How to Use Instagram Stories to Document Your Travels

Tourist woman taking a selfie with her smartphone
Photo: Getty Images

The hashtag #travel has more than 413 million mentions on Instagram. Sharing our journey is now an essential part of the journey itself.

“Climbers climb mountains because they’re there. Travelers take photographs because we’re there — and we want to convey how amazing that feels,” travel writer Peter Jon Lindberg wrote.

And snapping those photos can actually make you happier, according to a study from the University of California Irvine. The study found that any photo — no matter the quality — taken with the goal of producing happiness will have a positive effect on the photographer.

The study also noted that same happiness applies to any photo that aims to bring together the photographer and his or her intended audience. This means snapping a photo and sharing it on Instagram could bring you happiness too.

But what about Instagram Stories? How can you use those to capture your travels and correctly share them with your audience?

As a travel writer, I am constantly on the go, snapping away in the different places I’m in either for work or for my own fun. Which means, I share. A lot. But, to avoid oversaturating my feed (and alienating my Instagram audience of friends and family), I take to Instagram Stories. Here are a few inside tips on how to use stories, and how to ethically share images on social media as well.

What is an Instagram Story?

Instagram Stories are separate from feed photos on the app. The stories function allows Instagram users to share photos and videos to a “story,” which can either be public or viewed only by followers of the user's Instagram account, depending on if the person’s account is set to public or private. Additionally, a user can choose to share a story with just “close friends.” But unlike feed posts that last forever, Instagram Stories last for just 24 hours, much like the social media company’s competitor, Snapchat.

Can you see who views your Instagram Stories?

Yes, it’s possible to keep track of who's seen your story, who just opened your story, and who swiped up on the screen. All you need to do is click open your own story. To see exactly who has looked at your stories, click open your story then click on the tiny profile photos on the bottom left corner of your screen. Here, you'll see the number of people as well as the individual usernames of everyone who has looked at your content. On this screen, you can also click the graph icon on the top left to see who has taken actions from your story, which includes link swipes, sticker taps, and follows.

Does Instagram notify a user when you screenshot a story?

Sadly, no. Though Instagram briefly tested sending screenshot notifications, it has since abandoned the project. So, you won’t know who screenshots your posts, but the good news is nobody will be notified when you do the same thing.

How to add a link to your Instagram Stories

There’s a major caveat to adding links to stories: You must either have 10,000 followers or have a verified Instagram account. But, if you have one of those two things, adding links is both easy and a great way to help people discover more about the travel photos you’ve taken. To add a link, first, take and upload a photo to your Instagram Story. Next, click the icon on the top right that looks like a chain. From here, click "+ URL" to add a link to a web page. Click done and you’re done. But, to take it a step further, try adding an Instagram sticker that says “swipe up” so people know there is something juicy waiting for them with the link.

How to ask a question on Instagram Stories

In 2018, Instagram introduced the question sticker to stories. It allows users to do “ask me anything” question and answer sessions with their followers. To start a Q+A session just take a photo or video, upload it, then tap the stickers icon in the upper-right-hand corner of the screen. Once there, you’ll see “questions” in the third row. Click it to add to your story. It already has “ask me a question” in the body, but you can customize this to anything you want. Examples could include “Where’s your favorite place to travel?” or “Where should I go next?” or “Anyone have packing tips for Greece?”

How to add music to your Instagram Stories

To add a little music to your story post, just follow the same guidelines as above. Take a photo or video, upload it, tap the stickers icon in the upper-right-hand corner of the screen, and click “music” in the second row. Once there, search for the song you’re looking for, click it, and click “done” to add it to your post.

How to create an Instagram story highlight

Though Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours, there is one way to save them forever: Instagram story highlights. Highlights are found at the top of a person’s profile on their personal page. To create your own Instagram highlight go to your profile and tap “Story Highlights” below your username and bio. Tap the plus button, then tap to select the story updates you’d like to add to your highlight and click “next.” Finally, choose a cover photo and enter a story name for your highlight, then tap “add” or “done.”

How to ensure the images you share from your travels are appropriate

No matter where your photos appear, be it Instagram feeds, stories, other social media outlets, or just for you, it’s important to ensure all your photos are ethically taken and shared. Alongside the increase in use of social media, there’s also been an increase in questions about how we take photos and how we share them. Though this could be a lengthy essay all on its own, just remember these few points: Never share your location in stories or posts while on a safari, think twice about interacting with and taking photos with animals, and never take and upload a photo of a person without their permission.

As for what you should do next, read up on how to take travel photos you’ll be proud to share and get snapping. (And always feel free to share your travel photos with me here!)

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