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How to ruin your vacation with one swipe on your iPhone

Jill is a sometime runner and expert wine taster from sunny San Antonio. She has a degree in social psychology, one husband and three children. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and Babble and she's regular...

The social media mistakes that could ruin your vacation

Social media can be your friend when you’re away from home. Unless you make it your enemy. Here are some common mistakes travelers make:

1. Letting the world know you’re not at home

If you “Facebook check-in” at the Bellagio in Vegas, people are gonna figure out that you’re not at your home in Sheboygan. The people you’re friends with on Facebook probably aren’t out to rob your house, but the stuff your friends like and comment on is probably visible to their friends.

And think about it: What percentage of your Facebook friends have you actually never, ever met in real life? Do you have Facebook friends that fall into the “who are these people” category? Exactly.

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2. A little too much online time

You’ve probably announced your excitement over your upcoming vacay on Facebook a few times. And, by a few I mean 160. We get it. You’re excited. But maybe think about taking a little bit of a “Facebreak” when you get a chance to go somewhere cool? Spend a little time relaxing and enjoying what your destination has to offer.

If your selfie at the check-in counter is immediately followed by a snap at the gate, immediately followed by an artfully filtered Instagram photo of your in-flight ginger ale? Maybe you should stop and ask yourself if you’re appreciating your downtime the way you should.

When you call to invite friends over to show them all of your vacation pictures and they turn up their nose at you? Probably a sign that you took too frequent advantage of the free Wi-Fi at 37,000 feet. Only you can decide whether your vacation should include a social media break, but remember this: You can always post pictures later.

3. Failure to scope out your destination

Nowadays, most hotels have a website. And a Facebook page. And a Twitter account. You can reach out and connect with the people who will be hosting you when you travel. You can see pictures. Ask questions about amenities and services. Read reviews. If a hotel doesn’t have a website or assorted social media, there’s always Trip Advisor. Aaaaaaand… if a hotel doesn’t have a website or social media, do you really want to stay there?

Despite your best research, you can still end up with a dud, but don’t complain about your crappy hotel if you failed to do a little checking before you leave home. And if, despite all best efforts, your hotel really sucks, pay it forward and leave an honest review for those who come after you. You know, the smart people who use social media to scope out their destination before they leave home.

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4. Failure to consider safety and security

Live streaming apps like Periscope are gaining traction. They’re a fun way to connect to show your friends and family what you’re doing in real time. Periscope (as well as most apps) lets you turn off your location, and you should use caution before broadcasting your location. While you might think you’re safe in a public place, think about this: that means the creepy guy on his cell phone checking you out in Times Square can hone in on you, get your details and follow you back to your hotel.

While you should always think safety, traveling can make you extra vulnerable. You might be more focused on fun or drinking more alcohol. Or, if your nose is buried in a map because you’re trying to orient yourself in a strange city, you might not be picking up on the nuances of what’s going on around you or know where to go to get help.

Bottom line: Always think twice before sharing your location on social media, especially when in unfamiliar surroundings.

5. Forgetting about basic technology

If you know you’re going to spend a lot of time on social media, think about what you need before leaving home. You might need an extra power source or “juice box.” If you’re traveling overseas, you may need converters, adaptors and VPNs.

Check with your service provider on changes in your coverage if you travel. An extra $500 on your phone bill because you didn’t have a travel-friendly plan? Not a nice surprise to come home to.

If you’re truly a social media junkie and you’re not going to be able to relax without your phone, then make sure you have all the bells and whistles before departure.

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6. Being unaware of what apps will make your trip easier

Apps can make travel so much easier and you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage by not knowing what’s out there. All major airlines have apps that alert you to gate changes or flight delays. You can download your boarding pass to your phone, calculate currency conversions in a nanosecond, find a ride, find food, get un-lost and figure out what the cute guy at the cantina in Rio is trying to ask you? Yes, people. There are apps for everything.

Spend some time learning how social media can make your vacation easier, safer and more fun. And then go have fun.

Happy travels!

The social media mistakes that could ruin your vacation
Image: Image: Getty Images; Graphics: Gabriela Arellano/SheKnows
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