How To: Using Instagram to Plan the Perfect Trip

I love social media and I love to travel, so it probably isn’t much of a surprise when I say that I always use social media when planning a getaway. Instagram is particularly helpful, because people share the most beautiful place they saw during their day, which usually means it’s worth your time as well. This was really helpful in Costa Rica (check out all the highlights in this post) because it was a shorter trip, which meant less time to wander and happen upon the coolest places on our own. Here are 3 ways I used Instagram to make our trip extra-amazing:

1. Research Local Hashtags Before You Go

Start with basic location-based hashtags (like #costarica, #sanjose and #manuelantonio) and let Instagram’s suggestions lead you down a rabbit hole. Collect a list of 15 or 20 of the the most promising, based on how the photos look, how many posts there are and how relevant they are to what you want to do on your trip.

How To Use Social Media to Plan a Vacation | Succulents and Sunnies
There are 3 reasons you should do this:

  1. Take a look at what people are already posting to discover unique must-dos and restaurants.
  2. Post pictures of your own trip with these hashtags for more likes AND to help future travelers.
  3. Help local attractions find you. Cafe Milagro in Manual Antonio commented on a photo I posted and we ended up going 3 times. We would have never chosen it on our own, but the craft beer, live music and local coffee were all amazing!

2. Search the Cities You’ll Be Visiting

Instagram’s “Places” are also really helpful when you’re looking for things to do. I like this feature because it not only lets you scroll through all the photos tagged as in that city (Quepos, Costa Rica for example), but also at locations within that city (like Playa Manuel Antonio).

How To Use Social Media to Plan a Vacation | Succulents and Sunnies
This really helps when you’re trying to figure out which must-dos are where, especially when they’re not in a book or on Google Maps (like the can’t-be-missed Playa Biesanz). Plus, Instagram’s new location stories make this easier than ever!

3. Follow Local Attractions You Want to Visit

This goes for local businesses you’re planning on patronizing too. To stay up to date on hours, special events and even coupons, give places you really want to visit a follow. Their posts could help you decide what day you stop by or other nearby stops you should make. This tip can also be applied to Facebook and Twitter, depending on where the attraction or business is most active. If you’re visiting a country where you don’t speak the language, Facebook’s native translation will do a good enough job to get the point across.

Now go and plan a killer vacation! And let me know how you use social media to find the coolest places on your next trip.

Staying Informed

In today’s world, riddled with political battles, religious extremism and frequent natural disasters, it’s incredibly important to find news sources that present facts and challenge “truths.” In the past year, so much has changed the way I find and digest news. Most obviously, the election of President Trump, and the questionable statements and decisions he has made in his months as our country’s leader. Secondly, moving from the liberal oasis of Ithaca and the Ithaca College campus to rural upstate New York.

This year, I have more time to devote to finding news stories and comparing different sides of the story. Thank goodness, because news is more complicated and time consuming than ever.

My top news source is probably Twitter. I like how immediate both the original message and the feedback are. For current events and updates directly from politicans’ offices, this is a good source. Of course, anyone can say anything on Twitter (or any other social media), so vetting this information is important.

I recently subscribed to TheSkimm, another source for quick news. Everything is very easy to read and understand, which is good in a lot of cases. Sometimes though, I’m left wanting (a lot) more.

My household still subscribes to The Buffalo News’ print edition 7 days a week. Crazy, I know. This is how we keep up on local news. There’s also a varied collection of New York Times and Washington Post articles I wouldn’t otherwise read. Despite Buffalo being the second largest city in the state, it often feels like a small town, and sometimes The Buffalo News treads lightly so as not to step on any WNY toes, at the expense of in depth news coverage.

I also love NPR. Not necessarily for the factual news, but for the human interest they add to the headlines. On air interviews with activists, journalists, immigrants and witnesses are not only informative, but touching.

Where are you finding informative, balanced and factual news coverage? How has this year’s political climate changed the way you view news? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Let’s Do This

You know those hours, days, weeks where you’re feeling inspired by everything you see and hear and read? I’m having one of those weeks and I’m not going to let it go to waste!

Most importantly, I finally made this a real blog! While I was job hunting, I used this website as a platform to put my work in one place, while also including a blog (which I actually started for a class in college). Now that I’m employed, I’ve found that I really love sharing my thoughts and photos here, even if no one reads them. So, welcome to the new Succulents & Sunnies, a place I’ve dedicated for documenting my travels, thoughts and inspiration. Stay tuned for a logo!

