You’ve probably read the title and you’re thinking ‘pot, meet kettle’ right? I mean, as a professional blogger who posts live while traveling all the time, who am I to recommend that you shouldn’t?
But you might be surprised to hear that even as an influencer, I hardly ever post travel updates live.
The obvious reason is for security; for both my personal safety, and that of my empty home. But, over 12 years of travel, I’ve learned that safety isn’t the only danger of posting your travel updates live.
And I’m not saying that it’s easy – it’s actually very tough not to get swept up in the excitement of being overseas, and wanting to share your bikini bod in the Seychelles right now with absolutely everyone that you know.
But if you’re willing to take the advice of an experienced and seasoned traveler, my advice for you is as follows:
The Dangers of Posting Your Travel Updates Live
Your Home Security
Posting your travel photos while you’re still on vacation is like sending out an open invitation for someone to come and rob your home.
Local thieves troll social media all the time looking for opportunity. And it’s usually not too difficult to figure out where you live for criminals who do this for a living. And people do do this for a living.
But it doesn’t have to be a stranger; perhaps one of your friends has a delinquent brother who’s seeing the posts from your expensive vacation, and decides he’ll go and help himself to your new flat screen.
Of course, you should always make sure you have proper home security in place when you travel (there are even burglar alarms now that dispel dense fog to generate a zero-visibility when it’s activated), but your chances of being robbed are significantly higher if people know that you’re not home.
Pro Tip: Insurers are increasingly rejecting claims made by customers whose houses have been burgled while on holiday if they have shared the fact that they are away from home on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
So hold your vacation statuses until you get home, and, for the same reason, don’t post travel countdowns in the lead up to your trip. You’re just giving thieves the time for planning.
It’s also important to never assume that your privacy settings on social media mean that only your friends will see your posts. Your friend could be logged in at a coffee shop or library, where it’s easy to see over their shoulder, or a neighbor could mention it to someone in passing:
“How’s Meg these days?”
“Oh yeah, she’s in Morocco at the moment, she’s not home”.
Your Personal Safety
Do you remember what happened on October 3 2016?
Kim Kardashian was robbed at gun point in Paris. And while an attack like this is never the victim’s fault, her attackers knew exactly where she was, where she was staying, and that she had a $4 million diamond on her hand.
The alleged robber actually told French police that his team obtained much of the information they needed to pull off the heist from her social media posts.
Let’s be honest, neither you or I are probably ever going to reach the same level of celebrity as Kim Kardashian, or ever in our lives own a $4 million ring. But you don’t have to be a big shot celebrity to put your personal safety at risk.
Posting exactly where you are on social media on any given day is risky. You don’t know who’s viewing your posts, or how they might decide to use the information.
Especially if you’re a solo female traveler, it’s not wise to let anyone and everyone to know which hotel you’re staying at, which restaurants you’re going to, and which flights you’re arriving on.
It’s important to let someone know – someone you trust back home so that they can contact / locate you in case of an emergency. But you don’t need the world to know.
Pro Tip: Don’t tag photos of friends or family you’re vacationing with while on vacation either. Tagging them reveals their current location too, and even if you don’t care, they might not want this information about themselves out there. To stop family and friends from tagging you, you can enable Facebook’s tag review, meaning you have to approve any and all tags before they publish.
Even if you don’t ‘check in’ when you post, phones and cameras store the location a photo was taken within the code of each image (GPS coordinates in the metadata). So even if you’re just posting a photo of a dessert, you’ve probably given away your location.
If I’m posting travel photos, 90% of the time it means that I’m already gone. This even applies to my Instagram stories – I save them in my phone to post later on.
I do get messages from strangers who are excited about their home town, or travelers in the area wanting to meet up. This actually makes it really easy to avoid an awkward ‘no’, with a polite ‘I’m so sorry, I actually left two days ago’.
You’re Not Aware of Your Surroundings
I firmly believe that situational awareness is the biggest key to staying safe overseas. You need to have your head up, and eyes open, and be aware of your surroundings.
