How I Bagged my First Press Trip in my 5th Month of Blogging..and You can too!

After an year of blogging and tons of achievements and failures, I decided to share some ‘gyaan‘ with all of you. I know many of my readers are budding bloggers or want the freedom to travel the world and work remotely. That’s the very reason I wanted to share this whirlwind story of my first press trip with you – to help you manifest your dreams and not allow failures to get in the way.

The Story of My First Press Trip – How it Happened and Why I could NOT Make it

blogging ups and downs

Press trips for travel writers are fairly common but when I first started my blog, I had no idea I could get on one so quickly. I was thinking it takes years of hard work and slogging on my laptop to achieve any substantial goals for my blog. (This does not mean I wasn’t working hard, I was putting in 10-15 hours a day since day 1.) Everything changed when I got this email in my inbox –

“Congratulations! We are pleased to confirm that you have been selected  to participate in special „Familiarization trip“ to Bosnia and Herzegovina, which will take place from Friday, 3rd  to Sunday, 12th of June 2016.”

I had applied over a month ago via a simple google doc form which was shared on “We Travel We Blog” Facebook group. Ofcourse I wasn’t even expecting to hear back considering the sheer number of bloggers who had applied. However, if you see an opportunity, never pass it up without giving it a go – Surely thats 2 mins extra off your Fb time but isn’t it worth it? The more jobs/opportunities you apply for, the better the chances of bagging one!

Tip –  I would totally recommend you all to join WTWB fb group as the awesome admin Meg Jerrard of MappingMegan shares amazing opportunities there from time to time. She is also a real inspiration to my blogging goals and monetization journey.

When I saw that email in my inbox, I was shocked. I wasn’t even sure if it was for real. After verifying the authenticity of the email through experienced bloggers and Facebook communities, I did a little happy dance in my room and googled Bosnia to learn more about the destination.

Till date, it has been my most exciting blogging moment mainly because I wasn’t expecting any sort of success with the blog so early (Since then I have been offered 6 press trips in the span of 6 months). Like they say, you always remember your first love – you will always remember your first invitation to a full paid media trip, I promise ya!

Anyways so next step was to call up Bosnia embassy in Delhi to check visa requirements. There was a lot of paperwork involved but I was determined to do it. I even called up the coordinating agents in Bosnia for a ‘letter of invitation’ to process my visa application quickly. It turned out there was no way I could get a visa within a week (yes it was very short notice – just a week).

That’s when I had to write the most difficult email of my blogging career and politely reject their offer due to visa issues. After that, I was really bummed for a long time – even more so when I saw the pictures of bloggers who were on the trip and it looked like they had a blast. It was a fun filled adventure trip which is exactly the kind of travels I enjoy the most. I kept convincing myself to believe there will be more opportunities but deep down I was just scared. I had self doubts and started thinking I just got lucky somehow with Bosnia and I will never get another chance like this ever. So this rosy moment of pride turned to into depression. 

bosnia and herzigovina tourism

Just so you know – THIS is what I had missed!

It was very difficult to pull myself out of it and get rid of the nagging fear of failure. I had no idea how a terrific success turned out sour so quickly and my emotions were a roller coaster. At that time, my closest blogging friend – Natasha from LiveLearnVenture, convinced me there will be more opportunities and I need to let go and move on. I am always grateful to her for the constant encouragement, cheerful attitude and support throughout my blogging journey. Now, I have two more pillars of support – Kerri from Beer&Croissants and Sarah of TalesFromaFork to encourage, inspire and keep me focused through the #wins and #fails.

Its a good thing I shook off the depression and did not let this minor drawback pull me down for good because that’s when the “Trip of Wonders” happened. I got invited to a media trip to Indonesia which was simply ‘out-of-the-world’ epic! I wrote about my top experiences from this spectacular 12 days press trip to Indonesia here –

10 Kick Ass Things to do in Labuan Bajo 
How to Make the most of a Short Trip to Jakarta
5 Interesting Things to do in Bali this Summer 

Hiking up padar island

Taking in the stunning beauty of Padar Island, Indonesia and thanking my lucky stars for this opportunity!

Who Else Wants to Land a Fully paid Press Trip?

In the past one year, I have learnt a lot and I have decided it’s time to spill the beans and share the knowledge. I am not an expert travel blogger, far from it in fact, but I am happy to share what has worked for me and this can help you not just in getting on a press trip but also growing and monetizing your blog (or whatever your blogging goals are).

press trip for travel writers

Join Communities and Engage

This would be my number one advice to anyone who is starting out as a travel blogger. Join as many communities like Facebook blogging groups, discussion groups related to your niche and even social media or support groups. I found out that Facebook groups have been my ‘go-to’ source for tips, seeking advice and networking with fellow bloggers. In fact, that’s exactly how I met my wonderful blogging buds from around the world,without whom, I can’t even imagine getting this far.

