Tours and guided activities can be a fun way to explore while traveling. These services are traditionally offered by commercial tour companies, but in recent years there have been a number of attempts to create a peer to peer travel experience marketplace. Most of the startups in this space have either changed business models and moved into something more commercial, or have failed entirely. But the few companies in this business offer some great opportunities for travelers looking to get a bit off the beaten path.
Of the companies in this business today, Vayable is the largest and most sophisticated. They offer a platform for people to buy and sell travel experiences, activities, and extended trips. Guidehop is very similar to Vayable, but still in Beta and does not have a lot of listings yet. In a variation on this theme, Sidetour offers events led by “experts.” Other than these three, I see a lot of companies offering curated tours and activities, but no other marketplaces for peer to peer activities and events. Let me know if you know of others.
Of these three companies, I’m going to focus on Vayable as the most useful option for travelers right now. Sidetour only operates in selected U.S. cities, though they plan to expand. In 2013 Groupon purchased Sidetour so we might see some changes to their business model. Guidehop is also only in the U.S. right now.
Vayable allows individuals to earn money as tour guides in their home town, while travelers can search for experiences in their destination city. The offerings are as diverse as the activities you can find in any destination. Anyone can sign up to guide and in addition individuals can offer “Insider” services, acting as your travel agent by helping you find and book activities in their town. Vayable vets people offering services, requiring a video and some written information in the application. I’m not sure what more they do beyond reviewing this information. But the site also has user reviews of activities to help you select a good one.
I really like the concept that I might spend a day out exploring with a local, or going on someone’s favorite hike, or eating at a few restaurants I never would have found without a local guide. Most of the offerings on Vayable appear to be from individuals, although the platform certainly could be used to advertise for more commercial tourist offerings like city tour busses. This suggests the vetting process is working to limit listings to the peer to peer arena.
Events cover a wide range of prices and experiences. My search of options in Barcelona turned up a $10 two hour roller skating tour, a $240 tour of the city in a convertible, and a $1,995 food and wine week, in addition to culinary classes, night life, photography, art, yoga, and a nudist beach visit, with most prices under $100.
If you are like me and find the hop on hop off bus tours in most cities to be dull and overly commercial, Vayable offers a multitude of alternative ways to experience your travel destinations.
Check out my spreadsheet of peer to peer travel experiences (select the category “Travel Experiences”).