910086_88576939When I plan a trip, I make arrangements to meet up with people. I email anyone I know might be in area, announce my itinerary on Twitter and even add a trip to Dopplr. My efforts have paid off: I’ve met people I had already become fast friends with online in person. I’ve expanded the scope of projects by taking a few minutes away from my vacation to meet with a client. I’ve even managed to meet entirely new people by tagging along to meetups of various kinds. Sharing your travel plans can pay off.

Quick Payoffs

Unless you’re planning a trip with the sole purpose of getting away from everything in your day-to-day life, I’m willing to argue that there’s a big payoff to sharing your travel plans. Right now, thousands of people are planning to converge on Austin, Texas for SXSW. Pretty much every social media site I’m active on is buzzing with what attendees are planning: some are making arrangements to share cab rides or even hotel rooms on the basis of shared travel plans. Others are making arrangements to finally meet people they’ve been talking to online for years. Still others are planning how to best take advantage of the fact that they’ll have a whole list of people they’ll want to talk to once they get to Austin.

Sure, SXSW is at least partially about networking. But the same holds true even if you’re doing nothing more than taking a weekend getaway to the next state over. You don’t have to spend every hour of your trip with people, but think about the benefits of telling people you’ll be in town:

  • You can connect with others in your field, maybe learning something that can come in handy when you get back to the office on Monday.
  • You can make a new connection with a company you’re hoping to work with — or for — in the future.
  • You can reconnect with old friends and see how they’re doing.
  • You can make some new friends and have some fun, rather than spending an evening in a hotel with a television for company.

Share Your Plans

Before you can take advantage of those connections that sharing your travel itinerary creates, you first have to actually share it. I’m a big fan of making mention of my plans on the sites that I most commonly frequent, such as Twitter. There are a few sites that actually specialize in sharing travel plans, though. Dopplr and TripIt are the two that I’ve seen most commonly used. Whether or not these sites are the best, the fact that they have quite a few members is crucial: the more people that are on a site, the more likely that you’ll be able to share your plans with someone you’re actually interested in seeing.

TripIt can create an automatic itinerary for you if you forward the confirmation emails you receive for booking a hotel room or a flight. Dopplr allows you to enter your travel plans yourself. Either option can be good — although contacting people you know live in your intended destination can guarantee a better response when you ask to meet in person. It can also be worth checking out what’s actually going on in the area, through sites like Meetup, in order to find out if all the cool kids will be in one place on a particular date.

Privacy and Travel

I remember my grandmother planning for a trip when I was a kid. She bought a timer for the lights in her living room, setting them to turn off and on as if she was home. She made arrangements for her newspaper and her mail to be held until she returned, so that neither a stack of papers on her porch nor an overflowing mailbox would give away the fact that she wasn’t home. My grandmother went to some lengths to make sure no one knew she was out of town until after her return.

In contrast, I post my travel plans on Twitter, Facebook and even on Dopplr. I do take a few measures to keep my home safe when I’m out of town, but pretty much anyone who wants to discover where in the world I am can do so.

I know that one of my grandmother’s big concerns about whether people knew she was traveling focused on the fact that someone might be able to take advantage of her absence. Coming home to a break in was definitely a concern of hers. I’m not about to say that it wasn’t a valid concern, either. I lock up my place whenever I’m gone and I make arrangements for someone to keep an eye on it while I’m gone.

But, for a long list of reasons, I don’t feel the need to take the same approach to protecting my privacy when I travel that my grandmother did. I think that there are some serious safety concerns that go along with broadcasting your whereabouts through any social media site and I don’t think that there are fewer reasons to be concerned about leaving your home empty. In part, I mitigate those facts by not sharing my home address with anywhere near the frequency that I share my personal location. Someone set on finding out where I live could do it, but not casually.

There’s not a perfect solution if you have any interest in sharing your travel plans online, but many people seem comfortable taking those risks.

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