Earlier this fall, when we did our Southern Foodie Road Trip, our journey focused on delicious eats (and craft cocktails) in Nashville, Knoxville, and New Orleans. As is the case with a majority of our travel, we planned this adventure on our own (meaning it was not constructed as a "press" or "media" trip). And, as is also often the case in our world, we reached out to those destinations to see if they were interested in collaborating with us in order to showcase travel partners that are in our pocket of interest.
Several years into being travel writers, it's nice to be able to work with destinations that want their message amplified. It's a privilege to work with savvy, forward thinking travel partners who "get" that we only want to partner with hotels, restaurants, etc. that make sense. Why would we (or they) want it any other way? If there's not an authentic connection, it shows. If there is an authentic connection, we're your partners for the long haul; it's not a "do it and forget it" relationship.
Even though we'll sometimes reach out to travel partners, knowing that we'll be able to curate those authentic experiences, we also do quite a bit of travel where we purposely don't partner with anyone.
We still have an intense fire for travel, so we often like to travel 100% off the PR/media grid. Meaning – even though we can reach out for partnerships that are authentic and driven by us – we still like to be unknown, experiencing travel as "real" travelers do. Doing so is what keeps us in touch with the reality of travel for the people for whom we are writing. Now, although we can easily cut through the hyperbole that's often attached to the carefully constructed experiences we're treated to, we feel it's still important for us to be anonymous much of the time.
Many travel writers don't have that luxury, as their income is tied exclusively to the travel realm. Because we also have a consulting business that's unrelated to travel, we can keep ourselves from being lured by unsavory press trips and partnerships that are not in our pocket.
So… During that road trip in September, we slid in a meeting with a consulting client in Atlanta. We decided to use those few days to be entirely anonymous travelers – no hotel, restaurant, or activity partnerships.
It was eye-opening.
At the end of our curt, unfriendly hotel check in process, as we were walking to the elevator, we mentioned that we were on a break from some travel writing.
When we arrived at our room, we found it hadn't been cleaned. We went back to the front desk for a new room and, wa-lah, we were assigned to a suite and got free breakfast. The tone of the service we received changed completely.
This year, as we discussed in our 2014 wrap-up post, we want to influence the travel sphere so that everyday travelers have the high-quality experiences that we do as writers. As travel gets more expensive and complicated, it's a definite pain point.
You can also find a blow-by-blow of our road trip over on Expedia.