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Are you a vacation sinner?

No, I’m not talking about engaging in a travel fling (although feel free to share your stories in the comments), but rather unintentionally enraging your Facebook friends and Instagram followers with an endless parade of vacation photos.

If you Google “travel vacation photos,” suggested searches include “travel bragging on Facebook” “annoying vacation photos” and the slightly more optimistic “best way to share vacation photos.” So yes, this seems to be a problem. Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to power down your phone and embrace the present in all its glory — documenting trips is half the fun of travel. However, there are some do’s and don’ts to consider if you’d like to keep your friendships alive.

Do: Provide Eye-Opening Value

Did you score that villa suite by carefully plotting and allotting your points? Did a stranger tell you a fun fact about your destination? Did you find the best sushi in all of Tokyo? Tell everyone! Giving context to your photos provides depth about where you are — and even how you got there. Any travel tips or insightful info you can share will be welcomed by people who planning trips of their own.

Don’t: Be Generic and Boring

Yes, beaches are relaxing. And yes, Italy has delicious pasta. But what else can you tell us? Instead of reaching for stereotypes and cliches, be specific in your descriptions and images. What are your own keen-eyed observations that make that particular beach or plate of spaghetti bolognese so special? If you can’t think of anything to add, perhaps rethink whether someone else will find value in the post.

Do: Communicate You’re Actually Having a Good Time

Delayed flight? Lost luggage? You’re physically lost? It’s hard to slap on a smiley emoji during every moment of travel, as things can so often go wrong, but it’s a little difficult for friends to feel sorry for your one tiny glitch during a two-week travel odyssey. So please try not to whine too much.

Photo by @alekstwo via Twenty20
Photo by @alekstwo via Twenty20

Don’t: Be a Braggart

A little bit of bragging is fine, of course, because it’s difficult to avoid the fact that you’re off in a beautiful country and your friends are toiling away in their cubicles. But a bit of self-deprecation or gratitude can go a long way, so have a sense of humor when things go wrong or when you’re thrilled you just checked in to The Greatest Hotel in the World. There’s a big difference between a caption that says “Lucky me,” and one that says “I’m so lucky and grateful to be here in Bora Bora <or wherever>.”

Do: Respond to Commenters

Snap a nice shot and chances are people will start commenting or asking questions: Where are you? How long will you be there? I know the best resto you should try! Trips can be busy affairs, but it looks a little obnoxious if you can’t take two minutes to respond to anyone. If you have enough time to post four more photos of your sea urchin appetizer, you have time to engage, even if it’s to say “thanks for the tip!” Plus, your friends and followers will continue to care about the rest of your adventure if you take their advice and engage them in your narrative.

Don’t: Spam Like a Bot

If you’ve got a post-happy trigger thumb, think twice about what you’re pushing out into the world—and how often. If you’re at a 12-course dinner, maybe don’t post a dozen pics? How many photos you post is up to your discretion, but a good rule to follow is high-quality over high quantity. We probably don’t need to see your coffee at breakfast, your lunch buffet, that post-lunch nap, post-massage glow, every dinner morsel and bubble bath time. Leave a little something up to the imagination. Less is more.

Photo by @pavel via Twenty20
Photo by @pavel via Twenty20

Do: Show Your Personality

Everyone loves a gorgeous cityscape (if only because it reminds us how small and insignificant we truly are, #existentialtraveler), but there are ways to make a traditional image a tiny bit untraditional. Try a clever caption or weird emojis; or, if you’re posting on Instagram Stories, give us a little voiceover. People follow you for a reason. Even if you’re not a selfie-taker, you can still show off your personality through what you’re seeing.

Don’t: Ruin Your Trip for the ‘Gram

Signs you’re sabotaging your vacation for the sake of likes:

You’re running around looking for Wi-Fi because it’s been 30 minutes since your last post.

You’re gauging the success of your vacation based on how much digital engagement you’re receiving.

You’re ignoring your larger surroundings to look for the perfect graffiti wall or artful doorway in which to pose.

Bottom line: Make the trip come first and the photos come last.

Do: Tell a Story

Novel have arcs. Films have beginnings, middles and ends. Songs have choruses and bridges. They all have closure. (Well, hopefully they do.) Your trip can tell a similar story. Think about how you can bring your followers on a journey with your posts, whether that’s navigating the airport, or hunting down the best croissants in Paris. If you want to post one-off images or videos, that’s cool, but what’s happening in them?

Photo by @criene via Twenty20
Photo by @criene via Twenty20

Don’t: Overstay Your Welcome

Reminiscing with a #tbt post is fun (especially if it’s 20 degrees and you can’t stop dreaming of Tulum), but vacation photos have an expiration date. To most people, continuing to post snaps days and weeks after your trip is done is overkill. When you’re home, you’re home — and besides, you can take that time to start planning your next getaway.

Featured photo by @jessicastein via Twenty20

Know before you go.

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