One of my favourite things about blogging is that it has allowed our little family to experience a whole bunch of travel adventures, from press trips that saw us sailing on Lake Garda to riding camels in Jordan and learning to make pizza in Florence.
It’s not just us – an increasing number of parent bloggers are being invited on press trips and sharing their experiences with readers. And it makes perfect sense – families account for a third of all travel bookings in the UK, and since most of us Google a new hotel or destination before we book, online reviews are hugely important.
If you’re a blogger, there are hundreds of posts advising you how to get on press trips, what to do on press trips and the like – but next to no advice for brands, destinations and hotels considering inviting parent bloggers and family travel bloggers on press trips.
The reality is that a successful family blogger press trip is very different to a more traditional FAM trip – especially if you’re inviting children – so today I’m sharing my top tips for organising press trips for family bloggers.
1. Get the Invite Right
Hosting press trips is expensive – so it’s essential to get the invite list right. From your point of view as a PR, that means checking stats, reach, search visibility and audience profile.
For bloggers, though, it means the invite needs to clearly explain what the trip looks like. What’s included, who’s invited, what sort of activities will be involved, will it be a solo hosted trip, or a group press trip?
Typical questions I’ll have in mind when I’m invited on a trip might include:
- Are flights included? It’s very common for hotels and resorts to offer accommodation but no travel – for larger families, that can instantly make the opportunity unaffordable
- When will the trip happen? Lots of invites are for trips outside of school holidays, but if you want children to attend, that’s a big issue for UK parents with children in school
- Who’s invited? I am sometimes invited on solo trips with other bloggers and journalists, but more often, Flea’s invited too (I prefer those, if I’m honest). On a few occasions, we’ve been offered the chance to take a partner, or friend (with us covering the airfare)
- Is there a niche? Sometimes trips focus on local history, or gastronomy, or luxury travel. When I’m invited on a trip, I want to know the resulting coverage would fit well with my blog, and my audience
Making sure the basics of where, when and why are clearly set out upfront means family bloggers are easily able to see whether a trip will fit into their family’s schedule and budget.
2. Get the Itinerary Right
Bloggers understand that press trips are a business transaction – we’re invited to experience a destination or activity for free, and in exchange, we share that experience with our readers in an informative and inspiring form (hopefully).
Often, that means long days and busy schedules on a press trip as I’m ferried by bus from one activity to the next – and I’m generally fine with that. But when I’m travelling with Flea, my expectations are a little different.
While I might expect to be up at 7am and working until after dinner every day on a press trip, kids need downtime and eight hours sleep a night. Ignore this advice at your peril – nobody wants an over-tired child having a meltdown in the middle of an activity, or a red-eyed, tearful toddler in the photos.
If you’re inviting families on a press trip, then consider carefully whether timings work for younger guests – you MUST build some downtime into the schedule, ensure there are opportunities for kids to run around after they’ve been sitting quietly for a long time, and where possible, try and avoid early morning starts hot on the heels of a late night.
3. Agree Expectations ahead of Time
Almost every PR I’ve spoken to over the years has a story to tell about a blogger who went on a press trip with their family, and didn’t “deliver“.
Unfortunately, there will always be the odd rotten apple, but most bloggers do want to support your aims – we just need to know what they are. Are you hoping to promote a particular destination or accommodation? Overcome a stereotype about a destination? Showcase a new visitor attraction?
It’s a good idea to set basic expectations of coverage before, during and after the trip. On my recent trip to Dubai, the PR did an amazing job of pulling together a list of expected coverage for each day, and the trip as a whole – SUPER useful.
Of course, remember to think about what’s a realistic timeframe for content to be created, bearing in mind a lot of parent bloggers don’t blog full-time and will have other work and family commitments when they get home.
Finally, I think the level of coverage you request should reflect the interest and value of the experience – better to have two or three amazing posts than insist on daily updates that are just a bit.. blah.
4. Make your Press Trip Social
Some of the best trips I’ve been on are those where the PR team has planned ahead for social media. That means providing a crib sheet with the Twitter, Instagram and Facebook IDs of all the places we visit so we can tag that water park in our Instagram shot, or use the right hashtag for your client’s new hotel.
