“Local knowledge” is what every traveler wants to have upon arriving in a new town. We buy guidebooks, we pay tour guides, we read magazine articles, we may even go to the Chamber of Commerce to get maps and schedules. But none of those things can compare to meeting local people who will share their cities, cultures, and homes with us. Connecting with local people adds color to our trips, and thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to do so.
A rapidly growing trend is transforming how travelers see the world. Called collaborative travel, it’s an international movement that encourages individuals and communities to share their resources. For instance, travelers can now stay in local homes all around the world. The property owners are sharing their space (for a reasonable fee) and the traveler gets to experience what it’s like to actually live in that town. Travelers are finding collaborative travel more authentic, rewarding, and cost-effective—and the 50+ set is at the forefront of the movement.
The rise of collaborative travel can be attributed to the explosion in the home rentals market. With vacation rental sites like HomeAway, Roomarama, and FlipKey, it is easier than ever for property owners to rent out a second or primary home—or even just a room. These sites connect travelers with places to stay that meet their space, location, style, and budget needs. The appeal of home rentals has made it the fastest growing travel sector. The market is estimated to be $200 billion worldwide, and it shows no signs of slowing.
While vacation home rentals clearly generate income for the property owners, renting them can also make financial sense for travelers. Vacation home rentals are available at any price point and they can be a cost-effective option when traveling with friends and family. The Tripping site, for example, has more than 750,000 homes in 15,000 cities, so finding your dream vacation rental is easier than ever.
While vacation homes enable you to stay in local neighborhoods, you can also meet local people by tapping into online communities that focus on cultural exchange. By using sites like Tripping and Facebook, you can play a round of golf with a friendly couple in Scotland, enjoy brunch with Kiwis in New Zealand, or share a glass of wine along the Seine with some Parisians. The desire to “live like a local” is increasing among 50+ travelers.
With more than 32,000 McDonald’s restaurants in more than 100 countries and a Starbucks on every corner, it is increasingly possible to travel to different places without ever really “seeing” anything different. Today’s travelers are moving away from the tired tourist path by seeking out culturally rich experiences that connect them with unique sights and local experiences.
Imagine going to London this summer for the Olympics and connecting with born-and-bred Londoners who live there. They’ll give you tips on how to avoid the crowds, ideas on places to visit, and may even invite you into their homes for a shared home-cooked meal of bangers and mash. Your trip will suddenly become more colorful, cultural and memorable...and you’ll have friends to visit the next time you’re in the U.K.
Trends show that people over 50 are becoming more active online, more viral, and more inclined to spend money on travel. With this in mind, the AARP Abroad Tripping Network has evolved out of a deep understanding of the needs of the 50+ traveler. The site embraces the collaborative travel movement, and we’re proud to be working with AARP to create a vibrant community filled not just with AARP members, but also local people in 175 countries. Travelers over 50 make up one of our fastest growing demographics, so it’s no surprise they are also engaging the most with locals of all ages—connecting for conversation, travel advice, shared cups of coffee, and travel tips.
With 42 percent of all travel industry purchases happening online and adults 50+ accounting for 80 percent of all luxury travel spending (Pew Internet and American Life Project), we expect the collaborative travel sector to continue to evolve to meet the dynamic needs of the 50+ traveler. From expanding the search and review services of home rentals to making it easier to connect with locals who have shared interests, those leading the collaborative travel revolution will make travel experiences easier to find, easier to share, and easier to customize.
Take a look at your upcoming vacation plans and tap into the collaborative travel movement to see how you can make your trip more rewarding. Go ahead and swap 10 hotel reservations for your family reunion in Hilton Head for two vacation homes on the beach. Meet some locals in Italy to get travel advice over cups of cappuccino. Or reach out to a local family in Rio to discover the best local markets in their neighborhood. Try “living like a local”—we bet you’ll never turn back.
Jen O'Neal is the Founder & CEO of Tripping, the world's largest direct aggregator of home rentals. Jen was employee #5 at StubHub and she's held senior positions at venture-backed startups in Europe and Central America. Jen graduated cum laude from UC Berkeley and - when not working crazy hours - can be found cooking dinner with friends, reading good books and backpacking to new places.