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Are you traveling and looking for a safe place to stay, some yummy food, or where to connect to Wi-Fi? Social media will make your travels that much easier. Social media will maximize your travel experience and take some stress away when it comes to decisions. As I travel around Europe, I use various social media platforms to determine where to visit and what to do. Through Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter, I can obtain information from friends and media sites about the places I visit. Social media allows friends to come together and share their experiences throughout their travels.

Foursquare has been one of the more useful social media apps for me as I travel around Europe. Connecting with friends on Foursquare enables me to see where they have checked in and what their experiences were like. I have used Foursquare abroad to see where friends have eaten, where they have stayed, which venues they preferred, and even where I can find Wi-Fi. I found this particularly useful when I first got to Prague because it helped me find my place and feel more comfortable navigating around the city. I remember during the first two weeks here I wanted to find a good lunch place that would enable me to do some work for class. After connecting to Foursquare, I found recommendations from friends who had previously studied in Prague.

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Image courtesy of Flickr user roland

Facebook’s updated search bar allows people to search where friends have been. When deciding to visit Vienna, I searched “friends who have been to Vienna” and Facebook generated a list for me to reach out to. This not only enables me to know ahead of time whom to talk to, but I can also look at pictures they’ve posted. After doing this, I made the decision to visit Vienna in late November or early December because of the beautiful Christmas markets and enthusiasm from friends. Similarly, Twitter is useful because I follow TripAdvisor and travel profiles to obtain safety tips, news in various cities, and advise for how to get around.

When I only have a few days visiting a city, no matter how large, I want to make sure I can maximize my experience the best that I can. Social media has been the best tool for me so far while traveling because I can make sure I see the most sites, eat the best food, and have the most exciting and meaningful experiences possible. Moreover, since I am traveling on a budget, my social media apps help me find more affordable accommodations and restaurants. Traveling Europe for the first time does not have to be nerve wracking. The apps I mentioned are only a few of many, and the emergence of social media, in my opinion, is a traveler’s best gift; so, take advantage of it!

Featured image courtesy of Flickr user fechi fajardo

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3 thoughts on “Social Media: A Traveler’s Best Friend

  1. While social media plays a critical role in finding the “best places” to eat or the “hottest areas” to stay in, it can also derive a traveller of his/her unique experience. Some travellers use social networking sites like Trip Advisor to enhance their experience, while others use it blindly. Yes, what I’m saying is that there is a clear distinction and we must be very careful about how we use social media when travelling.

    In The Loss of the Creature, Walker Percy discusses the idea of preconceived notions and beliefs. This essay focuses on two travellers visiting The Grand Canyon. Before their visit to the Grand Canyon, the couple already has a preconceived notion of what the Grand Canyon is supposed to look like, what its significance is, where the best parts of the Grand Canyon are, etc. Percy claims that when travellers research too in-depth where to go and what to do, they fail to become independent travellers and thereby are derived of a unique individual experience.

    One of the greatest things about travelling to Eastern Europe, for me, was to visit (what I call) hole in the wall restaurants. For example, when I was in Budapest, I went to several local restaurants to gain a deeper understanding of the culture, heritage, and traditions of the city. By visiting these smaller, native areas, I was able to gain a distinct, sophisticated knowledge of the city.

    For example, when I visited the Budapest Opera House, I had no real understanding of the site. As I explored the phenomena, I learned that it was built in the 1880s, that its one of the most prestigious musical institutions in Europe, and that leading musicians like Mozart and Verdi performed there. Had I known about all these facts from TripAdvisor, my interest would have certainly waned from the beginning.

    Just as Percy states, travelling should be a distinctive journey for every individual. By using social networking sites like FourSquare and Trip Advisor, we dig ourselves into a hole. A hole in which we see what others tell us to see. We visit locations that others tell us to visit. We eat where everyone else ate. But is this really travelling?

    For me, travelling is about learning through first hand experiences. Therefore, I don’t want any preconceived notions. Visiting Budapest without learning much about each site was great because I was able to gain my own perspective. Yet still, critics of my argument may claim that there are so many things to see and so many things to do, that we need to have a clear direction of what the best places are.

    I agree with that – at least to a certain degree. In an article titled “Social Media Drives East Europe,” Kaleel Sakakeeny argues “twenty years after the fall of Communism, tourism is finally on the rise in Eastern Europe.” Sakakeeny claims social media is making it easier for travellers to gain awareness of the rich culture of Eastern Europe. Evidently, The Czech Republic has “four social media, posts 5-6 times per day on its Facebook page in multiple languages, and has 85,000 likes” (Sakakeeny 1). But still, we must ensure that we are looking at social media sites to help us guide our direction, not tell us our direction. The Prague social networking platforms sited in the article are bringing awareness to Eastern European tourism – they are not telling people exactly what to do and what to see.

    Therefore, I believe we should look at the Facebook and TripAdvisor to garner direction, but we should not rely on it. There must be a clear distinction between our online and offline experiences. Traveling is all about the offline experience and we should try to sustain that by relying less on social media and more on the unique travellers experience.

    To read the article “Social Media Drives East Europe:” http://technorati.com/lifestyle/travel/article/social-media-drives-east-europe-indie/

  2. Pingback: Travel and Tourism Especially Big on Social Media in CEE Countries | Social Media@ NYUPraha

  3. Stephanie, I completely agree with you that social media is a boon for travelers because it provides them a wealth of information for nearly anything they’re looking for, from places to visit to restaurants to dine in. I’ve visited 9 countries this semester, and I’ve used social media on my trips to all of them, especially to find suitable hostels, affordable food, and best landmarks to visit.
    I’d like to analyze the emergence of social media in Eastern European countries in regards to travelers and the tourism industry. It is well known that Internet access and social media usage is lower in Eastern European countries compared to their Western European counterparts. According to an eMarketer report, 41.9% of Western Europeans in 2013 use social networking sites compared to 40.4% of Central and Eastern Europeans.
    In my time abroad this semester, I’ve only visited one Central and Eastern European country other than the Czech Republic: Hungary. Six of my friends and I spent 3 days in Budapest in September. The European Travel Commission reports that 65.3% of Hungary’s 9.9 million citizens have access to the Internet, while the U.S. State Department estimates that 52% of those Internet users also are active on social networking sites. Companies and commercial ventures in Hungary, like those in other CEE countries, have very little presence on social media. Indeed, the State Department reports that only 8% of businesses in Hungary are active on social media with a blog while only 23% intend to become so in the future.
    Based on my personal experiences, I think that the low numbers described above do not pertain to the travel and tourism industries, which I believe are outliers regarding social media use. Like Stephanie said in her post, travelers have realized the benefits of social media and use it constantly on their trips to their advantage. Thus, travel and hospitality companies have adapted and created their own footprints on social networking sites in order to leverage consumer demand. For example, when I was comparing hostels and apartments in Budapest, I found that nearly all the places were present on at least two of the following three sites that you mentioned: Facebook, Trip Advisor, and Foursquare. The low-cost location that I finally chose, called Budget Hostel Budapest, has a Facebook page that is updated frequently. I believe that travel and tourism businesses are much more active on social media in CEE countries compared to the average and more of these types of companies will become so in the near future as Internet access improves

    .

    For more information regarding eMarketer’s social media report, read: http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Social-Networking-Reaches-Nearly-One-Four-Around-World/1009976

    For more information regarding the European Travel Commission’s statistics on media in Hungary, read; http://www.newmediatrendwatch.com/markets-by-country/10-europe/65-hungary

    For more information regarding the European Travel Commission’s Digital Portal, read: http://etc-digital.org/digital-trends/social-networking-and-ugc/social-networking/

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