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Since 2012 I’ve been on around 27 press trips abroad. From airlines and cruise liners to tour providers and tourism boards, I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with all sorts of amazing companies, who have sent me to exotic locations around the world.
For many bloggers and travel writers, scoring a press trip is kind of a big deal. The idea of free (or paid) travel, can be highly attractive to a blogger who’s just starting out. But it’s also worth remembering that a press trip is not a holiday – lots of work is involved and it should be taken seriously. You’re not there to sunbathe on the beach and drink cocktails – you’re taking photographs, live Tweeting, Snapchatting, Instagramming and perhaps even filming video for YouTube. The trip doesn’t end when you get home either, since you then have to write blog posts and edit any footage you’ve taken.
Want to know what press trips for bloggers are really like? Here’s what I’ve experienced:
Sometimes things are last minute
On several occasions I haven’t received the itinerary until the day or night before the trip. I have absolutely no idea what we’ll be doing; I just have my passport ready and a confirmation of my flight details. Even then, sometimes the flight details don’t come through until the week of the departure date. As a blogger, you learn to just go with the flow.
Often a PR will get in touch to gauge your interest and confirm your attendance, then get back to you closer to the time with all the details. If in the meantime you haven’t heard from them and are feeling a little bit concerned, it’s OK to send them a follow-up email to check everything’s still happening.
Other times things have been a bit more organised and I’ve been given an opportunity to provide my own suggestions or to make changes to the itinerary.
Meal times are interesting…
What happens when you get a bunch of bloggers together?
Someone asks, “What’s the Wi-Fi password?” and before you know it, everyone’s gazing at their mobile phone screens. Before you can start eating each person has to take it in turns to get their perfect shot, which inevitably means the food isn’t quite as warm when you come to eat it! But it’s part of the job, so you get used to standing in as a hand model or holding a light so someone can get a picture of their food in a dimly lit restaurant.
The itineraries can be jam-packed
The tourism boards will try to pack in a fortnight of activities in just few days, so don’t be surprised if you’re on your feet from morning to night. It’s not uncommon to be meeting in the hotel lobby at 8am and only getting back to your room at midnight (sometimes later if you end up sampling the nightlife). However tired you are, you need to be up the next day, so make sure you take full advantage of those sleep hours! As I get older, I’m much more comfortable with turning down the cocktails and nights out in favour of an extra few hours’ sleep. Doing a long hike on a hangover is NOT my idea of fun.
I often take my laptop to do work on the trip but to be honest, I barely get to open it. The good news is some PRs have come to understand that bloggers need time to do work in between, so they’ll work some free time into the itinerary. Unlike journalists, who often take annual leave for their press trips, bloggers have to be available 24/7. We’re answering emails, uploading blog posts, Tweeting and taking Instagram photos in every second of downtime that we have. The moment I walk into a hotel room I leave my bags at the door and take as many pictures as I can before emptying my suitcase and ruffling up the bedsheets.
You’ll make friends…
On group press trips I’ve had lots of laughs and made some great friends. When you’re travelling with other people it’s like travelling in a group tour – there’s a feeling of camaraderie and you tend to bond very quickly. Sometimes I know the bloggers already when I join the trip, while other times find myself travelling with people I haven’t met before. By the end of some trips we’ve had our own WhatsApp groups, in-jokes and favourite theme tunes!
Of course the downside of group trips is they’re more restrictive and you can feel a bit like a sheep being herded around in a minibus for the day. Sometimes I’ll go on solo press trips and those are nice because you have much more flexibility to do your own thing.
…and get to do awesome things
Press trips have given me the chance to do some truly awesome things, like staying in plush hotels, riding in helicopters and dining in world class restaurants. The tourism boards want to show you the best of their destinations and make sure you have plenty of things to write about. I’m definitely very privileged to have had such incredible experiences: highlights for me have been flying business class on airlines like Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines, taking my first ever luxury cruise, hiking the Great Wall of China, bathing in the Blue Lagoon and watching sunset over the baobabs in Madagascar.
It can be glamorous…and not so glamorous
As I said above, I’ve had some really glamorous moments, but it isn’t always that way.
Of course, its sometimes typical to get sick just before a big trip. When I boarded the plane to Tokyo for my press trip to Japan I suddenly started sneezing and came down with a heavy cold, so I spent most of the trip feeling unwell. Add in the fact that we had some incredibly long days (a 3am wakeup call for a domestic flight and a full day of activities leading right up until 11pm) and I was extremely exhausted by the end. I soldiered through it because I’d wanted to visit Japan for such a long time and from my Instagram pictures you probably wouldn’t even know, but I felt pretty rough.
Things don’t always run to schedule
When you have so many activities to pack into one day, things naturally start to overrun. Sometimes you’ll be forced to abandon an activity, or the itinerary will have to change slightly. Travelling in a group means that you’re often waiting for other people, so expect that there will be some hanging around while everyone gets organised.
You might find yourself on camera
Each press trip is completely different, but I’ve been on a few press trips where the organisers have asked if I’m OK with being filmed. When I went on a food tour of Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia Airlines, our group was followed by a camera crew who filmed an online video of our trip. We had flown through the night from London to Kuala Lumpur landing in the AM, then we had a full day of activities as soon as we landed.
In Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, I was interviewed by local TV news and newspaper reports. The whole thing was incredibly surreal and I suddenly had a glimpse of what it would be like to be a minor celebrity. As soon as the car door opened there would be a camera waiting for us and they would capture everything we did on film, asking us questions along the way with the help of a translator. On this trip it was just me and Lily from Tokyo Cheapo, so we ended up really bonding over the weirdness of it all.
Press trips for bloggers can be extremely fun but also very tiring, so when I return home I usually need a good 24 hours of rest just to recover. You’re eating all the time and the food can be very rich too, so usually I feel like eating something really bland when I get home! I think most of my friends see my Instagram photos and think that I’m living a really glamorous, and to a certain extent I am getting to do things that the average person would not. But it isn’t a free holiday and I’m working very hard to document and promote the trip.
Bloggers – what do you think of press trips? Have you been on one and how did you find it? I’d love to hear from you below!