Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Manners Manifesto: A (Not Emily) Post* on Press Trip Etiquette: PART II

With so many bloggers in the travel writing game, press trip invitations are on the rise. Sadly, so are bad manners. In Part 1, we covered the ABCs of press trip behavior. Now, it's time for the EF and Gs.

E is for Ew...as in "Ew, you stink":

A recent press trip reminded me to include this very important maxim in this piece. If you smoke, wear perfume, eat profuse amounts of garlic or otherwise reek, be aware that your scent stays with you. If you are in close quarters on a press trip, be it on an airplane or a minivan, realize that your secondhand aroma is likely off-putting to others in the group. 

F is for Food and Form:

  • Always let your host know in advance about food allergies or other health restrictions. You make life very difficult for your hosts if you spring this information on them at the last minute.
I told my host well in advance--"no gluten for me."
As a result, I greatly enjoyed my Norwegian foods.
  • If you plan to diverge from the schedule, let your hosts know well in advance.
  • Do not expect the host to arrange the alternative plans (although they might offer to).
  • Don’t diverge from the press trip to visit your Aunt Sadie. If Aunt Sadie demands a visit, add a day to the trip (at your own expense) and visit her then.
  • Furthermore, never ever diverge from a press trip for a Tinder hook up. Yes, apparently, this is a thing. Remember, there are plenty of fish in the travel writer sea, and if you use trips for international matches, you may end up on the be naughty list.

G is for Good

  Bad behavior reflects upon your fellow professionals. Therefore, be good.  

  •  Be on time.
  •  Show up for activities.
  •  Pay attention.
  •  Don’t overindulge in alcohol, especially if it impairs your performance.
  •  Don’t complain you don’t have enough free time for shopping or sitting by the pool.
  •  Don’t be a prima donna.

We see you at the end of this
walkway shooting a selfie.
  • Don’t spend all your time shooting selfies. Destinations want coverage of their attractions, and don’t need to have you self-photobomb every beauty shot.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

8 Hotel Trends to Love

Interested in the latest hotel trends? Here'a a piece I just did for Shermans Travel.

 21c Museum Hotels
21c Museum Hotels

Hotel trends come and go, but the good ones set new industry standards. Here are some we hope stand the test of time.

Cool Hotels for the B-List

New hotel brands with a unique beat are focusing their attention on the country’s medium-tier cities. Graduate Hotels’ college-themed properties are popping up in classic university towns like Ann Arbor, Michigan and Charlottesville, Virginia. The art-focused, Kentucky-based 21c Museum Hotels are expanding into mid-tier markets in the South and Midwest, including Louisville and Oklahoma City; each one has a prominent exhibition space showcasing a revolving list of artists.

 Front Desk/Quirk Hotel
Front Desk/Quirk Hotel

Clever Adaptive Reuse

Why tear down an old building when you can repurpose it? That’s the thought behind many recent hotel development projects. The Cork Factory in Lancaster, Pennsylvania was — you guessed it — a 19th century cork factory. The Refinery Hotel in New York City was originally built in 1912 as a high-end millinery factory. And the hats made there were likely sold at J.B. Mosby and Co. department store in Richmond, Virginia (circa 1916), which was recently converted into the mod and chic Quirk Hotel.

 Fenway Park Suite Terrace/Hotel Commonwealth/Kiera Slye Photography
Fenway Park Suite Terrace/Hotel Commonwealth/Kiera Slye Photography

Local Touches

There’s no better way to make a guest feel at home than by adding some personal touches in the hotel room. The Kimpton Taconic in Manchester, Vermont puts locally-made walking sticks in each room to encourage guests to take advantage of the area’s abundant nature trails. At the One&Only Palmilla in Los Cabos, Mexico, turndown service includes a gift of handmade ceramic cacti reflecting species native to the region, with a note explaining their relevance to indigenous communities. Baseball fanatics will embrace the… unique touches at Boston’s Hotel Commonwealth, which overlooks Fenway Park; guests are gifted a bag of dirt from the old ballpark to take home.

 The Living Stage/Hotel RL
The Living Stage/Hotel RL

Room for Performances

The Living Stage is a key component of the new lifestyle brand Hotel RL, developed by Red Lion Hotels. Open to the general public, the stage is located in or adjacent to the lobby and showcases local musicians and occasionally writers. For guests who prefer to embrace their inner couch potato, performances are simulcast live on the hotel’s television system.

24-Hour Check-in/Check-out

Almost every hotel lets you check in any time, but you have to leave by noon — or worse, 11 — the next day. But a few hotels are now giving guests a true 24-hour stay. The Four Points Sheraton LAX, for example, allows a guest to check-in at 5 p.m. on Monday and check out at 5 p.m. Tuesday, making good on the promise to provide a full day’s stay.

