It started with an e-mail invitation. “Would you please join us in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for a Wine Quest Weekend press trip?”
Let me think. Umm. Yes, please.
The press trip was to take place in October when Pennsylvania is at its most beautiful, enveloped in brilliant red, yellow, and orange. The itinerary included an off-road Segway experience, dinners in local restaurants, and wine tasting…lots of wine tasting…at six local wineries. How could I say no?
A few weeks later, I boarded a train for what proved to be one of the most scenic journeys of my life. The scenes outside my window were postcard-worthy. A landscape of gently rolling hills in brilliant autumn colors, horse-drawn Amish buggies carrying the locals about their daily routines, wooden covered bridges painted barn red, and cattle grazing in bucolic pastures unfolded before me. I could have ridden that train for days. But, there was wine to drink and a packed itinerary of adventures.
In Harrisburg, I was greeted by my host, introduced to the other writers, and began what was to be a weekend of pure indulgence and laughter. We started with dinner at a local restaurant with a “farm to fork” focus. Everything on the menu was made from locally-sourced produce and meats. The chef graciously shared samples of almost everything on the menu, leaving us in no doubt but that we were going to be well fed on this trip!
After a restful night, we began the next morning with an off-road Segway adventure! Since I’d never ridden a Segway and am not the most coordinated person, I was a little concerned about possible crashes with trees and other things that live in the woods. Luckily, the Segway tour was scheduled ahead of the wine tasting.
With just a few minutes of training, off we went to explore the woods. Over two hours, we cruised along through the fallen leaves, watched as squirrels hustled to get out of our path, and laughed at ourselves and each other when a Segway wobbled a bit more than it should.
From there, we visited local wineries to sample the fruits of the vines. At one winery we were invited to try pumpkin chunking. Another showed us how to make grapevine wreaths. There were scarecrows to be assembled at Buddy Boy’s Winery and, of course, plenty of wine to drink. One of the highlights for me was crushing the grapes. I’d wanted to try this ever since I watched Lucille Ball stomping away on I Love Lucy. I took off my shoes, rolled up my jeans, and stepped into the cool grapes and stomped away.
After three days of non-stop wine, food, and fun, it was time to go home. On the train ride back to New York, I reflected on all the fun and laughs I had shared with my host, local residents, and my fellow writers. I realized again just how fortunate I am to have access to press trips near and far in my life as a travel writer. It really is the best way to live!
Press trips are one of the benefits of the travel writer’s life. Here are some tips for making the most of your press trips:
- As soon as you receive an invitation, consider what publications may be interested in the story and send a query to the editor to pitch your idea based on the proposed itinerary.
- While you’re enjoying the trip, pay attention to things that make an interesting story. All travel writing pieces don’t need to be destination-focused or round-up pieces. For instance, from this trip, I pitched articles to food, wine, and spirits magazines. Outdoor recreation magazines may be interested in the Segway story. Consider all possible angles.
- In addition to providing fun experiences, press trips are great for networking. Get to know the other writers and what type of writing they produce. Get to know local residents. Ask a lot of questions. Often you’ll find a story in the details you gather from everyone around you.