I am not rich. As a full time travel writer, there are months when money flows and I live as though my last name is Rockefeller. Then there are the months when freelance projects are scarce, blog opportunities are infrequent and money is tight. My bank account depletes, my stress levels rise and I begin to channel Oliver Twist. Such is the life of a freelance writer. Money ebbs and flows as do opportunities but for the freedom to wake up each day and do what I love, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Regardless of what’s in my bank account, more often than not I’m able to travel. I’ve been on a 10-day tour of Morocco, a luxury tour of Jamaica, an all-expense paid trip to the Philippines; and travel blogging made it all possible. The reality is that as a 20-something living in New York City, it may have taken me years to afford to see some of the places I’ve been; but because of press trips I am able to travel now.
Press trips are the holy grail of travel blogging. The coveted perk that inspires most people to press publish on their website. While I’m a firm believer that perks should not be the sole inspiration behind pursuing a career in travel blogging; press trips make it possible for bloggers to both chase their passion and afford to travel. This complete guide will tell you everything you need to know about landing a press trip.
What is a press trip, anyway?
Press trips are tours organized by tourism boards, hotel chains or PR firms that are interested in securing editorial coverage about a destination, hotel brand, etc. The trips are organized for bloggers, journalists, photographers and social media influencers who can offer exposure in exchange for an all-expense paid trip.
The pros & cons of press trips…
The pros of press trips are obvious: bloggers are offered free airfare, accommodations and can go without paying a penny (barring any souvenir purchases) during their travels. The complimentary trip is in exchange for coverage that is agreed upon beforehand and usually laid out within a contract.
The con of press trips can be their exhausting itineraries. I’ve been on press trips where there is no free-time (besides that at the end of the day, before bed), where there are early wake up calls and long travel days that leave everyone half asleep. While a normal traveler has the freedom to explore at their own pace; a press trip attendee is at the will of the tourism board. Another con of press trips is that most do not extend an invitation for a loved one or friend to tag along, so when headed on a press trip you are agreeing to travel with strangers for however long you’re away. Of course, all press trips vary in the itinerary, number of travelers and people attending–more often than not, the pros outweigh the cons!
Can you travel for free AND get paid?
While most press trips have a barter arrangement (free travel for exposure) some press trips actually pay their writers in addition to covering travel costs. These sort of press trips are the dream but know that they are rare. In the 4+ years that I’ve been travel blogging, I have only come across one opportunity that paid me on top of covering my travel costs.
High exposure = Free travel
A press trip is an investment where a tourism board will pay for the airfare, hotels, meals, and activities of a visiting writer in exchange for media coverage. Keeping this in mind, those invited on press trips need to offer scale and reach.
In my case, when I am approached for a press trip I offer exposure on The Pin the Map Project (reaching half a million readers), my social media channels (100K+ followers), Business Insider Travel (through an existing syndication partnership), Mode Media (as I’m part of their blogger network) and The Huffington Post (assuming it’s a natural fit for the site). All of this exposure combined creates a pretty substantial amount of coverage for the tourism board wanting to work with me.
The thing to remember is that it takes time to reach the point where you can snag press trips.
Focus on building your website, following and reach so that when you do approach a tourism board or are offered a press trip, you have exposure you can offer them.
A Step-by-step Guide for Landing your First Press Trip
You’ve put in the time, you’ve built your following, you’ve grown your social media and now you want a press trip. The ideal situation is you’ll receive an invitation directly; but assuming you don’t there are ways to go about landing your first trip.
1. Look to other bloggers to see what press trips they are taking. A blogger is legally required to disclose if a trip is sponsored, so they will say if invited by a tourism board. Doing a little research will give you a list of tourism boards you know to offer press trips to bloggers.
2. Are you a luxury travel blogger? A budget backpacker? An eco-tourism enthusiast? An adventure travel junkie? Most press trips are “themed” and will tailor their itineraries to specific types of bloggers. Make sure to know your niche before approaching a tourism board.
3. Use resources like Media Kitty and Matador U’s MarkeTplace that list press trips or offer tips for tourism boards known to work with bloggers.
4. Once you have your list of tourism boards and your selected niche, it’s time to reach out. Send a brief email to the media/press contact. Your email should be professional, should tell them who you are, why you’re reaching out and the exposure you can offer them. In short, make sure your email makes it clear why it would be beneficial for the tourism board to work with you.
5. Be patient because the fact of the matter is tourism boards have to sift through a lot of e-mails from the thousands of travel bloggers who simply want free travel.
You’re going on a press trip! Now what?
If you’ve landed your first press trip, the next question is what should you expect. Every press trip is different and whether or not it’s good or bad, ultimately comes down to the group you’re traveling with and the itinerary you have. If headed on your first press trip, here are some guidelines to nail it.
- Never forget that a press trip is ultimately work. A press trip is not a vacation; it’s a business transaction and you are expected to be professional as a guest of the tourism board.
- Following a press trip, thank your contacts for sponsoring your visit. Make sure to follow up with details of your upcoming stories as well.
- I’ve heard horror stories of bloggers who over drank, spent too much at hotels or left a bad impression that “blacklisted” them from future press trips. When attending a press trip, 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 and your website. Above all, remember that people talk!
If there is one thing to takeaway from this entire post it’s this: you can travel for free as a blogger but you need to build your following first. Keep writing, keep building your social media and keep working on your blog!
Have you been on a press trip before? What was your experience like? Share it below!