Tip – Please don’t join groups just to promote your blog. Few groups will allow you to promote your best posts once a week but on other days, try to engage with other group members. Help them out if you can, congratulate them on their blogging wins, listen to their rants and pull them up if they are feeling dejection – be a “part” of the community and not just keep it as a source for your own personal gains. It is never going to help otherwise in fact you can be blacklisted as a spammer if you only have self serving goals rather than growing together. 

Be Professional from Day One

Being professional does not mean you have to spend an arm and a leg on web design or dedicated hosting (By all means, if you have the money, go for it).

Till date, I am using a free WordPress theme but I will be darned if someone calls it amateur. With a little personalization and branding you can come off as a authority in your niche right off the bat.

I started my blog with just $10 and if you are not willing to invest that much even in a hobby (let alone a business), you know you aren’t serious about it!

cropped-WanderWithJo_Facebook_2.png

I invested $5 in this simple header & logo to personalize this theme.

My first and most important advice to any new blogger is – get rid of the free wordpress/weebly domains and “always” self host. I work as a blogger outreach expert and this is the #1 thing which brands detest. They will reject your blog for any campaigns if you are not self hosted. Period.

So in order to save a few dollars per month, you lose out on thousands of dollars worth of opportunities down the line – Think about it, isn’t it worth investing in hosting? I use shared web hosting (not dedicated) and it is more than sufficient for the amount of traffic I get. I would highly recommend taking the leap from WordPress and move to self hosted blog for just $3.95/ month. My top choice is BlueHost for beginners as they have reliable hosting with easy to use cpanel, great support and tutorials to hand hold you through the process.

Next, its important to personalize. You can either use Canva (Free graphic design software) to design a simple header and logo or if you are lazy, like me, buy them for $5 off Fiverr. If you add 2 bucks for a domain that’s it – you have a semi-professional looking blog at just around $10 to start with.

Have a support group

It is so important to have a blogging support group as these are the people who understand this shit. You can talk all you want to your real life friends and well wishers but they can only help to an extent. I knew I was obsessed with my travel blog since the very first week and wanted to connect with like minded motivated people to share ideas and grow together. That’s how our tiny support group cropped up and it has been my single most important factor for the blog’s success so far.

Write Consistently

You might not have time to write everyday but fix a schedule and stick to it. It has been very hard for me to keep up my twice a week posting (Especially because I won’t post crap just for the heck of it!). But, I kept at it! Even when I am traveling, I make it a post to schedule posts. Few top bloggers post 4-6 times a week or even few times a day. I knew I would never be able to keep up to that pace so I fixed my calendar based on my capacities, which is perfectly okay.

blogging on the go

Blogging on the go when I “need” to write and wasn’t disciplined enough to schedule!

Later on, through my outreach process I learnt many brands will seek out bloggers who post regularly and consistently. This is also very important for your followers and factors in to your overall blog growth. My organic traffic has been going up since I started and posting regularly on my blog gives me that many more chances to rank , even when I am not trying to.

Grow your blog

Work on constantly enhancing your knowledge and growing your blog. I read a lot of books, forums and Facebook group posts to increase my knowledge and stay up to date about the ever changing digital marketing world. I invest in my blog by buying courses, ebooks and social media scheduling tools – all to save time, grow and monetize eventually.

Tip I would highly recommend buying this epic guide on growing your blog traffic from 17k to 400k page views in 10 months or check out this FREE traffic guide first and get your feet wet 🙂

Traffic has been one of the main blogging challenges for me, so I decided to invest small $$ in order to grow and earn big $$$$ down the line. I would say it was a great investment and I already have two pages of notes and strategies to work on. After implementing just few things and making minor changes, I am seeing my traffic grow 3x in just a week. I am waiting to see if this holds but if I can put in the hours, it is definitely going to work. The ebook is geared towards newbies and if you are just starting out, this guide can help you set a solid foundation for massive traffic potential down the line.

Another site which has helped me grow my blog traffic lately is Flipboard so I would recommend you to get started with flipping and read my detailed guide to driving hoards of Flipboard traffic back to your blog.

When you are ready – Pitch

Being ready means different things for different people. Some feel they need xxx,xxx followers or pageviews before they pitch, few might start in their first few months. There is no sure shot formula and no minimum requirements. You will just know when you are ready, trust me on that.

Once you are confident and geared up, prepare a professional media kit (I got mine done from Sarah here). She will send you a file which you can edit as your stats change and tweak as needed but the simple, stylish design helps you attract brands. I still use this media kit and my clients seem to love it – I would think so as I have worked with over 40 brands already and I always send in my simple kit across before we discuss further.

Click here to view my media kit

Next, send out those pitches. It is always hard to click send on your first pitch but do it – How will brands and advertisers find you in millions of blogs in the never-ending blogosphere? Easy – you tell them. Now this does not mean you will send out hundreds of pitches a day. Be selective. Approach brands which gel with your blog image and send a soft pitch asking them if they would be keen on a collaboration. This simple one line has been extremely effective for me. I never send out a detailed pitch before gauging interest levels.

If you are wondering how to find brands to pitch to for press trips? Well its easy. Some common search terms to put in Google to help you get stared – FAM trip for bloggers 2017, Press trips 2017, Press trips for bloggers, Familirization trips, FAM tours 2017 and so on, I think you get the drift. Apart from boards/brands actively looking for bloggers, you can cold pitch to brands “you” love and think you might enjoy working with.

Know Your Worth and your Audience

The first rule of pitching to a tourism board, travel agency, DMO or even a hotel is to know your worth. DO NOT think of it as a “Free” stay/tour. Blogging is a lot of work. You have worked hard to grow your blog so when you try to reap the benefits, don’t undervalue (or overvalue) yourself.

Pitch according to what you gauge your influence is worth. I knew I was influential when my post about top bars in Bandung started driving “real” visitors to the bars and everyone followed the “wander with jo pub hopping circuit”, I could hardly believe it. Knowing that, I wouldn’t want to undersell myself as I believe in my audience and know my worth. So for example, if I feel a promotional article and social exposure on my blog is worth $500, I will pitch accordingly – if its a hotel priced at $100 a night, I would hope to get a couple of nights plus all meals and/or a spa session (This is just a hypothetical example to gauge your worth and pitch based on that).

It is extremely important to know your audience well so if you have a budget backpacker blog, you should pitch to homestays, guest houses and hostels rather than 5 star properties or luxury villas – Not only will they not respond at all, this might hamper your brand in the long run.

When you Get an Opportunity – Put Your Best Foot Forward

Take lots of pictures – make them fun and personal

I have been big on over delivering since the first collaboration. You need to “woo” the brands you work with and show them you have put in genuine efforts. This will not only get other brands interested in working with you, but even those who have worked with you in the past will be happy to recommend others or if its a hotel chain, you can practically work with them in any associated countries.

Sadly, I have seen many crappy property reviews online by other bloggers and it just looks like they clicked few pictures and slapped across a short review – just to get it “over” with. Remember, whatever goes on your blog is a representation of your brand, why would you want anything sub par there? Show brands your best side and that it was worth investing in you. For hotels also, there are costs involved in hosting you – Like there’s nothing as a “Free” stay for you, its the same for hotels/agencies – everyone seeks ROI. Put your best foot forward and make the blogging community proud.

Take loads of quality pictures of the property/food/tour (whatever your are reviewing) as well as yourself enjoying those activities (this adds personalization and your readers can resonate). Ask questions from the property manager/PR and make sure to include everything in a jam packed in-depth guide. 

To give you an example, last year I worked with Ascott group to review the classy Metropole Hotel in Bangkok, after a few months the marketing manager wrote to me saying that was the best review they had every received for their property till date – and they have had several bloggers review them. That speaks volumes and it makes all the hard work worth it – just a compliment from a fellow blogger or PR can really make your day. Now, I don’t hesitate to reach out to Ascott whenever I am in a country/city where they have properties, as I feel they would be more than happy to accommodate me.

That being said, you don’t have to be all goody two shoes if you had a bad experience. It is very important to clear this upfront that you will be posting an honest review of your experience on your blog. After all, you must be loyal to your readers if they look up to you for recommendations. I have had few minor drawbacks and I mentioned them in person to the PR/marketing manager and later wrote them under “cons” in my review as well. None of the brands felt offended or asked me to remove them as it is true and being fair is just part of writing a review, isn’t it?

These were just few of the many things that helped me reach my first year goals with the blog.

So are you a new blogger or yet to get your first press trip? Ask me any questions through the contact page or in comments below and I will be happy to help you out. Don’t forget to sign up for more tips on successful travel blogging or just for some travel inspiration and destination guides.  



With the amazing bloggers and tourism reps during a press trip to North Thailand

With the amazing bloggers and tourism reps during a press trip to North Thailand

Disclaimer – This post contains affiliate links and if you use them, there’s no extra charge to you but it might add to my travel kitty. This would in turn help me bring more success stories, tips and destination guides your way!

39 Comments

  1. Great article as always Jo!

  2. It is great knowing about your blogging journey.Good to know how you managed to sail through the testing times. I like your candour here. Wish you more success.

  3. This is a really informative post. We are relatively new to blogging and have found this very useful. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Best post I have read this week so far. Thanks so much Jo. I have read this at just the right time as i’m about to start approaching people for my upcoming trip to Belize. So thank you for the information and the advice 🙂

  5. This blogpost is really amazing and helpful. Thanks for sharing it! I really need to get into Flipboard. I suddenly read all about in the last two weeks. Must be interesting! And also interesting to read about your blogging journey. Very inspiring!

