How Twitter and Facebook can save you time and cash on vacation

Usually when I'm planning a vacation, I buy -- or, if I'm lucky, borrow from a friend or a library -- a recent copy of Lonely Planet, Frommer's, or some other heavily researched, heavy-to-lug tour guide book. But for my recent cross-country summer roadtrip, I experimented with relying upon the wisdom and whim of Facebook friends and Twitter users to save my family time and money.

Our social networking world -- which in June consisted of my 1,300+ Facebook friends, my brother's 1,300+ Facebook friends, the 660+ Tweeps following @nicolecwong, the 280+ Tweeps following @gregwong, and the complete strangers who ran into our queries in the wide-open Twitterverse -- instantly offered us tips ranging from where to find cheap-but-tasty meals in the town we were entering to which entertainment venues were worth their admission prices.

One of the biggest reasons I'll ask my social networks for recommendations on my next trip is that the advice they give may actually be tailored to my unique tastes, since they probably know me better than a guide book does. Still, advice from strangers can be just as useful. One of my 140-character Twitter updates documenting our travels helped a random vacationer find a fun, free outdoor evening show to enjoy in a tiny Arizona town.
Here are snippets from our 17-day roadtrip's Twitter and Facebook conversations: