What is a Blog Trip?
A Blog Trip is an updated version of the Press Trip, often offered by tourist agencies, PR companies and tourism businesses which generate publicity for their venue, resort, hotel, attraction or other holiday destination. They are similar to Press Trips and may include journalists from newspapers or magazines as well as online bloggers.
Here are 10 questions for first-time travel bloggers to consider before accepting a tempting invite or leaving for that dream destination.
- Will ALL your expenses be covered on a blog trip? Sometimes you will get paid everything from the time you leave your house to the moment you return, but other times you may find yourself quite out of pocket. Remember that even if meals, accommodation & transport are generally covered, drinks, taxis, duty free/souvenirs (well, sometimes you have to!) all add up. You will need some currency so get your travel money before you go – you may not have much time to change money on the trip.
- What is expected of you in return for the blog trip? What does your client want re Social Media ie Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. How many blog posts are you expected to write? You’re going to be busy and it can be tiring so don’t overpromise. Do they want you to write them whilst you are away? Which leads to ‘3’.
- What’s the WiFi or internet connection going to be like when you get there? Is it included in the package? Blogging and uploading photos can take ages when you have a slow connection. On a cruise it can be expensive. Remember – if you are using a smart phone abroad those Roaming Charges quickly add up.
- Who else is going on the blog trip? Where are they from? You may be the only blogger going in which case you will have an exclusive or you may be part of a group. It might be a Press trip as opposed to a dedicated Blog Trip, in which case you may be along with journalists from newspapers and magazines. If you are on your own, check if you will have a host or someone to show you round and help if anything goes wrong.
- What’s the itinerary? Does it coincide with your interests? You may be given a choice of activities so do think about your readers and what they might like to read about. WARNING; some companies put together really great things to do but remember – you will need some time to yourself so don’t be afraid to ask for free time.
- What research do you need to do beforehand? You may like to just turn up at a place and go with the flow, but it can pay dividends to find out some basic info about the country, customs and culture. (I often get the Culture Smart guides when I go somewhere new.) There are some fantastic Travel Apps that you can download before you go.
- What clothes do you need to take? Of course you need to know what the climate is like, but also whether you will be expected to dress up for a special dinner or doing adventure activities. Some countries are more formal in dress code than others so do check.
- What are the rights to your writing? Does the client expect exclusive use of your articles and photos or can you use the material elsewhere. There are all kinds of regulations over Intellectual Property and it’s changing all the time for internet use, so it’s helpful to clarify it beforehand.
- On your return from the blog trip what is expected from you? Do you let the client know when articles are posted or links used? Is there anything else they want from you? Let them know you value the relationship and hopefully it will lead to other opportunities for travel.
- What else do you need to remember? Of course you have to have your passport – do make sure it’s up to date as you may be asked to leave at short notice. Keep a bag packed with essentials – ie passport, travel money, toiletries, travel plug, sun cream, mosquito repellent, first aid kit. Charge up your laptop, cameras, smart phone, camera prior to departure and make sure all the right leads and plugs are packed.
Finally, remember that a blog trip is supposed to be fun so make sure that you really do want to go on this trip – your readers want to share your enjoyment too!
Blogging aboard Cunard’s cruise liner Queen Elizabeth …
Travel Bloggers, please share your own tips and experiences from your travels around the world …
Great tips! What are accomodations usually like? I went on a blog trip where they ended up squeezing 4 people to a small villa that had only 1 queen size bed. 2 of us had to make do with the couch! It was horrible!
Great article my friend. Full of awesome tips for all traveling bloggers and writers. Thx for putting all of this together in such an informative article.
