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Connie's tips for planning a press trip with your blogThis summer, my husband and I took a two-week road-trip down the Mississippi River’s Great River Road. Along the way, we stayed on a floating bed-and-breakfast, in two penthouse suites, and at a casino resort. We waded through the headwaters of the Mississippi, explored caves, and sang with monks. We cheered on baseball teams, strolled through gardens, and rode the world’s steepest railroad.

Of the 13 nights on the trip, we only paid for three. Five destinations hosted us, each providing accommodations for two nights and tickets to almost every attraction we requested.

And all I did was ask.

When I was a kid, my mother told me it’s impolite to ask for things. “If somebody wants you to have something, they’ll give it to you,” she said. Of course, she was talking about asking for things like cookies at a friend’s house, but it’s a rule I took to heart. So, when I first started my travel blog, I was reluctant to ask destinations to host me.

But following the tips I learned in the Money-Making Travel Blogs course, I eventually got brave and disobeyed Mom’s rule. I reached out to destinations. And to my delight, they started hosting my husband and me on weekend trips.

At first, I left it up to the destinations to set my itineraries, and not all of the attractions we visited were places I would have chosen myself. The downside to that is that whenever we visited an art museum or small gift shop with nothing unique about it, I was committed to writing about it. I’d manage to find an angle, but it wasn’t always easy.

Then, during an online chat with a group of bloggers and destination representatives, something a destination rep said opened my eyes. She pointed out that it’s frustrating when she doesn’t know exactly what a blogger wants. Do you want accommodations? Meals? Attractions? Which ones? They welcome exact requests.

So, when I planned the Great River Road trip, I became even braver.

After all, the worst that could happen was for them to say no. I asked for two nights’ accommodations each, giving them my arrival and departure times. After researching the areas, I told the reps exactly what attractions I wanted to see, picking out those places unique to the area.

I also let them know I was open to suggestions, and I did take some of their suggestions–places I had missed in my research. With only a couple of exceptions, we were given complimentary tickets to everything we requested.

We’re doing it again this month. I’ve scheduled three back-to-back press trips and am working with all three destinations on planning our itinerary—an itinerary that will include only those places we truly want to visit.

Here are the steps to take when planning a press trip with your blog:

1. First and foremost, you need to have a blog already. If you don’t have one, follow GEP’s blog program (and Paula’s 8-week blueprint) to ensure it’s set up right and it’s what your hosts want to see.

2. Once that’s done—and yes, it takes the full 8 weeks, don’t skip that part—research the destination’s website of where you want to go and choose attractions you want to visit.

3. If you’re planning multiple destinations in one trip, plan arrival and departure dates and times for each destination.

4. At least two months ahead of your trip, contact the destinations. Tell them about your blog. Include stats like page views, number of subscribers, and social media followers.

5. Once accepted, work with the destinations to finalize the itineraries.

6. A couple of weeks ahead, confirm your dates and itinerary.

Finally, don’t forget to send thank you notes to all of the destinations after your trip—and start writing blog posts!

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