Millennials love to travel. In fact, one of the reasons that freelancing is so popular with this generation is that it leaves them freer to control their schedules and work from remote locations. The bad news is that millennials, who rely heavily on social media to inspire their travels and influence their choice in destinations, could be in for some disappointment. According to a fresh study by Allianz Global Assistance, 36% of millennial travelers post misleading pictures of their vacation to make things appear to be better than they really are.
Many of these deceptive posting tactics are pretty well-known. Travelers will carefully curate only the best pictures to be seen on social media platforms such as Instagram. They’ll use filters and other technology to make themselves look fitter, younger, tanner, and more energetic. They’ll crop photos to ensure only the best looking people are in the final product. Using camera angles and perspective to make it look like they have special access to VIP areas and experiences is also a common technique.
Of course, not all deception is visual. Travelers also paint a less than honest picture through blog posts, social media updates, and other content.
Why a dishonest record of travel is so common on social media
So why do millennials do this? There are several reasons. Even before social media, some vacation photographs were carefully selected to be framed and displayed on the wall. The rest were relegated to photo albums and shoeboxes. Only the best pictures were chosen to make the family look their best, and to be as attractive as whatever the neighbors had on their walls.
Social media is no different. People want to appear as if they are ‘living their best lives’. There’s also competitiveness with others. Then there’s the matter of money. For many millennials, their social media presence is an extension of their personal brand. Others receive money for hawking products, and can get more money based on followers, likes, and shares. It’s easier to do that when everything looks fabulous.
Unfortunately, all of this deception becomes circular. Millennials who see these exaggerated portrayals often feel the need to post their own. Not only is a lot of what is shared dishonest, 51% still used that information to choose their own vacation experiences. And 40% of younger travelers (under 33) also want their vacations to look “Instagramable” and will prioritize this factor when choosing their next destination.
How to use social media for travel planning to avoid disappointments
None of this means that social media should be ignored. In spite the presence of the over-Photoshopped content that gives a deceptive wanderlusty vibe for a destination or an experience that is bland in real life, social media still is a great source of vacation planning information. Rather than using social media in an attempt to freeze impossible vacation experiences, savvy travelers are using it to get first-hand information they need to plan their trip.
Leverage social media to connect and learn about the destination
You may not be able to picnic at the foot of the Eiffel Tower with your sweetheart all by yourselves – most of the time the Champ de Mars is littered with tourist groups alike. You may not even be able to afford the dream to take your friends to a private island. Still, you can use social media as a means to make connections and learn about the exciting actions that actually are available to you.
Use social media to connect with potential hotels, travel agencies, rental car companies, tourism companies, local restaurants, and the attractions that you’re interested in. Yes, these will be branded social media accounts, and they will put their best foot forward. However, they will have excellent up-to-date information for you as you make your plans. This way you can easily research and budget all the costs in advance – from entrance tickets to top attractions and bundled deals to the actual costs of renting a private jet to fly you to that dreamy over-water bungalow in the Maldives. That is not the kind of information most influencers tend to share in their photo captions. By getting in touch with the local businesses and service providers, you will get all the information you need to plan your trip and align it with your budget.
Use social media to “meet” the locals
If you’re traveling somewhere new, don’t go without making some local connections. For example, most major cities have at least one dedicated subreddit and a few expat Facebook groups. This is a good place to get brutally honest perspective on the city you plan to visit as well as some really helpful advice. Locals will be happy to talk up the places where you’ll have a good time and steer you away from the tourist traps. You might even find someone to share a few drinks would have, or take you on a tour of the city.
Scout for up-to-date travel information
What should you pack to Argentina in spring? Will you be able to refill a prescription if you need it? Is there anything you need that could get stuck in the local customs? What about your travel papers? There’s a lot to think about in terms of travel preparation. One place to go for information you need is social media.
Connect with travel bloggers, expats and local government reps to get tips ranging from travel safety to comprehensive packing tips. Look up the cities you’ll be visiting to learn about public transit, visa information, customs, even laws you should be aware of. Don’t forget to follow your chosen airline and the airports you’ll be visiting to be notified in case things get awry e.g. an air traffic controller strike paralyzes the flights.
Don’t be misled by unrealistic social media representations of travel. Instead, be selective by reaching out to authoritative sources of information. Then, plan your travel using information that you can count on.