If you use Instagram, you’ve probably seen some envy-inducing travel shots and stories. The platform lends itself to stunning photographs of far-flung parts of the planet, and it should probably come with a warning: “may inspire incurable wanderlust.” But Instagram, as the travel-obsessed already know, can be used for more than just travel inspiration – it’s a powerful vacation-planning tool as well, for whenever we're able to travel again. Here are a few tips on how to do it.
Look (and Save) with Intention
If you find yourself drawn to a specific type of scene – historic, cobblestone streets; mountainous landscapes; hammock-filled beaches, etc. – that might be your true self whispering that you need to take a trip there. One way to get serious about planning a trip is to save posts that inspire you, which you can do within the Instagram app.
Hit the bookmark icon on the lower-right-hand side of a posted image and add it to a Collection (hold the button down for a moment to create a new Collection, or add it to one you’ve already created). Can’t decide which destination is right for you? Create multiple Collections as you go.
Hashtag It Out
If you’re not seeing shots that get you fired up among those you follow, hashtags are a great way to explore the wider world of IG users. Tags like #wanderlust and #instatravel will bring up millions of posts from all over the world, with the most popular helpfully sorted to the top.
Once you start exploring and narrow down your target spot, you’ll notice that people are hashtagging their destinations. For instance, if you’re stunned by shots of the colourful buildings of Valparaíso, Chile, you might want to check out the hashtag #valparaiso to see the city from many angles.
But you might also want to check out related hashtags like #ig_chile, which features lovely shots of the whole country and could inspire further stops on your itinerary.
Along with hashtags, people also geotag their images – you’ll see the location listed in small text directly under their username. Click that text to find out where the post was made and see other images that were shot there.
This is a great way to get multiple perspectives on the same location. Maybe what looks like rugged, open terrain in a carefully framed shot is actually overrun with selfie-takers. Or maybe you’ve found a place worthy of your travel dreams, from any angle.
Follow Widely and Ask Questions
The best way to discover new perspectives on the planet is to follow people beyond your immediate circle. Photographers and travel journalists are a good bet if you want to get a varied lens on places around the world. And once you’ve identified a destination you’re interested in, locals like chefs and artists can give you a first-hand guide to where the best stuff happens.
And Instagram is a social platform, so if you’ve got questions that aren’t answered in a person’s post, you can always ask. Try commenting or DMing your query and you might get a response that could transform your whole trip. The same is true while you’re away: If you’ve got questions about the place where you are, post a photo and ask your followers to weigh in. You might be surprised what comes back.
Remember, Life Goes on Beyond the Gram
Even if you plan your whole trip on Instagram, that doesn’t mean you have to share the whole thing while it’s happening. Social media can be a great tool for travel inspiration and to share your trip with others, but there’s a lot more to a journey than what can be captured and shared on social media.
Feel free to put your device on airplane mode and stow it in a deep pocket of your pack. Remember to experience the moment you’re in, in real time, with all your senses. Some of the best travel experiences and moments live in your memory, not online.