Think your hometown is extra-special? Enjoy meeting new people? Whether you love its history, delicious local foods, or scenic sites, you can share it with others — and make good money — as a tour guide. And with the gorgeous late-summer and early-fall weather we're set to enjoy, this part of the year is a perfect time to start. Here's how to go about it.
1. Get started.
With late summer and fall travel in full swing, people are flocking all over — and they’re willing to shell out anywhere from $40 to $50 an hour to find out what makes your town really tick. Sites like ToursByLocals.com and Vayable.com make it easier than ever to connect with visitors looking for an authentic local experience — just log on and apply. And don’t worry if you haven’t led a tour before: “Enthusiastic novices are encouraged to apply,” says Sara Cooke of ToursByLocals. After all, you can offer that down-home touch many tourists crave. (Do you know the baristas in town by name? Have insider access to homes or gardens? Have a friend who whips up local specialties? Know the spot with the absolute best view?) What's more, the sites offer resources, training and other support.
2. Draw in visitors.
“Having a strong background or expertise in a particular subject is a great way to stand out — especially if it adds to a sort of ‘insider knowledge,’” says Cooke. “For example, Pat in Yosemite Park is a photographer as well as a guide, so he’s able to help his guests get great photos while they explore the park with him.” Also smart: Customize your tour. “Our New Orleans guide sends a survey to every person who requests a tour,” says Cooke. “The survey asks questions that gauge a traveler’s interest in museums, food, history, music, shopping and so on, and that allows for a personalized experience.”
3. Put yourself in the traveler’s shoes.
“Suzanne, one of our top-rated guides, gets raves for going the extra mile,” says Cooke. That includes sending visitors reading material before their visit, extending herself by making restaurant reservations and sending a thank you message upon the traveler’s return home to see how the rest of their trip went.
4. Aim for unforgettable.
“What makes a tour most memorable for tourists are the little details — not seeing the Empire State Building or the St. Louis Arch but the short stroll they took through the neighborhood where the guide grew up and how they shared a coffee and pastry at the guide’s favorite shop, overlooking a park,” says Cooke. “This provides the authentic ‘insider’ experience so many people seek when they travel!”