Being a travel blogger and getting to go on press trips is incredible. Absolutely incredible. The press trip experiences I’ve had, the food I’ve eaten, the drink I’ve quaffed and the people I’ve met is just unimaginable.
A few weeks ago I wrote about a few of the downsides of being a travel blogger, which I’ll sum up here in a few words: it’s intense, all consuming and I needed a break.
So now that I’ve been at my new found home for a month, in sunny Hampshire, I can sit and look back at what an incredible and unbelievable crazy few years I’ve had thanks to the press trip opportunities that have come my way.
Some travel bloggers don’t like press trips; they say they’re an unnatural way to see a destination, that you’re rushed around and that they can actually be quite stressful. I can see what these bloggers mean, but going on the press trips I have has allowed me to see destinations I didn’t even know existed in ways I couldn’t imagine. I love them!
Just to warn you, the press trip experiences I’m about to list will probably read like an epic directory of gloat and glory, but I just want to tip that balance back from the negativity about being a travel blogger from the other day. Because, really, it’s the best job in the world.
Press trips I’ve been on
Isle of Skye | Edinburgh | Catalunya | Skiing Germany, Switzerland and Austria | Costa Rica | South Africa | Luxembourg | New Orleans | Lake Charles | Houston | Minnesota | New York | Adirondacks | Florida | Florida Keys | Ferry hopping in Greece | Thailand | India | Russia | Israel | Tromso | Denmark | Swedish Lapland | Sailing Croatia | Skiing France | Skiing Italy | Bardolino Wine Festival | Tomatina Festival | Oktoberfest | Barbados | Cuba | St Lucia | St Kitts
My Top 12 Unbelievable Press Trip Experiences
(in no particular order)
1. Driving a Mustang up the Pacific Coast Highway
When I accepted this trip I hadn’t actually driven for 10 years. And then only in England. And in a Nissan Micra which was the car I had when I passed my test. So me driving solo down the Pacific Coast Highway in a Ford Mustang one day and a Chevrolet Camaro the next was quite the challenge to my skills and confidence. There I was traversing a £30k+ car round the bends and twists of the Californian mountains.
I can’t say I loved every second of the drive, but when I look back on it I definitely had a good time and learnt a lot about my capabilities and self belief. The whole trip with Visit California was incredible. Absolutely incredible. We stayed in Fairmont Hotels, ate at the best restaurants, had jacuzzis on our balconies and drank fancy cocktails every night. The fact that the other people on the trip were newspaper journalists at huge publications made me feel proud that my blog was considered as important as them by the tourist board (that was two years ago – of course blogs are now!)
2. Flying first class with Virgin Atlantic
Oh my god after the Pacific Coast Highway trip I was SO tired. The driving, the eating, the late nights and early mornings – I was exhausted. And as soon as I landed I had to get back to the Midlands from Heathrow to go to my friend’s 30th.
So when my ticket bleeped at LA Airport as it went through the machine and I was upgraded to *FIRST CLASS*. I nearly cried. Gawd it was amazing. The bed went flat out. They fed me a feast. They even gave me pyjamas. It is quite sad that I was so tired I couldn’t make the most of the alcohol possibilities, but I did eat a tonne of breakfast to make up for it when I woke up. With Champagne of course. Thanks to the silence and proper duvet I slept for 10 of the 12-hour journey. Best flight, everrrr!
3. Walking in the parade at Hogmanay in Edinburgh
Hogmanay is a huge New Year’s Eve Festival up in Edinburgh, Scotland. It sells out to thousands of ticket holders every year. People come in the afternoon and queue up to watch the parade going past, in the Scottish December. As in, it’s freezing. The Hogamanay Parade a big thing and people are excited to be near the front of the crowds.
Well, in 2015/16 I was invited to go, along with around eight of what coincidentally turned out to be my favourite bloggers, and we joined the parade. Not just at the back with everyone else. No, we were invited to join the start – up with the Vikings that had come over from the Shetland Islands. I walked with them, carrying my torch, while the crowds looked on probably wondering who on earth I was and we were photographed from every angle.
Our all access passes, and best view of the main stage made me feel like some sort of celeb. It was brilliant.
4. Using helicopters to get from A to B
New York, Grand Canyon, Munich, South Africa, Sweden, Panama City Beach….
Gawd, I’ve now been in a helicopter so many times now, but every time its a different view and the butterflies of excitement are still there. I’m going to pick two to tell you about.
Number one most unbelievable helicopter press trip experience was on a press trip with Lufthansa – the airline. I arrived at Munich Airport with a few other bloggers for a skiing trip. We were picked up, and taken to the airport’s helicopter pad. From there we were flown to the slopes of Kitzbuhel – one of the fanciest ski slopes in Europe, never mind Austria. We stayed in a stunning chalet for the night, skied all day and then parachuted down the mountain, landing within a few minutes of freshly poured mulled wine.
Another time, on a press trip in Swedish Lapland, we hiked up a mountain for a few hours to get the best view of the land below. When we got to the top a helicopter came to pick us up to take us to our next hotel. We flew high over the mountains and got to see wild reindeers on the snowy caps. Unreal.
All the helicopter experiences have been incredible, but using a helicopter for transport, rather than sightseeing just seems that little bit more indulgent, don’t you think?
