10 Tips to End Up on the Infamous Press Trip Blacklist

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Last month, as part of my ongoing series on the PR/Blogger relationship, I wrote about New Year’s Resolutions for Publicists. Thanks to all your sharing, it was one of my most popular posts ever! This month I’m turning the tables and shining a light on the editorial side. Writers, journalists, bloggers, this one’s for you.

Before I lead my first press trip to The Bahamas in 2007, one of my wise supervisors told me, “There’s always one in every group, so be prepared.”

She was right.

In 80 percent of the trips I’ve either lead or participated in as a journalist, there’s been some writer who made the trip less enjoyable for everyone else.

After planning & leading several emotionally scarring trips with unimaginably rude, ridiculous and/or self-important attendees, I began to invite only those I either knew personally or who came highly recommended from other publicists. I figured if I‘m going spend months coordinating a trip and then a week traveling abroad with someone, they should be fun, polite and professional. All those jerky, whiny, troublemaking writers who accept invitations reflect poorly on the publicist who invited them, and then we have to explain to clients just how these weirdos ended up here in the first place.

Based on my personal experiences as both the press trip organizer and attendee, here are a few tongue-in-cheek tips to ensure you DO wind up on the mythical PR blacklist. (It does exist & it does get passed around. That’s all I’m going to say about that.) 

Boarding a charter flight to Staniel Cay, Exuma, in The Bahamas, with a really fun group of writers. No weird ones on this trip!

A recent press trip I planned for a hotel client in The Bahamas. Here I am boarding a charter flight to Staniel Cay, Exuma, with a really fun group of writers. No weird ones or jerks on this trip!

1. Be a diva. You are a precious snowflake, a priceless rainbow, a rare unicorn. You’re the Mariah Carey of travel blogging. PR reps live and breathe to sort the cashews out of your mixed nut bowl. Never forget that you are doing the publicists and the destination a favor by showing up. Make them grovel for your good opinion.

2. Be late for everything. Nothing demonstrates your importance more than a lack of regard for the carefully planned schedule your PR rep has crafted. Don’t worry that it will throw off the day’s itinerary and make the rest of the writers miss out on precious time gathering information for their stories. “Oh… there are other professionals trying to accomplish work on this trip?”

If you really want to show off, don’t even come to dinner or skip a couple of planned excursions altogether. Don’t worry that you knew about the schedule in advance and agreed to attend. It’s really not your concern that the destination has invested thousands of dollars to fly you in, or that there are vendors, tour operators and restaurateurs who’ve spent months preparing for your very special visit. That’s so not your problem!

3. Complain. Whine about how early you have to wake up for that once-in-a-lifetime excursion that YOU signed up for. Don’t tell the PR rep about your food allergies, then flip out when the local mom-and-pop restaurants in obscure locations can’t meet your specifications on 5-minutes’ notice.

The lamp in your hotel room is too far to reach from your position in bed? A riot is most definitely in order.

It’s hot in the Caribbean in August? Definitely tell everyone that “this place totally sucks.”

No one in this tiny provincial town speaks English? Unacceptable!

Your flight is delayed due to weather? Your luggage is left behind? Feel free to refuse to do anything the rest of the trip. You REALLY need your specific brand of wrinkle cream to do your job. Definitely don’t roll with the punches. (It’s not like real travelers do that, right?)

Why should you care that it took three months of planning to execute this experience? Every last detail should cater to your whim – you’re the famous blogger! – so be sure you hold the publicist’s feet to the fire for every discomfort and imperfection in the itinerary. Especially if the issue is out of their control.

One of the best folks I ever met on a press trip - Kristin Luna from Camels & Chocolate.

One of the best folks I ever met on a press trip – Kristin Luna from Camels & Chocolate. It was a cloudy day in The Bahamas, but did she make a fuss? Nope. We just wore our matching dresses and went about our business.

4. Be too cool for school. You’re a writer, and probably a pretty famous one. You get recognized by your adoring fans… a lot. You’re kind of a big deal. Applause, applause.

