5 Travel Hacks for Exploring New Cities

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I don’t know why, but traveling is one of my new favorite things. I love setting up trips and saving money to explore a new place. There’s something about experiencing a new culture, trying new food, and spending quality time with friends that is so appealing about the whole shebang. I have gained some great wisdom when it comes to traveling with friends and family and navigating where we should eat, the best coffee shops, and how to navigate the city. Some of it comes from other blogs, I have read a lot of them. Some comes from the unfortunate mistakes I’ve made while traveling. Here’s how I navigate new cities and you can check out my guides and recaps of Washington D.C. and Houston here and here. Today, I’m sharing all my favorite travel hacks!

If you’re interested in finding out how I stay trendy when a new city and find the cutest places to explore while on the go, keep reading!

Checking Places and Hashtags on Instagram.

So, as you all know, I am a big fanatic of the Instagram app. I would honestly post if only I could look at it. I have a VSCO account that is basically this that I don’t share and it is one of my favorite things to play out with new filters and try out new editing techniques. Yeah, it’s a calming experience so let me be me!

Anywho, one of my favorite ways to find fun little places to try in a new city is by checking the locations on Instagram. They’ve also added stories which is going to make it so much easier to see where people are going right that moment. But, you can usually find restaurants, cute Instagramable coffee shops, and other attractions that people have posted on the app and tagged in a specific area.


Typically, if you type in #PlaceYou’reVisitingEats, you’ll find the trending places and popular eateries in the area. For example, I typed in #DurhamEats, and I found some of my favorite places within the first 20 images {Dame’s Chicken and Waffles, the Q Shack, Monuts} are just a few examples. This can also help you find foodie accounts in the area which are going to be the best resources for new and trendy restaurants to try. This is where I find a good amount of my places that make up my Trip Bucket List.

I’ve also started utilizing the Instagram collections similar to a Pinterest type thing where I can organize my saved posts into different categories. Right now, I’ve only made a board for San Diego and my favorite #swirlsocial posts to share each month [Yep, I’m bringing it back. Be sure to share all your instagram pictures with #swirlsocial for the chance to make it into one of my monthly roundups!] It’s a great way to keep track of all the places you want to go to!

Reading Reviews on Yelp.

This is where you’ll probably find some of the classic restaurants to try out! It’s also going to be a better hub for those looking to try some good food and not super worried about the aesthetic. I typed in Durham and all of the three restaurants came up along with some of my other favorite restaurants in the area which I recommend to people when they visit!

This is also a good way to see photos, check out the best things to order at the restaurant, and find out other information about wait times, places to sit, and whether there are multiple locations. Yelp was my favorite when I was in Houston and was a great way to find restaurants in a place literally known to have some good food.

Carry a cross body or backpack.

So, here’s the thing. When I was in Houston, I used a carry all tote bag, and while fashionable, it wasn’t super practical. I loved when I carried my cross body bag or was walking to work with my book bag. It makes transportation super easy and let’s your hands be free. I am notorious for having loose items and losing them. Read that two times fast. But, honestly when I only carry my Tory Burch wristlet with its wrist strap, there is a high chance that I will leave it somewhere or have it overexposed on the table of a Starbucks [yeah, it was {almost} stolen when I was reading Me Before You in Houston]. Trust me, lesson was learned.

I really love all of my crossbody bags, but my favorite are my Fossil Crossbody; you can find a similar one here. And, my all time favorite Rebecca Minkoff Mini Mac is my go to travel bag because it’s so versatile and can work for day and night!

Use the offline features of Google maps!

I was reading Good Housekeeping when I was waiting for my nails to dry a couple of days ago and I came across this amazing tip that I didn’t even know existed, so I’m going to share it with you! Basically, Google maps has a feature called Offline Areas where you can download the maps of your favorite cities or future destinations. You can also collect restaurants you want to try, hipster coffee shops, or any other attractions that you want to check out while you’re in the new place.

That way if you are low on data, have spotty service, or any other host of issues that technology gives us these days, you can have access to the entire city! I think that this is great, because the GPS app on my phone can also drain my battery! The only thing that isn’t the best is that you can only get driving directions in the offline mode, but I think if you’re in a crunch its better to have some kind of map and you can deduce how to get to your next location if you are walking from the driving directions as well!

Find bloggers from that area.

This is my personal favorite because I literally stalked the San Diego blogger hashtag to find all the photogenic and tasty places in the city for my time on the weekends when I want to venture downtown!

I have a lot of their pictures saved in My Collection: San Diego on the Instagram app and I’ve given a lot of them follows! They post such great photos of all their favorite places and sometimes when there are fellow college bloggers, I’ll reach out directly and ask them some recommendations for perfect local places! I also recommend checking out their blogs to find Local Guides to “Insert City of Choice here”! Great suggestions and insider secrets are typically oozing from these posts. I totally would think that the bypass would shorten my commute, but only a local would know that it actually adds 50 minutes. Yeah, these are all good things to know!

