Snapchat is for selfies, Amazon’s for shopping, and Slack is for pinging your boss to set up a meeting. Right? Well, sort of.

Many of the apps you use on a daily basis are actually much more versatile than you’d think. And while there’s no shortage of travel sites to help you plan your next trip, some of the best travel resources are the non-travel apps you use for other things. Here’s a guide to using your favorite everyday products, from Instagram to Amazon, to plan your next getaway.


Instagram has always been a strong tool for travelers looking to see and share beautiful places around the world. Now, recent updates to the app have made it a more powerful trip planner than ever.

Get an on-the-ground glimpse of places you’re going: The app recently redesigned its Explore tab to make it easier to search and browse collections of travel pics. Rather than just searching hashtags, you can now search for a place, like “Kauai” or “Louvre Pyramid.” By browsing the live stream of user photos from your chosen destination, you’ll get a sense of what’s popular, what things look like at different times of day, and more. As always, you can also use hashtags and the map for more exploring.

Ask for travel tips: One of the most valuable parts of Instagram is its 300-million-member community. And thanks to the app’s simple commenting functionality, it’s easy to reach out for more info if a place catches your eye. Found an enticing hiking photo from the Adirondacks, but not sure if you’ll have time to do the trek? Just comment on the pic to ask how much time the photographer spent there.

Join a real-life meet-up: Some people love Instagram so much they’ve taken the community out of the phone and into the real world. InstaMeets are a growing trend around the globe, where ‘grammers convene to shoot photos and explore different parts of their city. If you’re new to a destination or are looking to connect with locals, check out the map of upcoming meets.


Okay, so Google’s probably already part of your trip planning process. But the site’s tools can do far more than find articles on a place, map hotels, and browse photos of places to go.

Research and book flights: Google never broadcast its flights tool too loudly. But ever since the company bought flight-search ITA Software in 2010 it’s been introducing quick and easy flight planning features that go beyond a point-A-to-point-B search. You can search for an area, like Europe or South America, and see various city options by price. You can search cheap fares by calendar date, get tips like “save $130 if you depart one day earlier,” and play a spin-the-world type game with the “I’m Feeling Lucky” search.

Reserve hotel rooms: Again, without much fanfare, Google has entered the hotel booking world. The site recently introduced the ability to book a hotel directly from Google search or Google Maps. You can read reviews, see amenities, and book the room directly from Google’s sites rather than going to Expedia or another booking site.

Take virtual trips: Google Maps’ Street View function can be useful for checking out what type of road your hotel is on, or how close your condo is to the beach. But the Street View team has upped its game with in-depth virtual tours of some of the world’s most epic destinations. Follow along on Hawaiian hiking trails, a Great Barrier Reef dive, and a trek to Mt. Everest Base Camp. You can take a peek at what’s involved on these journeys and whether it’s something you’d want to try in person.


You already use Evernote to write work notes or to-do lists, right? Well, these same functions are perfect for keeping your trip planning process organized and accessible.

Access your travel planner anywhere: Researching restaurants on your work computer? Toss links into a note. Chatting at a bar with someone who’s just been where you’re going? Jot their recommendations on your phone app. Evernote will sync notes from all your devices into one place, so you can access the info anywhere.

Clip pieces of websites into your own travel guide: While Pinterest allows you to pin images, Evernote’s web clipper actually pulls text and parts of sites. Install it in your browser and start building notes using bits and pieces from the articles, TripAdvisor reviews, and travel guides you find about your destination. It’s an easy way to compile itineraries, packing lists, alternate plans, language translation guides, and more.

Share itineraries with friends: If you’re traveling with friends or family, or want to tell someone where you’ll be on given days, use Evernote’s sharing feature. You can add other people to view your notes, and if one of you has a premium Evernote account, you can open the notes up for everyone to edit.


First of all, if your work team isn’t already using Slack for office communication, it should be. The rapidly growing chat app is becoming the office messenger of choice, but its interface and easy chat features makes it a great choice for group trip planning.

Use channels to keep organized: If you’re planning a trip with multiple people, keeping things organized can be a nightmare. Slack’s channels are a great way to divide different aspects of your plans into clearly searchable categories. You can make a #want-to-do channel where people share their activity preferences, and a #who-arrives-when page to keep track of everyone’s travel schedules.

Set up feeds to find travel deals: Slack works with RSS feeds to automatically post updates from your chosen site. So if you’re looking for airfare deals, hotel specials, or vacation sales, set up a channel with an RSS feed from Travelzoo, Airfarewatchdog, or whatever your favorite deal site is. Everyone can then browse the posts at their leisure and your inbox won’t be flooded with fare alert emails.

Ditch the group text: We’ve all been there. You’re traveling with a group and someone gets separated. Or a few people want to do something else. Then when it’s time to meet again, the onslaught of “where are you” group texts begins. Rather than blowing up everyone’s phone, take these convos to Slack instead. You can check in when you want, and if someone needs to reach everyone urgently, they can always @everyone to make sure their message gets noticed. Plus, giphys make airport delays much more fun.


Wait, the app for duck-face selfies and self-destructing videos? A travel planner? The travel features on Snapchat are still in their infancy, but the hugely popular social network has the potential to be a very powerful travel tool.

Get a taste of local life: Snapchat’s curated live stream feature is becoming a great way to get a glimpse of the personality of cities around the world. So far most of the streams have focused on destinations, from Tel Aviv to the Caribbean to Washington D.C., and festivals, like Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival.

See stories from travel brands: While the official Discover stories are limited to 12 publishers (National Geographic, Buzzfeed, and the like), you can follow other travel companies and bloggers to get more stories and inspiration. Lonely Planet has been posting snapshots from a road trip around the USA, and Marriott partnered with travel influencers to share stories from the road.


Using Twitter for travel isn’t a novel idea, but the network remains a valuable travel tool—especially when things go wrong.

Get the first word on deals: Most of the best flight deals sell out so quickly you’d never stand a chance without a little heads up. That’s where Twitter comes in. Sites like The Flight Deal tweet out new sales or fare drops—if you set up notifications on your phone you’ll be one of the first to know when the good deals come in.

Don’t sit on hold with the airline: Flight delayed? Luggage not showing up at your final destination? If you need to contact the airline, your fastest option is often not the phone—it’s Twitter. The larger air carriers have dedicated customer service teams on Twitter, and can help answer your questions, without that awful “hold” music.


How nice would it be to buy your plane ticket, noise cancelling headphones, movie download for the flight, and new swimsuit all at the same time? Okay, you can’t do that…yet. But Amazon has quietly been making waves in the travel world, with the introduction and expansion of its hotel and travel guide site, Amazon Destinations. It’s new, and currently separate from the main site and search, but expect more travel to come from the online uber-retailer.

Find a local escape: Amazon’s hotel offerings currently focus on quick getaway ideas from a selection of cities (Seattle, New York, Boston, and more). Rather than flood thousands of properties into its inventory, Amazon’s travel team is carefully selecting each hotel after visiting them in person. Even if you live farther away, it’s a good source of curated hotel suggestions.

Buy with your Amazon account: No need to get up and find your wallet for that credit card number. Hotel bookings can be done with all the info in your Amazon account, just like any other checkout at the site.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Stacy Spikes believes that successful entrepreneurs don’t understand the word “no.”

“I think the people in this room have a part of their brain where they don’t quite hear the word ‘no’ properly,” said Spikes, speaking to a room packed with people eager to hear how he had cofounded the movie subscription service Moviepass. “You have to have that. There are some people in the world that hear the word ‘no’ and they go, ‘OK.’ And that’s it for them.”

Spikes believes that every time an investor says “no” to a pitch, they’re only refining what it will take to get a “yes.”

“Eventually, what they’ve done is that they’ve sharpened your pitch so incredibly that there’s nothing being thrown at you that will stump you,” says Spikes, a longtime member at WeWork Soho West. He recently spoke at a WeWork Labs event that drew more than 70 guests to WeWork Dumbo Heights.

Spikes has heard “no” plenty of times. When he was fired from a film production company in 1997, he rented a small cubicle at the Tribeca Film Center. There he came up with the idea for Urbanworld, which in the past two decades has become the world’s largest film festival for minority filmmakers, actors, writers, and directors. The five-day event takes place in late September in New York City.

In 2011, Spikes and business partner Hamet Watt founded MoviePass, which allows subscribers to see a movie a day for a monthly fee of $9.95. Spikes says they first hit upon the idea for Moviepass in 2005, and despite being told “no” for six years, he and Watt refused to throw in the towel.

MoviePass founder Stacey Spikes talks with entrepreneurs about launching a company.

Spikes says their inspiration came from art-house theaters in New York City that let customers see an unlimited number of movies for a flat fee. They racked up roughly 23,000 subscribers under their original business model, which charged an average of $35 a month. This helped them raise almost $14 million from early investors like AOL Ventures and William Morris Entertainment.

Then MoviePass caught the eye of Helios & Matheson Analytics, a data analytics company that bought the business in 2017. Spikes stayed on to chair the board of directors until early this year, leaving before the stock took a hit in the media and saw its stock price plummet.

Spikes currently working on a new venture, though the 50-year-old entrepreneur has remained tight-lipped about what it will be.

Have the perfect data

Spikes describes MoviePass as a data-driven company that collects information on individual subscribers, like what movies they are watching and where they are located. He believes that the most important thing for a company’s success is having accurate data and has made a point to remember this every step of the way.

“The truth is, if your data is off, you’re just believing your own hype and you’re lying to yourself,” Spikes says. He adds that he’ll often share his data with people outside the industry, just to make sure that the numbers are persuasive

His advice to entrepreneurs starting their own company echoes this, urging people to make sure their numbers are accurate and run their presentations by several people before going too far.

““The truth is, if your data is off, you’re just believing your own hype,” says Stacey Spikes.

“Those things are critical because if you’re not all buttoned up, you’ll pay a price for that,” he says. “And sometimes you can’t walk back in those doors several times.”

Spikes says that when people think of successful entrepreneurs, they imagine someone who is white and male. In the startup world, only 1 percent of venture capital funding goes to black entrepreneurs, and 2 percent goes to females. His advice on how to deal with this? Ignore it.

“I can’t go in the mirror before I walk into that conference room going, ‘OK, you’re black, but you can do it!’” he says. “I have to walk in going, ‘I got a great idea that you should fund.’”

He urges entrepreneurs to continually “ram the gates.”

“You might be that person who gets through the gates,” he says, “and then people are going to look at you and say ‘Well, if Stacy got through, maybe I can get through.’”

Use the right resources

Spikes looks to resources like DocSend, a content tracking solution, to help him get a read on people he’s trying to pitch. By allowing him to see how long investors spend on each slide in his initial pitch deck, DocSend gives Spikes some foreshadowing into what potential clients are thinking.

“It’s a great tool to help me in the [fundraising] process because you don’t want people who are going to waste your time,” he says.

He also advises entrepreneurs to figure out a schedule that promotes productivity. Spikes keeps himself moving forward by breaking up his week. He does certain things on certain days — Mondays are dedicated to tasks and projects, while Thursdays are for finance.

“This makes it easier because there are certain things that you don’t want to do,” Spikes says, “so you’re not stuck doing those things for your whole week.”

Spikes considers himself a voracious reader of biographies, a genre he sees as a handbook of sorts. He likens reading a biography to “an executive coming and sitting with you, telling you exactly how to do things.”

At the end of the day, Spikes stresses that an entrepreneur’s best resource is themself.

“Be smart,” he says. “Find your way into the door and into the conversation. Play the part like you’re there to win. I have a blazer in the drawer because you gotta be ready to roll. You have to think on your feet and use whatever you got to get through the wall.”

Photos by Josh Wehle


When Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata reflects on his more than decade of playing professional soccer, he says that the trophies and titles have been gratifying. But it’s the sport’s potential to change the world that compels him the most.

“Thanks to a career in football, I’ve been able to travel to many parts of the world, and what I’ve come to find is that this sport really brings people together and has a profound impact on the next generation of boys and girls,” said the Spanish player, speaking to a crowd of soccer fans at Colombia’s WeWork Usaquén.

He realized that soccer could help transform lives at the local level by funding initiatives to battle intractable problems like gender inequality and youth unemployment.

“We started Common Goal for our love of football and as a way to make an impact, a movement we started some 10 months ago,” said Mata.

Juan Mata poses with a fan at Colombia’s WeWork Usaquén.

Common Goal’s connection to WeWork began last year when the organization won $180,000 at the WeWork Creator Awards in Berlin. Since then, a partnership has developed. WeWork has encouraged its members and employees to help support Common Goal and its programs to empower disadvantaged people and their communities.

“At Common Goal, we use football to improve the lives of young boys and girls, and that’s why why are here with WeWork,” said Mata. “We share the same mission of bringing people together. We are thrilled to partner with a company like WeWork to help support us and our mission.”

After joining a panel discussion at WeWork Usaquén, Mata settled in to watch Spain take on Iran in a match during the World Cup. Members there said watching Mata cheer as his Spanish teammates won the match was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

This was one of dozens of viewing parties held at WeWork locations around the world as the month-long World Cup competition unfolded. In Berlin, Common Ground co-founder Thomas Preiss spoke before 150 people gathered to take in the Germany vs. South Korea match on June 14. Half a world away, members at WeWork Seoul cheered their team to victory.

Juan Mata joins the crowd watching a World Cup match at Colombia’s WeWork Usaquén.

As England powered its way to the semifinals, members in London gathered for a series of events leading off with a June 18 panel discussion led by WeWork member Akin Solanke-Caulker, head of the sports talent agency the Athletic Network. Before watching the match at WeWork Old Street, Solanke-Caulker regaled the crowd with tales of negotiating deals with some of the biggest names in soccer, rugby, and track and field.

On July 10, the day France took on Belgium in the semifinals, Miami’s WeWork Security Building hosted a viewing party featuring WeWork member Soccer Shape, a fitness plan started by members of the Miami Football Club that incorporates drills and exercises used by top teams. Members got to kick a ball around before settling in to watch the big game.

When Larry Irvin and Kristyna Jones met at Mardi Gras in 2011, they immediately connected through their shared love of hip-hop and rap. Then the conversation got more personal: Jones gave Irvin her perspective of working in community development in New Orleans both before and after Hurricane Katrina, and Irvin shared his story of growing up as a black man in New Orleans with questions of self-identity.

“Young black men are perpetually trying to figure out who they are supposed to be, because the representations both in our neighborhoods and schools are, a lot of the time, negative,” Irvin says, citing high rates of incarceration and unemployment.

Irvin and Jones came up with a potential solution: getting more black men into the classroom.

“There’s a particular demographic, even within the demographic of black men, who aren’t attached to their academic experience,” says Irvin, 36. “College is something they’re told to do, but not with any purpose behind it.”

Together, Irvin and Jones founded Brothers Empowered to Teach, a nonprofit that urges people of color – particularly black men – to explore careers in education. It seeks to generate a network of teachers who serve as role models for the next generation.

Starting with just seven fellows in 2014, the organization has since grown to have over 40 participants between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. It has partnered with over 10 schools across New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and four graduates of the program teach in New Orleans public schools.

Irvin himself is a former substitute teacher, a job he held while coaching high school football. He discovered that he had a special connection with many of the kids.

“Having grown up in some of those same neighborhoods that they did, there was a cultural connection,” says Irvin. “It started to seem like I was meant to do this work.”

Larry Irvin of Brothers Empowered to Teach gets a standing ovation at the Austin Creator Awards.

The organization offers two programs for future educators: a one-year program tailored toward college graduates and those changing careers, and a three-year fellowship geared toward current college students. The organization’s teachers get together on Saturdays for professional and personal development workshops.

“We have intimate conversations about things like redefining what masculinity looks like, around male-female gender relationships, and around sexual orientation,” says Irvin. “We’re trying to create a better version of the individual, which in turn turns them into a great educator.”

Brothers Empowered to Teach got a big boost last year at WeWork’s Austin Creator Awards. When it was announced that the organization had won $130,000, Irvin was greeted with a standing ovation from the crowd of more than 2,750 people.

A WeWork member, Irvin uses the company’s spaces when he travels, especially to cities like Austin and Washington, D.C.

While Brothers Empowered to Teach has so far worked with only male teachers, the organization recently opened up 30 percent of its seats to women of color.

“It is really beautiful to see our fellows attached to something, approaching education with fervor and excitement,” Irvin says. “We’re trying to change the narrative and reignite a lost reverence for the education profession.”

When former Marine Corps captain Zach Iscol went out for beers with his former commander, they talked about the 33 men in their battalion who had been killed in action in the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004.

Unfortunately, tragedy did not end there.

“[We] realized that there’d soon be a point in time when we’d lost more Marines to suicide than to enemy action,” Iscol says. “It’s an epidemic.”

That moment six years ago led to the founding of the Headstrong Project, a New York-based nonprofit that helps veterans heal the wounds that have plagued so many of their lives as a result of the experience of war and beyond — in particular, the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Today about 15 percent of the men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD. And veteran suicides occur at an alarming rate, with the Department of Veterans Affairs reporting that about 22 veterans killing themselves every day.

Iscol decided he wanted to do something about this problem by providing veterans with top-notch mental health care, free of charge. He joined forces with two staffers at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City: Ann Beeder, a clinical psychiatrist who has treated patients suffering from trauma for more than two decades, and Gerard Ilaria, a licensed social worker and health care professional who has dedicated much of his career to caring for people with HIV. Together they co-founded Headstrong.

