Tools to travel like a local

She's prepping, plating and serving but Raleigh Clemens isn't hosting old friends. This dinner was arranged through Eatwith, a service that connects chefs, with local foodies or travelers looking for a more authentic experience. For a meal shared in the cook's home. 

"It's a great way for people to meet someone who's local," Raleigh said. "If you're traveling to a country but you want a local experience."

The draw for out-of-towners Brigitte and Dennis Crossen?

"A different perspective on the city than I've had before," Brigitte said.

It's that different perspective, experts say, that is driving the growth of apps and services like Eatwith. It lets travelers explore a city just like the locals who live there, and often times, with them.  Rafat Ali, founder of Skift, a travel-industry trend tracker, says this shift in travel is for those who want to find the hidden secrets of a city. 

"A big trend is happening in the travel industry," Rafat said. "Having deeper experiences as you travel, going to places that locals go."  

Rafat says when it comes to experiencing a city this way, many of the most popular tools are centered on shared meals but, others connect travelers with locals for socializing, concierge type services, even bike or car sharing.

"The benefit of using these types of apps is that, one you get experiences beyond the manufactured experiences that are there. The tour bus, the museum tour. The specialized ones are still small. Everybody's trying to figure out what is that one thing that will make it grow," Rafat explained.  

Sharing economy expert, Lisa Gansky, sees them exploding. What's more, she says they are going to find you cheaper ways to travel than the traditional tourist fare. But that's not what keeps travelers coming back. 

"We see the pattern, which is the first couple times I use it it's because it's cheaper," Gansky said. "I continue to use it because it makes me feel really good. I meet amazing people." 

If you're thinking of checking out apps and services for this type of experience on your next trip, Rafat says do your research to see which are popular in the city you're visiting.  And when it comes to meeting strangers, keep safety in mind. 

"A lot of these apps have ratings both ways, which means you as a user can rate the host but the host can also rate the user," Rafat told us. 

The types of travelers Raleigh usually sees at her dinners?

"Usually you have to be a little adventurous. I mean you're eating a meal with complete strangers." 

Experts call this "experiential travel" because you get a hands-on experience of a city than you might not get otherwise. As they point out, no one knows a city like the people who live there.