 Charmant Hotel
Charmant Hotel

The Rise of the Rust Belt

From Cleveland to Milwaukee to Detroit, the Rust Belt is gaining ground among hotel developers. Chicago-based Aparium Hotels is aiming to be a catalyst in this resurgence. The company ethos is to design properties (usually adaptive reuses) that reflect the heart and soul of the places they inhabit. In Wisconsin, the Charmant Hotel in La Crosse and The Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee are prime samples of Aparium’s stock in trade.

 Iron Horse Hotel
Iron Horse Hotel

Free Wheeling                              

When you see an orange bike rolling by, there’s a good chance there’s a Canopy by Hiltonin the neighborhood. Hilton’s new entry into the lifestyle brand market exist has all sorts of funky touches, including the orange bikes that are free loaners for guests. Canopy is not alone in pedaling this transportation option. Hotel RL and some Kimpton properties also provide two-wheelers for guests who want an eco-friendly way to explore the environs.

 Skyline Terrace Suite/MGM Grand
Skyline Terrace Suite/MGM Grand

Better Sleep

It may have started with Westin’s Heavenly Bed, but in recent years, hotels everywhere having been trying to design spaces that ensure a good night’s sleep. Delos’ Stay Well Rooms, found at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, feature blackout shades and dawn simulation, which allows for a natural waking process. This is coupled with circadian lighting, engineered to emulate the properties of natural light. If that’s not enough, how about nodding off to the dulcet tones of Deepak Chopra narrating guided meditations?

Original post can be seen here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Great Midwestern Cities: #TravelTopics on Twitter

When thoughts turn to summer vacation, the heartland of America may not be top of mind. But the Midwest has a multitude of advantages, particularly for budget-conscious travelers. Even if you are someone who equates summer getaways with frolicking in the water, well, believe it or not, the Midwest has opportunities for that by the boatloads.

On Thursday, June 2, from 1 to 2 PM Eastern/Noon to 1 PM Central, we explore Great Midwestern Cities during the #TravelTopics Twitter chat. Join in to share your thoughts on the Midwest or to access valuable vacation ideas. @VisitMilwaukee and @VisitOKC will be along for the ride.

Here are the topics we will be covering:

  • Q1: What makes the Midwest an appealing destination for summer travel?
Courtesy: Visit Milwaukee
  • Q2: What are the advantages of opting for trips to medium-sized cities versus mega-metro areas?

Kayaking in Oklahoma  City
Courtesy: Visit OKC
  • Q3: What are some of the things you can do in the Midwest that those on the coasts would be surprised about?

  • Q4: Experts from @VisitMilwaukee and @VisitOKC are in the house. Ask questions/offer intel about these Great Midwestern Cities.

Milwaukee Art Museum
Courtesy Visit Milwaukee

  • Q5: Why is the Midwest the perfect destination for family travel?

  • Q6: Talk about water activities available in Midwestern states. What’s your favorite way to explore Milwaukee’s waterways?

  • Q7: What would out-of-towners find most unexpected about Oklahoma City or other mid-tier cities?

Skydance Pedestrian Bridge
Courtesy Visit OKC
  • Q8: What is the most unique attraction/destination you have encountered in the Midwest?

  • Q9: What’s your favorite festival in the Midwest?

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Manners Manifesto: A (Not Emily) Post* on Press Trip Etiquette

Wowser. It's your first press trip. A destination has asked you to come along for the ride, not because you are fabulous (although you may well be), but because you reach an audience that the destination wants to reach.  You are thrilled, thinking you have hit the jackpot. A press trip = a free vacation, right? Think again.

Press Trip in Georgia
The enticement of free travel is a large part of why so many are flocking to become travel bloggers. If you have the right numbers, or if you are a shrewd marketer, you can often get yourself on the press trip circuit. But if you want to ensure that you get to, and stay on, the press trip A-list, it’s best to behave yourself.

Prior to presenting this manifesto, let me note that the most important rule of the press trip club is to produce. Don't drink from the well without adequately covering the trip. This is not kosher. More on that in Part II.

The Press Trip Manners Manifesto

  1. This is not a vacation. Many in the public relations community often moan about newbie...and not-so-newbie...travel bloggers who approach them with the pitch that their family wants to go on vacation to XYZ.. Said bloggers fully expect PR pros to welcome the entire family with open arms, for free, in exchange for a post.  This isn’t the way it works. Press trips are working trips. You usually cannot/should not bring a companion, unless that's part of the trip (i.e. family press trips may ask reporters to bring a kid). If you want to take a vacation, pay for it yourself and go on your own time.

