Like most other Instagram addicts, I use the hugely popular photo-sharing app to not-so-humbly brag about my kitchen creations, devour videos of friends' adorable pets, and spy on exes. But my favorite use for Instagram is one you might not immediately think of: as a travel guide.
As a dedicated and longtime wanderer, I've become well-practiced in travel planning: my bookshelves are weighted down with dog-eared city guides; my online bookmarks folder brims with saved travel articles; and my scattered international community of friends is accustomed to fielding my requests for recommendations for the best local doughnut, wine bar, or cheap hotel. But over the past year or so, when plotting my vacations, I find myself heading not to the bookstore, but to my phone.
For starters, a phone is a lot lighter than guidebooks (or even a folder full of magazine pages). Plus, there's something about being about to see what I want to eat, whether it's a pricy restaurant plate or a killer street food snack, before I even touch down in a new place. Finally, I get an insider's view of where to dine — not a recommendation, as sometimes found in travel articles or books, that might very well have been crowdsourced or researched from afar.
How I Use Instagram to Plan the Most Delicious Vacation Possible
There are plenty of ways to use Instagram to plan your next vacation, but the single most helpful thing I do before boarding a flight is to locate its most prolific, talented, or followed foodie Instagrammer (or a couple of them). As it turns out, finding a city's (or a region's) top Instagrammer couldn't be easier, and with the app's frequent updates it's getting simpler and more intuitive all the time.
If You're Heading to a Well-Known Destination
Here, the best first step is to do an internet search. I'll use Paris, France as an example here: Search "top Paris Instagram accounts" or "best Paris Instagram accounts," and browse through the articles for a foodie account that looks good.
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Next, open Instagram and locate that account; as soon as you follow it, the app will show a list of suggested similar accounts. Browse through those, following the ones that seem the most interesting, until you really narrow in on one or two of the best accounts; if you wish, you can then unfollow all the others you used to get here.
If Your Destination Is Off the Beaten Path
In this case, it's best to head straight to Instagram first. Open the app and navigate to the search function. Type in the name of a place — "Ghana," say, or the Greek island "Corfu" — and select "Places" from the list of search options.
You'll see a tile layout of the top and most recent posts tagged in that geolocation, which you can then browse through and follow the same process described above: Find an account you love, follow it, then explore suggested followers until you've found your local experts.
Don't Forget to Take Advantage of Instagram's Save Feature
Once I find my one or two 'grammers, I click through their photos looking for good eats. Where applicable, I can then follow the Instagram accounts of restaurants that look interesting to me.
Or, with Instagram's new "save" feature (it's the little ribbon!), I can save individual photos of, say, yummy-looking street food to my profile's bookmarks folder to be revisited once I arrive. I'll also write them down the old-fashioned way on a piece of paper. You never know when you'll lose cell service or battery power!
Is Instagram part of your travel planning? Who are your favorite 'grammers to follow?