11 Ways Social Media Can ROCK Your Travel World!
1. Trip planning is now much more personal
Firsthand recommendations from your peers for where to fly, eat, or stay next sure beat sifting through pages of strangers' reviews. Start simple: Use Facebook's Graph Search to find which of your friends has been to a destination you're considering visiting. In the search bar at the top of the page, type something like "My friends who have been to London" or "My friends who have been to Kensington Palace." Up pops a list of friends who have journeyed to the Big Smoke, so you can ask them for their recommendations. If nobody you know has toured the royals' abode, you can instead see a list of friends of your friends who have—and then message them to see what they thought of it before you shell out $27 for a ticket.
If you're tossing out a travel question as your Facebook status, be as specific as possible. Instead of, "Does anyone know any family activities to do in Chicago?" say, "Does anyone know of a zoo in Chicago that I can take my five-year-old to in September?" Facebook reps say the more specific and engaging you are in your post, the more recommendations you'll get.
Pinterest's Place Pins feature—pins that have a location attached to them—was built specifically for travel planning, says site community manager Enid Hwang. Create a new board and enable the "Add a map" option, then start adding Place Pins to create nice-looking itineraries for weekend trips, road trips, and dream trips. Share the board with your travel companions who can pin ideas too or send the whole board to others who are thinking of taking a similar vacation.
2. Hungry? No more wandering aimlessly for mediocre food
Ugh—what's more of a travel bummer than wandering into a restaurant that looks authentic, then later realizing it's a tourist trap slinging slop? Tap on "breakfast," "brunch," "lunch," "dinner," or "dessert" on the Foursquare app to see highly rated restaurants that match your tastes nearby, including those recommended by people you know. Food truck hounds, rejoice: Roaming Hunger's app tracks street food via tweets and a finely honed calendar, so you can check out the most popular carts in major cities, add your favorite cart to the list, and see which vendor are nearby. The new GPS-enabled mobile site from Eat Your World, a guide to traditional, native foods and drinks around the globe, points you in the direction of inexpensive local foods and encourages member participation: If you see it and eat it, snap a pic and add it to the site. If an authentic food "experience" is what you're after, request a home-cooked dinner via Meal Sharing—in return, you can help prepare the meal, bring a gift or entertain with a story, or pay a "chip-in" price for ingredients.
3. It's a great way to scoop up deals
To save major bucks on travel, be liberal with the "like" button. Following airlines, hotel chains, booking sites, and rental-car companies on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest and liking them on Facebook plugs you in directly to special rates and discounts—you'll see them in your feed before you even seek them out. On Pinterest, bloggers like Great Walt Disney World Tips pin discounts and time- and cash-saving ideas.
While you're strolling in a new neighborhood, open Foursquare's app and scroll down to "offering a special." Check in to one of those establishments, and you could nab anything from a major discount to a free item—we once scored a free glass of champagne at a Las Vegas nightclub and complimentary strawberry fondue at a martini bar in the Midwest. Wherever you go, look for promotions featuring special Instagram hashtags: Share your snapshots to enter contests that shops and travel brands hold to win free swag—or free trips.
4. Inspiration has never been so beautiful
Have you ever fought the urge to buy a plane ticket on a whim solely based on seeing a gorgeous photo of a place you'd never been to? Us too. Following Instagram and Pinterest accounts that post lush, eye-popping pictures, like Tourism Australia—and BT, of course!—can increase your wanderlust and help you pick where to go next. Instagram's official blog's Local Lens series spotlights talented snappers' favorite places to shoot in their city—if you like what you see, hit up that neighborhood. While you're traveling, search for the hashtag of the place you're in on Instagram or Twitter—#berlin, #montmartre, #strawberryfields, you name it—to track down cool sights and perspectives you might have missed. Racy as it sounds, #travelporn is one of our favorite 'gram hashtags to peep for pretty pics.
