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HOW TO: Plan a Vacation Using Social Media
July 26, 2010 @ 10:17 AM by:
September 13th, 2009

Vacation is a time to relax, or a time to seek out adventure. It’s a way to let go of your stress and live out your fantasies. That is, if the stress and pain of planning the vacation doesn’t kill you first.

Whether you want to relax on the beaches of Hawaii, roam the English countryside, or visit the temples of Thailand, you’ve got to be informed, organized, and ready for what lies ahead. To that end, social and web tools can help. From utilizing wikis for collaborative planning to using social networks to share the YouTube videos you record, social media is a useful partner in experiencing the best vacation possible. This short guide highlights some tips, tools, and advice on how to use the social graph to plan and execute the perfect excursion.

Part 1: Research

The first step whenever you are planning to travel is to do your research! Research is key to choosing a location, picking a hotel, and figuring out where you should visit. One of the best ways to get good information is to read the insight provided by others. This is where social media can play a vital role to getting the best information possible.

While there are hundreds of social media websites you can visit for information, here are recommendations to get you started:

Nextstop: Nextstop, which we recently reviewed, provides a ton of simple-to-understand, user-generated guides for getting the most out of any locale.

Where I’ve Been: Not only is Where I’ve Been a popular Facebook application, but it’s also a stand-alone social network as well. Use it to get in-depth information on different.

Wikitravel: Perhaps the largest collection of user-generated travel information on the web, Wikitravel provides good information on where to go, what to expect, and even information on the culture.

TripAdvisor: One of the best-known sites in travel, TripAdvisor has millions of reviews that will help you pick out the gems and avoid the disasters.

The key is to look at a wide range user-generated content and reviews to get an overall picture. For more detailed information and social tools for research, check out our article HOW TO: Use Social Media for Travel Research.

Part 2: Planning and organizing

Picking a vacation spot might just be the easiest part of the battle. Tackling the daunting task of planning, organizing, and building a vacation plan can be the stumbling block that makes the excursion fall apart. Yet social and web tools are ideal for saving this information, creating itineraries, and sharing them with others. There are a couple of things you can do to help make the collaboration easier.

First, if you’re going on a vacation larger than just your family, then you’ll want to collect everyone’s research and thoughts onto one page. Setting up a wiki for the vacation is a great solution for this issue. It will help make sure nobody’s ideas are lost. Set up one at Wikidot, PBWorks, Wikia, or Wetpaint. Want a simpler option? Then Google Docs may be a fit as well.

Planning a vacation should not be a solo effort. Working with a spouse, the kids, and friends not only lightens the work load, but makes the vacation a greater shared experience. Make collaboration a painless process by using time-based tools like Google Calendar and CalendarHub, both of which can remind you when tasks are due. TripIt is also ideal.

Finally, remember that Facebook, MySpace, and comprehensive social networks are an easy way to keep a group of friends in the loop about a vacation. Create a new event or a group for the vacation and post updates via the wall or send messages to everyone in the group. This can be a lifesaver when you need to collect things like signatures, opinions, or vacation funds.

Part 3: Using social media on the ground

Social media’s usefulness in vacation planning doesn’t end when you step off the plane. Even the best-planned (or impromptu) vacation will require adjustments. Here are a few tips and tools for when you need to find a great restaurant on-the-ground or are looking for advice from locals:

Go mobile: iPhone and Android apps are your friends. Having GPS-enabled and informative applications while on-the-go can mean the difference between finding the great treasures of Italy or getting lost in the alleys of Brazil. Be sure to check about data plans in the area you’re visiting – you don’t want to pay enormous roaming and data fees after all.

Some apps need online access, while others will work regardless. So even if the phone is off, there are a great deal of applications that can make life easy. We suggest having ZAGAT TO GO, MapsBuddy, and Yelp [iTunes links] handy to start.

Check tweets in the area: Did you know that Twitter search has location-based search? Say you want to find out about parties near Paris. Just search “party near:Paris” and you’ll have a set of local results. Refine as you’d like. Reach out if you’re adventurous.

Another idea: use Tweetie’s local tweets function to find residents who may be willing to help. Just be sure not to tweet to unsavory characters.

Use location-based social networks: Location-based social networks, while still fresh and new, are a great way to find friends and friendly strangers around you. Check out Loopt and BrightKite and see if either will work for you.

Part 4: Documenting and sharing

Tools like Flickr, YouTube, and a personal blog should be key partners in your vacation plan. Specifically, use these tools to store the memories of your trip for posterity. Creating albums of your adventures helps encompass the memory and can be referenced for years to come. A personal blog chronicling the trip can also be fun to write.

Don’t forget to share your multimedia with your friends and family, as well. You know they will ask, so make it easy for them to find it by posting the photos and links via your top social networks.

Hopefully with all of the tools and information highlighted in this short guide, you will have a no-stress vacation that you can remember for the rest of your days.

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