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How Your Blog Can Score You Free Travel

This guest post is written by Anthony from The Travel Tart.

When I first started my travel website in 2009, I just wanted to get my travel writing out there, because I was frustrated with the way traditional media worked. Little did I know that having an online presence would lead to opportunities for press trips to all corners of the globe, and I did this from scratch!

Fiji's Coral Coast (image is author's own)In 2010 alone, I went on press trips to Fiji, the United Kingdom and South Africa. I have also recently become partners with a major adventure travel company that will provide more opportunities for press trips in the coming year.

When I talk about press trips, I mean trips where all expenses such as flights, meals, accommodation, and activities are covered. Considering I only started my blog in 2009 with virtually zero knowledge of how the Internet worked, that’s pretty good!

Would you like to use your travel blog to travel the world? This is what I’ve learned from my experiences.

Blogging has advantages over traditional media

Traditional media such as newspapers, radio, and television have a scattergun approach: they broadcast all sorts of information to everyone, but this information isn’t relevant or interesting to all of these eyeballs.

However, being a blogger with an online presence means that one can use multimedia such as writing, photography and video for the website. These media can be used to portray the same story in different ways.

The blog media offer numerous benefits over traditional media:

  • Speed: bloggers can post something about an experience on the day, and start attracting traffic immediately. Traditional media people have to write the story, submit it to an editor, wait for approval, and then have the piece published—a process that can often take weeks or even months
  • Using photography and video footage can show an experience, instead of telling it. Newspapers and magazines can’t do this. For example, try writing about an experience such as bungee jumping off a perfectly stable rock ledge for a 70 metre freefall. This video communicates the experience much more effectively.
  • You can create multiple articles from one trip. I normally do a blogging campaign for these press trips by producing numerous posts, with each one focusing on something different from the trip. The number of posts per trip varies depending on what I experience. As an example, I’ve created 15-20 posts for a two-week press trip, and scheduled these to publish over time.
  • The biggest benefit of being a blogger is that you can attract targeted, long-term Internet traffic that has an indefinite shelf life. For example, if someone is Googling “South African Adventure Travel”, you can be sure they’re specifically looking for information on that topic. Also, because people are specifically searching keywords via search engines, this means the traffic consists of people who are interested in these topics, and are therefore more likely to take notice of the information you provide. It’s laser-focusing for your content!

Now I’m going to assume you already have a travel-related blog, or a blog with a strong focus, so I’m not going to tell you how to write travel posts. Instead, I want to explain the techniques I’ve used to build my profile as a travel blogger with the organizations I’ve approached and had sponsor my trips.

Get started

I sell the above benefits of having an online presence, and promote what I can do for a company or tourist commission—and back it up with evidence.

For example, I’ve turned up to travel exhibitions in my town because there are usually tourism commission and other travel industry stands there. Then I start talking to someone at the stand, as they’re usually a public relations employee. This is how I scored one of my press trips.

Also, I use business cards and hand them out as they’re relatively cheap, and I’ve found they’re a great icebreaker.

On the press trip itself

I’ve often been the only travel blogger for most of the press trips I’ve been on—and that means I can be a writer, photographer, and video production person all at the same time!

However, the trips provide exposure to other travel-related contacts, which expands my network and opens up more opportunities—ironically—in traditional media! I’ve also received great feedback from these guys about how video can capture a travel experience so well.

Be proactive and follow up

I have followed up all of these press trips with a report that details the Internet traffic my reports have attracted, video views achieved, and Google Keyword positions for the organization that paid for my trip. Along with this information I include traffic strategies the organization might like to consider, such as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Social Media (Twitter, Facebook, Stumbleupon etc.), and so on. This all builds up a body of evidence for my clients, and an even strong track record for me.

Your blog is your advantage

Having an online presence can give you a number of huge advantages over traditional media.

I feel that the biggest advantage is that the Internet is quantifiable. You can provide clients or trip sponsors with traffic statistics, information on where traffic comes from, and even data on how long visitors stay on your site.

Getting on the first press trip is the hardest. But if you can demonstrate a track record of attracting targeted Internet traffic beforehand, your chances of scoring that first one will be much higher. And once you have that track record, you’ll be invited on more press trips! This is how your blog can create opportunities that lead to free travel.

If you’ve managed to score free travel thanks to your blog, what other tips can you add?

Anthony writes about the funny, offbeat and downright weird aspects of world travel today. For more information, you can visit his Facebook Page or sign up for his RSS Feed.

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Comments

  1. Hi Anthony,
    Thank you for sharing your experience.

    I found it nice to read that you get out and about in the physical world to build business contacts. I personally have built long term relationships with readers who have read my newsletter for almost ten years because we originally met in person. With their help I have had the honor of presenting at conferences.

    I also have business cards like you that I hand out to people if they are curious to learn more about my work.

    Continued success to you,
    David

    • No worries David. It’s good to keep building up these contacts in the cyber and physical worlds, but I find meeting someone in person it the most effective way to build a relationship!

