I admit, there was a time when I thought nothing could top the idea of free travel. And then I went on a press trip. It was certainly fun. And interesting. It was also long. And tiring. And there were moments that I was so intent on sharing what I was seeing and learning on Twitter and Facebook that I felt like I wasn’t present on the trip at all. And then, the trip ended and I was home. And the real work began. Writing, editing photos, fact checking, creating video and promoting my posts. And that’s when I realized there is no such thing as free travel.
I’ve been blogging for over five years. I no longer accept every press trip or event that I’m offered. While I’m flattered, sometimes a press trip doesn’t make sense to me or my brand. I’m at the point where I’ve begun to ask myself a few questions before I RSVP.
7 Reasons why I Say No to a Press Trip
- Not a good fit.
This is a tough one because I want to experience everything, but honestly, some destinations simply are not a good fit for my site. Last year, I was invited to go on a week-long cruise on a line that I could only dream of traveling on. My family is pretty much budget focused and I write a lot about how to save money while traveling so a luxurious cruise though oh-so-tempting- wasn’t a good fit. In a few years, I may be in a better position to write about luxury travel, but right now, it’s not normally a good fit for me or my audience. I’d rather say no now, and have an opportunity to work with the brand in the future than say yes now, and leave the brand disappointed.
- I wouldn’t pay to visit on my own.
Before I accept a press trip, I ask myself if the destination is one that I would visit if I were footing the bill. Is this a destination that I would visit on my own? Is this a location or attraction that my audience will be interested in reading about? If the answer is no, to either question, I can’t justify accepting.
- I can’t afford it.
Some press trips cover all expenses. Some cover everything once you arrive at the location, but offer a stipend to cover some of the travel expenses. Some destinations require you to foot the bill to their location. The costs can add up. Especially if you take several press trips a year or month. I’ve learned to allocated a portion of the income I make from my site for traveling to and from press trips, but even so, if I’m required to travel a long distance or I’m not able to find what I consider a reasonably priced flight, I’m likely not going to accept, because I can’t afford to.
- Bad timing.
I’ve said no to press trips that I would have loved for no other reason than the timing was bad. What more can I say?
- If I feel the PR invited the wrong person.
You may think this never happens, but it has happened to me. I was once invited on a press trip that included my family only to find out the destination thought I had young children. Clearly, they didn’t read my About Page. If they had done their research they would have seen that my kids are grown. It would have saved embarrassment for both of us.
- Press trips can stress me out.
Nine times out of ten, I can roll with the punches and a press trip goes off without too big of a hitch. But once in a while, things can go awry. The weather doesn’t cooperate and leaves me stranded at an airport hours from home. The hotel accidentally charges my credit card for the entire length of my stay. Or the cabin where I’m supposed to be shooting a TV segment that was sprung on me at the last minute isn’t ready and its five minutes to airtime.
I’ve learned to expect the unexpected when traveling, but the unexpected is easier for me to take when I’m traveling for pleasure and not for work.
- The trip doesn’t align with my goals for my site.
When invited on a press trip, it’s important to remember that you’re there because the brand is expecting you to help them reach goals that they’ve made. The same goes for me. The trip needs to offer me good return, which means I’m looking to further build a connection with the PR reps or brand hosting, that I’m looking to make new connections, and/or I the trip will provide content ideas that will be a natural fit for my site or for another site and for my audience.
I really do love press trips. I returned from one last weekend and had a lovely time with my husband and bloggers that I’ve come to think of as part of the family. I’ve simply learned that for me, it’s best if I don’t accept every offer that comes my way. I try to limit my press trips to once a month- of course there are always exceptions.
There are times that I find it easier to plan and book my own travel which is what I did when my husband and I traveled from Ohio to the Oregon Coast. Sure I still posted to social media (I’m a hopeless Instagram addict) and I have written some blog posts about the trip so it’s not like I turned my work off completely, but footing the bill did give me the freedom to travel on my time frame with no deadlines and no expectations.
Are you a travel writer or blogger? How often do you accept press or hosted trips? What so you consider before accepting an offer?