Oh NOT good Rosemarie – what kind of travel business could possible expect a good review if they treat you like that? Another question to add to the list. Do ask beforehand – it flags up that you are interested in that and if there is an option go for what you’d like 🙂
Many thanks Jeff – I’ve learnt a lot over the past year or so and we need to share it all with each other! Travel quirkily 😉
I’ve never been on a blog/press trip, but I would treat it the same way as I have work trips – a while back, I had been told I would have a certain amount for each meal, which sounded reasonable. But as time got closer and the itineraries given out, it became clear that time was so tight the only meal option was in the hotel we were being put up in, and a basic meal was more than our allowance. Those kinds of things really start to add up on any trip.
You’re so right Vanessa. It’s important for us bloggers to ensure our trips don’t cost us more than we can afford. Blog trips are often still run like the Press Trips of old, where the participant was either already being paid by the paper/magazine or they were freelance and would be selling the article. We are often writing for our own blogs and therefore don’t earn money directly for the post.
Blogging for PR & marketing is relatively new and the relationships, guidelines and financials are all evolving. As long as communication channels stay open and we keep talking, things usually work out to suit all involved.
Ask for everything to be covered/paid upfront. I went on a trip once where it was agreed upon per diem for meals and I would be reimbursed. Yeah, still waiting on THAT check. 😉
Also agree with you about asking for a little free time … whether to explore things on your own or just relax and get some writing done. It seems they sometimes try to squeeze more than humanly possible into a press trip schedule.
Yes, it’s really annoying when they don’t settle expenses quickly Rachelle – trip in April still owing me petrol money! On some of the trips I’ve been hosted so they’ve picked up the tab for meals etc and usually the deal includes D,B&B so there I check if the bill will be forwarded to the client. I’ve not asked for expenses up front – be interested to know how often you get them.
I’m currently on a blog trip to Lincolnshire with Visit Lincoln and it’s a great example of how a good trip can be organised. Emma was in contact via email & phone beforehand and made sure the itinerary was interesting and focused without that ‘squeezed’ schedule that can be so tiring. She arranged for a tour guide to show me round and offered dining companion if I wanted – I said yes 🙂 The venues & events really interesting and accommodation is superb. Excellent blog trip; how it should be done…
Great tips here Zoe – I hope your visit to Lincolnshire this weekend proved they worked! This is a really handy guide to blog trips – thanks.
It was great to have you in Lincolnshire too – really valuable to have you come and explore somewhere that is still relatively unknown.
The blog trip you organised to Lincolnshire was text book perfect Emma! Thanks for going to so much effort to provide a real feast for the senses, not only at the National Centre for Craft & Design http://www.nationalcraftanddesign.org.uk (highly recommended!) but also to give me a fascinating taste of the variety that your region has to offer. Can’t wait to come back & see more …
Zoe – You made a very important point there that as travel bloggers we are mainly writing for our own online publications versus being paid by the paper/magazine or being a freelancer who can sell stories to several outlets.
Now the theory goes that the blog trip will give we bloggers the opportunity to create great content which will lead to more traffic which makes it more possible to monetise our blogs through advertising or affiliate links.
However I also look at the expenses I still have to cover, getting to the airport, paying for parking there, drinks/snacks at airport and on the flight. Then what else I could do with time spent on the trip, say 4 days on the trip and 2-3 days afterwards writing posts about the trip. So that’s 7 days of my time too.
I have asked PRs if they would work for their clients in exchange for a free trip and I don’t get a straight answer, I’m told that I need content so should be grateful to be offered a free trip and/or that there’s no budget for paying bloggers.
Great write up Zoe and thank you for putting your experiences in electronic ink 😉 I think getting paid is the #1 issue for me. I have enough content to fill 5 blogs and my biggest problem has never been material but having enough time to write about it without overwhelming my readers. I have been on a few paid press trips and would not consider the current blog trips as they are currently run. My time is too valuable to not get paid and move to another company’s schedule. In the 7 days a press trip takes up I could be going someplace I need to for my blog or other job, as well as producing deliverables for my consulting work.