I love traveling to new places and I love being prepared for them even more. I also like to spend a day just walking around and seeing what I stumble upon, but having some back ups and must sees in my back pocket is always great too! Where are you off to next?


  • I love the ideas!! I also look for places on Instagram. It’s a really good source for traveling when you don’t know where to go. Or even when you already have been in a certain place but what to visit new places.

    xx, Melissa

    • Yes, sometimes I’ll do this for Chapel Hill and I’m always amazed of the new places I’ll find with a quick search! Thanks for reading gf!
      xo, G

  • Those are great tips! I use Instagram a lot too when I’m exploring new cities! I always end up finding ideas of where to go and what to do!

  • I love the idea about searching Instagram hashtags beforehand to find cool places! I’m always on Instagram but I never would have thought of that! I hope you have so much fun in San Diego!

    Madison // http://www.madsmaybe.com

    • Thank you!! I am so so so excited to go! And yes I feel like I always blame the amount of time I spend on instagram on the fact that I’m looking up things for trips!
      xo, G

  • Whenever I visit a city, I love looking up fashion bloggers from that city beforehand so I can see their favorite spots! This was such a helpful post!

    xo, brooke

    • oh true!! Yes, I love using Instagram as a place of inspiration so totally with you on that! Thanks for reading 🙂
      xo, G

  • Lacey Anne Douthat

    I do the same!!! I always search for photo spots and attractions first and go from there!

  • These are the best tips! I do so many of these things before planning a trip. Instagram and Google Maps are my favorites!

  • Miss ALK

    Such a good idea to save food ideas from IG into collections! I’m hoping to travel this winter once my PTO for my new job kicks in so I might use some of your tips!

    xoxo A

  • Yelp and Instagram are great ways to find places to see/eat when traveling! I definitely use those apps the most when I travel somewhere new.

    Carrie | http://carrieeliseandkho.com/

  • thesophiadiaries

    These are all great tips! I just head about the IG collection thing so I’ll probably be using that for my upcoming trip!


    • It’s actually reminding so much of Pinterest and I like how I can actually organize and use the save tool!
      xo, G

  • Whitney H

    I never thought about looking on Instagram for suggestions for food; I normally head straight for Yelp. Thanks for these awesome tips!

  • mckenna bleu

    I think that the new instagram feature is great and I will get a lot of use out of the collections, as you seem to be too!

  • Kristine Circenis

    I have been using that Instagram saving feature like a madwoman! We’re moving cities in a few months and I am just saving all of the food pictures haha

    • Ahh yes!! It’s literally so useful, I feel so dumb for not starting earlier 🙂
      xo, G

  • Paige Rankin

    I can’t wait to try out the IG collections! Thanks for all the great tips 🙂

    xoxo, Paige

  • These are all such great tips! That offline mode for Google Maps is a GAME CHANGER! I love looking up bloggers from the area I’m traveling to so I can see where all the locals hang out 🙂 I also use the TripAdvisor app which is great for when you’re looking for something to do or somewhere to eat!

    Kristen | http://www.sophisticatedgal.com

    • Oh true! I’ll have to look at Trip Advisor! I read that in the magazine and was like wait what!! It’ll be so nice to have my phone drain completely when I’m trying to find directions!

  • These are such great tips! I had no idea about the offline feature on Google Maps. That is gold!

  • Rachel Ritlop

    Yes! I totally use hashtags and the geolocator on instagram before hitting a new city! It really helps! I had no idea about the offline feature of google maps! awesome!

    • Yeah, technology can be so useful!! The offline feature is so cool and will save my battery life which is always a plus!
      xo, G

  • Hashtags on IG are so key for me!

  • I love your tip on creating a collection on Instagram with photos of a city before you go and visit. That’s genius! I’m totally going to start doing that.

    • Yeah! I totally started doing it not on purpose and then realized heck yeah this is Pinterest 2.0! Thanks for reading 🙂
      xo, G

  • Ashley Vickney

    LOL i use Instagram all the time to find cute places! It’s actually really funny because one time I was looking for a place and my fiance was like do you know the name? “no” Do you know the street? “no” How are we going to find this? “I know what the floor looks like!” LOL

    • oh my gosh that is so me!! It really helps when the location is tagged! But yes, it can be frustrating when you have no idea where the place is lol. Thanks for reading gal!
      xo, G

  • Macarena Ferreira

    I checked the ‘places’ and hastags before my Colombia trip and it helped so much!! i definitely recommend it to everyone.

    xo // http://www.thematerialgirl.co