Dear Socially Stephanie:
I'm going on vacation soon. I want to stay connected with my family and friends at home, while also using social media tools to connect with locals in the different cities I'm headed to. Do you have any advice?
Travel Bug in Tallahassee
Dear Travel Bug,
Ooh, you've hit me in my soft spot. Travel and I go together like bread and butter. Luckily, I've been traveling while still working on the road for so long that I have some tools and hacks to make your life easier.
First, let's take care of you, shall we? Now, the most important thing while traveling is your safety. As news breaks on Twitter far more quickly than the "regular" news, I like to keep my eye out on what's happening abroad before I get on the plane. Twitter is really the best for this. Monitor keywords like the city name and "safety," "riot," "protest": you get the picture. It also wouldn't hurt to follow the US Embassy in the countries you are headed to. Okay, now I admit, perhaps I'm a bit more paranoid than most, but in my opinion you can never be too safe.
The next part of taking care of you is making sure you're organized. For travel plans, plan tickets, and hotel reservations, I'm all about TripIt. It's a mobile app and you can access it on the go. TripIt keeps your itinerary in one place. You can set up side trips within trips and invite other travelers to access your itinerary as well. Sure beats searching through your email or having to hunt down wifi to find that booking.
Next let's make you some friends. There are a few ways to go about that. Of course you can search Instagram for local influencers or reach out to bloggers who have been to the places you are going. Those are two solid options. But why not utilize social media and join a site called EatWith. EatWith is a site that allows you to eat dinner with locals around the world. Think of it as a global dinner party that is catered towards the city you are in. If dining out isn't your thing, you can also check out GetYourGuide which is a better way to book tours. Lastly, check out Spotted by Locals to learn where the locals hang out. Traveling solo is a great way to make friends - you just need to know where to go.
Of course, you'll want to call your friends and family at home to tell them what a wonderful time you're having. Download What'sApp, which will allow you to text and call phones for free. Your family and friends have to download it to, but that shouldn't be such a hard sell. You can also download Ringo and make international phone calls at a super low price. You gotta love technology.
Bon voyage, and don't forget to send pics!
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Illustration by Jesse Wells