It’s a scene that will be familiar to most holiday-goers and seasoned travellers: you select your destination, book your time off work and then spend the following weeks and months (or even just the journey over there) diligently reading travel guides and books to plan your dream adventure.
But while there will always be value in researching the best hotels and day trips according to various travel books, we live in a social media world – and the travel recommendations available on Instagram alone might just be paving the way for a whole new era of travel.
And one couple in particular are currently testing out this theory, having quit their jobs in advertising last year in order to embark on a new life of travelling the globe.
The catch? They’re using Instagram – and only Instagram – to guide them on their way.
Jess Last and Charlie Wild, both from London, have spent the past nine months travelling to far-reaching corners of the world, all without a single guide book or travel journal.
The couple are documenting their adventure, dubbed The Travel Project, to their 17,000 followers, who regularly provide advice, recommendations and tips for the best under-the-radar sights and trips at the destinations the couple journey to.
“We’ve torn up the guide books, deleted the travel apps and are relying solely upon the Instagram community to guide our adventure,” Last told Stylist.co.uk. “By doing this we gain an insider’s perspective on the places we visit, giving us access to local tips and unique experiences.”
And what has been their favourite experience so far?
“We were tipped on how to find the nose-flute playing, tattoo-faced lady of Mindat, Myanmar. We were amongst the first 1,000 foreigners to have ever visited the town, making our stay there all the more special.”
The couple believe their journey is the world’s first ever “Instagram powered” adventure, and they have no plans to stop anytime soon.
“We’ve received lots of tips about Japan recently and it’s always been on our bucket list so this looks like a top contender,” says Last. “However if anyone has any other suggestions then we’re always happy to hear them…”
If you’re tempted to give travelling via Instagram a go for yourself, the couple have shared all the most valuable tips they’ve learned so far with Stylist.co.uk, below.
From utilising Instagram’s new “save” function, to curating an inspiring feed and growing your own following, these tips will inspire you to tear up the guide book and hit the road – with a whole community of like-minded travellers in your pocket.
Follow accounts that inspire you
“Curate an inspiring feed by following a variety of people with a similar taste in adventure to you. A good way to start this process is by searching hashtags which correlate with the type of travel you like, such as #adventure or #experientialtravel. This will provide you with the top nine posts from that hashtag, then all you need to do is browse the accounts and see if they inspire you. If you do find an account you like, press the downward arrow next to the account name, and Instagram will then make further suggestions for you based on that account.
Once you have built up a good collection of accounts to follow, use your Discover page to find lots more content suggestions from Instagram. It sounds obvious, but a carefully crafted collection of daily inspiration will help you cut through the noise and discover travel experiences that suit you.”
Use the new “save” function
“Use the save function to create bespoke folders for the different destinations you want to travel to. This is a really under-used feature and one that can be very useful when planning your next adventure. By saving your favourite pictures, you can create a stylised mood board for each destination, to see which one you like the look of most. It’s also a great way of remembering points of interest for while you are away.
Before this feature was introduced, we were constantly screenshotting the things we liked, only for them to get lost in our photos – so the introduction of this function was very welcomed.”
“Connect with local Instagrammers and travellers to gain inside knowledge on a destination. You can do this by commenting on relevant pictures to ask basic questions, or for more detailed queries, we tend to direct message people to begin a private conversation.
By using Instagram in this way it’s much easier to avoid the tourist traps and uncover local hidden gems. On the whole, we’ve found people want to share their adventures and advice, so they’re usually more than happy to help.”
Use Instagram Stories
“Use Instagram Stories to see the less polished, more ‘real’ character of a destination. What we love about Stories is that they offer insight into the reality behind the edited shots on people’s feeds.
Nothing is picture perfect all the time, but by getting to know the local characters or seeing the general day-to-day vibe of place, you are able to make more informed travel decisions. Also, try using your own Story to ask your followers for travel advice – you never know what response you might get.”
Find specialist accounts
“Follow specialist local accounts once you've selected your destination, such as local food Instagrammers, photographers or outdoor enthusiasts. In our experience, the most efficient way to do this is to check out tourism boards and big curation accounts who feature the best content from that place, such as @visittheusa. Once you’re on their page, look for pictures that catch your eye - the photographer will be credited in the caption, giving you access to their pictures. Following local accounts that inspire you will help guide your decisions whilst away and allow you to track down the best of what you love.”
Get clued up on hashtags and geotags
“Once you’re away, use hashtags and geotags for live updates on the places you'd like to visit. This is useful for finding out about local events, and can offer insights into the best times to visit a certain place. Also, by identifying the people that have most recently visited a location, you will have access to the most up-to-date information should you have any questions.”
And finally… How to grow your Instagram following
“We are often asked how best to grow an Instagram following and get those likes flowing, and the truth is that there aren't really any shortcuts. However, there are a few steps you can take to give yourself a good chance...
- Find your niche: Identify exactly what type of travel makes you tick and post about that. Whether it's outdoor adventures or local cuisines, people want to follow passionate accounts with a focus.
- Be consistent: This is crucial. You want people to recognise your pictures on their feed before they even see your name. Don't underestimate the power of this – Instagram is a visual platform, after all.
- Interact with other travellers: There is a huge community of like-minded travel lovers out there to share your experiences with. Talk to them and make them your base.
- Post regularly: Instagram rewards accounts that post often, so to increase the chance of your pictures being seen, try to post at least five times a week.
- Use Instagram Stories: They are a great way to communicate your personality. Use them to share your travel experiences in more depth, reaching a wider audience in the process.”
Images: Courtesy of The Travel Project