5. Making brand-new friends while traveling is less intimidating
Solo travelers don't have to feel alone while they're globetrotting. Obsessed with Instagram? You'll love Instameet, photo-snapping events organized by Meetup that are offered everywhere from Melbourne, Australia, to Shreveport, Louisiana—often during "magic hour," the time of day when the sunlight is just right to grab that perfect photo. Backpackers unite on Backpackr, a social network for nomads that shows you who's nearby and doles out virtual passport "stamps" in for every country you visit. If hotels are more your speed, the brand-new HelloTel app's network enables you to meet new friends and/or business contacts who are staying at the same hotel you are—choose "business" or "socializing" and connect on either a public forum or via private message. (Yes, you can block people from seeing any of your information.) We've also heard of "Tinder tourism," in which singles use the popular Tinder dating app to find very, ahem, personal tour guides abroad. What happens in Bulgaria stays in Bulgaria, we suppose.
6. The postcard and scrapbook aren't obsolete—they're just different
Why bother sending a physical letter when you can just take a picture of the Eiffel Tower on your phone and post it on your mom's Facebook wall? Well, because Mom, Grandpa, and pretty much everyone else still likes postcards. The Postagram app melds the social and the physical worlds by sending custom paper postcards using photos from your Instagram, Facebook, and Dropbox accounts for a dollar or two a pop. You can even schedule the delivery.
And although most of us wish we had enough time to keep a physical scrapbook of all of our travels, let's face it: Posting them online is easier. Facebook says it's constantly tweaking its photo album feature's organization so your most-liked photos float to the top. After a family vacation ends, Dropbox is particularly handy for compiling everyone's photos in one place for the rest of the group to see and upload to social media. While you're still luxuriating on the beach with the fam, consider creating your own personal vacation hashtag, like #TheSmithsInMexico, to use on Instagram and Twitter to see everyone's thoughts and photos at once.
7. There's an extra incentive to behave
Cause a scene on a plane, train, or automobile, and you could find your antics uploaded to YouTube or Vine, live-tweeted, or—worse—posted on the popular Passenger Shaming Facebook page, run by a former flight attendant. Bad behavior that the site has documented includes bare feet propped up on an airplane headrest (ew!), two travelers pounding on the inside of an airport's plate-glass window to try and stop their plane from leaving, and a woman changing a diaper directly on the tarmac (yes, the actual road that airplanes taxi on). Regular citizens are getting in on the act, too, using the hashtag #passengershaming on Twitter and Instagram. Might want to re-think that third whiskey soda, lest your aggressive snoring end up on SoundCloud.
8. Fellow travelers can be your new virtual, in-the-know BFFs
Travel-specific social networks just "get" passionate travelers, which is especially nice if your IRL friends aren't adventurous. The soon-to-be-launched planning and booking app UnPaved's interface will show which of your connections has been to a destination before, who's there now, and what tips they've shared. If you're a sucker for a nice narrative while you're exploring, read others' lovely short travel stories and savvy tips on Findery. Or trust in the hive mind at Trippy and ask vetted travel experts questions like "What are the best hikes in Slovenia?"—readers upvote the best answers, so you see the best recs first. Road warriors, you'll want to download Waze, a navigation app that helps you beat traffic and find the cheapest gas prices with the help of real-time info from other drivers and community-updated maps.
9. You can chatter with airlines and travel fans without picking up the phone
Lost bag? Delayed flight? Lack of snacks on the plane? Whatever's bugging you in the air, you can tweet directly at airlines to get answers or, at the very least, information on what to do next. Delta's @DeltaAssist account answers questions 24/7, and @JetBlue and @AmericanAir have also been noted for their responsiveness. Have your confirmation number handy and be prepared to direct-message them your specifics. If you're feeling proactive and do the research yourself, you can even ask them to rebook you on specific flights if yours is delayed.
