The following is a guest post by Alethea Smartt. If you’d like to guest post on Go Backpacking, please read our submission guidelines.
Using a combination of social networks and media sharing sites, you can easily put social media to work for you while traveling and get “real-time” information and tips on transportation, accommodation, activities, food, safety and more.
As I am six months into an around-the-world trip and am not carrying a single guidebook, I depend on the internet, particularly social media sites, to plan almost every aspect of my travels. I am currently in Thailand for one month so will reference it in my examples on how to use social media to do trip research.
One way to use your network of friends to get travel advice is to log into TripAdvisor using Facebook Connect. When you research a location on TripAdvisor (this can be as broad as a country name or as specific as a particular restaurant or hotel), the site will automatically tell you if one of your friends has been there (assuming they are also using Facebook Connect and have pinned or reviewed specific destinations on their TripAdvisor Travel Map).
You can then email them directly for advice and/or read their reviews. For a more detailed explanation and instructions as to how this works, click on the links below:
For example, several of my friends have visited Thailand in recent years. Until I started using the TripAdvisor/Facebook Connect application, I didn’t realize how many. So, in addition to reading reviews on places to stay, eat & go by total strangers, I was also able to ask my friends what they recommended. Based on their feedback, I decided to travel to Chiang Mai and liked it so much that I ended up staying even longer than I expected!
Another handy Facebook application is BootsnAll Traveler Connect. As stated on their homepage, you can “use BootsnAll Connect to find other travelers going to the same place you are, or connect with locals living there. Ask travel questions, arrange to meet for a beer, create some unique experiences not found in any guidebook.” Click here for more information. After the page has loaded, click anywhere in the Traveler Connect info box and you will be directed to the Facebook application permission box. Click “Allow” and you’re ready to connect with other travelers.
Facebook status updates are another way to solicit travel advice, whether by simply mentioning where you are or where you’re going next, or by directly asking for recommendations. You also have the option of making your updates visible to all Facebook users or even to specific groups of users (see Lists below), thus creating a target audience. As there are no clear instructions for this in the Facebook Help Center, here’s how:
1. Compose your status update in the “Status” box.
2. Click the lock on the lower right of the box next to “Share.”
3. Click “Customize” in the drop down menu.
4. In the pop-up window select “Specific People” from the box next to “These People.” You can type in specific friends’ names and/or type in the name of one (or several) of your Lists. Alternatively, you can Hide your update from certain people.
5. Click “Save Setting” then “Share” your status update.
General Travel Sites
Many travel-oriented businesses, official tourism websites, embassies & consulates, etc. have some combination of a blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed. Once you “Like” a Facebook page or “Follow“ a Twitter account, you can add it to a list to more selectively check updates relevant to your travels. I have general travel sites like Concierge, Gadling and World Nomads in one list called “Travel Info.“ I created a separate list for Thailand and Asia-specific sites.
The point is that you can create the lists to best suit your itinerary and travel needs. Not to mention when you Like or Follow travel websites on Facebook and Twitter you are eligible for social media-only contests, discount codes and other money-saving offers.
Here are instructional links for creating lists on both sites:
On Facebook, when you want to check updates for only friends or pages in a particular list, you just go to your News Feed, click “Most Recent,” then choose the list from the dropdown. Voila!
The process is similar on Twitter.
Have you ever considered that a video could sway you one way or another regarding your travel plans? When deciding what class of train to book for an overnight trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, I watched videos via links from The Man in Seat Sixty-One of Thai trains posted by travelers on YouTube and ultimately decided to save money by taking a second class sleeper.
There are many travel-related videos on the internet and you can subscribe to YouTube channels like Lonely Planet or browse other video-hosting sites like Travelistic if you are researching a specific destination or activity.
Why carry a heavy & instantly dated guidebook when you can get personalized advice from your friends, family and other travelers? With a little organization and practice, you can use social media to spend more time experiencing your trip and less time planning it.
About the Author: Alethea Smartt loves to travel so much that she worked as an international flight attendant for six years. More recently, she quit her job in New York City and got rid of all the excess “stuff“ in her life and has been blogging her way around the world since August, 2010. She enjoys planning trips for family & friends and likes to relive her travels by cooking exotic dishes.