One of the perks of being a travel blogger is that we occasionally get to travel for free.
Many people start a blog for this very reason. Who wouldn’t want to get free travel in exchange for writing reviews? It sounds like an absolute dream.
But getting free trips from blogging isn’t as simple as buying a domain, posting a few of your travel snaps, and then watching the offers for free stays roll in. If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it.
It actually takes a lot of work, much more than most people expect when they first begin blogging. Here’s how it happened for me:
I received my first offer of free stuff once I had been blogging for exactly one year. I put in a lot of work in that first year including 3 blog posts a week. By the end, I had managed to build up a decent blog that was getting around 10,000 pageviews per month and had about the same number of social media followers.
I was travelling to Portland in July 2015, and I contacted the local tourism board about my visit. They supplied me with a welcome pack including a local attractions pass, which I then redeemed for $29 USD worth of sightseeing.
It doesn’t sound like much, but I was excited that my year of blogging had resulted in some free activities! In the next 12 months, I received another 4 nights of hostel accommodation in Boston and Montreal, and a 3-day press trip to Providence. The ball had definitely started rolling.
My third year of blogging proved even more fruitful. I managed to secure a place on a 5-day press trip in Finland, 2 nights hostel accommodation in Chicago, an 8-day press trip to London and Hull, and a 4-day press trip to The Bahamas.
I’m only 6 months into my fourth year of blogging, but I’ve already received 4 nights of combined accommodation in Los Angeles and Canberra, and a sightseeing cruise on the Tasman Peninsula. Pretty good start, I think!
Getting free trips and travel perks through blogging is one of the reasons that I can travel so often. Here’s my comprehensive guide on how to get free trips as a travel blogger, including a pitch template for you to use when approaching brands!
Work on your content
Having a website with high quality content (ie. blog posts, photos, and other text) is essential to scoring free trips through travel blogging. Every time you pitch a brand, someone from that company is going to visit your website and make a judgement on whether you will do a good job of promoting them.
Your blog needs to shine with long-form content, with lots of photos (good ones!) and enticing titles. There should be minimal spelling mistakes, and your writing style should be the best it can be. Impress everyone with your amazing content and sponsorships will follow!
Presentation of your content is also important. If your site has too many pop ups, is slow to load, or has messy links and images all over your front page, it will turn brands off working with you. I purchased a clean, minimalistic, theme for my blog which cost $79 USD, and I think it was absolutely worth the investment as my design stands out above other bloggers using the same old free themes.
Build up a social media following
Social media is super important for travel bloggers. Brands will want to know that their product will reach a wide audience, and a social media following is the number one way for them to gauge just how many eyes will see their product.
I spent a long time trying to grow my following on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Bloglovin’, and YouTube, but in the end I realised that my efforts were being spread too thinly over the numerous platforms.
Since I began focusing on growing only my Instagram account, it’s become much easier to make a difference to my influence on that particular platform. I now have an impressive number of followers and a high level of engagement on Instagram, and brands are starting to take notice.
Create a kickass media kit
A media kit is a document that you send to brands which shows them just how many people might hear about their product by giving you free stuff. It makes you appear professional at the same time as quoting your stats. A media kit might sound intimidating to put together, but it’s really not so hard!
There are many different versions of a media kit, but generally it should include the following:
- A quick intro about you/your blog and a profile photo
- Your audience demographics such as location and age group
- Blog stats such as monthly pageviews and unique visitors
- Social media stats, including number of combined followers and which platform is your strongest
- Brands you have worked with before and positive testimonials
- Web address and your contact details
Craft your perfect pitch
There have been a few occasions where free trips have been offered to me out of the blue, but generally, I’m the one pitching companies for free travel.
Your pitch should be short and to the point, but still convey all the information that the company might want to know. I’m going to share my travel blogger pitch template with you – use it as a general guide to craft your own perfect pitch.
“Hi [person’s name], I’m Ashlea – a Travel Blogger based in Sydney, Australia.
I’m planning on visiting [place] on [date], and am interested in publishing a local guide on my blog. [Company/brand] looks like a great option for a feature, so would you be interested in an exchange of services? For all comped activities that I participate in, I actively promote the business to travellers through my blog and to my 35,000+ social media followers.
