How to Use Social Media for Travel
I’ve written extensively about how to use social media while traveling, mostly in columns for Frommers.com. On this page, you’ll get some basic tips, along with links to stories and posts that I’ve done. Keep in mind that these tips and stories are for people who are new to using social media, not fellow bloggers or social media consultants.
I speak about this topic periodically at the Rick Steves Travel Center, and would happily bring the same presentation to another event.
Worried about privacy? First thing is to look at the privacy settings so your account is customized. The default in Facebook is ALWAYS less private.
Best thing to do is group your friends and arrange the settings for each one. So your book club sees one thing, your children and family see another and perfect strangers see nothing. You can check how people view your profile using the View As button.
You can also control the tagging settings if your kids or friends post a photo of you looking stupid, none of your friends can see it.
Apps on your mobile devices make it easy to upload photos and status when you’re away. Just remember not to turn on the data roaming when you’re traveling internationally as data roaming charges can add up!
Facebook is one of the biggest photo storage sites in the world now. Organize your photos and don’t send every single one. Better to have one awesome photo up there than 50 bad ones.
Most travel companies (hotels, resorts, airlines) have Facebook fan pages where they make special deals available. Sign up for these.
Related stories: How to use Facebook safely on vacation; Tips for sharing Facebook photos on vacation; How to use social media to share vacation photos; Using Facebook : Tips and tricks for planning travel
Many companies also have Twitter accounts, again where you’ll find deals and points. Airfarewatchdog tweets out air sales, as do the airlines. Sometimes you have to act fast.
Twitter can also a good way to get customer service attention. If you already know where you’re staying, follow the hotel and tweet them to let them know you’ll be there.
You can also tweet companies during a crisis, like if your plane has been cancelled. With great power comes great responsibility: use sparingly and be nice.
If you’re heading to a destination (say, Portugal), you can search Twitter to find accounts that are relevant, such as the tourism office or a hotel. Organize these into a list that you can easily refer to as you plan.
If you’re up for meeting new people, Twitter is a great way to connect with locals.
LivingSocial, Groupon, and others offer discounts and deals on restaurants, spa services and attractions. Plan ahead and sign up through email for the destination where you’re going a few weeks in advance. You might be able to save big on excursions and activities.
Check blackout dates and expirations.
Avoid impulse buys.
Related stories: Finding travel deals on Groupon and other coupon sites;
Travel forums & blogs
The “old reliable” of social media. Rick Steves has forums, as do Fodors, Lonely Planet, Frommers and Trip Advisor. For cruises, check out Cruise Critic. Great places to get on-the-ground information about destinations.
Foursquare is a combo location-based social media network and game. You “check in” to places and become the “mayor” if you go the most. More businesses are now offering check in specials or treats for regular customers.
Related stories: Tips for using Foursquare when you travel
The newest scrapbook-style social media network is mostly for armchair travelers who “pin” photos of places they want to go. Still, it can be useful for planning, as CVBs are building boards with things to do in their community.
You could also use Pinterest to crowdsource, by asking friends to pin recommendations on your board. Or use it to plan a group trip, where the people who are going contribute ideas.
Related stories: Pinterest for travel: 5 practical uses