Press/Blog trips are often being held up as the ultimate reward for travel blogging. This is only the case if you business plan is aimed at getting you there. For me, I figured out how to get paid to travel in other ways. This leaves me free to produce content the way I want and cheaper than someone who has to pay out of pocket for “free” travel. Just offering the other side of the coin from someone who doesn’t accept unpaid trips, and even paid trips I turn down at times if I’m too busy.
great tips, zoe – and karen is right…is it really worth our time and energy?
Todd, I think you hit the nail on the head with the statement about press/blog trips being perceived as the ultimate goad/reward for travel blogging.
When I’ve said to the host that I need to earn money for my time/effort on blog trips, I’ve been laughed at. When I talk about the opportunity cost of going on a blog trip I get incredulous looks.
I’m pretty certain when I say I can’t afford to go on a blog trip without payment that there will be loads of other travel bloggers who’d be delighted to go on the trip.
Things will only change when/if a significant number of travel bloggers put a value on their time and effort, as how else can you run a business and pay your bills at the end of the month?
So agree with Karen about getting paid for what we do. It’s a complicated dance at present but I am sure that as time goes by we will start to be properly remunerated. So far I have never been paid up front and the trips I do are calculated to see what the all round benefits are to myself and my readers. I do make some money from sponsored posts and articles but it is important that PR companies, travel businesses and sponsors recognise us as providing a service that may not always be free to them.
Like you Todd, I now quite often turn down blog trips that are not paid and offer little in terms of WIIFM factor. As one of the more mature travellers in the blogosphere I only go on a trip if it hits a number of buttons – more often than not it has to be a financial ie I might sell on the article, as well as an enjoyable one. As you say, it’s not a problem for us to find material for blog content and when we are invited on a trip the sponsors need to recognise that more and more often we are going to ask … and yes, expect financial recompense.
It’s important that you know that what you offer got a good value! The whole travel industry goes into social media & blogging now & that’s where you are the expert!
They know that you provide the value & that’s why they invite you. Don’t sell yourself cheap. I know that quite a few still do that & I know how hard it is to find the right balance.
Inform yourself a bit about prices of the old media. It’s interesting how much advertising costs there. Remember that you advertise/promote a destination right away via social media with tweets etc. That’s part of the package! A single tweet got a value & that value gets higher with each month! Search engines are changing their priority to social media!
This could mean that you could get paid for a blog trip. In the end it’s business! They provide you with a value, like a free trip with great activities. You provide them with a number of tweets, posts, photos. So you are even. Why not offer a bigger exposure? You liked the trip & could write more about it? Why not get paid for it? Difficult is just, that it’s still your opinion as a blogger/traveler! Don’t sell the content, but the exposure! 😉
Something else… Talking about paid blog trips. PR agencies & Tourism Boards will tell you that they don’t do that. That’s because they never paid for press trips. So what? Are you on a press trip?
Social media & blogging is something else. A blogger is pretty much everything in one person: Writer, publisher, marketing guru, SEO specialist…etc.
It’s a different & new market, which needs new rules. It’s up to us to find a way to work together. The industry have to open themselves to that & that’s definitely not easy, but important. This will still take time, as there are many people who have no idea of social media & blogging, but who are in the position to make these kind of decisions.
The decision makers need to re-organize budgets & structures. But that’s possible! 😉
Wow, quite a discussion going on here. First of all, great tips ZÃ¶e. I think it’s important for a blogger to ensure beforehand what’s included/not included in the trip. Getting invited for a blog trip is cool but you also have to consider if the things you’re going to see and do are relevant to your content/brand. I also think that it’s important to have fun on a blog trip but you must remain professional – this is work, not a holiday after all. 🙂
I’ve never been paid to go on a blog trip but in most cases, (almost) all expenses were covered. However, as more blog trips are organised, demand for bloggers will rise and whoever has substantial traffic numbers, ditto social media following & track record will be in a great position to demand a fee.
