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How Social Media is Changing the Way We Travel

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Social media is no longer a place just for “instagramming” your gourmet lunch or tweeting about your favorite Thursday night TV show. It is also the place for those with wanderlust, a place to observe photos of far-off places, to communicate directly with businesses and, even, sometimes, find a great deal. Social media connects friends and family all over the globe and with the growing business presence on the web, it is quite the resourceful tool for those already researching their next trip.

There are more ways than ever to share your travel experiences on social media and social networking sites. There’s the trusty Facebook, Twitter and Instagram sites that allow you to share your thoughts and pictures with your family and friends with the click of a button to Yelp and TripAdvisor where consumers thoughts, feelings and experiences reign with their consumer reviews.

Facebook and Twitter also allow consumers to interact directly with airlines, hotels and other businesses every step of the way during their trip. While the customer service itself may not drastically improve, one thing is for certain – businesses reply quickly on social media.

“The nice thing about social media is that no matter what time of the day or night, there’s always someone on there, so people have a tendency to reply,” said Lee Byrne, a travel agent at Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Service Representative agency. “If you’re dissatisfied with something and you go on Twitter and make a comment, they get back to you very fast because that complaint is now there for everyone to see.”

Connecting with businesses is not the only perk. Travelers can search for people traveling to the same places and get to know them before they even officially meet in person. Travel agents like Byrne often form private Facebook groups for travelers going on group trips, like a cruise. These individuals can find buddies to coordinate excursions with and, in some cases, even form long- lasting friendships.

“A lot of people end up becoming very good friends through groups like that,” Byrne said. “[They] find that they have common travel interests and end up traveling together for years to come.”

Through these connections, people uncover travel veterans sharing their experiences on social media, dishing out the tastiest stops and the loveliest sights. Whether a traveler wishes to see the hotspots or live like a local, seeking out knowledge on social media is a great resource. Gathering first-hand research helps people plan their ideal trip itinerary and figure out their budget.

Not all of your connecting need be new, though. There’s a reason we keep in touch with old friends on Facebook and that, my friends, is for the pictures. Surveying a friend’s vacation pictures or albums is one of the easiest ways to begin planning. A snapshot of a breathtaking view will immediately inspire the first stop of your next trip, especially when paired with the “#nofilter” hashtag.

While social media can really help you plan your dream getaway, it is important to remain cautious when dealing with companies online. Really, it’s important to remain careful when dealing with companies overall offering “fantastic” travel deals.

Byrne recommends doing your research before you book a too-good-to-be-true travel deal. Getting in contact with someone in person is just one step in helping you determine which businesses are reliable and which are offering phony promotions.

Also, be sure to read consumer reviews on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor with caution, as many of them are paid. The reviews found on these social networks can also be unfair in their critique, so reading a fair amount of both good and bad reviews is key.

“I think you need to read in-between the lines and just make sure you’re not looking at things through rose colored glasses,” Byrne said.

With all the social media frenzy these days, it’s important to even take into account the effect social media has on your trip as you travel. The more things you see, the more you may feel the need to post. There are stunning sights surrounding you, whether that be the sea or some thick noodles in tomato sauce, and you want to share it. But how much of your time should you be cataloguing these moments versus just living in the moment making memories?

While it does depend on the person, because, after all, you do have followers and they can’t just be pushed aside, it is important to keep this in mind. Social media should help enhance your trip and not detract from it.

If you keep the big picture in your mind and practice moderation with posting and living-in-the-moment moments, then social media will become that beloved tool in your belt for planning your trip and even inspire others to travel to new places.

Social media is a large circle of people sharing some of the cool places and adventures they experienced with each other, uniting the world together in one giant network. Now is the time to join and see how social media can help you jet set off to a world of endless possibilities – especially for your Instagram profile.

“I think the big thing is that [social media] is a means to share your experiences and to ask questions,” Byrne said. “It can really open your eyes to what’s available and what other people are doing.”

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