Travel planning can be a daunting task. Once you start surfing the web looking for inspiration and answers, you find yourself falling down a rabbit hole of useless information. Sometimes less is more. Wouldn’t you agree?
At the same time, hiring a professional travel guide is not always a possibility given their often hefty prices.
So what do you do when you can’t afford to hire a travel guide, but don’t want to cheap out and be left right where you started?
That’s when it’s time to pour yourself a glass of wine and open up your Instagram App.
In this post, I am going to guide you on how I used Instagram as a travel guide and planned my ENTIRE trip to Chicago. Believe it or not, this social platform (filled with everything from puppies to exotic beaches) is actually one hell of a resource!!
Shall we begin? . . .
Using the search feature type in anything from the destination name to a specific word depending on your travel interests. However, I recommend starting with a simple keyword (i.e. Chicago).
You will notice Instagram has four categories for searching: Top, People, Tags, and Places. Beginning with Top, I’m going to show you how to utilize each category to plan your travel itinerary.
Obviously this would return the most popular results. I generally start here, clicking on the first few accounts to see what’s inside.
I use Top as an initial step to see what is out there.
If my interest is sparked I will scroll through each Instagram profile, or go back out to my results and click on another account.
Being a travel blogger I am personally looking for places/landmarks to shoot photos, or delicious desserts to stuff my face with. So I look for accounts with those type of photos.
An easy thing to remember is most cities, states, countries, whatever will typically have a “visit(place)” (i.e. visitchicago) or “(place)IG” (i.e. chicagoigers) Instagram account. Get creative by throwing some of those words into your search.
For example, I typed in Chicago ig and noticed the first account was igersChicago. I clicked on their account and noticed they had a good following (generally indicates trust and quality in my opinion), so I continued to peruse through their feed. I clicked on a photo that jumped out at me and saw it was the Chicago River Walk.
From this point I could have saved this photo or looked further by clicking on the location and seeing what other things are at the Chicago River Walk. Again, I like taking photos and loved the view points. As a result I added Chicago River Walk to my list.
If you already follow travel influencers, you can always check their account if you know they have been to where you are going.
This is quite possibly the most useful feature. If I have a specific interest in mind I will go directly to tags and type in a hashtag. For example, if you are a foodie traveling to Chicago you might want to search “Chicago Food” and see what comes up. If that is not enough, Instagram will suggest other relevant hashtags at the top.
To be even more specific I typed “Chicago Brunch“. Drilling in on one, I was led to an IG account for an adorable brunch spot called, Eden. They have frozen rose people (aka Frose)!
Tags can also help you find bloggers.
What better way to find ideas than from bloggers?! For example, I wanted to find some unique bars and restaurants, so I searched “ChicagoFoodBloggers” under tags. Once I found an appealing photo, I clicked on the account and found a Chicago based food blogger, who coincidentally led me to another photo worthy restaurant.
It all comes down to being creative with your words.
I might even go as far as saying the number of hashtags that keyword has would be a good indicator of how popular a place is. There’s your rating system. Boom!
To be honest I really only use Places when trying to get inspiration for shooting photos. For example, I knew I wanted to visit the Skydeck and wanted some inspiration on best angles to shoot from. So I went to places and typed in Skydeck Chicago to see what sort of photos are being tagged to that location.
Once you have a list of things-to-do, you can also use Places to find addresses, or even click on the map for a more detailed view. This would come in handy if you are not trying to venture far, which brings me to my next point.
If you click on the map and zoom out, you will be able to see what sort of places are around.
Who knows what sort of inspiration it will provide. Back to my Skydeck example. I clicked on the map, zoomed out, and noticed nearby was the Money Museum and a Speakeasy (oh I love finding Speakeasys)! So then what?
I took a mental note of the speakeasy name, went back to my search bar and typed in the name – first to see if they had their own IG account, which they did. If I liked what I saw then I would add it to my list. What do you know. Just planned my Friday night in Chicago!
The Save feature is relatively new on Instagram and surprisingly, not many people use it. This feature is especially perfect for travel planning.
Use the save option throughout your search as you build your list.
You can even go as far as creating a collection for quicker access. I create collections for each trip to easily refer back to during my travels.
So there you have it. Using Instagram as a travel guide is easier than you think. With a little bit of creativity in your research, you can be on your way to the best vacation yet!
Do you find Instagram an easy tool for travel planning? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!