Hence, societal norms don’t apply to you. Feel free to show up to the schwanky client event your PR rep spent months coordinating in wrinkled cargo shorts and a dirty, sweat-stained shirt. It really shows everyone that you’re the most well-traveled, cultured person in the room.

It also helps if you reek of booze when you arrive. What else is that mini-bar for?

5. Never let anyone forget who you are. You have like, a zillion followers on Twitter so be sure to remind the group often just how far your social influence spreads. When you meet other members of the group or your destination hosts, introduce yourself with a confident, “Do you know who I am?” It’s so endearing.

Really try to exude an air of superiority. It’s best not to collaborate or use the time with other professional contacts to get creative and come up with cool solutions for the industry. Just keep talking about yourself!

6. Get wasted. Really wasted. PR reps love when you drink as much free booze as you can without dying. Especially if it’s top shelf.

They also look forward to escorting drunken you back to your room, holding you up so you don’t break anything and pretending not to hear your slurred invitations for a sure-to-be-memorable roll in the hay. Don’t fret that your obscene behavior is keeping them from the only time they have to catch up on work for all their other clients, or you know, take a shower or sleep.

Oh! PR reps just love hearing from their clients that you didn’t get to experience their hotel room because you spent the whole night carousing buck naked in the pool with the fishing guide. Guess they should’ve let you bring your husband along after all. You really showed them!

Another amazing trip with no jerks! Here's our group posing with our limo in Nassau after we got a flat tire. Did anyone cry or panic? Nope. They all rolled with the punches, like true travel champs.

Another amazing trip with no jerks! Here’s our group posing with our driver in Nassau after we got a flat tire. Did anyone cry or panic? Nope. They rolled with the punches, like true travel champs.

7. Talk about politics and religion, and be super aggressive about forcing your opinions. We aren’t just here to research a beautiful, historic destination, we’re here to stir the pot on everything from abortion to gay marriage to animal rights. At every meal!

And don’t leave out hot button blogging issues. Link sales, sponsored posts and even your singularly correct opinions on press trips (You obviously hate them and would never go on one. Except this one.) are perfect conversation starters, especially if you’re better than everyone else. (You totally are.) Yell. Wave your arms. Get mad. Make everyone super uncomfortable.

Isn’t this fun?

8. Grub for free stuff. While reminding your PR rep, your hotel hosts and the destination clients how famous you are, don’t forget to aggressively suggest they provide you with even more free stuff. Think of every shop as a place to shout about how much your influence is worth. It’s free advertising for the destination after all, if you wear that dive shop T-shirt or if that local ceramic artist gives you some of her pottery. It’s not your job to support local businesses, so any souvenirs above and beyond your free flights, hotels, meals, drinks, activities and transportation, should be 100% gratis.

If the destination does happen to provide welcome gifts, like say, bottles of locally bottled rum, be sure to snag as much as you can before the other writers find out. You’re not here to share. Throw punches if necessary to protect your $9 treasure.

Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef with a group of international media. Wonderful people and such a productive week researching Queensland!

Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef with a group of international media. Wonderful people and such a productive week researching Queensland!

9. Don’t tip. You came on this trip for free and darnit, you’re not going to spend one red cent. Sure, you loved that 12-hour speedboat trip around the islands, and your local guide gave you some amazing anecdotes about the destination, but it’s not your job to appreciate the working people. You’re working yourself. Harumph.

10. Never publish a word. After all, you had to wake up for breakfast at 8 a.m., and they served 2% milk instead of skim on that tiny Caribbean island that imports everything on a mail boat twice a week, and it rained once, and the WiFi was pretty slow. It really was a subpar experience, so chalk it up to a wasted couple of days and hope for better on your next free FAM.


Yep, there’s almost always one person with at least some of the above sensibilities on every trip. I have not fabricated any of these examples… they either have happened to me personally or to others I know. And I have so many stories that are worse, like the time one of my writers died on a trip I was hosting. (Long story. Saving it for my book.)

On the bright side, most journalists and bloggers are clever, funny, flexible and great to travel with. I’ve met some of my favorite people in the world on press trips, people I have learned from and looked up to and stayed in touch with through all of my career changes and world travels.

