Going on your first press trip? You must be excited, right? So was I a couple of months ago when I was invited to a massive travel event taking place in an emerging Eastern European country. Now, however, when the trip is over, I realised how many mistakes I could have avoided if I knew these 5 things I described in this post.
Please note, that in this post I’m talking about big blogger events, where more than 10 bloggers are invited. In case you’re going on a press trip alone or with one other person, most probably, probably only the points 1 and 3 will be relevant to you.
If you’re interested, in the end of the post, I’m featuring my personal story of #myfirstroadtripgonebad, so you know what has actually happened to me.
But let’s start with the 5 things you should know before going on a press trip:
1. Negotiate all terms with the organisers before your arrival
This is without hesitation the most important point out of the whole list. You need to know for sure what will you get and what is expected from you. You should discuss all the accommodation, flight and transport details in advance and have all the things set before boarding a plane. In case you’re not happy with the hotel – tell that and the more insistent you are (especially if you have solid reasons for the hotel change), the more probable it is, that you’ll get your hotel changed.
Most of the tourism boards and sponsors don’t place bloggers and journalists to really bad locations and hotels, but there are exceptions. My personal story at the end of this post involves a really bad hotel, where I was placed by the organisers and the consequences I suffered after being in it.
2. Research, who is coming in advance
In case if there is a private Facebook group or a chat for this event, don’t hesitate and look through it thoroughly in advance. Try to remember the names of your future trip companions and check their blogs and Social Media. This way, it will be easier for you to understand, who are you talking to and even ask for an advice, if you really like this person’s work. There will be no better chance to exchange tips and ideas with your fellow travel bloggers other than in a small press trip.
3. Bring more business cards
If it’s a big event and some sponsors are expected, don’t forget to bring your business cards. If it’s a smallish event, you will still probably meet with the local tourism board or some businesses, where you can network a bit and exchange some business cards for your future trips.
4. Network as much as you can
I only realised it some weeks ago, but networking is really a key to blogging success, especially in travel blogging. Try to talk to as many people as possible, and try to leave a good impression on your fellow travel blogging colleagues (arriving hangover or getting wasted won’t leave the best impression on the others, doesn’t matter how fun person you are). However, what really matters is the genuine connections. If you genuinely make friends with some people in the travel blogging world, it will be so much easier for you all to succeed. There will be press trips, where you will be referred by other travel blogging friends or even brand partnerships. So communication is the key!
5. Try to stand out, so people remember you
This mostly apples to some bigger events, where maybe 20-100 people are invited, so you don’t have a chance to have a couple of one-to-one conversations with every single participant. In case you want to be remembered (in a good way, of course! Nobody wants to be famous as a person who “got sick on a bus” or “was drinking too much and annoying everybody” or somebody, who complained all the time. How can you stand out in a good way? Well, you’ve got to be a king/queen of networking and be extremely friendly with everyone, remember all the names/blog names/pet names/children names of the bloggers or you can stand out wearing some colourful & original clothes. If you wear a unique bag & colourful skirt or some really outstanding dress or a blouse, people will eventually remember you.
Now it’s time to share my personal #presstripgonebad story.
My personal story of what has really happened during #ExperienceBucharest press trip:
It was my first trip ever and I was very excited, to be honest. This trip was really important for my “career” in travel blogging, when I got my invitation, I felt like all the work I’ve done over the last 15 months paid off and somebody actually appreciated what I’m doing. I was invited as an Instagrammer and was patiently waiting for my hotel details, expecting to be in a nice-looking hotel where I could do my best and create some nice shots. Just 2 days before my flight to Romania, I got my hotel details, and it was an extremely old and budget hotel located on the outskirts of the city. When I checked the Facebook group of the press trip, I realised that 95% of the people actually are going to live in the city centre and around maybe 80% would live at least in a good 4* hotel. Being one of the 5% made me very frustrated, so when I arrived in Bucharest and shared a transfer with girls, who were staying in way better hotels and when got delivered to the hotel, I immediately contacted the organisers, asking if there is anything else available.
Upon my arrival, I noticed a terrible smell in the room, that was all covered by carpets. However, I didn’t pay much attention, thinking that if I open a window, the smell would be gone. Anyway, I was here to enjoy my press trip! I was waiting for a reply to my message but got no response. In the meantime, I discovered from the locals that this area near the train station is not nice. Also, I was told that a girl should walk there alone at night. All the events in the schedule for our 5-day event were finishing around 1-3 am every night. And that meant that I had to take a taxi every single time I decided to come to any of the Experience Bucharest events.
I got a reply from the organisers late at night. The reply, however, was disappointing for me, as they said that everything in the city centre is busy. According to them, my hotel Ibis Gara de Nord was located in a great location, just 3km away from all the events and that there was even a trolleybus going to the city centre. The didn’t mention that the public transport would be PACKED during the rush hour (when all the events on Friday started), but I discovered that myself later. They also said that Bucharest is one of the safest cities in the world (which is not true, of course, confirmed by 30+ locals) and I can use some taxi promo codes they will send me (which didn’t work either).
I just felt that it was really unfair that 3 people (including me) out of 80 or even 100 would stay in such a bad hotel really far away from all the events. There were few people in a Ramada North hotel (but at least it was in a nice location and it was a way nicer hotel than Ibis). The rest would stay in 4* or even 5* hotels in the city centre with few exceptions places in a hostel (which was WAY NICER than Ibis and in the perfect location).
So what was wrong with Ibis Bucharest Gara de Nord?
I could barely sleep during the first night in this hotel and the second night was really bad. On the second day, I started experiencing minor breathing problems and was coughing all the time. Also, my small wound on the lip started getting worse instead of healing.
After the third night in Ibis I woke up all swollen, with sore throat and some terrible allergy and realized that I can’t stay in this hotel anymore. This has never happened to me before, but then again, I never stayed in such an old inrefurbished hotel with carpets all around. This time I both send an email and even talked to organizers in person, but they didn’t pay much attention and told me that everything is busy and I should have told that I want to change the hotel from the very beginning (which I did). Since I couldn’t stay in that hotel anymore due to the worsening health conditions, I had to pay for 2 nights in a new hotel and move out as soon as possible. When I already moved and paid for the new hotel, Liad, I received an informal Facebook message asking if I want to share a room with some blogger, whose room mate just moved out and that they can even change the bed linen for me.
Since I already paid for the new hotel and had also paid for my flights I didn’t feel like it was a press trip anymore. So I sent an official email saying that all the content I produced will stay, but I won’t create any more content with their branded hashtag. I got a reply in…5 days, when I was back at home, saying that I was the only one who complained and that some of my claims were false.
What did this trip teach me? Well, obviously, the point number one in the list above – complain, insist and ask to change the accommodation BEFORE going on a trip. If I was more insistent 2 days before the trip (when I got my hotel confirmation) and actually asked to move me, my experience in Bucharest would have been entirely different!
But well, I guess I’ll be learning from my mistakes.
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