I’ve been a travel blogger for a while now. Excuse the pun but it’s been an incredible journey. There’s been fabulous opportunities. I’ve made some great new friends. And I’ve learnt a lot. This week I’m sharing one of those lessons as I thought it might be useful to anyone thinking of starting up a travel blog or adding travel to their blogging repertoire. So what is this pearl of wisdom? Simple: press trips are not free holidays!
I’d be lying if I said that when I started blogging I didn’t think there might be some perks. However, I never expected to be offered anything as valuable as a holiday in return for coverage on my blog.
But in the past few years it has happened again and again. Whoop! Could there be a better freebie? Hold that thought!
What’s a press trip?
A press trip or fam trip (short for familiarisation) is something organised by a tourist board or holiday company for journalists or bloggers. They want to show off what they have to offer holidaymakers in order to get print or online coverage and boost bookings.
Journalists have been taking part in press trips for donkeys years. More recently travel brands have caught on to the influence of bloggers.
As a travel blogger I get dozens of emails each week asking me to promote attractions, destinations or holiday venues. Some are paid opportunities but many more are in exchange for an experience. It’s the latter that I’m going to talk about here as they are far more common than paid holidays for bloggers, especially if you are just starting out.
I love press trips – I do!
Before I go any further, I want to say we are so grateful for all the opportunities we are given, and that we can be selective about what we do.
If you get it right, travel blogging can bring you great rewards. It’s introduced us to places and experiences we’d not have otherwise tried. It’s also helped us do more regular trips than we could afford.
However, one of the things that makes me roll my eyes is when people allude to press trips as being a ‘free holiday’. They really aren’t!
Still, if people get the impression that all our hosted trips are a blissful break then I know I’m doing my job properly.
The fact is that press trips are not free holidays. Here’s why:
1. Sticking to an agenda
When we go on holiday we’ve organised we have a rough idea of the type of things we might like to see and do. We very rarely stick to a set plan with two kids under the age of eight. They always have other ideas.
However, when you’re on a press trip there’s things you must do if you’re going to give a complete review.
Pools, play areas, restaurants and local attractions all need to be seen, even if you’d prefer to chill out. If your trip has been arranged by a tourist board they might even set out an itinerary for you to follow.
2. Capturing the moment
I spend a lot of time taking pictures and video during press trips. I have been known to take 200 pictures over a weekend.
This is something I’m trying to cut down so I have more time to enjoy the moment with my family but I need to know I have some good shots in the bag.
That’s not to mention video, Instagram Stories and other live social media posts.
3. The less than 5-star experience
We have been a on a couple of press trips where the experience has not matched the hype. This is always disappointing as we’ve given up family time or other opportunities to do these reviews.
It’s also so much harder to write about afterwards and less palatable for the organisers to read.
If we’d booked the holiday ourselves we might complain and try to get some compensation. But when you’re on a press trip there’s no recourse.
4. Good faith
You make press trip arrangements in good faith that they are going to happen and will be well organised. The majority of trips are. But we have experienced a few where arrangements have altered at the eleventh hour.
For example, I’ve had accommodation changed as late as the morning we were departing. I know of other travel bloggers who have had trips cancelled at the last minute.
When you are travelling with kids and have made arrangements around your press trip, this is not ideal.
5. The time spent creating content
Back in my days working on a newspaper a hotel review would amount to 250 words with a picture supplied by the hotel’s PR agency.
As a blogger there’s an expectation that you’ll do a whole lot more. There’s social media content to produce while you’re on the trip, images to capture and notes to take. Then when we get home it can take me a couple evenings to edit and write up a review.
Sometimes I put pressure on myself to create a certain amount of content in return for a press trips. Other times there are contracts with a list of requirements.
6. The cost
The majority of press trips I’ve done with my family have cost us money, whether that be for petrol or meals out that we wouldn’t have had if we were home.
Some companies are becoming more understanding about covering out of pocket expenses and time but this is certainly not the norm in my experience. This all comes out of our own family budget and means we have to think hard about the other things we can afford to do.
Free holidays or worthwhile family experiences?
I hope that’s given you a little insight into our ‘free holidays’. I love travel blogging and sharing new experiences with my family. If the offers stopped coming I would be gutted.
I guess the point I really want to make is that there are very few things in this life that are free and press trips are certainly not one of them.
If you’d like to read some of our most recent reviews take a look at my holidays section or our days out. Some I write about because we’ve been invited and others are featured just because we had a great time and want to share it.
Pop by my work with me page if you’ve got an opportunity for us to consider.
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