighborhood best coffeeshop Sao Paolo”— and you’ll likely find that someone has written about this.
Check your references: The New York Times writes decent “36 Hours in X City” pieces; Eater is a great place to find food “heat maps.”
Let’s say after this initial soft round of research, you’ve got five hot spots…
3) Yelp all of them.
Of course, do this with a grain of salt. Know why there are 1-star reviews—it usually has to do with the experience, especially if it’s a place that gets mostly 5-stars.
Another top tip: Stalk a reviewer that you like. If you agree with what they have to say, see what else that person has reviewed where you’re going.
4) Ask friends and family who live locally.
Again, note the grain of salt factor. But, be open to their suggestions after sharing with them a little about what you look for—they probably know of something that no one else does.
5) Ask the experts.
When I go anywhere, I ask my local barista at Ozo in Boulder, Greg, if he’s been to the location I’m going and if he knows of the best coffee roasters wherever I’m going. He inevitably has 1-3 recommendations for me, and they’ve always been solid.
Tie your research phase into your excitement about the trip! Use a tool you like, perhaps Evernote or TripIt, to organize your ideal activities. And have fun with it.