Looking for good, old-fashioned travel conversation and useful money-saving tips? Twitter's head of travel, Jeff Flores, recommends searching for Twitter hashtags like #ttot (travel talk on Twitter), #SMTravel (social media travel), #TravelTuesday, #CruiseChat, #RTW (round the world), and #TNI (traveler's night in).
10. Options for local, personal tour guides are limitless
Travelers looking for a targeted, authentic experience no longer have to rely on big, expensive tour companies to show them around a new town. Sites like Vayable and Localyoo connect you with activities proffered by real, live locals for a nominal fee, from a $25 bike tour of sights and eats in Barcelona to a historical, communism-focused tour of Berlin, given by a woman who grew up under communist rule, for $10. On freelance task site Fiverr, five bucks buys you local travel and language expertise—it takes a little searching, but you can find gems, like a culinary tour of Mumbai given by a tech geek. Sure, they're more of a gamble than going on a traditional tour, but other users' comments and ratings can help you decide which ones to pursue, and some sites have a money-back guarantee.
Or, combine the tour experience with a place to crash. For years, Couchsurfing has touted the "good vibes" that come from staying with its members in their homes, and newcomer Voyaj helps you "pitch" yourself via YouTube video to find a host family abroad. In return, you're encouraged to exchange something from your culture—like dance or language lessons. Money saved, immersive experience earned.
11. Your favorite works of art are now interactive
Stuffy museums get a whole lot more exciting when you make a game of taking in the exhibit. Considered controversial in some circles but invigorating in others, the first-ever Museum Selfie Day was held this past January 22: Museum professionals encouraged visitors to turn the cameras on themselves and pose with the art, then post it to social media with the hashtag #museumselfie. People in hallowed halls around the world—from the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatarto the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh—participated. The institutions themselves are getting in on the act too: Follow your favorite old-school museums and contemporary galleries for promotions, exhibit previews, art humor, and peeks behind the scenes. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's YouTube channel, for example, features videos of artists discussing their work; New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art posts Instagram photos of the museum after all the visitors have left with the hashtag #emptymet. #eerie
Do YOU Live in America's Coolest Small Town 2015?
What does it feel like to live in America's Coolest Small Town? Ask the folks in Berlin, Maryland. In February, they topped our list, edging out Cazenovia, New York, and 13 other finalists to win the 2014 title. And they threw one heck of a victory party. (We know because we were there!) How can YOUR town get to be America's Coolest Small Town 2015? Well, it's really up to you. If you think your town has got what it takes, we want to hear about it. Nominate Your Town Now and share what you love about living in—or visiting—your fave town. And don't forget to talk it up and share photos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (tag them #ACST2015) to help your town's chances of being named a finalist. (When you share photos of your town on Instagram and tag them #ACST2015, you may even see them featured on our "Trending Cool Towns" page—how cool is that?) Budget Travel's Coolest Small Towns 2015 contest is looking for American towns with a population under 10,000 and a certain something that no place else has: great shops, food, a unique history, a breathtaking location, peerless music scene, art galleries, or maybe something cool we haven't even thought of yet! We invite you to tell us a little about your town today (click on Nominate Your Town Now). And don't forget to share your town's coolest restaurants, attractions, and lodgings on social media—tag your posts with #ACST2015 to help generate buzz! We'll gather nominations until 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, December 2, then we'll review them to narrow the list to 15 finalists. We'll use your votes (from BudgetTravel.com and from social media posts tagged #ACST2015) as a guide, and also look for diversity in geography, attractions, architecture, and other factors we consider cool. In January, we'll post the 15 finalists and ask our audience to cast their votes. In February, we'll announce the 10 winners. Wanna know what it really feels like to live in America's Coolest Small Town? It all starts today. Nominate Your Town Now!