Providing information early lets us post teasers ahead of the visit – hey, we’re going to this attraction, does anyone have any tips? What ride should we absolutely go on at this theme park? It’s a great way to start the conversation early.
It should go without saying that bloggers need Internet access. When I was in Thailand, the Tourism Authority provided all the bloggers with a pre-paid local SIM providing one week of unlimited data access – meaning we could easily Tweet and Instagram without any fear of running up a huge bill. It’s a really smart way of ensuring bloggers feel free to share EVERYTHING with their followers.
5. Kids Don’t Eat Like Normal People
A huge proportion of children are what might generously be called weird about food. When booking in restaurants, do consider checking ahead of time whether any of the children attending have restrictive diets and look for options where the menu is a bit flexible.
We’ve sat through plenty of dinners at fancy restaurants where Flea’s eaten nothing but bread rolls – not a big problem for us, but as a brand, you’ll get better coverage if you can plan for family-friendly eating (or at least have a stash of kid-friendly drinks and snacks available in the bus).
6. Collaborate on Activities
When you’re travelling solo as an adult, it’s easy to accept that you’re not necessarily going to love everything you do.
But with kids, it’s a lot harder. Flea is a pretty good sport and will happily take part in historical walks and cooking classes, but all kids have limits, and one unhappy child can throw off a whole morning. Sometimes it’s about personalities, but children can also have phobias, allergies and physical limitations that can make certain activities unrealistic.
If you’re inviting families to visit a destination and there will be hosted activities, try asking influencers what their kids most love to do, and see how some of that might be built into the trip. Flea will sit through pretty much anything if she knows there’s a chance to go diving or visit a water park at the end of it.
7. Plan Family-Friendly Travel
Travelling with kids can be stressful. But there are a few little things you can do to make our lives easier, when travelling for a press trip. How about:
- Pre-book seats on a flight for bloggers to ensure that families are seated together and their luggage is all pre-paid
- If you’re representing a destination, arranging an airport greeter who can meet bloggers, and direct them to transport is often a huge help, especially in countries where bloggers don’t speak the language or the airport is chaotic
- If bloggers are driving to your destination, provide them with local directions not just a postcode – especially for rural or remote sites. I loved the hotel in Cornwall that sent me a photo of the turn-off I was looking for on a quiet country road
- Ensure there’s an emergency contact number as lots of travel happens at weekends, and if something goes very wrong, you don’t want the blogger to be stuck until Monday morning
- Try wherever possible to avoid flights very late at night or early in the morning when children are tired – travelling with an over-tired youngster is a bit like flying with a live grenade.
8. Consider the Age Mix
Often on a trip, you’re hosting a group of bloggers and their children. In this instance, planning the age of the children attending can make all the difference. When we travelled to Jordan, Flea had the BEST time because the other kids on the trip were all around the same age and could entertain each other.
Inviting older children and toddlers on the same trip can be difficult – the toddlers are tired when the older kids are full of beans, and they’re unlikely to want to go to the same places or do the same things.
9. Go With It
Here’s the thing: I’ve never been on a trip with kids where everything ran smoothly. I’ve never been on a holiday where it all ran smoothly. Basically kids = chaos.
If you’re running an event with children, someone WILL get sick. Someone will tell the client their food is not as nice as McDonalds. Someone will misbehave and have to be told off by their Mum, resulting in an epic sulk. All you can do as the host is watch it unfold and wait for it to pass.
On the upside, hosting kids gives you the perfect excuse to discover your inner eight-year-old and go on a load of slides, or join in with a dinner comprised entirely of ice cream. Try doing that with a crusty 40-year-old hack from the Daily Mail.
10. Happy Parents = Happy Kids
If you remember nothing else from this post remember this: make my kid happy, I’m happy.
Any PR who ever organised a press trip for journalists knows that grown-ups are (often) hard work. They complain, they turn up late, they miss breakfast, they’re rude to the client… (I was a journalist for 12 years, and I’m sure I’m as guilty of this as anyone!)
But here’s a secret – even the most hard-nosed, entitled, snarky adult is going to be won over 1,000% if their kid is happy. Give Flea an amazing experience, a thoughtful gift or just a flat out awesome time, and I have nothing to complain about.
What tips would you add? What’s made a special press trip for you, and your family? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments…