Social Media for Travel: Instagram as a Travel Guide

I’m back again with the next installment of planning using social media! We talked last month about how Twitter is one of my favorite travel planning tools, and I’m here today to chat about how another social media site has helped me immensely: Instagram. Yes! It’s true! Instagram is for more than pretty pictures. I actually would go so far as to say a tool in your travel planning toolbox should be the ability to use Instagram as a travel guide. So let’s get right down to it.
Did you know social media can be a GREAT tool for travel planning? This post has ideas for ways to use Instagram as a travel guide. Get social and start planning your travels today!

Using Social Media for Travel: Instagram as a Travel Guide

Be Social

As a blogger/human being, Instagram is one of the social media channels that I’ve found incredibly difficult to use socially. Twitter? I’ll chat up a storm and I’ve made connections I love on there. Instagram? Now that journey has been a lot tougher. But if you’re about to use Instagram as a travel guide…you are just going to HAVE to get social. No bones about it. That’s right. You’re going to have to comment more than “great pic!” As a general rule: just please comment more than “great pic!”


This might seem like a “no-duh” tip, but I think it’s easy to forget. When I posted about my trip to Mardi Gras on Instagram, anybody who said they were planning a trip, I offered to chat about recommendations. Travelers are like that. We like to talk about our travels. I can’t be the only one! As for the flip side, I promise you I will be doing this for my upcoming trip to Nashville. If I see a particularly awesome shot of a donut shop in Nashville, for example, I’m going to ask for other recommendations. Something along the lines of, “Do you have any Nashville coffee shop recommendations to balance out the sugary goodness of this donut that I WILL be getting now?”

How do you FIND people to practice your Instagram social skills? Start your search with an IGers page (that’s Instagrammers). Just search “igers” and the name of wherever you’re visiting. That account will probably feature photos from other users in that area. Chances are, there’s a group of Instagrammers just waiting to show off that place. Chat with them!

Look for Instagram Accounts with Location Tags

I alwaysalwaysalways add the location where the photo was taken to my Instagram shots. I love when people do the same. This will be a really great tip particularly for street art hunters. Instagram captions are not always locations. More likely they are quotes, micro-blogs, etc. In those situations, this tag is your new best friend. Click on this tag: boom. Location on a map for you. And then you can open it in Maps on your phone and save it as a point of interest!


I was scrolling through some Charlottesville Instagrams when I visited in the Fall last year. I kept seeing this “I love Charlottesville a lot” wall, but google was not helping me. When I found a post with the location tag, I found out that it was actually at a tire shop. Who knew?? But for the sake of the photographer in me, you better believe that was now a Charlottesville stop.

Take Advantage of City Accounts

Do you know how many cities are actually on Instagram? So. Many. So if you’re using Instagram as a travel guide, looking for that city’s account should be your first stop. Tourism boards have seriously hopped on the social media game. Sometimes they are the best resources for things going on around town. And a plus: locals probably look at these too! Case in point: the Manayunk StrEAT Food Festival in Philly. I went there and I am most definitely classified as “local” to Philadelphia.

Join us for the Spring STREAT Food Festival, today until 5 PM. #MNYKstreatfood

A photo posted by (@manayunkdotcom) on

Typically the first thing I’ll search for is: “visit (insert country/state/city’s name here).” I know just off the top of my head that there is a visitneworleans, visitdenver, and visitphilly because I’ve utilized all of those in the past month or so! Even if there isn’t a “Visit XYZ” account, usually just searching the name will allow you to find the tourism board’s account. If not, before you leave for your trip, do a quick Google search. Find the tourism board’s page, then scroll allllllll the way to the bottom of the webpage. Nine times out of ten, you’ll find a link to the Instagram down there!

Search the Right Hashtags

Since we’ve already found city accounts, hashtags are the next step. Usually those city accounts will have a hashtag right in their bio that they encourage people to use. Start there! Scroll through and see if you find anything interesting. Now, finding related hashtags can get a bit trickier, especially because big accounts don’t typically need to use tons and tons of hashtags. Remember when we found those IGers groups? That’s an awesome place to turn next. I’ve found that those accounts typically use more hashtags you can peruse. Don’t see them right away? Check the first comment!

Today’s challenge from @AMGirlsTravels is “A Beautiful Life.” I had a really hard time picking a picture for this, surprisingly! I use hashtags for beautiful lives all the time, but when I really sat down I was stumped. A lot of things about life are beautiful. For me, water is one of the most beautiful things out there. Overtime I’m near a body of water, I’m a happy soul. I’m also a huge fan of big, bustling cities. So much to do, so much to see, so much to EAT. 🍴 But when I take a moment to step back in the quiet and allow myself to observe…now that’s pretty beautiful. Finding the time to do that while you’re not traveling? Now that’s STAYING beautiful. 👌 This is my attempt at “artsy” self-timer mode from my visit to Toronto. Taken from the Toronto Islands and shot towards that beautiful skyline! 💙

A photo posted by Amanda (@sunshinechasing) on

Wait…what if you don’t KNOW where you’re going yet? You just want to kick off your travel planning? Hashtags are the best place to go for that, my friend. Big companies, think Lonely Planet or Travel & Leisure, have their own hashtags you can search for inspiration (#lonelyplanet and #tlpicks, respectively). But I personally like a more general search. My all time favorites are #passionpassport and #ABMtravelbug (from theA Beautiful Mess community). Give ‘em a search and get that inspiration flowing.

Before I go, I have something fun I want to share!

Pretty soon all of my complaining about graduate school is going to disappear. That’s right, ladies and gents, on May 5 I will finally have my Masters in Exercise Physiology. I thought it would be really fun to celebrate with an Instagram countdown to graduation. Before I leave school, I really want to prove that if you make travel a priority…there’s a really good chance you’ll be able to travel while in school. You do NOT just have to wait until graduation! If you want to keep up and see some of my favorite memories of the (oof) seven years I’ve been in school…follow me on Instagram here

Let’s Chat!

  • Have you ever used Instagram as a travel guide? What are your best tips for planning travel with Instagram?
  • Location tags are great for Insta! I always find new places that way!

    • The number of restaurants I have found through that tag is astronomical! It always drives me bonkers when people post something awesome or delicious looking and don’t tell me where it is from. Haha!

  • I like to look for unconventional ways to travel and so I’m always in search of any advice that offers unique travel tips. I try to give that back to my followers as well…I love being able to provide tips on what the locals do and their favourite places to eat, etc.

    • I think that’s awesome! What has been your favorite destination you’ve found through Instagram or otherwise?

      • I would have to say, mostly for the unique factor, Jerusalem!

        • I’ve had a couple of friends visit Jerusalem and they, too, say it is one of the most unique destinations to visit. I’d love to read any blog posts you might have about your trip!

          • You would love it, Amanda! I am actually working on a post as we speak…it’s about very unconventional accommodations in Jerusalem…one not too many people would think of! I will keep you posted (no pun intended!)!xo

  • Allie Bigoness

    I’ve never purposefully used Instagram to look for travel inspo but now I really like the idea of using it to find local things to do. I don’t take advantage of the fact I’m super close to SF as much as I would like, this will hopefully change that!! Watch I’ll do this and end up “planning” five more trips this year… oops sorry Sean HA!

    • Haha, I’m sure Sean loves these trips just as much as you do. 😉 Where is next on your list? I’ll be honest, Instagram is not my very first tool for planning. But it is a great visual resource if you want more than “325073 things to do in (insert name of city here)” posts you find through Pinterest.

      • Allie Bigoness

        Honestly since we are moving this month we have to focus on making sure that doesn’t bankrupt us. I really kinda want to go to Disneyland for my birthday in July just cause April was so difficult. I would love to go to New York any time. Sean and I discussed hopefully spending two weeks in Portugal during June 2017 so here’s hoping!

        Yeah I love Pinterest but I find there’s a lot of similar resources on there.

  • I love all your tips; you give us enough detail to get started on using IG this way so i doesn’t seem so hard to do. 🙂

    And congrats on the Masters! I agree you can travel while in school. A bit more complicated than just coasting through but it’s possible (I went to Europe during finals week once, for example).

    Thanks for sharing, Amanda, going off to tweet it!

    • Haha yes! I am such a sucker for finals weeks trips. It’s just shifting priorities. And I know this won’t work for everybody, especially those who will accept nothing less than 100% on exams. But I know this works for me and thank goodness I’ve figured it out. Otherwise this program would have been impossible for me. Oof.

      And do let me know if you find any goodies on Instagram!

  • Great post. I’m relatively new to IG and these were really useful. Thanks! p.s. found you through Simply + Fiercely 😉

    • Ah well welcome to an addiction, Lani! Haha. 🙂 Thank you for stopping by. Be sure to let me know any fun things you find through IG. And so glad you found me through such an excellent source! Love that blog!