My blog, A Globe Well Travelled, is aimed at young people looking to live an adventurous life of work and travel. Each month, the site receives around [number of pageviews] from [number of unique visitors]. I’ve previously worked with travel brands such as [list brands]. I’d love to add [Company/brand] to my list!
You can find further stats and testimonials in my attached media kit. I hope to hear back from you soon.”
I find it much easier to pitch for free trips as a travel blogger now than in my earlier years of blogging. Companies tend to see me as more trustworthy now that I’ve had experience working with a bunch of other travel brands.
If you haven’t worked with brands before, you should fake it ’til you make it. Have you visited a hotel or taken a day tour that you then posted a review about on your blog and/or social media? Try listing those brands in your pitch (and in your media kit) to make it look as though you’ve worked with companies before.
Pitch hotels/travel brands
If you’ll be visiting a certain destination, you can pitch hotels or travel brands directly. When I recently visited the Tasman Peninsula in Tasmania, I emailed a company about the possibility of getting 2 seats on their wilderness cruise in exchange for promotion on my blog and social media. They happily agreed!
Be prepared to receive some rejection emails when you’re pitching hotels and travel brands. Some companies just aren’t comfortable with influencer marketing yet, or they might be selective about who they choose to work with. Don’t take it personally if they say no – just keep pitching more brands until you have some success!
One little secret for this step is to pay attention to the brands that other travel bloggers are working with. If the brand has worked with travel bloggers before, then it’s likely that they would be willing to do it again.
This is how I knew to email Hollywood Hotel about my recent trip to Los Angeles. I’d seen another blogger write about them, so I knew they might be open to working with me. They agreed to host me for 2 nights in exchange for a review on my blog!
Stake out tourism board websites
If you head to any tourism board website (you can find these by searching terms like “Visit Melbourne” or “Tourism Australia” in Google) there will often be a menu either at the very top of the page or in the footer with a section for Press or Media. These areas of the tourism websites can be extremely useful for travel bloggers who are looking to get free stuff.
Sometimes there will be information about press trips or influencer programs (take a look at the Queensland tourism website as an example) and if not, then there will probably be a media contact or online form where you can email them. Ask about any upcoming influencer opportunities that they might have, or if they provide any support to visiting influencers.
This is the method I used to get my free attractions pass in Portland, my accommodation in Canberra, and my UK press trip!
Follow Facebook groups
Even though I’m not particularly fond of using Facebook as a business tool, I have always been a fan of using Facebook groups. It can be hard to find ones that are actually useful, but once you do, you may just be notified of some great opportunities through them.
In the past month, I have seen 3 different press trip opportunities, some for international destinations, just by following Facebook groups. Try searching for blogger groups in your area (like the Australian Travel Bloggers group for my fellow Aussies) and join ones that seem like they would be relevant to you.
Attend networking events
Networking in person can be scary, but it can also be a useful way of getting yourself in front of the right people for future sponsorships.
One time that this has worked for me is when I attended the New York Travel Show in 2017. I spent some time talking with reps from tourism boards and travel brands to see if they were interested in working with influencers. When I stopped by the stand for Visit The Bahamas, I was given a business card for their media contact. This later resulted in my press trip to Nassau!
Some options for networking with people in the travel industry are conferences like TBEX, travel expos, or events like Travel Massive. Just be careful not to go to these events with the agenda of pushing yourself on people to get free trips – the best business relationships are made by being friendly and personable!
Last tips – be professional
It’s important to understand how it works when you get free stuff as a travel blogger. Companies aren’t just giving you their product or service for free and expecting nothing in return. In reality, they will want you to actively promote their brand on your blog and social media channels.
It’s extremely important that you act like a professional when asking for or receiving free stuff as a travel blogger. Be clear about what benefits the company will get from working with you and what they can expect to receive after your trip.
It’s also important to put a disclaimer in any posts where you have received a sponsorship. Not only is it legally required, it also helps your readers trust you as a professional blogger.
One last thing – be careful not to ask for too much. If you’re just starting out as a blogger, then by all means, ask for something simple like some free attraction passes or a spot on a walking tour, but don’t bother asking for a 5 night stay in a luxury hotel – this will only be a waste of your time. Keep it real, friends!