Are you a travel blogger or aspiring to be one? Great, you’ve come to the right place! We at Travelettes not only want to inspire you to travel the world but advise on how to turn your passions into a career if you desire to do so. We have already shared some tips on how to become a travel writer and how to turn your blog into a business. Today I want to tell you about an exciting part of this process: press trips and how to get invited!
What is a press trip?
Press or FAM trips (familiarization trips) are put together by PR offices on behalf of their clients and tourism boards or DMOs directly (destination marketing organizations) to show members of the press what a country or a particular area is all about. That can be anything from traveling through a whole country, one city or just being invited by a specific hotel or airline.
Some press trips will involve a group of bloggers or a mix of journalists and bloggers while other times you get to go on your own and plan an individual itinerary.
Some trips will cover anything from airfare to accommodation, transport on the ground, food, and activities. Others may only cover partial flight costs, especially on long distance flights while some even pay the blogger a fee on top of all those expenses.
However, while it may feel like it from time to time, a press trip is not a free holiday. Honestly, don’t ever use that term because it implies that you don’t have to work for it, which you will. You will pay with your time during the trip, your social media skills, your audience, and the time you put into your posts or vlogs. So let’s repeat this – while you may not have to pay for it, a press trip is not a free vacation!
How to score a press trip?
When to reach out
Especially at the beginning, a press trip may seem like the holy grail of travel blogging and quite unattainable. You will need to show a certain amount of traffic to be considered. How much that is in numbers is impossible to say as it depends on the expectations of the destination. For some quality and engagement tops quantity while others look purely at numbers, sometimes target markets are key and other times a good IG following can be a real benefit.
Have your media kit ready and know your blog’s unique selling point. Numbers are important but what else can you bring to the table to come up with some really unique content? Get creative!
When you are just starting out, it’s smart to start small. While a two week round trip of Indonesia is a dream come true, pitching destinations around your hometown or in your own country will return a higher success rate. The same goes for lesser known destinations – San Marino, anyone? – and niche markets.
Getting invited on a press trip is not easy, but not as hard as you may think. Start by introducing your blog to your local PR offices. Those usually handle multiple clients for whom they may organize press trips and you want to get on their mailing list. Potential clients can include destinations, airlines, and hotels.
If you have a specific destination in mind you would like to discover for your blog, you don’t need to sit around and wait for a press trip to fall in your lap – go ahead and pitch! With a bit of clever research, you can usually find out who handles the PR for a tourism board or a DMO (usually done either in-house or through an agency) for the country you blog in.
While a pitch email may not be immediately answered with an invitation, it is good to show interest early. Once a trip comes along they can have you and your amazing blog on their list of candidates.
Other bloggers are an amazing resource for press trips as they are often asked to recommend blogger friends when slots for a trip need to be filled. While I found that bloggers usually don’t mind sharing information establishing a rapport first is key. Sharing is caring, but you want to know the other person’s work and attitude before giving away a contact or asking for one yourself. And of course, returning the favor when you can will bring you lots of travel karma points.
If your own blog is still too small to warrant a full-blown press trip, seek out other online or print magazines you could contribute to. Write a pitch for a magazine that is a good fit for you and the trip you would like to attend and get yourself an assignment letter – the more you can bring to the table, the better your chances to score a trip.
Things to do before you leave
You got invited on a press trip – whoop whoop! But now what? Read the fine print before you agree to go. Especially at the beginning any press trip sounds exciting – but make sure it actually is.
If you write about adventure activities yet the proposed trip is full of museum visits, it may not be a good fit. Do you write exclusively about South America? Switzerland may not be of much interest to your readers.
Be honest with yourself if you can produce great content which your readers will love and don’t be afraid to very politely decline if you think the fit isn’t right. In the end, a PR company will respect you for it as they won’t waste money on taking someone who is just not a good match (and keep you in mind for when something more fitting comes along!).
Some invitations will come along with an actual contract of what is provided and what is required. Honestly, those are my favorites as there is little room for disappointment. Usually, daily social media updates with a certain hashtag and an amount of blog posts/vlogs are required. How many entails depends entirely on the DMO. Don’t be shy to add your own conditions. For example, daily social media updates should warrant that wifi or data is provided for you.
Once it is clearly outlined from both sides what is given and what is expected, agree if you are happy with it and if you can hold up your end of the bargain.
Paid press trips
And yes, you read correctly earlier, sometimes you will get paid to go on a press trip. That can either be a daily fee or a lump sum on top of your expenses being covered. Needless to say, this will usually require a significant readership and social media following. It will also largely depend on the destination. Destinations like luxury safari parks, Antarctica or exclusive South Pacific islands will already have enough overheads to get you there – they’ll rarely have to offer a fee on top.
Whether you accept a trip without payment depends entirely on you, where you are in your career and how badly you want to go somewhere. If someone was to invite me to Micronesia I will probably bring them pizza on top of not asking for payment. Anyone from Micronesia, reading this? I make really good pizza!
What to do & not to do on the road
Whether the trip is paid or not, it is never a vacation where you can choose what you want to do and see. You will have a set itinerary showcasing whatever the client wants to feature. While not everything might be of interest for you and your readers, you will be required to attend. And who knows? You may just discover something new and exciting you never thought to write about!
While some trips may include free time, pool time, and cocktail time you should remember that you are doing a job so being professional is key. That includes:
- Do your research beforehand about the destination and its customs. You don’t want to show up in El Gouna and ask for pyramids as a certain Travelette may have done at an early point in her career.
- Take notes and pictures while you are there. Let the person who leads the press trip know if you require additional information or photo opportunities for your posts.
- Be on time. That should be a given but somehow it isn’t. While the bus may wait for you, you don’t want to be that person.
- Have business cards on you.
- Keep drinking and partying to an acceptable minimum and only when part of the itinerary.
- Don’t act entitled, nobody likes a diva. You agreed to do this trip which makes it part of your job – act accordingly. The world owes you nothing and PR companies tend to remember who was pleasant to work with and who wasn’t.
After the press trip
Upon returning send a thank you note to the person in charge. This is also the time to address any issues you may have had on the trip which may impact on what you write. Integrity and honesty to your readers are paramount and that shouldn’t change because someone paid for your trip.
However, I like to determine if certain issues need to be part of the story. Ask yourself if they are important for your audience. While I was on the Kerala Blog Express there was a lot of waiting around, usually for our Indian organizers and crew. Especially for the German in me that was incredibly frustrating at times. Did it change my opinion about Kerala and how much I liked it? Not at all! If anything my posts are going to come with a sidenote that time works just a little bit differently in India.
Can you write an honest rave review or do you need to be a bit more critical? Ideally you will have addressed any major issues that could impact your post before and would hopefully been resolved then and there. If they didn’t, now is the time to address them. In general, though, companies tend to be happy with a balanced post rather than one that just mentions the highlights of a destination as they know that honesty is key.
Once you know what you are writing, the real work begins. Make sure that you publish your material within the agreed upon timeframe. Make sure to declare the press trip within your post, your reader has a right to know. More and more countries even have laws requiring such a declaration.
Once a post goes live I like to send the link to my contact person and follow up with any stats they may want after a couple of weeks. That is important information for a company’s marketing department and also shows the value of your work.
If a trip and its post went particularly well ask for a reference. Those are a great addition to your media kit and will make it easier to line up invitations for your next press trip!
Any additional tips on scoring a press trip or questions? Please leave us a comment.
All images by Annika Ziehen and Jinson Abraham