Surprise! These Are the World's Top Honeymoon Destinations
Wedding "party," indeed! Vegas, baby, Vegas is the most popular spot in the world to honeymoon, according to new data from Facebook—but it's not U.S. residents who are making it No. 1. International newlyweds most want to live it up in Sin City. That factoid and others were uncovered after the latest round of stat-crunching from the Facebook Data Team. The social network examined information from users who posted a "marriage event" this year and then checked in somewhere 20 miles or farther from their hometown within two weeks. Voilà: crazy amounts of intel about who's honeymooning where in 2014. A sample like this isn't comprehensive, of course, but it does provide a voyeuristic snapshot into the romantic-travel plans of a certain social-media-savvy demographic. Here are some of the more fascinating findings: After Vegas at No. 1, Hawaii and Mexico are the next most popular honeymoon locales for couples around the globe. Top destinations for all (international + U.S.) couples: 1. Las Vegas, USA 2. Lahaina, USA 3. Honolulu, USA 4. Playa del Carmen, Mexico 5. Cancún, Mexico 6. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic 7. Montego Bay, Jamaica 8. Antalya, Turkey 9. Castries, St. Lucia 10. Gramado, Brazil Among U.S. couples, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, is the No. 1 spot for a honeymoon. Top destinations for U.S. couples: 1. Lahaina, USA 2. Castries, St. Lucia 3. Honolulu, USA 4. Montego Bay, Jamaica 5. Las Vegas, USA 6. Gros Islet, St. Lucia 7. Playa del Carmen, Mexico 8. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic 9. Ocho Rios, Jamaica 10. Cancún, Mexico Ever-classic Hawaii is right up there again—in fact, Facebook says, if you zero in on U.S.-only honeymoon hot spots, destinations in Hawaii make up half of them. U.S. couples traveled a median of slightly more than 500 miles away from home. Compared with the 70 other countries included in the roundup, the U.S. is almost smack dab the middle, as far as in distance traveled for a honeymoon. Couples from South Korea, Italy, and Qatar traveled the farthest—up to about 4,000 miles for South Koreans. One hundred-plus couples flew more than 12,000 miles away for their getaway—literally halfway around the world. (Sayonara, in-laws!) Facebook says Spanish couples who traveled to New Zealand and Peruvians who traveled to Thailand were a large portion of them. Only 19 percent of U.S. newlyweds took an international trip. Why do U.S. couples tend to stick close to home? Romantic-travel expert Susan Breslow Sardone, of About.com and author of Destination Weddings for Dummies, said the reasons could be economic, but the U.S. is no slouch when it comes to bringing the romance. "We've got a very diverse and interesting country," she says. "So whether a couple wants to honeymoon in a tropical location like Miami and the Keys, ski the great mountains of the Rockies, go camping in the open West, or experience cities with fantastic cuisine like NYC and San Francisco, they don't need to cross an ocean to do it." Let's keep this conversation going. Like Budget Travel on Facebook and share your honeymoon advice!
5 "Boomtowns" You MUST Visit ASAP
It's crunch time! Bloomberg recently released its list of cities around the globe that will be the most crowded in the year 2025. The top five? Hong Kong; Salvador, Brazil; Mexico City; São Paulo; and Singapore. All the more reason not to put off traveling to these destinations any longer! Bump them up on your bucket list instead, using some of our favorite travel tips for each town as guidance: Hong Kong. Go during the Chinese New Year celebration, in February. High season in Hong Kong is December, so by waiting a couple of months, you'll not only save on airfare and hotel rates, but there are fewer visitors and less hotel occupancy. Plus, you'll get to attend the annual Hong Kong Arts Festival, which takes place around the same time. Salvador, Brazil. Consider checking out Salvador's Carnival as an alternative to Rio's. The celebrations are just as eye-popping, but most events are free. Mexico City. A mere $4.50 buys you admission to the Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli, which Rivera himself designed. Inside are thousands of pre-Hispanic pieces from Rivera's own collection. São Paulo. Completely free and constantly changing, Beco de Batman, in the Vila Madelena neighborhood, is a long, winding alley of gorgeous street art. Think of it as an open-air graffiti gallery. Singapore. For less than $10, you can score a full meal from a “hawker centre”—an outdoor collection of halls that sell inexpensive food, such as chicken satay and a wide variety of noodle dishes. To avoid tourist traps, dine with the locals at Chinatown Food Centre, Maxwell Food Centre, or any neighborhood hawker centre.