All that to say – there are SO many good people in the travel industry, so I hope my ranting doesn’t put anyone off. This really is just a wee peek into the complex relationship between PRs, DMOs and journalists/bloggers, and it doesn’t begin to delve into it all. But I hope you enjoyed my snark and gentle poking. Now that I’ve spent years working on both sides of the media fence, I know all too well there are plenty of valid frustrations to go around.

Now you’ve read about a few of my press trip horror stories… tell me yours!

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48 thoughts on “10 Tips to End Up on the Infamous Press Trip Blacklist

  1. Anna from The Blonde Banana

    Oh man I can totally relate to having to deal with diva bloggers! Also sounds similar to traveling during spring break in college… I had a few friends who would freak out about rain and 2% milk haha. Just glad that these days I get to select my own travel companions.

  2. Lance | Trips By Lance

    Where I come from, if I act like that I’d be afraid my mom would find out. And if mom finds out, we have trouble on our hands. I’m 37 and I still fear my mom discovering me doing something bad. It’s all about manners. I fortunately haven’t experienced bad situations on press trips. Just someone complaining about how a steak was prepared. As a former restaurant server, that behavior would’ve ticked me off. When I’m on a press trip I feel like Sally Fields. They really like me! As a former sports reporter, even though it was my job to get in free to games and report what I saw, I felt grateful every time to be in that position.

  3. Jennifer

    Urgh, I had a good laugh reading this. You don’t have to go on a fam trip to see that there is always THAT person, but I think it’s definitely terrible when they are supposed to be working and doing their own PR for future collaborations at the same time… Oh well, at least they get blacklisted!

  4. Catherine

    Yikes! I cannot begin to imagine the types of people you’ve met during press trips! I guess it’s like everywhere else… Wow. Thanks for opening our eyes Angie! It must be terrible to work so hard and be rewarded by this kind of attitude. I hope this great post scares them off! :)

  5. Katie

    I can definitely relate! I don’t have any press trip stories, but I did a small group tour in New Zealand, and one of the members of the group did everything he could to upset the apple cart: http://www.secondhandhedgehog.com/2014/02/kaikoura-problem-with-small-group-tours.html

    You’re right – there’s always one. Though sometimes if you go on a trip where there isn’t someone rocking the boat, you start to worry whether it might be you this time! I do anyway – maybe I’m just paranoid!

  6. Diana Edelman

    I went on a press trip once where one person wasn’t a blogger, but a writer for a newspaper outlet. Not sure how she ended up on our trip, but she didn’t want to do what we were doing, she was after an entirely different story. Definitely made for some annoying situations. Angie, this post is hilarious! Coming from a PR background, too, and comping writers, these examples go beyond just travel!

  7. Jennifer

    Haha! This post is hilarious. Love your snarkiness Angie! Sadly though, I’ve encounter several of these examples both on press trips and at blogger conferences. It never fails to amaze me how these people can act in such a way and ever get invited on a press trip again.

      1. Maria de los Angeles

        Angie, this was hilarious (love your tongue-in-cheek style) but unfortunately, so true. I’ve been lucky on many press trips to enjoy the company of laid-back fellow writers. My “horror” story comes from the other end though … what happens when the PR person flakes out? It happened to me once: she sunbathed naked while smooching with an island boyfriend in front of all the writers and she screwed up a very rare and important interview a few of us writers needed with a local historian. That, among other things, never made me want to work with that company again. But for the most part, I’ve had great relationships with PR folks and since I do most of my travel alone here in Florida, there’s not much drama. I think that many bloggers don’t get the training they need though in some of the ethical aspects of travel journalism, including how to treat situations like these, where let’s say you are genuinely uncomfortable, how to approach it diplomatically or respectfully requests changes to your itinerary etc; I mean, it basically comes down to not being an a-hole, using common courtesy — just as in regular life, even when you’re not working. Diva/divo bloggers like the ones you describe don’t realize they are technically on the clock.

  8. Camels & Chocolate

    Write more of these PR posts, please! Even though I’ve heard many of your stories IRL, I think they are really helpful for other journos and publicists alike.

