Tourists on Segways

Feels great to take a vacation, doesn’t it? Or does it these days?

In this age of collaborative consumption, the notion of taking your “two weeks” to blow your hard-earned cash on an overpriced yet underwhelming tourist trap experience seems less appealing than ever.

Nowadays, travel is all about freedom, authenticity and being nimble. It’s about embarking on meaningful adventures that cost less, give back to local communities and tread lightly on the environment.

Check out these 5 vacation “pitfalls” and how you can use collaborative consumption to ditch them next time (and every time) you hit the road:

#1: You’re spending way too much money

According to a 2010 survey by American Express, the average cost of a vacation is about $1,000/person per week, including airfare.  That probably doesn’t count all the extra fees for car insurance, parking, hotel Internet, etc., nor time spent waiting on customer service agents.

How to ditch this: Use Zimride to catch a ride with someone headed your direction and Getaround for your rental car once you get there. Book an affordable room on Airbnb. All of this without the sticker shock, hidden fees or wasted time or in line or on the phone!

#2: You’re not mingling with the locals

Traveling somewhere foreign can feel lonely, not to mention awkward. When you get stuck in a place where tourists are herded around like sheep, you only engage with other tourists. This means missing out on the local perspective, which can make or break your vacation.

How to ditch this: Couchsurfing is a great example of a collaborative consumption service that puts you in direct contact with locals who are passionate about sharing their regional expertise with fellow travelers. In the case of Airbnb, they also benefit from your business. It’s a win-win.

#3: You feel like a tourist

Being a tourist and feeling like a tourist are two different things, and the latter sucks. It’s like traveling across the world to see the Pyramids in Egypt, then getting dumped off at the cheap souvenir shop right after the tour. Yuck.

How to ditch this: Try Vayable or Sidetour— where you can book local activities with cool people who live where you’re headed. So instead of buying that cheesy Pyramid snow-globe, you could be sipping fresh mint tea in the oasis with a local Cairo shopkeeper.

#4: It’s not sustainable

Sustainable travel strives to make a low impact on the environment and local culture, while helping to generate opportunites for local people. The typical vacation resort, however, consumes tons of natural resources and generates excessive waste (like electricity and food).

How to ditch this: It’s simple—participate in any form of collaborative consumption and by default you participate in sustainable travel. It’s all about supporting individuals by paying to have access to their existing resources and knowledge.

#5: It’s hard to be flexible

Want to change your travel plans on the fly? Not really cheap or easy, right? That’s because you’re dealing with companies that still rely on large, slow and clunky systems that literally bank on the change fees they charge you.

How to ditch this: If it isn’t obvious by now, try collaborative consumption! If you don’t believe us, try renting a car that fits your style , then walk right down the street to pick it up. Voilà!

Maybe you don’t need the car after all? Just use your smart phone to cancel your request. You can even explain your situation to the owner. Chances are they’ll understand.

Flickr Creative Commons image credit: Runnerlan2004.