Social Media for Travel: Instagram as a Travel Guide

I’m back again with the next installment of planning using social media! We talked last month about how Twitter is one of my favorite travel planning tools, and I’m here today to chat about how another social media site has helped me immensely: Instagram. Yes! It’s true! Instagram is for more than pretty pictures. I actually would go so far as to say a tool in your travel planning toolbox should be the ability to use Instagram as a travel guide. So let’s get right down to it.

Using Social Media for Travel: Instagram as a Travel Guide

Be Social

As a blogger/human being, Instagram is one of the social media channels that I’ve found incredibly difficult to use socially. Twitter? I’ll chat up a storm and I’ve made connections I love on there. Instagram? Now that journey has been a lot tougher. But if you’re about to use Instagram as a travel guide…you are just going to HAVE to get social. No bones about it. That’s right. You’re going to have to comment more than “great pic!” As a general rule: just please comment more than “great pic!"

Bucket list to-do: Mardi Gras celebration. Now how convenient is it that I'm in New Orleans and it happens to be the day before Mardi Gras? 🎉 @amoderngirlstravels has the perfect timing for her Instagram challenge! 👌 Have any of you ever visited New Orleans?

A photo posted by Amanda (@sunshinechasing) on Feb 8, 2016 at 3:57pm PST

This might seem like a “no-duh” tip, but I think it’s easy to forget. When I posted about my trip to Mardi Gras on Instagram, anybody who said they were planning a trip, I offered to chat about recommendations. Travelers are like that. We like to talk about our travels. I can’t be the only one! As for the flip side, I promise you I will be doing this for my upcoming trip to Nashville. If I see a particularly awesome shot of a donut shop in Nashville, for example, I’m going to ask for other recommendations. Something along the lines of, “Do you have any Nashville coffee shop recommendations to balance out the sugary goodness of this donut that I WILL be getting now?”

How do you FIND people to practice your Instagram social skills? Start your search with an IGers page (that’s Instagrammers). Just search “igers” and the name of wherever you’re visiting. That account will probably feature photos from other users in that area. Chances are, there’s a group of Instagrammers just waiting to show off that place. Chat with them!

Look for Instagram Accounts with Location Tags

I alwaysalwaysalways add the location where the photo was taken to my Instagram shots. I love when people do the same. This will be a really great tip particularly for street art hunters. Instagram captions are not always locations. More likely they are quotes, micro-blogs, etc. In those situations, this tag is your new best friend. Click on this tag: boom. Location on a map for you. And then you can open it in Maps on your phone and save it as a point of interest!

Why, it's TRUE! I do love Charlottesville a lot. Somehow, the rain magically held out for us all weekend. I don't think we could've had a more relaxing time. If anybody needs a getaway, I think Charlottesville is calling your name.

A photo posted by Amanda (@sunshinechasing) on Sep 28, 2015 at 5:24am PDT

I was scrolling through some Charlottesville Instagrams when I visited in the Fall last year. I kept seeing this “I love Charlottesville a lot” wall, but google was not helping me. When I found a post with the location tag, I found out that it was actually at a tire shop. Who knew?? But for the sake of the photographer in me, you better believe that was now a Charlottesville stop.

Take Advantage of City Accounts

Do you know how many cities are actually on Instagram? So. Many. So if you’re using Instagram as a travel guide, looking for that city’s account should be your first stop. Tourism boards have seriously hopped on the social media game. Sometimes they are the best resources for things going on around town. And a plus: locals probably look at these too! Case in point: the Manayunk StrEAT Food Festival in Philly. I went there and I am most definitely classified as "local" to Philadelphia.

Join us for the Spring STREAT Food Festival, today until 5 PM. #MNYKstreatfood

A photo posted by (@manayunkdotcom) on Apr 10, 2016 at 9:06am PDT

Typically the first thing I’ll search for is: “visit (insert country/state/city’s name here).” I know just off the top of my head that there is a visitneworleans, visitdenver, and visitphilly because I’ve utilized all of those in the past month or so! Even if there isn’t a “Visit XYZ” account, usually just searching the name will allow you to find the tourism board’s account. If not, before you leave for your trip, do a quick Google search. Find the tourism board’s page, then scroll allllllll the way to the bottom of the webpage. Nine times out of ten, you’ll find a link to the Instagram down there!

Search the Right Hashtags

Since we’ve already found city accounts, hashtags are the next step. Usually those city accounts will have a hashtag right in their bio that they encourage people to use. Start there! Scroll through and see if you find anything interesting. Now, finding related hashtags can get a bit trickier, especially because big accounts don’t typically need to use tons and tons of hashtags. Remember when we found those IGers groups? That’s an awesome place to turn next. I’ve found that those accounts typically use more hashtags you can peruse. Don’t see them right away? Check the first comment!

Today’s challenge from @AMGirlsTravels is “A Beautiful Life.” I had a really hard time picking a picture for this, surprisingly! I use hashtags for beautiful lives all the time, but when I really sat down I was stumped. A lot of things about life are beautiful. For me, water is one of the most beautiful things out there. Overtime I’m near a body of water, I’m a happy soul. I’m also a huge fan of big, bustling cities. So much to do, so much to see, so much to EAT. 🍴 But when I take a moment to step back in the quiet and allow myself to observe…now that’s pretty beautiful. Finding the time to do that while you're not traveling? Now that's STAYING beautiful. 👌 This is my attempt at “artsy” self-timer mode from my visit to Toronto. Taken from the Toronto Islands and shot towards that beautiful skyline! 💙

A photo posted by Amanda (@sunshinechasing) on Feb 5, 2016 at 4:36am PST

Wait…what if you don’t KNOW where you’re going yet? You just want to kick off your travel planning? Hashtags are the best place to go for that, my friend. Big companies, think Lonely Planet or Travel & Leisure, have their own hashtags you can search for inspiration (#lonelyplanet and #tlpicks, respectively). But I personally like a more general search. My all time favorites are #passionpassport and #ABMtravelbug (from theA Beautiful Mess community). Give ‘em a search and get that inspiration flowing.

Before I go, I have something fun I want to share!

Pretty soon all of my complaining about graduate school is going to disappear. That’s right, ladies and gents, on May 5 I will finally have my Masters in Exercise Physiology. I thought it would be really fun to celebrate with an Instagram countdown to graduation. Before I leave school, I really want to prove that if you make travel a priority…there’s a really good chance you’ll be able to travel while in school. You do NOT just have to wait until graduation! If you want to keep up and see some of my favorite memories of the (oof) seven years I’ve been in school…follow me on Instagram here

Let’s Chat!

  • Have you ever used Instagram as a travel guide? What are your best tips for planning travel with Instagram?