Tell me if this sounds familiar: You booked roundtrip airfare for a getaway to Costa Rica with your best friends. You did what seemed like the hard part — getting everyone to agree on dates, and on ticket prices, and on airlines and layovers and travel routes — but now comes the even harder part...

The ultimate travel shopping list, featuring services you can't pack but will help you wander smarter; products to keep you refreshed through a layover or redeye; fun stuff that says HELLOOOO, VACATION; and of course, a few items to make your Instagram posts pop.

Want to really get to know your destination? Go up to a local and talk to her about her life — her work, her dreams, what she does for fun, and what she believes. We asked writers to step out of the role of passing observer and actually engage with the people — or at least one person — who make a place what it is. Here's what they discovered.

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