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13 Ways Social Media Can Help You Travel

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It’s not an exaggeration to say that social media has fundamentally changed our relationships with each other and how we research, plan and purchase things, and perhaps no industry has been more dramatically influenced and shaped by social media as much as travel. Our friends over at Tnooz have even put together a great infographic about the impact social media is having on travel. Meanwhile, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to getting the most out of your trip by using various social media sites before, during, and after your trip.

  1. Planning your itinerary – Forums especially are a great way of determining the ideal itinerary based upon how long you have, your budget, your “must-sees”, time of year and any other variable you care to factor in to your trip. Extremely common to see someone post “I’m going to Vietnam in June for 2 weeks, I really want to see Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An and Halong Bay, is this enough time? And what is the best way to do this trip?” It’s also useful for planning the details with the friends you’ll be going with, especially with larger groups. Facebook events are a great way for everyone to share flight arrival and departure times, things they want to see and do. These are also great place to share post-trip photos, with others that were on the trip (ie, the only people who actually DO want to see the pictures of the trip). Also useful are some of the trip-planning tools that make organizing your entire trip a lot easier, such as TripIt.

    Planning Your Itinerary

  2. Finding someone to come with you – “So, who’s keen for a trip to Everest?” was the name of the Facebook event. From there, determining peoples’ level of interest, likely departure dates and so on with quick polls is a great way to work out who amongst your extended group of friends could be a likely travelling partner. Just be sure you know them well enough to handle travelling with them! And if none of your friends are willing and able to hit the road with you, you could always try to find a friendly stranger on TravBuddy.
  3. Entering contests – There are a plethora of travel contests online. From that dream $10,000 holiday all the way down to guide books and combination locks, there are contests for every type of travel product and service imaginable. Getting your partner/best friends to enter contests will double your odds as well (assuming they end up taking you if they win!) If you’re not one of the extremely lucky ones to score themselves an entire trip for free, you can still take advantage of the special deals that airlines, hotels, tour companies, car rental companies and the like push out through their various social media channels.

    Try entering travel contests

  4. Special deals – Including last minute, out-of-season, promotional and loyalty deals and even simply “I asked them if they could do a better rate” deals, social media is a great way to secure special deals that aren’t available anywhere else. This is especially the case with hotels and some tour companies (airlines are less likely to do so). Before your trip, target a few different hotels or other travel providers – like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, let them know that you’re considering using them, make sure to include any additional information (such as the reason for your trip, especially if it’s something like a honeymoon), and then see what the “best rate” they can offer is.
  5. Finding out events -  Many tourist boards and official city or destination bureaus will have Facebook or Twitter accounts. They often post a wide array of happenings in the destination, such as public holidays, festivals, sporting events, musical performances and cultural events. Before buying your tickets to a destination, it’s worth doing some research and even contacting some of these organizations to get some insider information. For example, “are hotels likely to be full?”, “will the shops be closed during this time?”, “how difficult is it to get tickets to the events?” etc. Nothing worse than arriving at a place during some event which means that all the restaurants are all closed!

    Finding out events is made a lot easier by social media

  6. Meeting people abroad – A number of social media sites are set up specifically for travellers, who, when in their home country, can be one of the greatest sources of information with regards to learning more about the destination from a local’s perspective. Meeting up with them can also be good for learning the language and experiencing the local lifestyle. You’ll feel much more engrained within a city and culture by hanging out with some locals than you would with just other tourists. The great thing about the people you meet on these sites is that, as they tend to be keen on travelling themselves, you’ll have an instant bond and common interest. One of the most popular examples of this is Couchsurfing, with the added bonus being that you may also score a place to stay.
  7. Recommendations from others who have been there – There are lots of different forums with  insider knowledge where you can ask all kinds of questions and get all kinds of advice, from the mundane right through to the profound. As these questions will usually be answered by recently travellers to the destination, they have the advantage of having been in a similar situation to you, wanting to see the same things, knowing traveler-centric useful information (getting to/from the airport, language issues, rip-offs/scams, things that were unusual/noteworthy). We highly recommend Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree, Travellerspoint, Boots’n’all, IgoUgo and Fodors, which all have extremely active, helpful forums.
  8. Reading reviews – Online reviews have probably been one of the biggest game-changers that the internet has brought to the travel industry. Generally speaking, I find it best to ignore all of the glowing 5-star reviews and the absolutely crucifying 1-star reviews and judge based on the remainder. You’ll get a pretty good feel for the quality of the place that way. Don’t let one or two extremely negative reviews put you off (and likewise, don’t be sold by one or two extremely positive reviews). There are estimates that up to 30% of all online reviews are faked (either by the company or their competitors). TripAdvisor is definitely the most well known of the travel review sites, but others such as Yelp and Foursquare are also popular, although they’re not solely focused on travel.
  9. Keeping in touch with people back home – For a long time it was post cards and the occasional letter, then it was mass-emails, but social media (particularly Facebook) is the medium by which people stay in touch with all their friends and family back home whilst away. With the hectic pace of most peoples’ lives today, often the first time you even realise a friend is overseas is when they post some status update or a picture about how much fun they’re having.
  10. Sharing photos – Yes, you’ll make everyone jealous and probably pretty annoyed with your endless happy snaps of you on holiday whilst they’re sitting behind a desk at work. But at least they have the opportunity to go through them (or not) at their leisure, as opposed to subjecting them to a private slideshow. Save those for your family, those poor people forced to love you and spend time with you.
  11. Staying organized – Rather than carrying around a bunch of memory cards (or heaven forbid, one or two large memory cards), you can instantly upload your photos to Instagram or Facebook or similar, and your travel itinerary and e-tickets to a digital wallet, safe in the knowledge that your important documents are secure in the cloud (although you may want to back that up with a second account just to be sure, as people can and do have their social media accounts hacked – we’d recommend something like DropBox as your backup). But it’s a far better option, and a much smaller risk, than to lose your printed documents and miss a flight, or to have one 64 gig card in your camera, only to have your camera stolen on the last day of your trip with ALL of your photos on it. And yes, I do know people this has happened to. Heartbreaking. And avoidable.
  12. Posting reviews of your experience – Reviews are a great way to get travel providers to notice you – whether it’s to share your appreciation of them doing a fantastic job in making your trip memorable for all the right reasons, or them doing a crappy job and ensuring it was memorable for all the wrong reasons, sharing these reviews on their social media profiles is bound to get them to pay attention. One word of advice though, if you are attempting to get a refund from the company, I’d recommend contacting them directly and more discreetly via email first. If you don’t get a satisfactory response, only then should you progress things a bit more publicly.
  13. Keeping in touch with new people you meet – You know the story. You meet someone, and through the urgency and romanticism of travelling, have decided they’re worth more than just a momentary scene on the stage of your life. Whether they be a kindred spirit or a romantic soulmate, you feel the need to stay in touch, to make great declarations of how “you’ll definitely see each other again” – once upon a time all that was nothing but wishful thinking. But with the advent of social media, it really is a lot easier to coordinate those rendezvous, often when you go visiting their country or vice versa. You’ll immediately rekindle your old relationship or else stand around awkwardly until one of you mercifully says good-bye again – either way, a drink or three is probably the best course of action. Especially as that’s probably how you met each other in the first place.

Staying in touch with people

Whew! Quite a list. Not every site or aspect will appeal to everyone, so work out what’s important or interesting to you and go for it. After all that, though, we do have one request. When you’re actually on your holiday, put down the smartphone and tablet and enjoy your surroundings. Soak it in and truly experience it. Despite all the benefits and conveniences of social media for travelling, it’s important to remember that they are all just tools – the trip itself is the experience!

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