  2. I would add one thing, if you want to do photography and videos… learn how to do it right. Don’t assume that if other people can do it, you can do it. It takes time and practice. The better the quality of your photos and videos, the better the exposure and traffic will be.

    Darren’s DPS site is a great resource to learn photography. Photography is not about pointing a camera at something and taking a picture. It’s about storytelling. So tell stories visually.

  3. Rachelle says:

    I haven’t gotten any trips but I have got press passes to expensive conferences ($1000+) to cover the event.

  4. I guess the only set-back is I’m sure you are considered an expert in the field of travel otherwise they probably wouldn’t be sending you on these expensive trips. I’m willing to bet most of the hotels throw in the stays and big discount rates to get exposure. So it’s a win-win for everyone really.

    You can even expand this into any genre and ask for products or samples or prototypes to review. The power of just asking can go a long way.

  5. One of my blogger friends Mars talks about online presence a lot and he understands that you must stand out in an crowd if you want to be notice..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  6. Cskuan says:

    This is such a Quality Post!
    As a tourist guide myself,I should start blogging during the early days..

    Love reading this post,Good Job!

    Best Regards.

  7. Cam says:

    Using a travel blog is a great way to score freebies. We’ve been able to attend a few trips in tropical places courtesy of industry sponsors. I would add that it is not as simple as just setting up a blog and waiting for the big payout. Most of these travel bloggers spend countless hours tweeting and promoting. The good news is, the hard work can, and does, pay off!

  8. Jagan Mangat says:

    Congrats!!!! Problogger you got Google PR 7.

  9. Chris says:

    Nice job on getting the free travel. Sounds like your blog is starting to gain some traction. I checked out your site and it looks like you are doing a good job.

  10. I cannot stress enough how important and informative this article is. I am in the process of planning my first press trip and this is incredibly useful!

    Thank you very much!

  11. Vivek Parmar says:

    didn’t get too many chance to travel yet, only attended two blogger’s meet only :(.
    congrats on getting PR7

  12. David Perdew says:

    It’s true that this works for just about any niche that you can imagine, and the key point to remember is that you can re-purpose your content in many different ways to increase your presence online. Seminars and conferences come to mind as industry events you could focus on to elevate your status in the niche you’re interested in. Good insight, thanks for the post.

  13. Matt says:

    While I’ve yet to be invited on a press trip, I’ve used my blog in the same way to gain free travel tours or experiences. Typically these companies don’t seek me out, however I send them a cold email offering the opportunity for review and what they have to gain.

    For me, it’s a chance for a free bungy jump, whale watching tour, or overnight cruise – for them, it’s a chance to have a targeted audience learn more about their product.

  14. Great article, free trips would be nice one day.

    Keep up the good work

  15. corey says:

    Thank you so much for that. That’s great that you were able to get that going so quickly. I need to find a way to incorporate that into my niche. I’ve used my blog in the past to get press passes for events.

  16. RumShopRyan says:

    It’s true. I went on my first press trip last year to the Bahamas and captured the experience for my readers and the Bahamas Tourism Board. I do think blogging has an advantage and a longer shelf life than the traditional media sources. PR firms are starting to see this more and more.

    Thanks for the post!

    Cheers,
    RumShopRyan

    • No worries Rum Shop Ryan. I feel that travel bloggers on press trips will become more mainstream in the next couple of years, so it’s could to position ourselves to basically do something that we love doing and receive this in kind support!

  17. Thanks Anthony, good information and timely for me because I’m just working on creating a new blog in a particular travel niche. For me, this is somewhat like coming full circle since I spent the first 20+ years of my working life working for hotels . . . and yes, I hosted many a travel fam during that time.

  18. Wow, I am so jealous. I love traveling too but cost-wise, I don’t think I can do that yet. You are so lucky that the expenses you’ll be having during those trips will already be covered.

  19. Anthony, you are right. Totally agree with you that blogging has advantages over traditional media. The press trip that I did for Tourism Tasmania is still getting traffic from search engine. People spend more time searching for information on Internet nowadays. It’s a win-win for the tourism and the travel bloggers, and of course to the readers.

  20. I do get a constant stream of people/companies asking me to review products but because I cannot devote sufficient time to just one blog I am not viewed as an “expert” in just one field.

    I am sure if I only had the one blog then I could be more “succesfull” in this matter.

  21. I want to travel to CES next year and blog about it at KwikSocial

  22. gneesham says:

    I’ve had friends who have reaped the benefits of blogging about niche markets they are interested in. They haven’t been lucky enough to be offered free travel, but they have been offered press passes to big events. I’m hoping that if I take the time to include reviews on my blog, that I can also do the same.

  23. Ed O'Keeffe says:

    Thanks for a great article, it was really inspiration and full of great information. I travel a lot, espcially around the UK and Europe for my photography blog but I have always paid for it out of my own pocket or money from selling / licensing images. I have never thought of tourism boards paying for trips, even just paying for a flight would help me out. Thank you so much, this seriously inspired me to look into this much deeper.