Hi Zoe, thanks for asking me to chime in. I suppose I ask myself
a) Do I want to go?
b) Does it make sense for my business?
c) Can I commit to going (I’ve noticed quite a few people pulling out of trips at the last moment lately, which is pretty appalling.)
a) is obvious (and includes considering whether my readers want to read about the trip!)
b) Money definitely plays a part, as others have written about above. However, there are often other benefits on offer. You often to get to meet other people in far more depth than you ever could at a conference and some trips offer you experiences and access to people and places that would be virtually impossible to organise on your own.
c) Depends on my schedule 😉
I’ve accepted and turned down several invitations by now for a combination of reasons. I’ve had two bad experiences and many more useful ones.
Oh – and as a quick tip: there’s nothing to stop bloggers from selling stories or photos afterwards, just as freelance writers do.
Hope that helps in some way!
A quick note about
Great tips ZoÃ«. Had to laugh about G, thought I was the only one having trouble with that 🙂
On a more serious note now. I think it`s important for us bloggers to be a united front when it comes to blogtrips or reviews or any kind of work they want to do with us for that matter. Everybody talks about getting paid for trips, their writing, … but if write a review for a fee and the next one does it for free. Guess what, they`ll go to the one that does it for free. Of course it`s our job to stand out and have them come to you and because you`re so influential or successful they only want to work with you. But sometimes the only thing they want is linkjuice or some exposure and they`ll grab anything they can get at that moment without having to pay for it.
As for the tips you gave, I agree 100% on having enough time on the trip and to discuss what`s expected from you in advance, so the client is happy and you are too.
Jessie, Mel, Keith, Abi & Isabelle – thanks so much for sharing your views. I believe it’s vital that we are happy with the deal we get and it’s important that neither client nor blogger feels exploited. As Mel says, we offer a lot in terms of PR, marketing, advertising and that needs to be acknowledged, not least by ourselves.
I guess we all love the travel and keeping it professional, personal and fun all help to ensure our readers share in the best possible way our journey, wherever it goes…
Really interesting debate here, dare we step in with the PR perspective?
It’s such a new field and many clients are still not sure what blogger outreach entails and what it can bring to their marketing mix. So I think we are setting the standard just now and as time goes by there will be an accepted norm on how blog trips work and what the fee/expenses structure looks like.
If you work with a PR agency you trust, you can iron out all the issues in advance and even write up a quick memorandum or understanding that keeps things clear.
The flip side is that marketing budgets are ever tighter and sometimes we do have to ask for cost reductions where they are realistic and don’t compromise your comfort or undermine your professional value. And of course, you can always say no.
I certainly think it is a tool that more and more PR agencies will be looking to add to their box of tricks – the audience reach, the level of interaction, and the opportunities to link in with other online and offline initiatives are too exciting to ignore!
Excellent tips, Zoe. I would only add one, more to the use of the people inviting bloggers on a press trip and that is providing them with free mobile connection. I’d love to provide real-time coverage on twitter, facebook and other social media but I cannot afford to pay the huge roaming expenses (neither see why should).
Besides that, I really enjoyed the interesting conversation that has been going on. It will probably take some time, but things are likely to change in the future, hopefully for the better. However, I do believe that one of the biggest challenges is that if we want blogging to be considered as a profession, we must be the first ones to act professionally and not all bloggers are behaving the same way. Over time, Tourism Boards and PR agencies will see the difference and recognize it.
Delighted that a PR company is joining the debate Clare. As you say, budgets have a significant impact on us all and we need to keep communication channels open to ensure that all voices are heard. In a way we are all trail blazers and co-creating the conversation.
I so agree about developing relationships based on trust – I am fortunate to have had wholly positive experiences with both PR & travel businesses on blog trips and have no compunction about asking about payment and expenses. Having spent very many years in business, bringing some of those practices (the good ones not the bad!) to travel blogging just makes practical sense.
