Travelers have to do research to get the answer. But if millions of people can scour Facebook, Twitter and other platforms for #travelinspiration, we can mine these sources for context, too. A search for “overtourism” on Twitter, for example, offers some useful information about fragile destinations to avoid.
This summer, Preethi Harbuck, a travel blogger, canceled a trip to Maui, which was struggling with a Covid surge, a water shortage and a tourist deluge. Her family could have blithely pressed ahead; many others did. But listening to locals on social media convinced her that doing so wouldn’t be considerate or responsible.
“The vast majority of Hawaiian voices that I could find were saying, ‘Please don’t come right now,’” Ms. Harbuck told me. Her family went to the U.S. Virgin Islands instead.
Approaching travel this way requires a mind-set shift. It may be more pleasurable to browse photos of five-star hotels than it is to review Friends of the Earth’s annual Cruise Ship Report Card. But there is a payoff: Caring about the places we travel to and the people who live there can make us feel more connected to them.
Some simple changes in how we plan travel can help. Rather than following the crowds, the hashtags or the influencers, look to old-fashioned sources of inspiration, from places mentioned in favorite books to memories of childhood holidays. You could even take that dusty globe off your shelf to get ideas.
Ask yourself what kind of trip you’re looking for — a beach escape? a culinary adventure? — then seek out a lower density version of the hot spot you initially had in mind. Opt out of Paris’s overheated restaurant scene, for example, and feast in Padua, Italy, or the Mexican state of Chiapas. Skip Yosemite National Park and try Pinnacles National Park, a few hours away. Travel during the off-season, stay in small inns and guesthouses, and explore the area’s cuisine as much as possible, to keep your dollars in local hands.
Of course, it’s always important to keep a close eye on any travel restrictions and recommendations from the places you want to visit — especially now, because of Covid — and make sure to comply with them fully, for your own sake and the safety of others.