Instagramming Your Vacation

The other day, as I was shuffling through the papers on my desk and thinking through what I might write about, a colleague of mine (the oldest of the group— born sometime in the early 1900’s) suggested that I write about millennials. So, being a millennial myself, I asked, what could possibly be written about “us” that would captivate an audience?  In response, he tossed down a copy of Forbes magazine (we’re still trying to teach him how to use e-mail) and pointed to an article about how millennials choose their vacation spots based on their Instagram-ability.

According to the article, Instagram “likes” have the power to influence where millennials travel. Author Andrew Arnold said that “the Instagram factor clearly plays a major role when it comes to the decisions that millennials make when choosing travel destinations.”

It really made me step back and think, do I actually check out Instagram when I’m choosing my travel destination? And the short answer is … yes.

It’s not the only factor. It’s not even the biggest factor. I don’t have a trust fund, so when I research vacations I always check my bank account first to see if I can actually take one. I have a baby now, too, so I can’t just pick up and go anywhere like I used to. But there was a time when I’d jump on the first flight out of the country, if the money was right.

But after reading the Forbes article, I realized something about myself: I do look at Instagram to find what might be a suitable vacation spot. It’s way more helpful to me than, say, a slick travel brochure. The Instagram pictures, well, they speak for themselves: Most of the time, they’re taken by real live people—often friends of mine, and if not friends, at least people who I like and respect. And the likes … well, they speak for themselves, too. I look at them and think one of two things: One, people really liked this, and two, other people have actually gone to this place and can vouch for the greatness this photo holds.

I think we millennials use Instagram as a travel guide of sorts. I’ve never gone to a travel company and asked for help in laying out a trip. I use Airbnb to find lodging, Instagram to find the best places to travel and eat (oh and I read plenty of blogs from the well-traveled, too), and I’ll even throw in a little Pinterest for all my other needs. I don’t want something completely mapped out, because there’s adventure in learning as you go.

And sometimes I’ll even go somewhere partly because I know that my pictures will, in turn, look pretty great on my Instagram feed, too. Like the picture above, where I enjoyed some good ole’ tiroleza (ziplining) through the mountains of Argentina.

Forbes had it right when they mentioned that posting visually appealing pictures is great and all, but “authenticity is key.”  I’m much more likely to go somewhere where my friends have taken amazing pictures, rather than trusting some generic stock photo It’s all about trust. And I trust my friends.

My older colleague may think that perusing Instagram is a silly way to pick a vacation spot. But as far as I’m concerned, he can keep his travel brochures and cable vacation specials. I haven’t seen pictures of him ziplining in Argentina.