CanaryHop.com is a website that connects travelers looking for a memorable vacation experience with locals who can act as hosts or guides in their destination city.
The site offers everyday experiences from museum tours, to cross-country bike riding, to cooking lessons, but also offers options for those who are a little more adventurous.
"There are some run-of-the-mill things, but we also have some unique things," site co-founder Damon Spiegel told 9NEWS. "There's an Alfred Hitchcock walking tour through London, different fishing tours in Burma, so there's a wide variety of things that are pretty much off the beaten path. We're really trying to do both so we can provide activities for the entire profile, from college kids to my parents."
Travelers, or Hoppers as the site calls them, pay the requested fee for the experience to the site before they leave on the trip. Only after the traveler confirms the guide, or Canary, showed up and provided the service described does the site pay the guide.
Spiegel says guides themselves range from tour companies to locals who are simply passionate about where they live.
But safety experts warn with Canary Hop, just like Craigslist or online dating sites, travelers are agreeing to physically meet strangers they've only spoken to online and should take precautions to keep themselves safe.
"The ability to go do these things is cool," Deputy Sheriff Gordon Neuenfeldt with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Crime Prevention Unit said. "It's just not going blindly into it and making certain you have a lifeline. You know those little safety precautions."
Neuenfeldt, who is himself a traveler, says it's not only important for the traveler to have an itinerary but for trusted friends or family members to have a copy as well.
"This would be no different than say a blind date, and when you're a half hour into it, [make] that phone call with code words, [have someone check in and ask] 'Are you okay?' So make certain that people know that you're okay and have that life line, somebody out there that knows what you're doing and when you're doing it so there's no mystery to it," Neuenfeldt said.
Neuenfeldt also says when possible, keep a cell phone handy because it can be a tool to help travelers escape a situation that doesn't feel right. Even if the phone doesn't work in the particular country the traveler is in or isn't turned on he says faking an emergency phone call can help get a traveler get out of a bad situation in some instances.
He says travelers should also be sure to grab hotel business cards in case they need to leave in the middle of the experience and don't know how to get back to where they're staying. He says the cards are useful because they can help overcome language barriers in foreign countries.
However the best things travelers can do according to Neuenfeldt is to thoroughly research the experience before they leave. He recommends reading any reviews and doing other internet searches regarding the tour company or individual to find as much information as possible before signing up.
Canary Hop also has travel safety suggestions for both Canaries and Hoppers. To view those, and the experiences available on the site, please visit CanaryHop.com.
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)