Visualizing the Travel Bucket List

We analyzed millions of images from social media to better understand how people envision their ideal vacations

Close your eyes and picture your perfect vacation. What do you see? Are there peaceful, rolling shorelines and crystal clear water as far as the eye can see? Star-strewn night skies far from the city lights?
If these are the types of images that float to the surface when you try to imagine your dream vacation, you’re not alone. Social media is filled with millions of similar images as people discuss their dream vacations and bucket list destinations.

The most popular hashtags in the bucket list travel conversation on social

Taken together, these themes and topics add up to a huge social media conversation about travel, there have been over 1.2 million bucket list social media posts since the beginning of 2017.
So what can we know about these (often hypothetical) adventurers?
We took a look at the social media data, particularly photos, related to bucket list destinations around the world, and identified the most common attributes and patterns of this massive conversation.
Here are the top five themes in the bucket list travel conversation on social media.

1. Water, water everywhere

The top scenes related to bucket lists are all water-related. Sea (6.9%), Bay (5.55%), Shore (5.4 %), and Coast (4.55%) make up the majority of scenic ideas.

There is no denying that when aspiring travelers envision their perfect trip, water is a central part of it.

2. Travel, naturally

Although sprawling cities are common travel destinations, nature seems to be a more fundamental aspect of a dream vacation. 6.8% of all bucket list posts use the terms “nature” or “natural”. When filtering for these posts in images, we see that many posts are pictures of the sky.

3. I’m on a boat

There are many popular activities related to bucket list travel, but there are a few that pop up again and again. Chief among them? Cruising the open seas.  Boating, rowing a boat, swimming and diving are significant areas of interest. Diving into the swimming posts, we see that snorkeling is a large portion of the overall swimming conversation.

4. Joy through the world

This should not come as a surprise, but on the strongest ties that connect nearly all posts about travel is a feeling of joy. Fifty-six percent of the overall bucket list conversation is joyful. Whether the travelers are just dreaming of their future destinations or actually attending those locations at that moment, the data supports that dreamers and doers are both very positive when discussing their bucket list locations.
Even when people are talking about vacations they wish they could take, they do so joyfully. Just more proof that even thinking about taking a vacation is good for your mental well-being.
Indeed, when we group the posts by emotions (and exclude neutral posts), we see that all negative emotions — sadness, disgust, anger and fear — combined make up only a tiny fraction of the portion of the conversation classified as joyful.

5. Monday reflection and Friday excitement

When do people post most about bucket list travel? The beginning and end of the work week, naturally. This is likely due to the anticipation of travel, or sadness over its passing.

There’s a lot that can be learned about traveling behavior by analyzing social data for bucket lists around the world. We can better understand where and when users choose to post, why they do so, and perhaps most important, where these social media sharers want to go.

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