After signing on as Special Contributor to The Daily Meal, I was quickly given the opportunity to snag a spot on my first press trip to tour Miami’s local heritage. From exploring the Cuban culture of Little Havana to the art deco of Miami Beach, the press trip aimed to show that there is more to Miami than exorbitant rent prices and pristine beaches.
Having just returned from assignment in Buenos Aires to cover the local food scene, I had never joined other journalists on an organized press tour before and was curious how the experience would differ from my assignments abroad. While my assignments in Argentina and Colombia were fluid and unscheduled, my Miami press trip was planned down to the minute with set tours and dinners to make the most of the visit. Admittedly, it took some getting used to as I was shuttled from restaurant to restaurant, attraction to attraction and returned to my hotel room with just enough energy left to change into pajamas and nose dive into bed.
While it may not seem like work in the typical sense, press trips are all about taking notes, asking the right questions, getting the necessary details and capturing the moment to bring the experience to life for your readers. Having never traveled with other journalists, I loved being among people that shared my compulsive need to inquire, document and take notes on every meal, sight and building in order to write a great story later.
Perhaps the most difficult part of press trips is getting accustomed to the total lack of freedom and personal time to explore the destination on your own. During our food tour of Little Havana I absolutely fell in love with the cuisine, music, colors and livelihood of the neighborhood; I could have spent the entire day discussing Cuba’s culture and its influence on Miami but by mid-afternoon our tour was rushed to an end in order to join an art deco tour of Miami Beach. Given that press tours cover all travel expenses upfront, the rigid itineraries are a small price to pay to visit destinations and discover new cities.
What is a Press Trip?
In short, press trips are tours organized by tourism boards, hotel chains or other companies that are interested in securing earned publicity for a destination, new hotel opening, etc. This particular press trip with Visit Miami hosted four journalists, but others have been known to host larger groups. The tours on a press trip can range from being epicurean focused to architecture based in order to appeal to the variety of writers and the topics that they usually cover.
Landing your First Press Trip
At its core, a press trip is an investment where a tourism board or organization will pay for the airfare, hotels, meals and activities of a visiting journalist in hopes of securing high impact, media coverage. Keeping this in mind, those invited on press trips are expected to offer more than a passion for writing, they need to have the scale and reach. In my case, The Daily Meal is a national publication that reaches over 1.9 million monthly readers. On my own, The Pin the Map Project is not at the point to have such a readership (yet!) but with The Daily Meal my writing has much more impact. Publications like Examiner.com and Elite Daily will consistently accept applications for contributing writers so long as you come with fresh ideas on potential stories you can write. Look towards some of your favorite publications and email about becoming a consistent contributing writer! Having your name attached to a large scale print or online publication will allow you to approach public relations contacts and have a better chance at joining future press tours.
Tip: If looking to land a press trip, Media Kitty is a great resource where PR contacts list upcoming press trips for journalists/bloggers to apply for. Most press trips require that you have an assignment or at least a media affiliation in order to be accepted for the trip–it is after all paid for in full so they want to ensure a story will come out of it. This is where being a contributing writer can be very helpful since you can pitch ideas to your editor and leverage the publication’s name.
Press Trip Etiquette
- Following a press trip, reach out to all the contacts made to both thank them for sponsoring your visit and follow up with details of your upcoming story. It is bad form to attend a press trip and not write up a piece, so make sure to keep your PR contact posted about any published work that comes out of your press tour visit. When writing for a publication, your story is ultimately subject to the editorial team’s calendar and approval so just make sure to keep your PR contact abreast of changes.
- During my press tour I heard horror stories of journalists who over drank, spent too much at the hotels or left a bad impression that “blacklisted” them from future press tour opportunities. When attending a press tour, spend within your given budget (i.e. if given a $30 stipend for breakfast, don’t spend $50!) and remember that this is a professional outing that reflects both on you as a journalist and the publication you represent.
- Ask the right questions. My writing focus is travel and food so while the Little Havana food tour was much more up my alley, there were other tours (ahem…art deco) that didn’t pique my interest as much. Regardless, I snapped photos, took notes and asked questions because you never know what might make for a good story later.
Press Trip Itinerary Snapshot
Saturday, September 27
11:45 AM Please be on time to meet GMCVB rep
12:25 PM Check-in for Little Havana food tour
3:00 PM Meet in front of Maximo Gomez (Domino) Park at 801 SW 15th Ave. to depart for…
3:30 PM Miami Beach Art Deco Walking Tour
5:00 PM Return to hotel to freshen up for dinner
7:30 PM Meet GMCVB rep
8:00 PM Dinner at Larios on the Beach
10:00 PM Return to hotel with GMCVB rep
Sunday, September 28
10:30 AM Hotel check-out must be complete; meet driver in front of hotel to depart for Miami International Airport
12:00 PM Nicole Vargas depart MIAMI – MIA on DELTA, flight #408
2:55 PM Arrive in NYC-KENNEDY