This is a question I get asked all the time, so I thought it was finally time to address it in a blog post!
For many (but not all) travel bloggers and journalists, when they realize that a big part of their job is to go on press trips, people always say, “So what if I go somewhere and hate it? ‘ you ask!?’
What happens if I go on a press trip and it’s terrible?
What if your hotel is a hidden gem?
What do you do when your flight is delayed, the staff is not helpful, you get food poisoning, and it rains all week?
Today we will answer these questions!
You may have noticed that I haven’t been on many press trips lately. I only accept what I know is perfect for me. I’m also willing to pay for my own trips out of pocket. I don’t think you shouldn’t get “freebies” just because you’re a travel blogger, but I also think you’re lucky to earn some decent passive income through your blog, so you don’t have to rely on press trips and free hotel nights.
But I have a lot of press travel experience. Actually I am writing this article from Montenegro (I wrote this last summer and it took me a while to publish it!). Montenegro has quickly become one of my favorite destinations and one of the best press trips I have taken in years!
So before anyone asks, this post about bad press travel has nothing to do with Montenegro!
^Although the weather wasn’t always perfect in Montenegro and I spent 80% of the trip alone, I still had a great time!
You quickly learn which press trips are good ones and which are bad ones
This is partly instinct and partly experience, but when the invitation arrives in your inbox, you know whether it’s going to be a good trip or a bad trip.
I usually send emails where the sender clearly just sent an email to all the bloggers on their mailing list, emails where the travel focus isn’t clear, I cover all costs and they refund me ‘later’. Avoid emails that have expectations. Emphasize how lucky I am to have “free vacation”. They don’t understand that blogging is my job. I know they don’t speak English and have communication problems, or just not in general. They seem to know what they are organizing or why.
Good people don’t necessarily seem formal or have the perfect itinerary already laid out, but they usually email me personally and know what kind of person I am. They’ll research my blog, know what I’m doing, and email me instead of just being a British travel blogger. If they email me and say, “We’ve never worked with bloggers before, we’d like to arrange a call to find out how this works and figure out the best way to make this happen.” Can I have it for you?” I don’t mind. That’s totally fine and much better than the mess of a press trip!
If you’re new to blogging and you’ve been invited to a press trip and things feel a little weird, join one of the many travel Facebook groups and see if they think it’s legit. I encourage you to ask.
^Photographed during a press trip to the Watergate Bay Hotel
You say no to anything that doesn’t fit your niche/personality
Bloggers don’t accept every press trip they’re invited to. They only accept what appeals to them and what they know they will enjoy.
For example, I was recently invited on an art press trip to Italy. It sounds really interesting, but I’m not that interested in art, so I’d probably be bored to tears if I spent an entire week visiting art galleries and museums. Also, the publicist who invited me must have been disappointed. Because I wouldn’t have been able to provide the coverage that trip deserved.
^ One of my favorite reporting trips was to Norway on P&O Cruises
You’re rarely invited anywhere really crappy
The truth is, bad press trips are rare, so there’s nothing to worry about. OK, you’ve heard of them, and it’s usually that they’re very poorly organized (Elle once went on a press trip with a group for Travel Hack, and when they were at the airport When they arrived, there was no one to greet them, so they had to prepare for them) They were on their way to a hotel that was not booked, so everyone paid for their room. I had to pay!) Anyway, it happens, but it’s rare.
There aren’t many brands that are stupid enough not to plan a press trip and make it great. They wouldn’t go to that length of effort just to get bad press.
And now that everything is covered live, the press strips feel better. Organizers know they can’t go wrong because #EpicFail will spread on Twitter faster than you can say it.
^ During a press trip to Japan
You research the hell out of any destinations before accepting a press trip
Most bloggers do a lot of research before accepting a press trip, especially if it’s to a destination they’re not familiar with. It’ll take longer, but it’s better than being on the road for a week and then realizing you really shouldn’t have gone there.
You don’t let them book the flights before you’ve seen an itinerary
Bloggers usually try to figure out a rough itinerary before booking a flight. Once your flight is booked and paid for, you’re pretty much locked into a press trip, so we won’t allow you to book a flight until you know exactly what to expect during the trip.
You need to get as much information as possible before committing 100% to a trip. It can be difficult at times, as itineraries are often planned at the last minute based on availability, but you should have a rough idea of what you’ll be doing and where you’ll be staying. We were recently invited on a really nice family vacation and they wanted us to stay in a hostel!
^ I am very picky when accepting family press trips
You ask to tweak an itinerary if it isn’t for you
It’s common for your itinerary to include things that don’t suit you, and that’s okay. For most press trips, you can avoid negative experiences by tweaking your trip to include activities that interest you.
Communication is always important, and as long as bloggers and brands maintain communication, everything is usually fine!
^ I love Prestrip where you can plan your own itinerary like Rotterdam
You dismiss things that are out of their control
When you go on a press trip, things often go wrong, but you can’t blame them if it’s not their fault. Your flight may be delayed or canceled. It may rain throughout the trip. Maybe you went skiing and it wasn’t snowing. The airline may lose your luggage. There are a lot of things that could potentially go wrong, but if it’s not their fault, you can’t let that influence your review.
You try not to let your emotions get in the way of an accurate write up
We all have our ups and downs, but you need to be professional and not let it affect your view of the place.
I went on a press trip when George was a baby. George was home with Sam, but he was sick for the three days I was away. I was scared to leave him and felt he should have stayed home. Mom guilt and worry that the baby might be unwell kept me in a bad mood during the press trip, but I didn’t allow those feelings to affect my overall perception of the place. It was not possible.
But emotions can go both ways. I have also visited some mediocre or boring places with my good blogger friends, but it was so much fun because we had so much fun together. Thanks to PR, we have an endless supply of alcohol, the sun is shining, and life is good. But that doesn’t mean the destination is amazing or that I need to write about it passionately!
You have to consciously separate your emotions from your destination!
^Dubai was filmed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so the reporting trip was tough!
But what happens when it really is bad?
If it’s really bad, I feel like bloggers, influencers, and journalists have a professional obligation to tell people to avoid certain places. And I will do this wholeheartedly. If I wouldn’t recommend it to my best friend, I wouldn’t recommend it to my readers!
Trust is everything when it comes to blogging, and the moment someone loses trust in you, you’ve lost everything.
But if it’s a bit “meh” most bloggers probably won’t mention it. Let’s say I go on a press trip and his 50% was good and 50% was average. Most bloggers would only focus on the good half of the trip!
if you are being paid to go on a trip and it goes bad, you need to be professional and this often means losing your fee. I’ve never had this happen on a press trip, but it happens all the time in product reviews. A brand agrees to pay me x amount to promote a product, but I may find that I don’t like it when the product arrives. So you have to accept that you wasted a lot of time and energy and send it back to the brand and tell them that you can’t work on the campaign.
Again, this is easy for me to say since I already earn a paycheck with passive income and don’t rely on brand partnerships to pay my mortgage. But if a blogger is having a tough month and he has to turn down a job because the product doesn’t suit him.. that’s tough and it requires strong morals.
^This photo was taken during a press trip to Montana, where I pretended I wasn’t pregnant yet. You definitely can’t get away with it in this photo!