Earlier this month, together with Sean of Small Business Billionaire, I began an experiment on travel planning with social media.
Even though I know which websites to use for cheap trip booking online, nothing can replace local knowledge from travelers who have actually been to the destination. So I set out to get (free!) personalized travel advice through social media.
And here’s what I learned about the online travel community these couple of weeks: it’s full of really generous people. I mean, just look at this reply I got when I asked about Sean’s destinations:
@NomadWallet yes for all the three places. Ask us and we will happily tell you all we know.
— Empty RuckSack (@EmptyRucksack) February 16, 2014
Just by asking a few travelers, I’ve managed to gather some awesome local information that would help Sean spend less on his trip and make his trip more interesting.
How I gathered travel tips for Sean
What I did was simple. I wrote a blog post about the experiment and broadcast about it on Twitter, like so:
— Deia (@NomadWallet) February 13, 2014
I did get some response to my broadcast Tweets, but I got the best answers by addressing specific travelers whom I know are familiar with India. Check out how much information I learned in a few minutes with Vikram and Ishwinder of Empty Rucksack:
How to do travel planning with social media
The fact that I got the best answers by directly asking specific travelers means that anyone can replicate this. You don’t have to own a blog or anything to use social media to get travel tips. The main thing is to identify the right travelers to ask. Try to remember if you’ve had any interactions with travelers who have been to your destination. The first people who came to mind for me were Ashray and Zara of Backpack Me, so I reached out to them on Twitter:
Soon after that Tweet, Zara left me a long, detailed comment on the post with lots of great tips.
Knowing exactly who to ask and having an established online relationship helps, but if you can’t think of any virtual friend who could help, no problem. Just make new friends!
You could start by doing a Google Blog Search. Many bloggers specialize in certain travel destinations and would be a wealth of information. All you have to do is find them, be nice and ask for travel tips.
You could also search related hashtags on Twitter; “#india”, for example. This may lead you to other popular hashtags related to the destination, such as “#travelindia” or “#incredibleindia”. And you probably will encounter some people who specifically mention the particular city or attraction that you’re interested in.
Try reaching out to these people. Not every single one of them will respond with the information you need. But if you ask enough people, you will eventually get relevant tips (and make new virtual friends in the process)!
I used Twitter in this experiment, but you should be able to get similar results on other social media platforms.
Let’s move on to the actual travel tips
Sean and I came up with five questions to ask in the original post, but the main one is how to get from New Delhi to Agra and back.
At first, Sean thought he would fly. But several people came forward and said that it would be easier to travel on land. Zara recommended renting a car that comes with a driver or taking a bus. Vikram and Ishwinder preferred cabs for speed and safety. Then Marghe and Nick of The Crowded Planet jumped in with this Tweet:
— The Crowded Planet (@MargheNick) February 16, 2014
Another important tip that we got was that it might be worth spending more time in Delhi rather than Agra. Agra is apparently small enough to explore in a one-day trip, with the highlights being Taj Mahal, Red Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. But if Sean wants to stay longer, Marghe and Nick mentioned that Hotel Siddharta would be a good option for accommodation. For Delhi, Marghe and Nick also recommended Hotel Downtown in Paharganj.
Admittedly, getting tips for attractions is tougher because it depends on so many factors (except for Agra — our India experts seem to all recommend the same places). Nevertheless, we got Marghe and Nick, who suggested a visit to the Tomb of Safdarjung. Zara mentioned Panjim in North Goa and the beaches of South Goa. Nell of The Million Dollar Diva said she loved and would recommend the Intrepid tour she did when she went to Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.
As you can see: we had lots of help! And all we had to do was ask.