But you can’t do that when your head is down and your eyes are glued to your phone.
This presents multiple threats to our personal safety; everything from not noticing you’re being followed, to not noticing that you’re being approached, or stepping into oncoming traffic because you’re walking while posting and forgot that Australia drives on the left side of the road.
Put your phone away and always pay attention to your surroundings.
Financial Theft & Identity Fraud
Burglary isn’t the only type of theft that you can encourage by broadcasting to the world that you’re traveling. For some reason we love to post photos of our boarding passes, tickets, and passports, but in the wrong hands this can be really dangerous.
As much as it’s tempting to kick off your trip with a shot from the airport, you should never publish a photo of your boarding pass.
For someone who knows what they’re doing, you can use the barcode on a boarding pass to hack into that itinerary. That means, anyone with your barcode can pull up your reservations, change seats, order meals, cancel your trip, and even hack into your frequent flyer account.
If they get enough information they can potentially steal your identity.
Pro Tip: If you DO decide to post an image of your boarding pass, make sure you first take the time to distort / blur the barcode and any primary information. I do the same with the license plate on car rentals before posting.
Similarly, and this might sound straight forward, but don’t post images of your credit card either (you’d be surprised). When financial fraudsters know you’re traveling, they assume you’re not paying super close attention to your finances, so this is an opportune time to hit your bank accounts and credit cards.
And, it’s less likely for your bank to detect suspicious activity if you’re racking up legitimate transactions between countries.
You’re Not Living in the Moment
Experiencing the Sydney Opera House through a screen
Let’s think about this from a financial standpoint: you’ve spent thousands of dollars to travel to the other side of the world only to … spend time on your phone?
When you prioritize posting to social media while you travel, you’re not living in the moment. You’re missing out on experiences purely because you want other people to know.
But one thing I’ve learned is that it truly doesn’t matter if you post images from your trip now vs later. People don’t care about being in the know at the exact moment something happens, and saving your posts for later means you have the chance to re-live the moment after you’ve returned home.
Think about how much time it takes to not only snap a photo, but then pull up social media, maybe by this stage you’ve already spent time cropping and editing it, think up clever captions, and find a bunch of hashtags?
And then you see the notifications on your phone, which of course, you can’t ignore, so you start scrolling through your feed and responding to friends and family, all the while, missing out on what’s happening around you.
Why would you not save all of that for when you’re sitting at home bored, wishing you were still on vacation, than waste your precious travel time?
If you’re worried about forgetting details, jot down updates and descriptions that will help you remember when you sit down back at home to write the caption. I personally use the sound recorder on my phone to make quick verbal notes.
You’re Annoying as %$# to Travel With
I’ve been this person, so I know.
When you’re constantly documenting every single thing to share on social media, and you’re spending so much time glued to your phone, you’re annoying as &^%$ to travel with.
If someone’s made the decision to travel with you, that’s a huge compliment. It means they want to spend time with you, create memories with you, and share experiences with you.
But if you’re constantly moving through the trip with your head down, only paying attention to your phone, they may as well have traveled alone.
Free internet is something we’ve come to expect when we’re traveling, and you’ll need it if you’re posting travel updates live. But connecting to the internet overseas presents huge cyber security risks.
I will make a clarification on that, because not all connections are risky; if you’re on a secured network where you have to enter a password you’ll be fine. But most networks we connect to when we’re traveling are public, open networks whether at the airport, hotel, or a café.
These are not safe.
All of your internet activity passes through your ISP servers and anyone using the same network (which could be thousands of people if you’re connected at a hotel, café, or airport) can easily see your data: usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, how much adult content you’re streaming!
Criminals have even been known to set up WiFi hotspots specifically to trick people into connecting, so they can hack or infect your device with malware.
Obviously, completely disconnecting just isn’t going to happen for most of us, me included, so to use the internet securely, it’s really important that you use a VPN (Virtual Private Network).
Like, really important.
