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Social Media on Vacation

by Shane Rhyne

Reprinted with permission from Ackermann PR

I’m going to let you in on a secret. I’m on vacation today. I’m not even in the office. I’m presently enjoying the day touring along the Blue Ridge Parkway and viewing the gardens of the Biltmore Estate. But, if you’re like me, you may find it difficult to disconnect entirely from the digital world while away from the computer. So, why not make the digital world work in your favor? You’ve built up skills in social media, why not put them to use for you?

Thanks in large part to the mobility provided by smartphones, digital media has become a part of our “always on, always connected” lifestyle. But, that isn’t always a good thing. We need to be more deliberate in taking a break from our online lives. What better time to do this than while on vacation?

While disconnecting entirely may not be realistic, you should at least be prudent in how you choose to engage with social media while on vacation. If you’re like me, your spouse may find it amusing when you send Twitpics to your friends to make them jealous of your tropical paradise. However, if you decide to take advantage of the easy access to technology to sneak in some work, you may notice a chill in the air between your matching beach chairs.

With that in mind, why not look for ways to use your social media skills to help make the vacation more enjoyable for everyone? Here are a few tools and tips to consider using as you plan and take your next vacation.

Pre-Vacation Planning

Dining and Shopping – Groupon

People have fallen in love with Groupon and similar social coupon sites. The site offers access to great deals for local businesses and restaurants. Why limit yourself to daily deals in your own town? With a presence in more than 560 markets worldwide, Groupon is likely also offering daily specials in your next vacation destination. Several weeks or months before you plan to visit a town, sign up to start receiving daily deal notices from Groupon. You may find opportunities to buy a romantic dinner for two or an afternoon at the local theme park at a deep discount. Just make sure you check the expiration date on the deals to be sure they’ll be valid when you get to town. Also, you can store your Groupon purchases on your Droid, iPhone or Blackberry, so you don’t have to remember to print out any coupons.

Lodging – Living Social, Airbnb

Living Social offers daily deals like Groupon, but has also branched out into offering Living Social Escapes – an opportunity to buy discounted stays at mountain cabins, family campgrounds, resorts, and more. There’s no guarantee your destination will have a deal offered, but it’s worth checking out.

Airbnb is a new travel-oriented social networking site for the adventurous traveler. People offer up their homes or rooms within their homes for rent to travelers. Airbnb offers a neat feature that allows you to see whether you might now a host through your Facebook friend connections. A quick inspection of my potential Airbnb connections revealed that I had friends who knew the hosts of a vacation rental apartment in Paris and a mountain cabin in North Carolina. I even found a high school classmate who rents her Brooklyn apartment to travelers.

On the Road

Travel Updates – Twitter

Twitter can play an unexpected role in your route planning. States and local governments are turning to Twitter to provide traffic updates. Conduct a Twitter search for the state and local highway departments on your route and you follow them for updates as you and the family make your way to your destination. Just make sure someone other than the driver is reading the tweets.

Flying rather than driving? Follow your departure and arrival airports on Twitter to keep up with news of delays and weather. Chances are your airline also has a Twitter feed, so add it, too. It could be helpful if you need to reach customer service quickly.

Getting There

Explore the City – Foursquare

Foursquare, the most popular of the location-based social networks, offers an additional opportunity to find out about special offers from local restaurants and businesses. And, if you find that the wait at a popular tourist restaurant is too long, you can use Foursquare’s new Explore tab on the phone app to find recommendations on nearby restaurants and tips from locals on their favorite dining spots.

Instant Advice – Any of your networks

Need advice on what to see or do at a particular location? Your friends have always been your most trusted resource, why not ask them? The chances are good that within your network of social media friends, you know someone who is familiar with your location. Send out a question to your friends on recommendations for the quietest beach, the best golfing, the most scenic hike, or any other topic. You may even have network friends in or near your destination. Depending on what you need to know, your personal network could be the fastest and most effective search engine you’ll ever use.

These are only a few possibilities. But remember, the key is to try to unwind and disconnect as much as possible. Use social media as a tool to get everyone on the vacation involved in the fun rather than as an excuse to sneak work into your trip.

Enjoy your vacation days!