    And you were the best publicist (and friend) I ever made on a press trip. In fact, those two times we went to the Bahamas together were some of my favorite trips of all time. Next up on Angie Away: How to be that rockstar PR girl with whom everyone wants to travel… ;-)

    1. Angie Away Post author

      I’m hoping to do at least one PR post a month – seems there is a lot of interest!

      And I hope our story is an encouragement to all the PR folks and writers out there who have found group trips and FAMs to be more trouble than they’re worth. There is a way to work together for mutual benefit, but it does take effort on both sides. I’m so glad you trusted me enough to come diving that first time =)

    1. Angie Away Post author

      Thanks, Shikha! There are a few bad apples but mostly everyone is wonderful. It just so happens the naughty ones are REALLY naughty. Thank you for reading!

  9. Shere

    I haven’t been on a PR trip, but a sailing trip came into my mind. We spent a week in a sailing boat with someone who need to tell every day that she was dressing Penelope Cruz’s sister. In any other kind of trip you can try to avoid the person, but in a small ship, even if you are on the other side, you can hear each other :(

    1. Angie Away Post author

      Hey Shere – thanks for your comment! It reminds me of a gal I met in Fiji once. Apparently she was once photographed by paparazzi doing the walk of shame outside Gerard Butler’s house, and she told every last person in the hotel. Some people!

  10. tammyonthemove

    I have never been on a press trip, but encountered many annoying people who were complaining that the taxi driver didn’t speak English or that there were too many beggars. Really, in a developing country? Outrageous! ;-)

    1. Angie Away Post author

      Oh Tammy – that is my pet peeve! You don’t have to be a world traveler to understand that there are bound to be very obvious differences once you step outside the comfort zone. It amazes me how many folks miss that and then don’t enjoy their trips!

  11. Travis

    I can’t believe people would act like that on a trip in general, much less a press trip they’ve been invited to participate in. I’ve only been on two official press trips and never had anywhere near the experiences you’re describing. Hopefully my luck will hold out.

    Thanks for the great article! I’ll echo what Camels & Choc. said – more PR posts :P

  12. Mike Sowden (@Mikeachim)

    Oh Angie. A whole post, about ME. I’m feeling so lucky. Also, litigious. See you in court. DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM, LADY?

    I hope this post does really well. Because yes, if you’re on a press trip, you’re there to do a job and if you don’t like that job, don’t go on another one. And that’s the right message.

    I’ve not been on any trips with absolutely nightmares, but I know of a few from people who have. I hope I never encounter it.

    But, my slate isn’t clean. I’m somewhat guilty of no. 10 – but only because I’m still playing catchup. The lesson I learned on the few press trips I’ve been on: put time aside *afterwards* to fulfil your commitments.

    1. Angie Away Post author

      Don’t sue me, Mike! I swear, this one’s not about you ;)

      No. 10 is a tough one. Even tougher if you travel frequently. I feel like I’m only now getting caught up from 2012 & 2013 trips… so it does take time. I think the key is to manage expectations about publishing up front, and then keep your PR person apprised of any changes.

      Thank you for reading and sharing! I value your good opinion very much =)

  13. Bret @ Green Global Travel

    Yep! I’ve only been on a handful of group press trips over the course of my career, but I can identify these knuckleheads from every one of them. I get peeved by the attitude of entitlement among travelers in general, but it’s even worse when a journalist/blogger commits one of these PR faux pas. Reading this makes me even more thankful that 95% of our press trips have been individually customized… and that one of the rare ones that wasn’t was with you! ;-)

  14. Laura

    Oh gosh what stories! I can’t believe someone died on one of your trips… But thanks for sharing. I think we can all relate to how ridiculous people can behave when they’re in some position of power or have some notion of entitlement! There are definitely a lot of “do you know who I am”‘s in the travel writing world!

  15. Jenna

    On my first FAM trip, there were two writers who complained about the food and attended only about 25% of the activities. And this was in a really, really nice area with some of the best food around. Hmm. It must not be easy to be a PR person and to have all the duties of organizing trips and managing all the different personalities. I’m so sorry to hear that someone died on one of your trips.

