Last fall, I chatted about how to ramp up your travel blogging partnerships, and it was one of my most buzzed-about posts of 2017. Let’s say you’re a little more experienced: you’re headed to a hotel stay or a FAM in the next few months, and you’re wondering how to handle yourself. Even though travel blogging is an excellent experience, it is still work: and you still need to be a professional from beginning to end.
A lot of companies that organize press trips also work with travel writers from regional and national media outlets as well — they’re not working with just bloggers/influencers. I’ve talked to a few PR folks that have worked with bloggers who haven’t been the most pleasant to work with, and this devastates me: in our industry, it only takes one bad apple to ruin it for us all.
Here are some of my tips and tips on how to look like the most seasoned travel blogger on your next trip.
Press Trip vs. FAM: Bringing Guests
One of the first learning curves with press trips? Learning the difference between a press trip and a FAM, and whether you can bring a guest or not. I define a press trip as an experience where I’m the only media outlet invited to an experience, and a FAM is when multiple bloggers and travel writers are hosted on one trip.
If it’s a press trip, most of the time they’ll understand that you need to bring a guest. If I bring a guest, I let my guest know that this isn’t going to be a leisurely vacation: we have a tight itinerary, they have to help me out with photography, and they need to be on their best behavior. For FAM trips, most of the time you’re not allowed to bring a guest — but I always ask in advance. This might sound nerve-racking, but I love going on FAM trips with other writers I’ve never met before: some of the people I’ve met on FAM trips have become really good friends!
Review the Itinerary in Advance & Note Any Issues
You’ll be provided a copy of the itinerary in advance before a trip, and if there are any major conflicts that you see on it, notify your contact immediately. For example, I’m headed on a FAM trip next month, and it includes a hike. I’m still recovering from a knee injury, and I’m physically unable to complete the hike. However, I’m letting the CVB know well in advance that I’m unable to do this portion of the trip. This way, they can either schedule another activity for me or I can have a PR rep stay behind with me while the others enjoy the hike.
To Tip or Not To Tip?
When you’re on a FAM trip with other writers, typically the tourism board or CVB that you’re partnering with will take care of any checks and tip accordingly.
However, when you’re on a press trip by yourself? If you have a meal that is comped, I would highly recommend asking if gratuity is included or not. Sometimes it will be, but most often it isn’t. I rarely carry cash, but I’ll ask the restaurant to run my card for a dollar so that I can leave a tip, and I like to tip 20-25% of the value of our meal.
Say Your Proper Thank-Yous & Follow Up
Guys…please make sure to say thank you. I like to email within 48 hours of returning home from the experience, and if I had an experience that was exceptionally great, I might send a hand-written thank you note or send baked goods/flowers to the team (rare, but it happens!)
In my thank you note, if I’m planning on writing a blog post about the experience, I like to give them an approximate date that it will go live. If I’m being paid on top of the trip, the turnaround time is a lot shorter for me to get a post up. If an experience is unpaid, I still aim to post on the blog within a 2-month timeframe — since I shoot a lot of photos on a trip, it takes a longer time for me to sort through photos and figure out my exact angle for a post.
How to Cover Your Experience
I’ve been on some press trips and FAMs that are pretty laid back, and that don’t set hard guidelines for coverage: they just hope that if you enjoyed your experience, you’d want to share it on all of your platforms. I’ve also been on some trips where they say right off the bat that you need to post a certain about of times on certain platforms.
I’m always a fan of underpromising and overdelivering: I went on one trip where 3 Instagram Stories were required, and I ended up posting 7 of them. Keep track of every social mention you make and every inclusion for a blog post — the folks who are coordinating the trip want to measure reach and ROI from a press trip and/or FAM, so you’ll want to keep track of everything!
Always Be Honest
Not every trip is going to be an ideal experience for you. Just because you received something complimentary, doesn’t mean that you should give it a glowing review.
If you didn’t enjoy something about your trip, I would let your contact know in your follow-up email. I don’t have to do this too often since I review the itinerary before a trip and make sure I’m aligned with it, but sometimes things happen. A little constructive, polite notes about a trip can go a long way. Sometimes I’ll omit parts of a press trip that I genuinely didn’t enjoy, or don’t think would resonate with my readers.