Ever wonder how your favorite influencer or journalist friend is always traveling? Weren’t they just in Europe, and now they’re in Japan? The experiences are always epic, from helicopter rides around the Matterhorn to water biking on a private island. It’s enough to make you wonder: Did she win the lottery? Is there a dead, wealthy relative? Who is this new boyfriend, and does he have a friend?
Not quite. They’re just getting invited on press trips.
What is a press trip?
On the surface, press trips might look like journalists have Sugar Daddies or Mommies, but this is far from a free trip. Here’s the gist: a trip is organized by a PR company, tourism boards, or brands to bring journalists and influencers to experience their clients’ products or services. Sometimes the destinations are exciting: Japan! Sometimes, they are mundane: Texas. The end goal is always to have you, the journalist, be inspired and write about some facet of the experience.
Reality vs. Expectation
If it sounds like a dream, let me temper your expectations. While there are a ton of perks (free accommodations, airfare, meals), this is not a vacation. Got an invite to a tropical beach resort? You might get an afternoon at the beach, but the rest of your time is usually spent listening to presentations by local tourism boards or attending scheduled activities. I’ve been on trips where my itinerary was booked from 5:30 AM to 10:30 PM. This gig isn't for the timid. Your travel companions will be other journalists you’ve likely never met before.
That’s not to say it won’t be fun, but it’s a different type of trip than when you and your friends enjoy a week at the beach, sleeping in late, dancing all night and drinking Mai Tais at noon.
How do you get invited?
Groups like the American Travel Writers Association hosts events and conferences that can help freelance writers connect with editors, tourism boards, and PR companies in search of their next story. I’ve found that the more widely you are published, the more known you become in the industry and brands and other folks tend to reach out with invitations.
Should you go?
Sure! They can be amazing experiences for meeting work contacts, making friends in the industry, and getting to travel to places you otherwise wouldn’t go. The experiences and people you meet may help inspire an incredible story. But I would not look at them like a vacation; I typically come back pretty exhausted. Ask as many questions as you can about the trip, how many other journalists may be attending, the itinerary, and any expectations the host has for you. These can help you gauge the activity and intensity level.