Gerard Ilaria and Dustin Shryock discuss strategy at Headstrong.

At Headstrong, post-9/11 veterans can receive confidential treatment at no cost, and without bureaucracy or paperwork — or the stigma that often surrounds mental health counseling.

“These are good people who have to make impossible life-and-death decisions,” says Iscol, 39. “And you have to live with those decisions. And when you’re a good person it can be really hard to live with those decisions.”

There is no cap to the number of counseling sessions veterans can partake in. According to Iscol, the program currently has more than 500 veterans in treatment across 18 cities.

“We’ve treated over 700 veterans in six years,” he says. “And we’ve had zero suicides that have been in our treatment program.”

Ilaria said that helping veterans in the workplace is a big part of the program. It’s an important part of getting their lives back on track.

“Veterans make excellent leaders and they’re great on a team,” says Ilaria, 57. “But they can’t really do well at their job if their mental health isn’t in order.”

Todd Bowers, director of WeWork’s Veterans Initiative, says that Headstrong is a valuable resource for veterans and their loved ones.

“By providing cost-free, bureaucracy-free, and stigma-free treatment for the hidden wounds of war, Headstrong and their incredible team have helped to shape the narrative around post-9/11 veterans and their families by showing that the right help at the right time can heal anyone,” says Bowers, who was a staff sergeant with the Marine Corps serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Life ‘changed in the blink of an eye’

One of Headstrong’s success stories is Joe Quinn, who was a year away from graduating from West Point in 2001. But a week after he received his senior class ring, a celebratory event, the World Trade Center was attacked. “It all changed in the blink of an eye,” Quinn says.

His 23-year-old brother Jimmy was on the 104th floor when Flight 11 hit the North Tower on September 11, 2001. A graduate of Manhattan College, Jimmy was working for Cantor Fitzgerald, a financial services firm whose offices occupied the 101st through 105th floors. The company lost 658 employees, including Quinn’s brother. “All of the sudden there was this punch in the face,” says Quinn. His classmates at West Point realized, as Quinn puts it, “that this is why we’re here.”

He graduated as a lieutenant and joined the Army, serving two tours in Iraq before being deployed in Afghanistan as a civilian counterinsurgency advisor for General David Petraeus. He then earned a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School and returned to West Point as an instructor at its Combatting Terrorism Center.

For 14 years Quinn held onto a complex set of feelings wrapped up in the grief of his brother’s death and the experiences surrounding the deaths of many of his fellow soldiers. Quinn, now 38, described in a personal essay how his feelings compounded and manifested repeatedly over the years: a heaviness in his chest; a warm flush of blood rising to his head; a sharp jolt of heat stinging his heart. He had PTSD. At first he thought he felt guilt, but eventually realized it was shame. “I placed no value on myself, which led to depression and aggression,” he wrote. “I thought going to war would save me, but it made things worse.”

After referring numerous friends to Headstrong, Quinn decided in 2015 that it was time to seek help for himself there.

Quinn now serves as the executive director of Headstrong, working from his office at WeWork 42nd Street. “I jump out of bed [to go to work],” he says. Quinn, who grew up in Brooklyn, also continues the annual tradition of the “Jimmy Quinn Mets Game” in which he and early 200 family and friends go to Citi Field in Queens for a ballgame.

Quinn isn’t the only member of Headstrong’s management to seek help at his eventual place of employment. Dustin Shryock, the nonprofit’s director of operations, served two tours in Iraq. During his second deployment in 2007 and 2008, he says his unit set a new record for the number of days in a row during which they were engaged with direct fire, indirect fire, mortar fire, and grenades.

Like many veterans, Shryrock, 35, had trouble transitioning back to civilian life. He had left his home state of California for New York City, enrolling in graduate school, but was doing poorly, and began to notice that he was experiencing anxiety and depression. “I was not going home anymore. I was staying out all night. I quit responding at work. [NYU] was about to kick me out because I’d rather be at the bar than at class,” says Shryrock, who also works from WeWork 42nd Street.

Then, in 2014, he sought help. “I was actually told, ‘You look sick.’” Friends referred him to Headstrong and he’s never turned back — first as a client and now running its day-to-day operations. “That’s when you start to do the work,” says Shryrock. “You address moral injury. Consistent bombardment or enemy fire. You address the absurdity of war. Thanks goodness I cleaned myself up.”

Photos by Frank Mullaney