  16. Sam @ Travelling King

    oh wow!
    I thought this was going to be one of those “joke’ posts – how can people act like that when (a) someone has gone to the trouble of organising a trip and inclusing you and (b)its free!!
    Cant blame PR people and companies for not wanting to work with bloggers if you have idiots acting like that!

  17. Brett

    Hey! I changed the tire on that limo! I STILL tell that story all the time. How many people can say they changed a tire on a limo in the Bahamas?! Let the whiners keep their cubicles. ;)

  18. The Guy

    Wow Angie, you’ve really come across some true characters over the years. I wonder what we’d have to do to get an informal tip off from you as to who these people are/were hehe. Also, are they still blogging and the big names they were at the time.

    I dare say it is true though that what you see online and what you see in person can be a world apart.

    To date I’ve only ever met one other couple of travel bloggers, they are Agness and Cez of E-Tramping. I’ll be honest and think they are even better in person than they are online. A real nice set of people. We did have an interesting discussion of our experiences with other bloggers though and already we’ve had the odd mixed experience with some. Such a shame as >90% of bloggers I’ve interacted with have provided very positive experiences.

  19. Pingback: Travel Blog Love: February, 2014 (+ A Special Announcement!)

  20. Lauren

    WOW. That is unbelievable – all of them! I can’t believe that people act this way. After all, they are being treated to travel and should feel very privileged! If Justin or I were ever invited as blogger guests, we would be totally honored and wouldn’t be rude, complain, or be a total embarrassment!

  21. Hilarye

    Press trips are kind of like roulette right? You just never know who is going to be there! I think I’ve gotten pretty lucky on the ones I’ve been on. Some people have been annoying and maybe drank a little too much but never anything overly crazy!

  22. Kate R

    I use to go on fams…and I will never forget how much some of these writers could drink….Simply amazing.

  23. Lisa Frame

    I’ve been on both sides and would love to buy you a drink. You nailed it. There is always that one person, or on my last one, two, who make everyone look bad.

  24. Kelly Stilwell

    This is awesome. I can’t imagine. I’ve only been on a couple of press trips and was fortunate enough that everyone was amazing. I think I would just have to slap someone. Oops. I bet that’s on the longer list! I’m sharing!

  25. trisha

    Im a a professional blogger and also do some PR on the side…this post is hilarious to me. We run a trip every year called Brandcation where we work with travel locations and take anywhere from 30-40 women on fully comped amazing vacations for the story. EVERY SINGLE TIME we have someone go insane with something you listed above. A year ago I coined the term “DontBeThatGirl” and now its the official motto of the trip. I start every event with an explanation of “that girl” and (because I am a blogger too) remind them all that if someone is #thatgirl everyone has my permission to blog about them….and they will never be on any list again.

    One of our upcoming trip girls sent me this and said it has to be required reading for now on when they sign up.


  26. Tricia Nightowlmama

    love your tips and the funny part is that those that do those things have no idea they are doing them. They act like its totally normal behavior while the rest of us just side step and go on to enjoy the accommodations and fun. thanks for the laugh

  27. Rachel ferrucci

    I’m laughing so hard because we all do know someone who has done each of these. I have been on both sides, as the organizer I wanted to ask the person to go home and as a blogger I cringed for the PR rep. It looks like your crew in the pictures had a great time. Great article, it’s a must read for every blogger.

  28. Kay Dougherty

    I’m just trying to get on the good list for press trips! I wouldn’t do any of the above but I’m not sure the person who died counts as someone who misbehaved on a press trip! It would seem that that person came off the list for another reason……

  29. Sarah Fazendin

    Great post and spot on! I’ve been on both sides of the fence, organizing for tourist boards as well as being a press trip participant, and let me tell you … no complaints + tip appropriately = a great press trip participant in my book! Plus when working with travel bloggers they have the ability to produce so much more great content than say, a decade ago when we hosted writers for one small article. The ability to illustrate value and move the dial is much more significant these days.

    1. Angie Away Post author

      Absolutely! And the sweet spot is when you find that writer who is both a blogger AND a print journalist. Then you get immediate results & long reaching coverage. Those are my favorite writers to invite on trips.

      Thanks for reading & commenting!


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