Lonely Planet Writer

How travellers should use Twitter

Photography on Twitter by marc.benton.

By now, you’ve surely heard of Twitter. You know it’s popular when your 72-year-old father-in-law is responding to your tweets. But like any new tool, after the novelty wears off you’re left with the question: what’s the point?

For travellers, that’s easy. It’s like being able to shout your latest travel question out your window, only to find a crowd of your favorite travel experts, local guides, expats and fellow travelers responding from your front lawn. The key is in how you use Twitter, and the crowd (your followers) that you build.

1. Connect with people in your destination before you get there. In this case, Twitter Search is your friend. Using shorthand such as near:dublin within:5mi will show you people based on their profile location.

2. Get organized. If you travel a lot or you’re planning to hop across several countries, now is the time to download a third-party application like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. If you’re not traveling with a laptop, use Twitter Lists instead. In either case you’ll be able to organize your friends by country or language they speak or how you met or any other way that helps you keep track of your South America friends vs your cousin in south Boston.

3. Ask away. The best way to get the conversation started? Just say it. If you’re not getting the responses you’re looking for, clarify. Or ask for referrals: 'Does anyone know a good contact for questions about Greece?' And it never hurts to ask your better connected Twitter friends to pass things on for you with a little 'Pls RT!'

4. Find last-minute deals on Twitter. The travel industry is starting to get wise to the huge buying power of the Twitter community, so take advantage of it. Twitter search will help you find deals, but also following your favorite airline or travel deal aggregator will get you deals never found on Google.

5. Take the online offline. Tweetups are just folks on Twitter meeting up somewhere to hang out, get a few drinks and talk. They're a great way to meet fellow travelers. You can search for tweetups near youor start one yourself. Just remember to pick somewhere with good drinks and better wifi.

Christine Gilbert quit her job as manager at a Fortune 500 company to travel the world. She's the writer of the recently published ebook Twitter for Travelers, which is available on her site, Almostfearless.com. She travels full time with her husband and two labs and is expecting her first child this spring, right before they head back to Europe. Her Twitter handle is @almostfearless.

(Image by marc.benton, Flickr Creative Commons)