Pinterest for travelers: 5 practical uses

Everyone’s jumping on the Pinterest bandwagon, and no wonder. The social media site, where you “pin” inspiring photos of luscious baked goods, bucket-list world landmarks and HDR-enhanced sunsets, provides perfect travel porn. Once you start browsing other peoples’ boards, it’s almost impossible to stop.

But does Pinterest have any practical uses for travelers? Although it seems mostly geared toward of the armchair set, there are a few ways that people planning vacations can get something substantial out of scrapbooking:

Get ideas. The most obvious way to use Pinterest is still the most practical. Already you can find thousands of gorgeous travel photos on Pinterest, not only from regular users, but from noted brands such as The Travel Channel (and yes, Gadling). As more travel companies and destinations flock to the site, the visual resources that are available to people planning vacations will become richer.

Just look at the Visit Savannah boards. Run by the city’s destination marketing organization, some of Savannah’s pins carry practical information, such as the best things to order at local restaurants and specialty shopping. And the I Do board makes you want to redo your nuptials in front of the city’s Spanish oaks. It’s a perfect fit for Pinterest’s wedding-crazed members.

Crowdsource. Most people use Pinterest to put forth their own vision of what a vacation could be. But let’s say you’re taking your first trip to Paris. You could create a Paris board and invite your most Francophile friends to pin their recommendations too. It’s a much more visual way than asking for tips on Facebook.
Coordinate expectations. Planning trips with friends can be tough, particularly if you span income brackets. So the next time you’re putting together a group trip, create a Pinterest board where everyone can contribute.

You’ll spot quickly where problems could occur. Let’s say one person pins a Michelin-starred restaurant, while the other pins a taco stand. That could open up discussion about budget limitations, and what kind of meals you’ll be eating. Likewise, you’ll want to make sure that the friend pinning serious powder for a ski vacation meshes with the friend posting spa treatments. Use the photos to form an itinerary that appeals to everyone.

Buy gear. Pinterest’s Products boards have become the most controversial, after users discovered that the site was embedding affiliate links into pins. The Gifts section, where prices are displayed on the pin, is divided into dollar amounts now. But like most social networking sites, Pinterest is continually evolving – and category breakdowns are sure to emerge.

Sharing vacation photos. Facebook has become the web’s largest photo sharing site, with billions of pictures. In fact, people post so many photos on Facebook that almost nothing surprises anymore. While Pinterest, which celebrates the pretty, will probably not become the place to post family reunion photos, a vacation board is a great place to share your best envy-inducing shots.

Travel writer Chris Gray Faust is using Pinterest to help plan her sister’s destination wedding. Follow her boards.