  24. Louise Mason says:

    Love the name Travel Tart!
    I’d really like to get into travel writing (not just for the chance of a freebie!) I haven’t been anywhere yet since starting my blog last year, do you think its worthwhile to blog about older trips? I have some great stories from Australia (2009) and the Philippines (2008) but obviously some of the details won’t be current.

    I’ve had one blogging freebie so far, which was an invite to an Indian restaurant launch and a free curry!

    • rosemary says:

      I can’t see why older trips wouldn’t benefit your readers….they may never get to those places but can see it with your blog! I have posted older shots from NYC and they seem to have been well received.

  25. Toby says:

    Great post and really interesting just shows what can be achieved with a bit of lateral thinking. Building the online presence can be achieved so much faster than traditionally offline – an eye opener
    many thanks

  26. Ayngelina says:

    I really need to be more proactive with this. I’ve been so busy keeping up with the traveling but it would be nice to ease the finances with a free trip or two.

  27. Great to hear how you promote a blog to PR that are used to more traditional media. I myself have been on many FAM/Press trips this year due to my blog.

    One tip is to be sure to tell them that they can have exposure almost immediately. For major already secured press trips I always include an “Anticipation Post” about my interest about a certain location or experience!

    Any other tips from anyone?

  28. I wish to try it out, maybe I get lucky to win a free trip or something..

  29. Lee Cole says:

    What a great idea! I had thought of starting a travel blog just because I could write about places I love, but I never really thought about scoring trips with it. Thanks!

  30. Constantine says:

    Am also in the travel niche and I have to admit travel is one of the hardest niche to crack. I believe if we work hard at it we will make it.

  31. rosemary says:

    great ideas and very cool to get whole trips paid for! my blog is about nyc but I have been getting press passes to attend events like the upcoming philadelphia flower show….most places seem happy to get the publicity. I have only 1 that has not responded to a press pass request which is a pretty good score. I am still trying to see how else I can grow my blog…it is a little over a year old. just invested in a better dslr camera so the photos will be a bit more crisper….

  32. Bryan Brough says:

    Good post, I am working hard to achieve this very same goal. I feel I have great articles and I know I have great photos I just need more exposure. The best thing to do is keep plugging away and working to achieve the travel lifestyle dream.

  33. Renee King says:

    As a travel blogger with a full time job and no plans to quit, the ideal scenario for me would be to score press trips and/or review relevant travel related products on my site. Anthony, you’ve given me a great starting point to devise a strategy to get my name out there and actually approach the CVBs and Tourism boards. Thanks for a very timely and informative article!

  34. Nicole says:

    I just started my travel/photography blog a few weeks ago, and one of my readers pointed me to this article. Thank you! You gave me some great ideas that I’ll have to look into.

  35. Jo says:

    Great tips and ideas – you’ve obviously worked hard to get where you are. I have a growing destination travel blog about South West Australia, and by plugging away at it I’m also beginning to reap the rewards in the form of paid writing gigs, and legitimate freebies – although all expenses paid travel trips will no doubt take some leveraging … and considered strategising.

  36. I’m from Maldives and I have been trying to consistently blog since 3 years back, but still its going like one shot in a month. I see you guys are really doing a great job and are really committed to blogging. I hope I will receive some hits and that will encourage me, anyway my content is really unique. I worked in several resorts of Maldives and my I’m sharing my experience on the blog, assisting tourists to more and better deals. I’m a bit happier than before now. :D I feel i’m at least contributing some for others’ life, especially those honeymooners who visit Maldives with my guidance and advice.

  37. Parwaiz Win says:

    Great tips…I just started my blog and your adviser will surely help me. Btw, please do check my blog and do leave your comment.

    http://citizenno1.blogspot.com ( Malaysia and The World )

    Cheers

    Parwaiz

  38. Excellent Post Anthony. I totally agree with you and although I’ve yet to score a free press trip, I have received numerous travel products free in exchange for a test/review of the product.

    I hope to bring this to the next level sooner than later by attempting to score free hotel/hostel nights in exchange for reviews on my blog now that it’s getting more and more popular and we’re receiving more traffic each and every day.

    I would also like to add that Twitter is such a powerful tool for connecting with big players in your specific niche. It doesn’t have to be travel, the major brands and companies in ANY niche are on Twitter right now as we speak. I’ve connected with a few companies in the travel industry via Twitter and have received free product to test through this method.

    People should know that you need to be pretty well established before you go asking for products, trips, etc. These companies want to see that you’ve got a following, and that you provide top notch, honest information to your readers.

    I’m going to shoot a few emails out now regarding press trips while keeping your techniques above in mind. Thanks for the great post and thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  39. Greg says:

    I have scored free travel on my blog by means of a contest I won, but I have never gone out and actively looked for it. But now that I think about it, there are many opportunities out there in my niche (mountain biking) to score free travel, with either a guide agency, or to a possible destination that wants more coverage.

    Thank you for this article…. I’m excited to see what places this might take me!