  6. Wow you have had some great results in a short amount of time. Thanks for the great times

  7. Absolutely fantastic tips. Your results are impressive and I now have some takeaways for me as well. Thank you for taking the time to share these tips.

  8. Great tips for new bloggers and people looking to take that next step that’s for sure. It’s always hard to ask for things, but what’s the worse response? No.. and then move on. Bloggers have worth and we need to remember that.

    • Yeah fear of denial can be overbearing. Just take a deep breath and hit send 🙂 I have never had a rude response and you won’t if you know what you are doing. And remember – pitch only when you are ready.

  9. I’m so sorry your first press trip did not work out! I feel that pain, I’ve been invited to two local ones but they are so last minute that I couldn’t get out of work. But there are always other opportunities and good for you for sticking with it!

    • Yeah local, national or intl, missing “any” opportunity pretty much sucks…but we need to keep going eh? Now, i will be traveling for around 3 months and I am already missing reviewing some neat places , road trips and treks – I am sure I will be missing more but I need my “personal” trips too eh 🙂

  10. Bosnia is a beautiful country and a very easy place to travel — you should make sure to go at some point.

    Thanks for putting this together! I helped organized a press trip way back in the day and these are all solid tips. I hate going on tours and I run an organization and need to be available for that, so I can’t really imagine going on a press trip myself.

    • Oh def, I will make it to Bosnia – hopefully this year itself 🙂 haha I do come back from EVERY press trip cribbing about how I didn’t enjoy it and how fast/stressful it was etc etc.. or how I had to visit places that weren’t of my interest – but then I come back and after a week, I am ready to go again ;p The idea is to get atleast 2-4 personal trips inbetween press trips – balance it out well.

  11. Great post Jo, lots of info really.
    Just a small feedback on your social share squares on the left side. When reading the post on tablets they go over the first few colums not allowing me to read the first letters. I had only 3-4cm on the top of the monitor clear. I am using a Samsung tab 4 (i think…not sure lol). I can send you a screen shot if needed.
    Again great work!!

  12. Wow these are really great tips for anyone looking to go on a press trip. I haven’t been on one yet so will bookmark this for later. Thanks for mentioning my media kit and I’m glad it helped you!

  13. This is very good advice, and I’m sorry you couldn’t go on the press trip due to visa issues. I have a hard time going on press trips because I am a teacher so my vacation days are set. But you are obviously very hardworking and have a positive attitude to have learned so much about blogging in a short time and to have set clear goals for yourself.

  14. I can relate to a lot of what you are saying here. I am not too old with this blogging journey and can say have had pretty much the same lessons. The support groups really help you understand and learn and grow together and I too, have been a huge advocate of the same. Here is to more laurels that you may win with your blog. Keep up the good work.

  15. Very inspiring! I’m so lucky to come across your post and it has given me a better perspective into blogging and where to take it from here. I hope I can come to you anytime for some blogging help. Wishing you all the best Jo!

  16. What a wonderful post. I just got my firstFam trip and I know the feeling when you see that first email. Totally relatable. Loved all the tips u shared and thanks a lot. Wish u all the more success in 2017.

  17. Hi Jo,
    What an inspirational & helpful post!
    I have been traveling full-time and blogging about it for years. But I did the writing as a hobby, not caring about networking, SEO, monetization. Only a few weeks ago was I convinced to try and actually get paid for the work I put into my blog. Your post here is a great guide the next steps.
    Thank you & happy continued travels!
    C

  18. I found this post through a FB group thread and instead of scanning I read every word. Great information and inspiration for someone who has never felt “big” enough to make a serious effort at getting a press trip.
    Now i’m reading some of the links you put in the post and then it’s time to try my luck.
    Thank you

    • Thanks for your kind words, Dean. I am glad this inspires you to give it a go. If you are just starting out, try and build credibility by working with local restaurants/ hotels – even if you get media rates, it adds to your portfolio…and confidence 🙂 You will never feel “big” enough until you work hard and tell yourself you are (and then brands will also think so but first you need to work on it and believe it!!)

  19. Awesome article Jo, and I love the tip about starting with local brands. I always forget that my local isn’t my readers’ local and therefore has value as a post!

    • Haha, you are absolutely right Anita, I feel the same about my hometown Delhi and I am often not motivated to blog about offbeat spots or things to do here though I am the BEST person to tell expats/travelers what to do, as a local! They are great filler posts for times when you cannot travel too – though, I am on the road so much lately I have no time to explore my own city. Local brands are an easier catch and something to build your resume on – go for it and do share results 🙂 good luck hun!

  20. Great information! Bookmarking to check back often. Thanks!

  21. Awesome! Thanks for the tips.

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