5 Things To Eat In Japan
This article was written by Sia Ling Xin, who travels and writes about it for Asiarooms.com, a blog and online community focused on travelling in Asia. You can also find her on Twitter. The Land of the Rising Sun is known for crazy manga, super-punctual trains and a penchant for raw fish. Many a time, I've heard friends grouse about not going to Japan because they do not enjoy sushi. Even if you're not a fan of sliced fish on rice and seaweed, Japan has whole host of delicious offerings. Here are some of my favorites. RamenThe ramen in Japan tastes nothing like its air-dried and pre-packed cousin college students are known to consume excessively. Instead, imagine chewy noodles and a thick, rich broth that fills your tummy like no other on a cold night. There are many different soup bases—miso, shio, shoya being the most popular—and purveyors of a certain type may vehemently decry the others. If the first bowl you tried was not to your liking, simply note down the type of soup base it is, and try another kind out when you stumble upon another ramen restaurant. A bowl of ramen typically comes with chicken or pork chasu (a type of marinated and sliced meat), an egg (a well-executed ramen egg should always have a gooey yolk and savoury white) and all sorts of garnishing such as spring onions, leek and sesame seeds. TonkatsuThis is the Japanese version of the fried pork chop, cut into thin strips and served alongside rice, a salad of shredded lettuce, and miso soup. If you're into guilty pleasures, this crispy, tasty piece of goodness will be your go-to meal when it comes to Japanese cuisine. Many people fear that the cutlet may be tough and greasy, but the Japanese have perfected the art of deep-frying, so put aside that worry and tuck in. TempuraSpeaking of Japanese deep-frying techniques, tempura is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Prawns, sliced pumpkin or eggplant, and or even whole soft-shell crabs, are dipped in a starchy batter and deep fried. Instead of tasting heavy and filling, though, a well-executed tempura is always light, grease-free, and a delicious snack or finger food. Tempuras go great with Japanese cold noodles, or soba, as the hot and cold contrast nicely. Tempuras are often dipped in a savoury broth not unlike a thin, watery version of soya sauce, and topped with grated daikon and ginger. OkonomiyakiThe name of this pancake-like dish translates to 'grill-as-you-like'—and that is exactly how the dish works. Anything from cabbage to sliced octopus, or bacon and shrimp, may be wrapped inside a floury batter and grilled until it becomes a thick, fluffy pancake. It is then topped with a variety of sauces, such as Japanese mayonnaise and ketchup. Dried bonito flakes (parmesan thin slices of dried, fermented tuna) and seaweed may also be added into the mix. The result is a wholesome, sure-fire crowd pleaser that even fussy kids will love—even the most squeamish person will not notice the octopus in there. Some okonomiyaki restaurants have tabled with hotplates installed, which allow diners to grill their own pancakes. After feeling the heat of grilling your own pancake, down a couple of cold Japanese beers to round off your perfect dinner. Gyu-donIf you're a fan of beef, you have to try Japan's gyu-don, or beef bowl, at least once. A bowl of fluffy rice would be topped with thinly sliced beef and onion simmered in a flavourful broth. The beef and onion may taste mildly sweet, almost as though caramelised, and chili flakes may sometimes be added to give this dish a spicy kick. Some also like to crack a raw egg atop the rice bowl, which makes the rice rich and slick, giving the dish another dimension. Those who are sick of rice or prefer something soupy may want to try out the beef udon—just as warming and delicious as the beef bowl, you can enjoy your egg half-cooked in this steaming hot dish.