When you use a VPN, it encrypts your traffic before it reaches your ISP, which means that only you and your VPN server can “see” it. It’s basically a middle man between you and the internet: you’re able to browse the internet anonymously by connecting through a secure network.
There are great free VPN’s out there, and you can get them for both your desktop and your phone. I use Hotspot Sheild VPN because it uses military grade encryption and you can link up to 5 devices. Nobody’s hacking me!
What You SHOULD Do
It’s actually very simple – they key message here is don’t post about your travel until you return home.
But, beyond that, here is an easy checklist:
➤ Make sure your home is secured before you go. Lock all doors and windows, turn off all electric outlets, and put your valuables in a safe place. Extra points if you have a home security alarm.
➤ Share your itinerary with someone you trust before you go, so that they can contact you in case of emergency.
➤ Never post photos of tickets, boarding passes, passports, even after you’ve returned home. If you do post travel documents, make sure you distort the barcodes and primary info.
➤ If you do post to social media while traveling, try not to ‘check-in’ to reveal your location.
➤ Have a conversation with the people you’re traveling with not to tag you in their posts. Enable Facebook’s tag review feature so you can control what gets posted about you.
➤ Delete comments or posts from friends and family on your page that give away your travel plans; just send them a private message after you’ve removed it explaining why.
➤ Download a VPN to keep your connection safe when using the internet abroad.
Thanks for the information. It was a really helpful. Great article overall. Keep on posting more.
You’re welcome Aadityabhatta, I’m so glad the tips here were helpful for you :)
I’ve been guilty of posting too much information in real time. I’m not that worried about things at home because we no longer live in a house and we usually have someone staying with our dog, but I should be more careful about not sharing where I actually am, especially because we’ll be using Air BnBs for the 1st time. I need to think more like I did when I was working as a lawyer and remember: “Just because you’re paranoid does not mean they’re not out to get you.” ?
That’s great if you have someone who stays with your dog when you travel – totally takes the home security stresses out of the equation :)
Yes, most of the time people aren’t actually out to get us, but it’s never a bad thing to prioritize your safety. We might only hear of one traveler every so often being attacked because of social media, but taking precautions mean that one rare case won’t be you :)
Thanks for reading Suzanne – happy travels!
I never thought about it this way. Now I see that I’ve recklessly compromised my security many times over the years.
I watched a documentary on Facebook, and they interviewed a guy who trolls Facebook to find vacant houses and robs people for a living that way. It was pretty eye opening!!
Thanks for reading Kostadin, glad we could set you up with some safety tips.
Safe travels :)
Great information. It’s frightening how many people put their vacation time on Facebook. The only thing that I need to start doing is getting a VPN. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Marie, it really is quite scary how much information we share about our lives on social media, in real time. Far too many people live by the ‘it’ll never happen to me’ motto – but it could easily happen to anybody.
I can highly recommend a VPN, it’s been great for internet security, and has a tonne of perks – I used to get locked out of my email regularly when I traveled overseas, but now I just set my VPN to Australia and it’s like I never left the country :D
This is so true especially the point about not living in the moment, great article!
Thanks Charlotte, so glad the post was useful! Safe travels :)
Hi Meg, a heads-up that I just referenced your article in my first-ever LinkedIn post, hope you won’t mind :)
That’s great thanks Carl! And congrats on your first Linkedin post! Glad the article here was helpful :)
Really good article. I read it out loud to my daughter and wife after we were talking about how my sister in law posted something in Facebook Messenger about how they were enjoying their time out of the country. The bit about not posting anything with personally identifiable information, like your boarding pass, was a great reminder to be aware of how something you do with little thought, while under the influence of excitement, can come back to bite you later on.
Thanks Peter, I’m so glad to hear that the article was helpful :) Absolutely, we’re in such an age right now of sharing everything we do publicly in the moment, without thought of the implications. The excitement is totally understandable of course, but hopefully our article can just spread a little bit more awareness :)
Thanks for reading!