5. Driving the Emerald Coast in Florida
I loved my week cruising along the Emerald Coast – one of the dreamiest press trips I’ve ever been on. Sometimes press trips can be a bit intense and you need to stick to a programme 24/7, all the while trying to get the photos and videos you need for the coverage you want to show.
This trip was different though. Visit Florida sorted my meals, accommodation and car and then I was free to do what I wanted all day. Loved it. It meant I got to experience the Emerald Coast like a normal person would, and gave me the chance to take the time over photos and video which I think shows in the coverage. I stayed at one of my most favourite places I’ve ever stayed – the Henderson Park Inn – and found somewhere I’ll definitely be coming back to too. And the drive was stunning.
6. Relaxing at the Kurhotel Spa in Denmark
I went on a solo press trip with Visit Denmark. They arranged for me to go to the Kurhotel Spa and Hotel. Jeez, this place was beautiful. A huge white building that took up a good stretch of the coast just above Copenhagen. I was there for two beautiful nights and would love to return. I did my first Crossfit class here, enjoyed the incredible (healthy) food in the restaurant overlooking the water and went to a Danish sauna session too. This basically involved me alternating between increasingly hot saunas and cold showers before finally jumping in the (FREEZING) lake.
I felt so good afterwards I promised myself I’d start to do this in London. Obviously that’s fallen way, way by the wayside and I’ve never done it again. One day though.
7. Cruising on a Catamaran in Barbados
Have you ever had a moment in life where you’ve just felt totally free? The catamaran trip in Barbados was like that. I was there for Skyscanner and I’d spent the first few days worrying about what I was going to write about and photograph. Then I went on the catamaran and had so much fun with some new friends I’d met who’d just got engaged. I was there dancing at the front of the ship with everyone else, just loving life.
It was this moment, on my third day that really made love Barbados and I could see why people return again and again. All you need to do when you’re there is relax and enjoy yourself. The world can wait till you’re back in it.
Except when you’re on a press trip and meant to be getting photos and videos, of course, but I had that feeling for a few minutes!
8. Seeing the sloths in Costa Rica
I’d always wanted to go to Costa Rica, but for whatever reason, never quite made it. So when I was invited to go on a trip with Visit Costa Rica and British Airways (business class, YES!) obviously I said a ‘hell yeahhhh’.
I wanted to see a sloth, a toucan, colourful birds, iguanas and monkeys, but I never really thought we would, especially in just a few minutes. But then landing in to Tortugeuro via a tiny plane (another dream!) we boarded a boat and our journey down the canal was flanked by all the animals. We saw three sloths in just a few minutes, it was AWESOME!
9. Driving an ATV in Israel
My VIBE Israel press trip was definitely one of my favourites from start to finish. It was also one of the most hectic, as in no sleep and totally action packed, but it was just a fascinating place to see.
Apart from all the incredible food, seeing all the key religious spots I studied for my A Level in Religious Studies (serious), staying at a luxury spa, a super cool place in Tel Aviv and going to a wine festival, it was the ATV driving in Galilee I loved most. I’ve been lucky enough to try a few ATV activities around the world but in Galilee they really let you push the vehicles to the extreme. We were encouraged to go as fast as possible, to go through water and to just have fun in the wide open space. I had a great time – not sure about my passenger Jodie though.
10. The incredible places I’ve stayed
I’ve stayed at hotels that have made me stop in my tracks on the way through the door. Incredible accommodations that I would never be able to afford with the amount I travel.
I’m just going to list a few of the most memorable ones here, but honestly, there’ve been so, so many more.
Jungle Lodge in Gambia
– All that was for me!
Henderson Park Inn, Emerald Coast
– I had the best room overlooking the beach
Hahnenkamm Lodge, Kitzbuhel
– View from my room, this place costs tens of thousands a night
Yab Yum Huts, Goa
– All that hut belonged to me
Ventana Inn & Spa, Big Sur, CA
– This was my balcony, we had a party that night
11. Going on a private jet in Thailand
This one time, I was invited to go to Thailand to check out some of THE fanciest hotels in Phuket. On the final day in Bangkok they took us to Don Mueang Airport and the group of us went on a private jet to Pattaya and back.
That private jet would’ve been a few thousand to hire – it was so exciting – just look at it! We had Champagne, our own leather and wooden seats and a guide to tell us what was below us out the window.
This particular experience was when I first started to be invited on press trips and I couldn’t believe this was actually my life now.
12. Experiencing Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest with Busabout was so much fun. I’d always kind of wanted to go to Oktoberfest, but felt put off by what I imagined it to be – loads of drunk Antipodeans getting drunker. Which is kind of what it was.
But y’know – if you can’t beat them, join them.
A strong factor in why this trip was so good was because of the girls in my hostel dorm. They were so friendly and fun from the get go and we had a good team to enjoy Oktoberfest to its full potential.
I loved those few days!
Oh gawd there was also that time we went jet skiing for two hours in Australia, and that time I got to fly from the private terminal in St Kitts, I need to stop though… I lurrrve me a press trip!
My next few press trips will take me to Antigua, Greece, Israel and possibly, just maybe, Vietnam for the third time.
I love being a travel blogger.