Usually my content is for families and travellers but today’s post is for bloggers who want to know how to get free blog trips. This 7 step guide will help you receive the kind of trips that helped me and the kids cross the USA this summer at little to no cost in most cities. Keep in mind, my blog was started only a year ago and we are already earning free blog trips. Here is my 7 step guide on How To Get Free Blog Trips.
1. Build Content
- Building content is huge and will start your base to pitch for free trips. One thing you need to realize is you do not necessarily need the highest blog views a month if you have great content.
- To build content, decide if you can pay for a few trips. One of the first trips I paid for was a trip with the kids to Beaches Resorts in the Turks and Caicos. It cost a fair amount of money but it still is one of my biggest hits. They do not need to be expensive trips but you will need to spend some money and actually travel before you expect free trips. Try not too pick somewhere every else is covering like Disney. It will be more difficult to get noticed.
- Act and work like a blogger whether or not you pay for the trip. Basically, fake it until you make it. Early on I received great treatment at hotels and specific media perks by being onsite and tweeting to the resorts. I wrote blog updates every night especially upon arriving to let them know I was visiting. This will also increase your twitter following.
- Doesn’t this photo of me and the kids from Beaches Resort look like a paid trip photo? I was still faking it back then. Bonus points if you wear a logo shirt or hat from the hotel or resort.
2. Build A Following
- Be realistic and realize that even with great content, you will need to work to build a following. You are not the only person writing a good travel blog and you will need to bring your blog to the people.
- Basically, assume your blog is your job. If you have a job, now you have two. Give to your blog what you want to be able to take from it later. No one is going to hand you trips. You will need to work for them.
- Don’t wait to start pitching. You may think your following is too low but I was getting free trips with under 1000 unique views a month when I first started. Trust me…someone else has numbers that are lowers than yours.
3. Create a Niche
- During your travels observe what you are doing differently and work with it. I was travelling solo with my kids. Pretty clear. Still, my travel applies not only to single parents but grandparents and parents who also travel alone with kids.
- Watch that you don’t create too small of a niche. If your audience is too small, you will run out of places who want you to visit. An example of this is if you decide you want to be a travel blog for a small geographical area like a single State. Trust me, eventually you will want to leave that area and go elsewhere with your travels and people may not get what you are doing. Don’t limit yourself geographically.
4. Start Pitching
- NO NO NO NO NO. Now you have heard and read the word “no”. No reason to be afraid anymore. Even bloggers with huge followings hear the word “no” all the time. For every “no” you hear, you should send out at least three more pitches.
- Be realistic. The more realistic you are, the more often you will hear yes. Want a free Disney cruise? Me too. Get in line. Start with places that realistically need your coverage. Hotels within 3 hours of your home city. Restaurants and bars that are opening up or relaunching.
- Pay Attention: You know those annoying Facebook ads? They are paid for by hotels that want to spend money on promotion and are targeting people just like you. Pitch the hotel and tell them you saw their Facebook ad proving without a doubt you and your friends are their target audience. One of the greatest Blogger/Resort relationships I have is with Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont who I pitched based on a Facebook ad.
5. Your Pitch
- You’ve done all this work. Don’t send out a weak pitch. Sit down and write a pitch you would buy.
- Your pitch will go out to a lot of hotels and Convention and Visitor Bureaus (CVBs) for specific cities and areas. Have someone else proofread it.
- Include the obvious: (1) your blog address; (2) your actual name; (3) where you live, (4) unique monthly views and (5) your Twitter and Facebook links.
- Also include: (1) Any other relevant social media addresses (mine are youtube and pinterest).
- Think about the less obvious: If I am looking to stay at a luxury resort, I will include that I live in a major city as well as an estimated average of how much my friends and neighbours make annually. This also works for budget resorts. Hotels want to know that you are, or know people who are, their target audience.
- Follow their social media: Before you pitch a hotel, follow them on Facebook and Twitter. The PR rep will likely check you out and it will help. It also gives you a better idea of what they like. You can unfollow once you have heard back (if its a no) or once you have completed the job (hopefully its a yes).
- Pick an actual date: PR and sales people hear from a lot of people that want to come visit for free. They don’t want to have to plan it for you. Send exact dates. If those dates won’t work, they will let you know. Be prepared that they may want to shorten your request or extend it.
- Don’t say you are available whenever its good for them. Of course you aren’t. You are a busy blogger.
- Decide WHO to pitch: You often have the choice to pitch a CVB or hotel. First decide if you want to visit a city or a specific hotel. CVBs work a little like hotwire. They have preferred hotels to work with and on a free trip, you will not get to pick your hotel. Hoping for a 5 Star Four Seasons? Pitch them directly instead. Even if you book a hotel on your own, send a pitch to the CVB. They will provide you with free activities and other perks. Bonus points if they don’t have to work to find you a hotel.
- Know that its okay for you to say no. Sometimes a CVB or hotel will come back to you with a counter offer. If it is not within your budget, its okay to just say no. This summer, I said no to quite a few hotels offering media rates. The rates were more affordable than the website price but not within my travel budget. This is why we bypassed all of Florida.
6. Do the job and do it right.
- Once you’ve earned a free trip, do the job and do it right. You know how you talk about people? So do sales and PR people. If you don’t do the job, it will come back to bite you. Mostly, don’t expect to get anymore free trips once the word gets out.
- Do exactly what you promised. You promised to do 3 articles? Do them or at least explain why you can’t. You promised to be active on social media the whole time? Don’t expect to leave your phone in your room.
7. Make Blogger Friends
- Other bloggers are not your competitors. They are your peers. You can actually help each other.
- Find bloggers with similar work styles to you and help each other out. On this trip to Texas, I got a lot of help from my friend and fellow blogger Rebecca Darling from R We There Yet Mom?. We both write travel blogs with similar audiences but different niches. Rebecca hooked me up with PR reps that hooked me up with free hotel stays. To pay her back, when hotels wrote to thank me and offer me more time with them or a follow up trip, I responded by recommending Rebecca instead who lives in Texas. See how that works.
- Someone will eventually screw you over. Don’t let that ruin blogging for you. Pick yourself up and find a new contact.