Visiting a brand new city is exciting; there are plenty of things to do and see, and sometimes you have so little time to do it all. To take full advantage of your time, you have to research and plan in advance to come up with, at the very least, a rough sketch of ideas. Fortunately, the days of stopping in hotel lobbies to shuffle through brochures and matching them up on a giant paper map are long gone. All that information and more can be found on the Internet through various sites.
Depending on your preferred social media platform, there are numerous possibilities of learning about a new city, and it all depends on what you want to find. As a starting point, I would suggest pulling up Google Maps and familiarizing yourself with the general layout of the city; this helped me a lot when moving to Boston. It’s good to know where you are and what sort of neighborhoods are nearby. Most large cities have street view, allowing you to see what various parts of the city look like. Then, I would move on to seeing what the Internet has to say about it. For general photos and snippets of information, even a search for the city’s name as a Tumblr tag has a chance to bring him some interesting results. Unfortunately, Twitter has so many posts that it may be tough to do the same there, but it’s worth a try.
For food, shopping, and other places to go, Yelp is a great resource. Searches bring up the most popular results for your keywords and provide a huge list of user-written reviews. I’ve found Yelp reviews to be some of the most thorough, as many people like to tell stories and include specific features and anecdotes about their visit that may interest you. You’ll also find many suggestions of which foods to order at various restaurants to make sure you’re making the best choices. Yelp is also very helpful for finding hotels, as the reviews are very detailed and provide a good indication of what to expect during your stay. On a related note, Foursquare is also a great place to find tips from customers and locals. Foursquare will tell you what’s nearby and even suggests locations based on your previous check-ins. As an added bonus, search for check-in specials to find good deals and save a little money.
If the information you find on Foursquare and Yelp about various locations isn’t enough, try looking businesses up on Facebook and Twitter. There you’ll find even more tips and comments from customers as well as more information about the business itself. With so much advertising and promotion being done through social media, businesses learn quickly that it’s in their best interest to make as much information as possible available to you online; you may even find a coupon or two. Find which stores have the best sales and read menus before you even leave your home or hotel room so you won’t be wasting your time wandering around between stores.
Of course, these ideas don’t apply only to vacations. Take a look at what Yelp and Foursquare suggest nearby; you may be surprised to find a restaurant that you didn’t even know about. Social media is all about exposing the secrets of a city, even your own, and allowing people to share their experiences to help others. So next time you’re at home or on vacation and want to visit a store or get dinner, don’t go to the usual place or the tourist trap. Learn from the past experiences of others to find what is truly your best option.