Maybe we can work together on a blog trip one day and put all this into practice 🙂
Simon, as ever your views are relevant and thought-provoking. We must set the standard of professionalism and work with clients who share that. It will take time but I know there are many of us who are working hard to ensure that travel blogging becomes the way ahead in one key area of travel writing …
I have never been on a blog trip yet, but believe they are a key factor for taking a travel blog or website to the next level thus bulding a professional bridge between the travel industry, pr and the readers. For me they are all good tips that will help me making my decision and planning further the development of my travel website.
Some thought provoking points. I fall in line with Abi’s views. If we’re talking about bloggers being paid to undertake blogging trips then surely travel blogging moves into the realm of professional writing and with that comes a different set of rules.
You could take the view that it’s up to individual travel bloggers to determine how a blog trip can benefit them financially. That may take the shape of selling articles and photos as Abi says.
Another point about expecting to be paid is that if I was a company/tourist board paying for bloggers to attend a trip, I’d expect a certain standard in terms of consistency of output and quality relating to content, style and grammar.
Follow many blogtrips and you’ll see massive inconsistencies in what is produced post trip. In some cases, nothing. Who’s going to be happy paying for that?
I can see arguments for paying travel bloggers to go on blog trips when the sponsor is a private one (e.g. paying for blogs produced), but I’m not convinced about it applying across the board.
Great tips by the way.
I do hope you get the chance to go on a blog trip very soon Rockytravel – they are a great way to see more of this fascinating planet of ours and an opportunity to develop writing skills within a specific context. I love them and the people you work with ie the PR company, the tourist board, travel agency or whoever, have lots of invaluable experience to share 🙂
Thanks for your comments Jack and your excellent point about the standards in terms of quality, content etc. As you say, posts vary a great deal in that and if payment does come in, everyone needs to be very clear about expectations. So far, I have not been paid for any blog trips and am happy to go as long as we have clarified the requirements on both sides – and the trip is one I am interested in and think that my audience would enjoy reading about. I always ask if there is a daily rate and we take the conversation from there. Each blogger has his or her own motivation for writing and there’s plenty of room for us all in this brave new world 🙂
Great to hear so many names in one debate. Things are changing rapidly and all points valid. I particulary like ZoÃ«´s last comment and line
“Each blogger has his or her own motivation for writing and there's plenty of room for us all in this brave new world.”
We still all and individually have lots to learn.
Keep up the good work all.
Great tips! Especially for beginners wanting to work into that. I’m going to save this.
Cheers Nathan. Hope it’s of help …
I’m a little late in reading this, but get to benefit from all of the great comments in addition to your excellent post. You’ve raised many of the issues that I’ve thought about involving blog trips. My press/blog trip experience is very limited (only one short/local trip), so this was all valuable information. Thanks!
Glad to be of help Cathy 🙂 Going on blog trips is a real treat and a great way to see the world and also help travel businesses that want to get more coverage for their lovely destinations – win win!
Some very interesting points here, especially about press trips. I’m sure it’s nice to get everything paid for but if you have no cash in your pocket at the end of the day, what kind of business model is that?
Put it another way, I work on a cruise ship and travel to 20+ countries a year, while food and accommodation is provided. But I still get paid for it!
The Tourism Industry needs a coherent policy to grow. This in turn needs co-operation between all players in the marketplace.
It’s a really positive thing when people co-operate Steve – great things can happen. The challenge is to find that common policy that all can agree on …
As a bit of a maverick I suppose I quite like the diversity that is on offer at present. The danger can be over-regulation and conformity to principles that don’t meet the individual needs of regions, areas, countries and most importantly of all, the tourist or traveller.
I think the coming decade will prove very interesting for everyone involved in the Tourism Industry as the current economic climate, combined with a growing awareness of the need for sustainable travel, impacts on us all.
As a travel writer and Web publisher who’s gone on quite a few press trips and cruises, I’m a little taken aback by references to hosts as “clients” and by the belief that the DMO or travel vendor should pay the writer/blogger for coverage. (Maybe there *is* some truth in the notion that journalists and bloggers are different species?)