I also recently signed up for Canva for work, because we’re (hopefully) starting to get serious about content marketing and the power of social sharing. An article from their blog by Jessica Safko about social media images landed in my inbox and got me seriously excited about some really incredible visuals for both my personal social channels as well as other projects I’m working on. Also, how did I not know #moodboardmondays existed? I’m in love!

The featured image on this post is thanks to Canva, which, if you’re looking for cool designs but aren’t an InDesign guru, could definitely be for you.

A few other wonderful things that are keeping me fired up this week:

  • I went to the gym EVERY DAY this week. It’s amazing how much just a half hour of moving around can improve your mood.
  • A bible study pearl of wisdom: Sometimes, we overlook or discount sources of wisdom, simply because of our personal biases. (Thanks Anna, not only for this nugget, but also always reading my posts!)
  • Yesterday, I took time to focus on me, drinking delicious coffee at Steamworks, one of my new favorite places, before a massage.

What has you inspired lately? I’m always looking for new creators, writers, photographers, marketers, activists and big thinkers for insight, encouragement and motivation!

Millennials Are Feeling the Buffalove

city-of-buffalo-skyline

Google the phrase “buffalo millennials” and about 350,000 results are found. Many of these results are articles from bloggers and news outlets trying to explain the recent draw of Buffalo for millennials. Recent college graduates usually consider moving to major cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles after hanging up their cap and gown, but according to a New York Times article analyzing a recent American Community Survey, Buffalo’s population of 25- to 34-year-old college grads grew by 34 percent from 2000 to 2012. Not even New York, Chicago or Los Angeles claim increases as high as this.

Educated millennials are calling Buffalo, the second largest city in New York State, home for many reasons; chief among them is the availability of jobs. With Governor Cuomo’s promise of the “Buffalo Billion,” a state investment of a billion dollars over the next decade in the Buffalo and Niagara Falls region, plans are being made and implemented for new medical, technology and energy facilities. These centers will create thousands of new, specialized jobs that require educated employees, likely to be millennials. Forbes reported a 9 percent increase of millennial jobs in the Buffalo region from 2007 to 2013 and this percentage will continue to grow due to public investment and the private expenditures that will follow. Although not often considered a college town, Buffalo is home to many private and public universities that offer both employment and graduate education opportunities.

Due to Buffalo’s reputation as a city fallen on hard times, the city makes for inexpensive living, creating a haven for millennials. The Urban Homestead Program sells houses to qualified buyers for the whopping sum of $1, plus required closing costs. Even if you can’t manage to get one of these homes, buying a fixer-upper in an up-and-coming neighborhood is more than doable on a recent grad’s budget. If owning a home isn’t your ideal, rent remains reasonable in the city and nearby suburbs. Entertainment options throughout the city are often free, and if not, they don’t cost much at all. Local favorites include the Chippewa District’s bars, clubs and restaurants; ice skating, canoeing, and the Naval and Military Park at Canalside; Food Truck Tuesdays and more at Larkinville; as well as free concerts at venues throughout the city all summer long.

Buffalo residents can all feel the energy and affection that surrounds this city – what locals call “Buffalove.” The region has a long, colorful history that includes the Erie Canal, diverse immigrant populations, U.S. presidents, Frank Lloyd Wright, steel mills, Fredrick Law Olmstead, a World’s Fair and Niagara Falls. These and many other happenings have shaped Buffalo into a cultural hub with gritty, loyal citizens who will stand by their city’s past, present and future. Recently, Buffalove manifested in the Pegula family’s purchase of both the Buffalo Bills (NFL) and Sabres (NHL). This family has invested in “OneBuffalo,” a slogan representing the united community of the region; they are breathing new life into the city with HarborCenter, the downtown hockey complex, as well as other developments. OneBuffalo signifies the movement towards an even better Buffalo, a movement fueled by a renewed interest in this beautiful city by young, educated residents who can make a difference.

Many Ithaca College students and graduates are clamoring for internships and jobs in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. These individuals may fail to realize the price of living fast-paced, demanding and expensive lives in the big city. Buffalo embodies many characteristics millennials look for when moving around after college; this city deserves the chance to show you a little Buffalove.

Photo: http://www.bnmc.org/