Pinterest is a free online photo bulletin board that's popular with… (Reuben Munoz / Los Angeles…)
As a travel writer, I'm always looking for new tools I can use to help plan my trips. Lately, there's been lots of talk about a social media site called Pinterest, a free online photo bulletin board that's popular with designers, foodies and crafts people.
But could you use it to plan trips? Well, yes. It turns out that the travel industry, as well as individual travelers, are starting to use this visual social platform with interesting results.
The photos make it easy for a traveler to quickly scan a destination's food, architecture or historic sites. If you're intrigued by a picture, a click on it will take you to more content.
For instance, the Pinterest page of Westchester-Frederick Country, Va., (www.pinterest.com/winchesterva) has a category called "Events & Attractions." Click on the photo of singer Patsy Cline, and you'll be taken to details on touring the house where she lived from ages 16 to 21, as well as a video of her music.
The Pinterest page of Savannah, Ga., (www.pinterest.com/visitsavannah/) also is pulling in traffic, with boards such as "Haunted Savannah," "Shop Savannah" and "Savannah Hotels" (with some photos linking to online reservations).
Look for the red Pinterest button on travel websites you visit; a click on it will take you to their Pinterest profiles.
Use the site's search box (next to the magnifying glass icon).
Do both a "Boards" and a "People" search (below the regular search box) for keywords such as resorts, hotels, tourism, CVB (conventions and visitors bureaus), visits, vacations, etc. You'll often get different results.
Tourism offices. To find the Pinterest pages of tourism offices from Australia to Wyoming, go to http://www.pinterest.com/annehornyak/cvbs-on-pinterest.
Magazines. Check out Budget Travel — I like its "Travel Deals to Get Now" board at http://www.pinterest.com/budgettravel — or Travel & Leisure Asia and its "Food & Drink in Asia" board at http://www.pinterest.com/travleisureasia/.
Television. The Travel Channel — its "Travel Bucket List" board is great for ideas at http://www.pinterest.com/TravelChannel/.
Travel agencies and consultants. I enjoy Croft Global Travel's "Travel Apps That Rock" board at http://www.pinterest.com/CGT/.
Even government agencies are getting in on the action: The Army Corps of Engineers features water-based "Recreation" ideas on its page at http://www.pinterest.com/usace/.
Travel writers also are signing up. Peter Greenberg, travel editor for CBS News, said he's "using it for my travel photos as well as travel food and hot destinations" (www.pinterest.com/petergreenberg). His boards include "One Tank Trips" and "Where to Travel in 2012."
Then, too, there's John DiScala, a.k.a. Johnny Jet, who runs a popular website on travel resources. DiScala wrote in an email that he's "been on Pinterest for a couple months now." For trip ideas, check out his board "Travel Style," showcasing the likes and dislikes of some of the industry's celebrated travelers, at http://www.pinterest.com/johnny_jet/.
Arranging a family trip? Make a Pinterest page with boards such as "Eateries to Try," "Museum Must-Sees" or "Hotels to Consider." Invite family members to add their two cents by "pinning" their photos and comments to the boards. Then, devise an itinerary on which everyone can agree.
Let's say you're looking for great sunglasses, flip-flops or an offbeat backpack. Plug in the keyword and you're presented with a picture gallery of your travel must-haves. Compare offerings and find faves; you can often click to buy.
Keep in mind that Pinterest pages vary in their helpfulness in travel planning. It's a new platform, and the travel industry is still figuring out how best to use it. Even Pinterest itself is trying to figure things out, especially concerning copyrights. Check its terms of service for more information.