Let's Take Our Friendship to the Next Level

Nina Willdorf

On Maine's Mount Desert Island

Whenever my husband and I travel to a place we don't know, we reach out to a local blogger for a blind travel date. We figure we'll get some good conversation and a few insider tips out of the deal—or at least a nice meal. In Hanoi, Sandra and Stan from savourasia.com took us to a boisterous upscale street-food spot called Quan An Ngon; less successful was an unintentionally long seven-course dinner with the couple behind a now-defunct Sydney food blog. Without calling it such, we've been social networking for years.

Of course, these days, social networking is trendy. Travel companies are banking on it as a way to build a community and brand loyalty (follow us on Twitter! fan us on Facebook!). But fostering community is hardly an innovation—at Budget Travel, it's part of the magazine's DNA. Because our mission is all about inclusiveness—everyone can and should travel, and we show you how—readers have long felt a bond with us. New forms of social media are now helping us strengthen that bond. We have the latest tools for connecting with you and helping you connect with each other. Bud Travel, our dapper alter ego, tweets about industry news and curiosities (twitter.com/budtravel)—and so do I, mostly about my adventures on the road (twitter.com/ninawilldorf). We have a Facebook page, and we have our own social network called My Budget Travel, where we invite you to share photos and schmooze.

There's no doubt that online networking can be a useful tool for travelers (see here for proof if you need it). On a recent trip to Mexico City, I was able to connect with a friend of a friend through Facebook the day before I arrived and arrange a last-minute dinner together. When it came to choosing a restaurant, however, I turned to a source I know and trust—one of this magazine's writers. After all, online connections will only take you so far. It's what you do with them that really matters.

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