Remember travel agents? Me neither! No one knows an area quite so well as the people who live there.
The web gives you access to all sorts of travel information, but the best information is in the minds of locals. Happily, thanks to social networks, you can access just those minds and find out what’s worth seeing. Here are just a few unexpected resources you can use while planning your next trip.
Reddit: Surprisingly Useful For Travelers
You might be surprised to see this here, thinking Reddit is primarily a community of cat-loving sociopaths. Well, there’s more to it than that: as our Reddit guide outlines, the site is made up of a number of different communities, called Reddits officially and subreddits by normal people. These cover a variety of subjects, including most major cities. You can typically just Google the name of the city you’re visiting followed by the word “subreddit” to find the Reddit community based in that city. But don’t just hop onto a page and start asking questions: check the sidebar first.
Some subreddits go a step further by including a Wiki specifically for visitors. The wiki for my home, Boulder, has a great list of things to do in town:
You get the idea. Find a subreddit for the city you’re going to visit and look for relevant information. If you can’t find any, go ahead and do a “self” post asking what’s worthwhile. You’ll almost always find a group thrilled to show off their hometown, enthusiastically sharing their favorite things to do.
CouchSurfing: More Than Just A Place To Stay
We’ve told you that Couchsurfing.org is a great way to find places to sleep while traveling. You’ll find people willing to let you borrow their couch, and you can pay it forward by hosting guests in your own town. This little-known social network is built specifically for travel – and useful even if you don’t want to stay on someone’s couch.
Every area on the site has its own network – seen by residents every time they log in. Here you can ask locals what’s worth doing in town, or even find someone to hang out with.
Just sign up, then search for the areas that you want to visit. You’re sure to connect with someone looking to help out travelers. The Couchsurfing community is very friendly, so don’t be shy. People want to help.
Read more about ways to take advantage of Couchsurfing, if you’re curious.
Twitter & Facebook
Reddit’s surprisingly useful for travelers; Couchsurfing was built for them. But what about the most popular social networks: Twitter and Facebook? They’re useful too, it turns out.
First thing’s first: check your Facebook friend list to see if anyone you know lives in the places you plan to visit. Don’t laugh. It’s easy to lose track of where formally close friends live, and in this age of mobility world you might have an old college buddy who lives where you’d least expect. Click on the top search box, then click “My Friends”. From here you can filter to see only people in certain areas:
It’s a quick way to find out if anyone you already know lives where you’re heading.
While you’re at it, post on Facebook and Twitter asking if anyone wants to hang out. Meeting a local can make a good trip great, so use your existing connections if you can.
It’s also worth noting that any city of a reasonable size will have its own active hashtag on Twitter. While these will invariably include a lot of crap, they’re also a great way to find out what’s going on right now in places you’re visiting. Do a search on Twitter and see what comes up – you might find a cool event.
There are also many Twitter accounts you can follow to find travel inspiration, if you want to read more.
Is a wiki a social network? It’s content does come from users, but some may argue this is in it’s own category. Still, I feel like I can’t finish this article without at least mentioning WikiTravel. This site has a page for just about any place you’d like to visit, offering information about everything from travel to food to lodging.
Pages generally offer an overview of local culture before listing major things to see and do. It’s a great supplemental tools to the more directly social ones above.
Share Your Adventures!
Of course social media isn’t just useful for planning your trip: it’s perfect for sharing your trip with friends. One app for the job is TripAtalas, which connects with Facebook. It even lets you share a map of where you’ve been:
Another great place to find travel advice? Comments! Leave your social media trips for travelers below, okay?