Forget Instagram. Smart travelers head to Reddit for the best tips.

Trip planning starts with finding the right subreddits, forums searchable on the site. ILLUSTRATION: BEN KIRCHNER/WSJ
Trip planning starts with finding the right subreddits, forums searchable on the site. ILLUSTRATION: BEN KIRCHNER/WSJ

Summary

Tired of seeing the same shiny destinations and basic travel tips on Instagram and TikTok? You might find the forums of Reddit, full of locals willing to impart their wisdom, more to your liking.

Instagram’s 2010 launch flooded the zone with a whole genre of #travel photos. You know the look: oversaturated images with crowds cropped out that have made places from Patagonia to Iceland yawn-inducingly familiar. And with 39% of us now using social media for trip inspiration, according to the 2024 American Express Global Travel Trends Report, our feeds have become vacation-themed echo chambers.

When it comes to trip research, Molly Gagnon, a travel agent and self-described digital nomad, prefers a far less shiny platform: Reddit, the user-moderated forum with all the visual appeal of a hotel business center. What Reddit lacks in chic, it makes up for in candor, Gagnon says. “I notice people are more authentic about their experiences."

Since users can “upvote" posts they like, those offering real expertise often rise to prominence. By emphasizing text, Reddit encourages incisive conversations, not superficial travel brags. Here’s how to get the most from the site.

Be Specific

Trip planning starts with finding the right “subreddits," forums searchable on the site with an “r/" lead-in, for everything from politics to pizza delivery. “The broader they get, the less useful they are," said Jesse Smith of North Kansas City, Mo., who moderates r/onebag, a subreddit devoted to packing light. “In niche [subreddits], you get people who are really passionate about a topic."

Eschewing r/travel as overly generic, Smith turns to forums dedicated to maximizing points, like r/awardtravel, while other popular subreddits include r/solotravel, r/TravelHacks and r/FATTravel, which is all about spending big on vacation. Like travel destinations themselves, each subreddit has its own habitués and norms, so settle in and observe before posting.

Go Local

Local forums, largely targeted at residents instead of travelers, can yield great results for strategic users. In 2017, faced with an eight-hour layover in Hong Kong, Smith skipped over the travel subreddits and instead put his question to r/HongKong. “I have eight hours on the ground, I want to see these six things, how would you prioritize?" he recalled asking. Smith crowdsourced ways to leverage public transit to reach city highlights, including the tram up to the top of Victoria Peak and the street food of the Wan Chai neighborhood.

Regulars might roast clichéd questions. “People will say ‘where’s a good place to get a beer in Munich?’" said Ben Harrison, the former moderator of the city’s subreddit, who expects at least a little advance research. “You’ve done nothing. You’re not even meeting me halfway."

When querying locals, try to pique insider interest, Harrison advised. “You could say ‘These are the top five [beer spots] that are mentioned on Tripadvisor, do any of you go to these beer gardens?’" Most local redditors will be more than happy to share their opinions.

Get Creative

Unlike social media with algorithms that amplify already-popular destinations, Reddit suits offbeat research and DIY quests, whether you’re into brutalist architecture or seeking out superlative noodles (both have dedicated subreddits).

For a 2022 road trip to Izmir, Turkey, Harrison took to r/Turkey in search of “something surprising," like “a cool old bridge, or a piece of granite that’s interesting to look at." Locals shared leads on obscure sites tucked amid farmland without the Ephesus-sized crowds. “We found all kinds of amazing things in places we would never have given a chance," he said. “It was incredibly fruitful."

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