If you’re serious about becoming a travel blogger, you’re going to want to get to the point where you’re invited on press trips. The first time you’re asked to join one, often referred to as a media trip or famil (familiarisation), is a wonderfully exciting feeling. It’s like you’ve been validated, finally recognised for your hard work. It’s also amazing to be offered the chance to travel for free! But don’t let the dream fool you – media trips are hard work and it isn’t at all like being on a free holiday. Before you set out on your first media trip, there are some things you really need to know. So, here are my tips on how to prepare for and survive your first press trip, as well as a few insider tips too.
Be clear on deliverables
Before you say yes to the trip, you need to be very clear on what’s expected of you. So take the time to ask the person who contacted you, usually a media contact or someone from a PR agency. Ensure you are comfortable with deliverables being asked of you – how many social media posts per day, the number of blog posts, images you need to hand over, videos to create etc. You also need to know if you’re going to be paid or not. Once you have all this information you can then decide whether or not you want to join the trip and fully understand how much work you will have to do in return.
Prepare to work very long days
Forget what you’ve seen on Instagram – dreamy photos in the sunshine, breakfast in bed, fluffy robes etc. Press trips are incredibly hard work and the days can be very long. On a press trip, I usually work a 16-17 hour day. It isn’t easy, it isn’t a holiday and it isn’t time to slack off. You will work far harder on a press trip than a normal day working on your blog. You need to prepare for this mentally and when you hit those points of exhaustion you have to dig deep to get through them.
Prepare content in advance
While you’re away, your blog life doesn’t stop. To keep your business growing, you need to be sharing content while you’re away. This means preparing blog posts in advance, ensuring you have social media posts scheduled, having YouTube videos ready to go etc. Create enough content to cover you for the time you’re away, to ensure your audience stays engaged.
Carefully read the itinerary
When you get it, take the time to read the itinerary carefully. It’s important you identify any activities that don’t align with your brand, so you can tell the PR and use that time to do something else, if possible. It’s also important so you know what to pack, what camera gear you will need and how much time you have to get what you need, content-wise, in each location.
Create content ideas before you go
It’s always a good idea to have an idea of the content you’re going to create before you go. This will make it easy for you to keep an eye out for the things that’ll go into your blog posts or video. Are you writing a food, activity or accommodation guide? Are you making a vlog or more specific video? Knowing in advance ensures you get the photos and information you need to write a great guide, rather than getting home and realising you didn’t really capture enough of any one thing to make a range of specific guides. It’s also good to have a few photo ideas, to ensure you get good, usable shots.
Formulate a ‘get ready’ routine
You will be asked to wake up at ridiculous times and be ready to leave. In these moments, you need to have your ‘get ready’ routine locked down. It needs to be refined, streamlined and perfected. I know exactly how long it takes me to get ready and how long I need for breakfast. For example, it takes me 1 hour from waking up to walk out the hotel room door. From there, I need 30 minutes for breakfast, during which I update social media and answer emails. So, I know, if I have to be ready to go by 6 am, I need to wake up at 4:30 am. It may sound like a long time, but it’s essential I take the time to do my makeup properly each day so it lasts and the photo/video I get is usable.
I would also recommend you have a quick routine too, so you know if you absolutely need to, how to get ready and look great in 15 minutes.
Pre-plan your outfits
Check the weather forecasts for where you’re visiting, then check the Instagram geotags for the destination and see what people are wearing. From there, you can get a good feel for the type of clothing you’ll need. Pre-plan outfits where possible. I always consider the colours of the destination when packing, so my clothing contrasts and I get better content. For example, if I’m going to the ocean, I like to wear red, orange and pink. If I’m going to a city, green and yellow are favourites.
Take outfit changes with you
I wear a lot of skirts because they’re comfortable and easy to change! By wearing a white t-shirt and carrying one or two spare skirts in my day bag, I’m able to easily change my outfit just about anywhere, without exposing myself. This means I get photos with me wearing multiple outfits, so I don’t end up with 100 usable images of me looking exactly the same on each one. It’s a great way to get more mileage out of your images!
With all this packing talk, you’re going to be tempted to pack a lot. Trust me, that’s a bad idea. Pack as light as possible, because you will be lugging your suitcase with you everywhere you go and a heavy bag becomes a big problem very quickly. One thing to note – comfortable shoes are essential. Don’t just pack one pair though, because even the comfiest pair of shoes will give you blisters if worn day after day. Take two pairs of very comfortable shoes and rotate them.
You’ll learn as you go, there are certain items you need on a press trip. I always pack an emergency battery pack so I can charge my phone and GoPro on the road, as well as a spare camera battery. Have makeup wipes, a few makeup essentials, spare hair ties, as well as a hat and sunscreen with you. Use a refillable water bottle and have a small bag of medicines with you at all times, including eye drops, paracetamol, Imodium, travel sickness tablets and hand sanitiser (at a minimum!) I also have a charging adaptor which has two power outlets and two USB outlets, so I can charge multiple things at one time if needed.
Get a good backpack and day bag
I also recommend investing in a very good quality, comfortable backpack, for transporting your laptop and everyday essentials on flights and during travel days. Mine has those straps that clip up on the front of you, so I can do them up and take the weight off my shoulders when standing around waiting or walking from place to place. That said, I don’t use my sturdy backpack as my day pack or camera bag. At the moment, I have a mini Fjallraven Kanken which I love as it is small, light, fits my gear easily and leaves my hands free to shoot. This is no time for pretty handbags and Gucci clutches.
Don’t get into bed until you’ve done everything
If I could give newbies one piece of advice, it would be this: DO NOT get into bed until you’ve done absolutely everything. You will be extremely tired at the end of a press trip day and you will want to lay down and rest. Don’t. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you absolutely must prepare for the next day, the night before. Laying or sitting down for a rest, will make you feel lazy and you won’t get it done. So, as soon as you get in that room, have a shower, iron your outfit for the next day, put your batteries onto charge, pack your bag and get organised. Then, when you’re 100% ready, you can get into bed and get to sleep. Trust me on this one.
It’s incredibly important you act in a professional way on a press trip. You need to make a good impression on the PR team with you, the others on the trip and the brands you come into contact with along the way. This is not the time to get super drunk and make a fool of yourself. No matter how tempting, do not drink to excess. Do not be greedy and over-order food or alcohol, especially if it’s paid for by the brand. It’s essential you are always on time and show up prepared and ready to work! If not, you may get a bad reputation and not be invited back ever again. Always be polite and courteous to every person you meet, from the CEO to the servers at restaurants. Treat everyone with respect. Say please and thank you. Tell the brand and PR you appreciate being invited and show them, by working hard.
It’s also important you’re mindful of what you say, don’t blurt out anything controversial or something that could paint you in a bad light to the brand. This is not the time to re-tell your Uncle’s ‘hilarious’ religion joke from Christmas.
Learn to see the bigger picture
There will be times when you are absolutely exhausted. You will fly 21 hours to get to the other side of the world, land, and start working immediately, not stopping until late at night. It’s going to be hard at times. BUT, you will experience things on press trips you would never get to as a normal traveller. You’ll be given once in a lifetime experiences, meet great people and have some absolutely unforgettable moments. it’s important to remember why you’re there and see the bigger picture. It’ll be challenging at times, but the reward is so very worth it.