Blog Feature

By: Jennifer Devitt on March 22nd, 2015

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6 ways to use the web, apps and social media to make travel planning easier.

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For many schools around the US, it's Spring Break. This time of year tends to be a big travel boom. Folks around the world are weary and worn out by cold winters, massive amounts of snow and just winter in general. Spring Break tends to be the beginning of the spike in the travel season.

After Spring Break, people are planning Memorial Day weekend trips, summer beach trips, theme park excursions, Fourth of July celebrations and more. Perhaps you are planning to tour major league baseball stadiums this summer or go on a museum tour. There are many different ways to travel, via plane, train or automobile. You could visit a large metro area near your home, hit a local campground or venture out of the state or country. Whatever plans fit your budget and level of adventure you maybe find yourself looking for the best hotel to stay at, which airline has the best reviews, restaurants, and shops to try and more. This could be a once in a lifetime trip, one you have been saving for or it could be a spur of the moment weekend adventure. Whatever it is there is some ways technology can help you find the best places to visit and advice on where to avoid. Below, I have listed 6 ways to use the web, apps and social media channels to use to find the best travel information.

1. TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor is a free website where travelers can post reviews and photos of hotels, resorts and even discuss restaurants, car services and more. Places of interest are ranked by a five-star system. As with anything populated by the public you need to take these reviews with a grain of salt. Sometimes a good measure of thumb is to remember that some less than stellar reviews could be made by competitors, or individuals who have unrealistic standards. While on the other hand, perfect, five-star reviews could be made by staff, owners or guests who received some sort of compensation for their review. So I tend to make sure I read a variety of different ratings, look at pictures from several reviewers and use all the information to come to a decision.  TripAdvisor also has forums where you can post specific questions about regions, hotels, restaurants, excursions and more and get replies from members who have visited the area.

2. Instagram. With the use of hashtags, many travelers tag hotels and restaurants they have visited. Often times, the travelers offer up gorgeous photos with a short review, or it could be something to serve as a warning to avoid somewhere. Typically, if you are looking for information on a specific hotel you would search under the hotel name as a hashtag.

3. Twitter. Much like Instagram, travelers will post information on Twitter about an establishment such as a hotel and or restaurant or excursion. Posters may use a hashtag or just tweet specifically at the establishment in question. You could use Twitter conversations, for example, to see what type of customer service a hotel might have. If you search a hotel's Twitter feed and see that they do not reply to customer concerns or questions perhaps they may not have great customer service, or maybe they just are not social media savvy. But, you can sometimes gather tidbits of reviews from the 140 character messages. Some guests with post photos or reach out with concerns.

4. Yelp. Yelp is another review site, similar to TripAdvisor but with a broader range of businesses. But, like TripAdvisor, it is best to take these reviews with a grain of salt for the same reasons mentioned above.

5. Facebook. Like the other social media channels mentioned above, you can find brand pages for hotels, etc on Facebook. You can also potentially find photos, stories and reviews of friends, families, and colleagues. If you are connected to someone who has visited an area you are considering feel free to comment on their post or story and ask for a recommendation or review.

6. Online booking websites and/or apps. There are many of these available to travelers. Airlines offer apps to ease check-in, seat upgrades and to manage travel alerts. There are apps to assist with travel documents, and some restaurants allow online reservations. Perhaps you need a car service, find parking or would like to book an excursion, a few clicks of the mouse could lead you to the companies app which allows to book reservations in real time and save time and possibly money. And, if you are headed to Disney this summer the My Disney Experience app is a must!

Using social media channels and review websites can save you money, headaches and bad experiences. Utilize the platforms you already are active on to reach out to connections and see if they have any first-hand experiences with a potential destination. Always check multiple websites, reviews and look for more than the professional photos of a planned destination. Compare professional photos to traveler photos to see if the hotel is giving an honest representation of their facilities.  Many times via social media channels you can get real time reports, weather updates, menu changes, potential flight or other travel delays from travelers before they are reported.   What forms of technology do you use to assist you while you travel?  Have you had an experience where you found valuable information via social media that altered your travel plans?