I also think that travel bloggers need to be realistic in their expectations. Unless you’ve got a large and highly-targeted audience that the host wants desperately, you can easily be replaced by a blogger or journalist who doesn’t expect a cash payment on top of a subsidized trip.
Excellent tips, especially clarifying in advance who owns the material you produce. Too many people overlook that one and pretty soon, your whole blog is on someone else’s link farm. Good job. In my former career as a journalist, I was offered junkets (what we used to call them) often. If you don’t clarify in advance what your terms are, you’re asking for trouble later.
I just discovered this post- it was posted on Global Bloggers’ Network today. Great suggestions and I enjoyed reading the comments. Lots of food for thought.
Durant – thanks for your contribution and the opportunity to clarify my use of the term ‘client’. I was referring to the people who are organising the trip ie the tourist attraction, the cruise line, the tourist board or PR company. If the trip is ‘hosted’ ie with a representative from that organisation physically on the trip, usually with an itinerary, then I call them the ‘host’. Not sure if that is ‘correct’ – always happy to learn. I often go on blogtrips ‘unhosted’ ie on my own with my own itinerary but on many Media (ie with mix of journalists, bloggers, TV, radio guys etc) and Blog trips, as you know, we have someone to ‘look after’ us …
Re payment – that comment came out of a discussion that was going on at the time. I’d be over the moon to be paid but have no expectations!
And yes, I do believe that journalists can be very different. Many of my journalist friends have had lengthy professional training and/or been in the media for a long time – though that doesn’t automatically mean they are a ‘good’ (subjective I know) journalists. Many write very well. And some don’t! Anyone can be a blogger who can use a pc and string a few words, photos or video together – that doesn’t mean they are a GOOD blogger.
As you may know, I am passionate about writing standards, style and professionalism in whatever field people work in. (I differentiate that from those who write/blog for pleasure and receive no remuneration for it.) I’m a travel blogger and relish the collaborative, supportive and inspirational world that being able to pursue my love of the written world enables me to embrace. And for the opportunity to engage with feisty minds like your own 😉
Cheers Billie – appreciate your comment -and for flagging up that it was on GBN!
As you say, who owns what with the articles is very important, Tom. The whole world of Intellectual Property is a minefield and the internet is grappling with it all daily. It certainly benefits to the blogger to get clarity on that subject prior to going on a trip.
This is a very helpful post. Thank you. As a relatively new travel blogger, I’m curious as to how one gets invited on such a trip. I would love the opportunity. Do you typically request that kind of thing or do you wait for them to come to you? Thanks!
Great set of tips, but the most surprising thing is the picture. I didn’t realize that the Queen Elizabeth is still floating. I though she had been turned into a hotel in the Middle East somewhere. I did a transatlantic crossing on her in 2003 and it was great. In my life before blogs though.
Andrew – this is the 3rd ‘Queen Elizabeth’ to have the name. The QE2 is, as you say, in Dubai at the Palm Jumeirah being refitted as a floating hotel.
I’m not a travel blogger… I write about fashion and how it relates to (or doesn’t relate to) baby boomer women. However, I do write travel articles from time to time, so this is helpful… just in case I ever get the opportunity to get some freebies. Someday, I may want to start a travel blog. I’m hitting a wall when it comes to new fashion-article ideas. There’s only so many ways to say that swimsuits suck… haha. Not that I’ll ever run out of funny ideas about “fashion” for older women… it’s just a momentary case of writer’s block. I’ll be over it tomorrow.
Hi Tina – thanks for sharing (esp re the swimsuit issue!) and I know just what you mean about writer’s block. Hope it’s gone now. One of the joys about travel writing is that there are so many different angles to concentrate on. A friend has just started focusing on style during a trip – not something many bloggers write about. Have to say – the ‘freebie’ angle of a blog trip is a myth – it’s most def NOT a holiday with tweeting, however much some would like to think! But it is a GREAT way to earn a living 🙂