San Diego spot prawns, Juniper & Ivy (named a 2019 top restaurant for a big night out by OpenTable)

Unless you’ve booked one of those spontaneous vacation experiences where you don’t know where you’re headed until you land, chances are you’ll need to some level of travel research and planning before you pack your bags and jet off.

Whether you travel for the food (a dimly lit tasca with a hearty petiscos spread in Lisbon? A polished order of fresh local spot prawns at Juniper & Ivy in San Diego?), the adventure (Canyoning in New Zealand, maybe?), or for pure relaxation, how can you make sense of all of the travel information at our fingertips?

Today, social media and travel go hand in hand, which can be great for travel planning, and not so great. The beauty and curse of having access to real-time travel content on social platforms like Instagram means we have more options to guide our travel decisions. It also means that with more options comes the overwhelming frustration of sorting through the deluge of content. Below, I offer up several ways I tame my social media feeds in service of an efficient, organized way to plan my travels.

How to Use Instagram to Plan Your Vacation

Social Media platforms like Facebook and Instagram update or introduce new features frequently, so it’s easy to gloss over which of them recently went live. For example, have you noticed that you can now livestream a video on Facebook? You can also sell stuff in its Marketplace and even rent an apartment in your area, Craigslist-style. When it comes to travel planning over on Instagram, a feature they released in 2016 has become one of the top ways I keep tabs on destinations I’d like to travel to next, things to eat, and ideas for what to do when I get there––surfing in Sri Lanka, forest bathing in Japan, a culinary pilgrimage to Oaxaca for instance. It’s called the bookmark feature, and it operates like the bookmark feature in your web browser.

Travel Planning Tip: To bookmark an Instagram post, tap the ribbon icon located at the bottom right hand side of your desired photo.

Build an Album from Bookmarked Posts on Instagram

When you bookmark a post on Instagram, you can also save your bookmarked post to an album. The fun part is that you can create multiple albums and categorize them in a way that works best for you. I’m not the most organized person but I do have a constant stream of ideas floating in my head, so having all that travel inspo categorized and within easy reach is oddly satisfying. For example, I’ve created several albums by destination––Portugal (never not planning my next trip back), California, general Travel Inspiration (which serves more like a mood board). I also have an album for recipes, motivational quotes when I need to light a fire under my ass, and an album for books I’d like to read. And since I am always looking to interview expert sources in the food and travel world for magazines and other corners of the internet, I also have an Instagram album labeled “Sources” (hint hint).

Travel Planning Tip: Create an Album in Instagram

Pocket App for Travel Planning

Another bookmarking tool that’s great for saving all sorts of links around the web is Pocket. I have the app downloaded on my iPhone and the Chrome Extension installed on desktop. Pocket lets you tag a webpage to refer to later, so if you’re in the middle of planning a summer vacation to Hawaii for example, you can create a Hawaii tag and to save the hundreds of tabs you probably have open right now on your computer.

Travel Planning Tip: Use Pocket app to bookmark links

Crowdsourcing Better Facebook Recommendations

Back at Facebook, you’ve probably posted a status update to solicit travel recommendations. The thing with this method of travel research is that without qualifying exactly what you might be looking for, you’ll be flooded with a range of recommendations that you still have to sift through. Instead, a more targeted approach could be to ask your connections for the one place they’d go, do, or eat. This way, suggestions are vetted by commenters’ favorite or most memorable experiences, rather than a scattered list of everything they did when they visited. And, the more specific the better. For example, instead of asking, “What’s the best thing to do in Barcelona?” try, “Where’s the best secluded beach in Barcelona that’s great for swimming?”

Travel Planning Tip: Ask your Facebook friends for super specific travel recommendations

If you’ve got a favorite method for using social media to help plan your travels, let me know about it in a comment below. How do you use social media for travel planning?

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