Using Instagram on the Road


Social media has changed how many people travel in the past decade. Before leaving on a trip, we post to Facebook or Twitter, asking for suggestions. We make Pinterest boards that inspire our next destination. We troll internet booking site for good rates and take Yelp and Trip Advisor reviews as gospel when choosing a hotel or tour company.

IMG_2891But what about once all of the plans are arranged and you’re finally underway? Enter, Instagram. Instagram was introduced to the social media world in October of 2010 as a photo, and later video, sharing tool. Easily recognizable by the Polaroid-esque square orientation and a variety of vintage-inspired filters, Instagram has brought something decidedly old school to the modernness of smartphones and digital photography.

Users download the free app and start taking and sharing photos with followers and on other social media platforms (Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, FourSquare &  Tumblr.) Purchased by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion, Instagram showed over 20% growth in 2013 whereas Facebook only grew by 3%. In terms of the social aspect of the app, accounts are either set to private or public (private accounts require the user to approve of new followers before they can view photos) and, like Twitter, many celebrities and businesses have public Instagram accounts. The photos appear like a Facebook newsfeed, with the most recent images at the top and and option to like and/or comment.

Using Instagram to share travel moments and images can be very powerful when done the right way. But, as with any social media, you can quickly annoy and  alienate your followers with excessive posts. Below are three tips on how to creatively and successively use Instagram while on the road.

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1. Don’t overdo the selfies!

We all have that friend. The one who really likes the way they look and are quick to share it. These photos of oneself has been dubbed a “selfie” by social media users and they come in all forms: sweaty, post-workout selfies in the mirror at the gym, cute outfit selfies in the mirror, holding your phone at arms’ length to get a flattering selfie from above… the list goes on.

IMG_2890As annoying as selfies can be, I understand the need for them… sometimes. Especially when traveling alone, you want documentation that you were actually there – but there must be a way to capture the moment in a more creative way. Last May I took a mini solo road trip around Northern Arizona and, when there was no one around to take a photo for me, I started snapping photos of my shadow on rock formations, canyons and the like. I didn’t share all of the photos on Instagram, but the ones I did share showed where I was and proof that I was there without my silly face taking up the entire frame. Another strategy for placing  yourself in the frame without taking away from the place is to include only a part of you: your hiking boots in the frame, seashells resting on your palm, your sunglasses reflecting the view of the mountains, etc. Get creative with those selfies and don’t overdo it!


2. Create a unique hashtag.

A hashtag (#) is a way to categorize a photo or piece of information so that it is searchable within a certain medium. Hashtags can range from something generic like #travel to something current like #Sochi2014 to something totally unique like #essiegram. (That last one is what I use for pictures of my dog, Essie, but every so often a nail polish picture will sneak into the group.)

IMG_2875When Kate and two of her coworkers decided to take an 11 day road trip from LA to Vancouver over Thanksgiving week they decided on a unique hashtag before starting on their adventure. “We used a hashtag – #bbqfunbags,” Kate explained, “it was an inside joke, but we wanted to track our journey and a blog was out of the question as we often didn’t have wifi.” As the three travelers made their way north, from LA to Big Sur, San Francisco, Redwood Forest, Portland, Cannon Beach, Seattle and finally to Vancouver,  they all took photos and applied their unique #bbqfunbags to their posts. “We had a ton of coworkers following us,” Kate recalled, “I also had friends from afar tracking my progress.”

IMG_2881By tapping their unique hashtag, viewers were able to view images from all three travelers grouped together. “It was all positive. I found there was more activity on Instagram than when I also posted the same pic on FB. I really feel Instagram is the newest trend, if you will.” Be sure to follow Kate on Instagram, not only to check out #bbqfunbags but her stunning images of LA. Even though she’s gone into advertising as a career, Kate minored in photography in college and finds “Instagram fills that [creative] itch/void” for her.

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3. Post in real time and specify where you are.

Like Twitter, Instagram is most powerful when seen in real time. There is a common hashtag, #latergram, that is used when posting a photo a while after it was taken, but it’s fun for your followers to see what you’re doing and where you are right now. Posting an album of travel images to Facebook in the week after you return home is a nice way for you to relive your journey but posting images as they’re taken via Instagram allows your followers to travel along with you.

photoWhen K.C. journeyed to Thailand in January she (maybe intentionally?) made all of her cold friends in Chicago very, very jealous with her beautiful beach and pool images. “Y’all about to get #instabombed.” She warned as she posted a photo of Maya Bay (above.) And to add a little insult to injury at left, “this makes me so much happier knowing I’m missing 5 degree temps in Chicago”  when posting from the JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa. K.C.’s regular posts from paradise may have made all of us freezing Chicagoans a little jealous, but it’s clear from the the reactions that her followers all liked doing just that – following along on her amazing trip. Also, by referencing happenings both where she was traveling and what she was missing at home she continually kept things current.

photo 5It’s also important to indicate where the image was taken, either in the geotag (located under the username) or in the content of the caption. This is particularly useful if you are moving from place to place, like Andrea, who is currently road tripping through the western United States. By indicating her location – whether it’s in Boise, Idaho, Bryce Canyon in Utah or Joshua Tree National Park in California her followers are able to map her trip (and possibly take notes for future adventures – like I did on her image at right.) This is also a good way to open things up for conversation – if one of your followers has been there before they may suggest a spot or attraction nearby that is not to be missed.

photo-2With all of the social media options out there it’s easy to become overwhelmed when sharing images or highlights of a trip. If you would like to share the same image on multiple platforms, I suggest using Instagram to do so. Before you post your image to Instagram you are given the option to post the same image on other social media outlets. It’s easy to overdo this, especially if many of your Facebook followers also follow you on Instagram, but it is a useful, one stop tool for synching your various accounts.

So on your next trip, be sure to utilize Instagram to share your adventures and, in so doing, create a fun photo journal of your time away!


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