Group Press Trip on the Outer Banks, North Carolina

  1. Don’t be a hijacker. Your needs are not more important than those of others in the group. Don’t hijack the itinerary to suit your needs.  Group trips are planned to give everyone a taste of a destination, and oftentimes, to spread the publicity wealth throughout the local tourism community. That’s why, if you are on a group trip, you may have to visit a few places you wouldn’t normally go on your own.  To mix metaphors, shut up and dance and just do it.  There will be other activities that you are into that fellow group members aren’t.  Group trips are a compromise. Deal with it.
  1. Don’t don’t show up.  It’s rude to the rest of the group, it’s rude to your host, and it’s rude to an attraction/hotel/restaurant that has been swayed to comp you in exchange for likely coverage. Destinations work hard to get attractions and hotels to buy into the idea of hosting you. When you don’t show up, you embarrass the trip planner and help ensure that specific places may be less eager to help out on future press trips. Sure, that’s not your problem, but still...

On a press trip in Estonia
  1. DIY. If you do need to do something outside of scheduled activities, or can’t participate in an activity for health or other legitimate reasons, tell your host well in advance that you are opting out. If you do plan to leave the group, offer to make the alternate arrangements yourself. Your host will usually offer to help, but don’t count on it.

5. Don’t delay the group. Don’t be the one who is always late. It is simply rude not to show up on time. Also, don’t alter the group’s schedule so you can be dropped off somewhere out of the way on an opt-out activity.

Step on it so you don't delay the group.
Here, my first step on Russian soil.

6. Don’t get in the picture. If there’s a brilliant photo op, don’t be a hog. Take turns getting the shot. Also, don’t step into someone else’s shot. Be aware of where others are pointing their lens. Finally, don’t be obnoxious about taking selfies. 

Photobomb selectively.
With Devon Turchan in Georgia

7. This is not a free ride.

Even though, in your mind, this may be a free trip, don’t expect the host to pay for everything.

  • If you bring someone along, pay for their transportation expenses, and offer to pay for meals and attraction entries.
  • Bring money for tips, snacks and sundries. The host is not paying for your dry cleaning.
  • Be prepared to pay for drinks. Some destination marketing organizations (DMOs) are restricted when it comes to covering alcohol expenses.

Whirling Dervishes
Press Trip to Turkey
More tips to come in Part II.

Media relations professionals and writers, please add your comments here so that we can add amendments to the manifesto.

*For those not in the know, Emily Post has long been considered the doyenne of etiquette.

Monday, May 23, 2016

SIT UP STRAIGHT: Maintaining Your Posture While Traveling

How to Maintain Your Posture While Traveling--for Shermans Travel Media

Posted in:

Georgie Pauwels
Georgie Pauwels

Even if you were brought up by nuns or were captain in the U.S. Army, maintaining good posture while traveling is nearly impossible. Heavy carry-ons and over-stuffed shoulder bags, combined with long stretches of sitting in ergonomically unfit airline seats, wreak havoc on the spine. If you don’t want to land directly in the chiropractor’s office, here are a few tips to help you protect your back while on the road.

Pack light

It might sound obvious, but bad posture starts with your bags. When it comes to suitcases, the lighter the better. Even if you have to spend a few extra bucks to check another bag, it’s better to bring two smaller suitcases as opposed to one big clunker. Each bag will weigh less, so your body will be balanced while carrying them. And while someone on your flight or train may offer to help you lift your bag, don’t bank on it. You don’t want to be that guy (or gal) who nearly drops his bag on the passenger sitting below. If you plan on taking public transportation from the airport to the hotel, or you know you’ll be carrying the suitcase for an extended length of time, this tip goes double.

Lift with your legs

If you are doing any heavy, overhead lifting, be strategic about how you lift. Break the action into separate stages: To get the carry-on into the overhead bin, first bring it up to top-of-seat level; then, bend at the knees and engage your leg muscles, rather than your lower back, to get the additional momentum you’ll need to get the bag into the compartment.

Stand, often

It’s easy to get settled in your seat on a flight — you’re absorbed by a movie, a book, a nap. But remember to get out of the seat frequently and walk around. Sitting still for long stretches of time isn’t good for any part of your body. Additionally, doing in-seat leg and back stretches — like bending forward or lifting toes off the ground to stretch hamstrings — will make post-trip movement smoother.

Sit up straight

This is likely familiar advice; we may not have listened as kids, but as adults, we can appreciate the wisdom behind it. When on an airplane, train, or car seat, try to sit up straight. Tools that may help you do so include posture shirts or annoying posture-tracking sensors that vibrate when you slouch.

BYOBack and foot support

Lumbar support is essential when sitting for a long time. Bring a pillow specifically designed to keep the lower spine in line. If you forget, roll up a sweater or another thick piece of clothing and stick it between the seat back and the small of the back.
Also, because airline seats are not ergonomically designed, consider bringing a footrest. Dangling or stretched-out legs may cause stress on the lower back. When driving, it’s better to rest both feet on the floor than having one foot on the gas. So, if your car is equipped with cruise control, set it up and put your paws on the floor.