In the travel blogging world, the holy grail is often considered a press trip (that and paid gigs, but that’s an entirely different topic altogether). I remember my early days of travel blogging and my green-faced envy at bloggers who had reached the point in their website’s career where they had back-to-back press trips lined up. I longed to reach such a point with my own blog; then I did and I’m here to tell you it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
In the past year alone, I have taken six press trips. I’ve spent two weeks traveling throughout Indonesia alongside 15+ bloggers. I took a roadtrip in Mexico as part of a tour company’s new press launch. I flew across the world for a five day quick tour of the Philippines. I indulged in an adventure vacation in the Dominican Republic. As I write this, I am in East Iceland with three journalists from New York and England. Hearing this, you may be tempted to click away from this page but hear me out. On this, my 6th press trip this year, I am totally burnt out. I have reached press trip fatigue. Like a kid who eats their weight in sugar and now suffers a hellish stomach ache; I emptied the metaphorical cookie jar of press trips and have spoiled my appetite. Here’s why with press trips, not all that glitters is always gold.
The reality of taking a press trip.
Press trips offer incredible (free) opportunities to see the world, but what many don’t realize is that when you agree to a press trip, you agree to forego any freedom to see and do what you wish in that destination. A press trip is when a tourism board or PR firm representing a brand or tourism board invite you on a trip in exchange for press coverage; it’s a business transaction: you travel on their dime and in turn provide social media and editorial exposure for their brand. While traveling for free is a wonderful bonus, it’s important to understand that a press trip is not a vacation. You are subject to strict itineraries, wake up calls and will often cover a lot of ground in minimal time, giving a sense of feeling rushed during your trip. Also key to remember is that most press trips aim to promote less visited parts of a destination, which is great for going off-the-beaten path but unfortunate if it’s your first time to a specific country and you end up missing all the key attractions.
The importance of ANALYZING the press trip itinerary.
A press trip can be particularly frustrating if the items on your itinerary aren’t exactly of interest or relevance to both you and your blog. For example, the current press trip I’m on is a back-to-back parade of small town museums and community centers across East Iceland, which – albeit interesting – isn’t of particular interest to me. Each traveler is different and when it comes to my own trips, I prefer to wander aimlessly, meet the locals, try the food, see the views, learn from my guide book and steer clear of museums (unless it’s the Louvre or some other equally must-see spot). To be spending most of the minimal day light we have in Iceland, standing in a museum can be frustrating. In the end, the blame rests with me. I didn’t read the itinerary closely. I got blinded by the words PRESS TRIP TO ICELAND and the rest is history. The lesson here is don’t get glitter tossed in your eyes from the destination.
The people will make or break the trip…which isn’t always a good thing.
I took a trip earlier this year throughout Europe with my boyfriend, Jeff. We got lost, missed flights, were locked out of our Airbnb and faced an array of mishaps but we were together and that made all the difference. Seeing a country with Jeff is my favorite thing in the world. No matter where we are, what we’re doing or what we’re seeing; we make each other laugh and are one another’s comfort zones.
Press trips are very different. It’s a gamble each time you arrive in a destination and wait to meet your fellow trip mates. I’ve traveled with every sort of press trip attendee out there. I’ve bumped heads with the ultimate press trip diva. I’ve partied with a group of fabulous bloggers. I’ve been the youngest on a group trip and I’ve been the oldest. I’ve traveled with photographers. I’ve traveled with journalists. I’ve traveled with people who are insufferable and with people I wish lived in the same zip code as I do so we could continue to spend time. I’ve been on press trips I couldn’t wait to end and some I wish lasted just a week longer. I’ve seen it all and here are my two takeaways: the first is that press trips show you a lot about yourself as you navigate varying attitudes and personalities and the second takeaway: sometimes a free trip isn’t worth more than paying to travel with the ones you love.
Press trips will change how you travel for yourself.
This is a subtle change that happens but after enough press trips where you are contractually obligated to be on social media and covering every detail of the destination; it can become a sort of addiction to live share all the time. Sometimes – despite myself – this spills over into my personal trips, where I’ll catch myself focusing on Instagram worthy photos rather than the destination itself. It’s a slow change at first but when you grow accustomed to traveling for everyone (readers, followers, brands, etc.) but yourself, you can lose a bit of the magic that likely had you fall in love with travel in the first place. Don’t worry, you can always get it back again as I recently learned while solo traveling in Bali.
Save some destinations for yourself.
If you have yet to experience a press trip, then by all means go! Press trips are a wonderful way to see the world on the wings of your hard work and writing. There is not a single press trip I regret taking – even ones I found frustrating at the time – because each and every single trip allowed me to see someplace beautiful in the world and gain new memories. But after 10+ press trips, I do see the beauty in also choosing to travel on my own dime, in the way I like. I see the beauty in waking up abroad without an itinerary, next to the person I love. So while I will take future press trips I’m sure, there are certain destinations (like Vietnam for me) that I choose to save for myself to share with the person I love, in the way we like to travel.
So, what do you think? Have you taken press trips? Will you? Share your thoughts below!