• U.S.

The Dos and Don’ts of Using TikTok for Travel Tips

7 minute read

Before scrolling on TikTok, Caroline Berdugo, a 23-year-old program coordinator at a children’s hospital in Rhode Island, had never thought to take a trip to Thailand.

“It wasn’t a destination that was on my radar. But I’ve seen so many [TikTok] videos and posts about it that made me really curious,” Berdugo says. “I love seeing videos of people going to the food market, which is really cool and definitely something that I want to do.” Berdugo plans on visiting the country in December. And it won’t be the first time Berdugo has gotten travel ideas from the social media app. She also plans on traveling alone to Peru this September—which she’d usually find daunting—but after seeing TikTok posts about women traveling alone on the app, she decided to take the plunge.

Berdugo’s story is not uncommon among a generation that uses TikTok as a search engine for news, events, and other trends. Despite dips in international travel and spending due to the pandemic, the U.S. Travel Association says that travel is up 5.5% since last year. Travel is particularly popular among Gen Z, the most prominent demographic on TikTok. And many people are now using the app for travel tips and an eye into the travel experiences of other users.

TikTok videos tagged with #travel (and its multiple counterparts) have garnered more than 230 billion views on the app. Travel-related content ranges from displays of luxurious getaways to accounts dedicated to sharing affordable flights.

But, creators warn that while many videos on the app can serve as inspiration for travel destinations, users should always do their own research.

“With everything on the internet, but especially on TikTok, things go viral so quickly. I always like to use the word discernment…You need to have a filter for all the content that you watch,” says Jo Franco, a Netflix travel show host and CEO of her journaling company JoClub. The 31-year-old created travel-related Youtube content for more than a decade.

Here’s what influencers told TIME about the dos and don’ts of using TikTok for travel tips.

Use TikTok as an entry point of discovery

TikTok is a great way to learn more about traveling in a way that may be more comforting for anxious travelers who do have limited travel experience and do not know what to expect.

That was especially comforting for people like Berdugo, who did not have the chance to travel much before graduating from college. “Before TikTok I never really knew what hostels were,” Berdugo says. “One of my anxieties has been ‘Oh, I don’t know how it would feel like to do things by myself,’ and ‘How do you meet people if you are solo traveling,’ but like, maybe, you know, staying at a hostel, and meeting other people that are traveling by themselves. Like that was something that I would say was like, introduced to me via TikTok.”

Franco adds that TikTok is a great tool for learning about different places. For example, Italy—arguably one of the most popular summer destinations— and #italytravel on TikTok has nearly 846 million views, with videos on everything from what to wear, see and avoid while abroad. Users who are looking for a place to visit can also lookup “travel destinations” in the search bar and the app will suggest other popular searches like “affordable travel places,” “luxury places to travel,” or “best travel destination in the U.S.,” so that users can narrow down their search.

TikTok is also a great place to find suggestions for the best restaurants or tourist attractions in a particular country or city. Users can get advice from locals or other international travelers online.

“If your goal is to learn more about the world, languages and to understand people in places, [TikTok is] a great beginning place,” Franco says. “It will serve you things that you didn’t even know you wanted about places you maybe didn’t even know existed.”

Don’t fall for the viral clickbait

While much of TikTok’s popularity and greater appeal stems from the app’s short-form content and quick virality, Franco warns users that the app can create a space where posts don’t give a balanced view of a destination or experience.

“When you see a video with [a high] level of virality, you’re going to take what is being said in the video with more weight than something talking about the pros and cons of [a destination] that only has 100 likes,” Franco tells TIME. The latter video may be more well-rounded, but many people associate greater likes with accuracy or better content, which can be problematic, Franco adds.

The oversaturation of content on the app can also make it difficult for creators to build a loyal fanbase and to know which creators’ content they can trust. A Youtuber, for example, may build a loyal fanbase that follows them and trusts their advice. But TikTok users don’t always build that sort of relationship with their followers because people are inundated with a plethora of content, Franco says.

Franco specifically warns against believing TikTok videos that seem too good to be true when it comes to travel, like viral videos that say a local government will pay a young person to move to a particular isolated area or region. Videos about moving to Calabria in Italy, for instance, went viral on TikTok last year.

“I think those tips I find fascinating, because we’re able to now connect real-time news to what that means for our travel. And to the same degree, a lot of those posts could over exaggerate,” Franco says. “Like, live here for free. And actually, you need to have an investment [of a certain amount]… There’s always a loophole so all things come with the caveat of doing your own research.” That’s true in the case of moving to the Italian island of Sardinia. Applicants were guaranteed about $15,000 if they moved there, but they also had to live in a town with a population of less than 3,000 and had to put their grant towards renovating into a home, CNBC reports.

Get advice from a diverse set of TikTokers

As the most racially and ethnically diverse generation, creators advise Gen Z to be aware that traveling is a unique, personal experience. Your identity, for that matter, will always play a vital role in travel. Travel content creator Lena Sow tells TIME that it was when she recognized there was a gap in the market for a Black female travel content creator, who also traveled solo, that she decided to start her TikTok account.

She advises people to look for creators who match your race, gender or even sexuality, to get a grasp on what it would be like traveling to the places they feature.

But she also mentions that people should take all of that advice with a grain of salt. “I do post a series where I post how I felt traveling solo, but I don’t want people to use that as like the end all be all,” Sow tells TIME, emphasizing that people will have different experiences.

But overall, Franco adds that TikTok represents a diverse set of travel options.

“What I love about TikTok is that there’s something there for everyone in the travel space,” Franco says. “The availability of inspiration is abundant.”

More Must-Reads From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com