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When it comes to planning and navigating your trip, guidebooks have started to give way to social media. For searching and crowdsourcing tips, it’s tough to beat the old-guard apps, led by Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — all established networks that are easy to use and have a broad reach.
Don’t discount travel-focused accounts on Snapchat or niche-focused social apps, though. No matter your preferred network, here are five ways to use social media to get the most out of your next trip.
1. Go online for advance scouting
Among the networks that use geo-targeting, Instagram is particularly suited to checking out locations, in real-time, with a simple search or by clicking on hashtags.
“Whether it’s taking a peek at the food served at a restaurant or seeing how crowded an attraction might be, it’s kind of a way to visually snoop before deciding to go,” said Rachelle Lucas, travel and food expert at thetravelbite.com.
Pinterest, another photo-driven app, is great for those seeking inspiration about where to go and what to see.
“It stands out against other platforms as it is relevant and useful for each different stage of your trip, from the planning stages in the beginning to sharing photographs after you’ve returned at the end,” said Megan Jarrad, who blogs about her travels at mappingmegan.com.
(Related: The best tricks to save on airfare)
2. Move past the friend zone
Asking your Facebook friends for travel suggestions can lead to some useful information, but if you don’t mind talking to strangers, you may find a wider array of options.
“Facebook is friends; Twitter is the world,” said J.D. Andrews, a travel photographer and videographer who runs earthxplorer.com.
Of course, not all of us have Mr. Andrews’s reach on Twitter (182,000 followers at the moment). For us mere mortals, hashtags can again come to the rescue: Seek out users that specialize in the places you are researching, using search and hashtags.
“I’ll usually get a few great recommendations either from locals that are excited to highlight something they love about their city or a traveler that had a great experience and wants to share it,” Ms. Lucas said.
And if you are willing to expand your Facebook circle, that can come in handy, too, especially if you ask friends who might have connections overseas.
“There may not be anyone within our Facebook circles traveling to Madrid on our given dates, but one of our friends tags their friends, their friends share the post with theirs, and the world becomes a lot smaller quite quickly,” Ms. Jarrad said.
3. Trust the locals
Need dinner plans? If you’re willing to take some risks in the form of advice from strangers, you could end up with a memorable experience. Just make sure to be specific in your requests.
“I’ll often ask my followers ‘What can’t I miss in Reykjavik?’ or ‘Where can I find the best tapas in Barcelona?’ It almost always unearths something interesting I wouldn’t have otherwise found,” said Stephanie Yoder, who blogs at twenty-somethingtravel.com.
4. Service with an emoji
Many airlines have been bolstering their customer service departments with social media specialists to respond to questions and complaints on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Posting about a travel problem may now be the fastest way to get it resolved.
“Someone from the KLM Twitter team rebooked a flight for me that was delayed while I was still onboard the plane,” Mr. Andrews said. Not all stories will have endings that happy, of course, but it can’t hurt to try.
5. Beyond Twitter and Facebook
Don’t discount apps and networks that specialize in a particular area of interest or help you organize your trip.
If you’re heading to wine country, for example, Ms. Lucas suggests Vivino, which relies on its 19 million users for wine recommendations. “All you have to do is take a picture of a wine label and it automatically looks up the wine and gives you tasting notes about it,” she said.
Snapchat now has more daily users than Twitter, and while it may be more difficult to target specific interests or locations (you can’t search for snaps as you can tweets, and they expire after 24 hours), there are travel-focused accounts worth following for general inspiration.
There are also apps that can help you plan your entire itinerary. TripIt, for example, allows you to share your travel details with a chosen circle. “It’s a great way to see where my friends and colleagues are traveling and to arrange meetups when it’s serendipitous,” Ms. Yoder said.
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