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 can 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.
Iceland
  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. Bring money along to cover sundry expenses. More on that in Part II.

Whirling Dervishes
Press Trip to Turkey
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.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

My first story for ShermansTravel.


5 of the Dirtiest Places on a Plane — and 5 Ways to Avoid Them

 by  
 flickr/Cory W. Watts
flickr/Cory W. Watts
Given the number of people sleeping, eating, and breathing on flights every day, it’s not surprising that airplane cabins are a cesspool of germs. Add the short-staffed flight crew, who is under pressure to offload and reload passengers quickly, and there is little time for the kind of proper clean-up needed to remove those germs before the next departure. According to a Wall Street Journal report, airplanes get lightly cleaned overnight, and they only undergo a deep cleaning every 30 days — meaning those germy microbes can continue to multiply for up to a month.
Here are the five places passengers should be most wary of on a flight:
1. The Seatback Pocket
Think about it. What do you put into a seatback pocket? Likely things like old water bottles, used tissues (ew!), and food wrappers. Seatback pockets are also the go-to repository for airsickness bags. That’s why you should think twice about using the pocket to store food or beverages. Also, realize that the stuff that’s already in there when you get on the plane (the magazine and safety instructions) may be riddled with bacteria, too.
2. The Tray TableA website called TravelMath recently hired a microbiologist to take microbe samples from various spots around the plane (the seatback pocket wasn’t included). The scientist was looking for the number of colony-forming units (CFUs) per square inch. The more units, the dirtier the surface. Of the places sampled, the germiest was the tray table, with 2,155 CFUs per square inch. Compare that to the 172 CFU average found on the average household toilet seat or the 27 CFU found on cell phones.
3. The Seatbelt Buckle
While the 230 CFUs found on seatbelt buckles might seem small in comparison to tray tables, that is still more than what is on your toilet seat. Since you probably wouldn’t want to eat food off your toilet (unless you have some odd habits), you’ll want to sanitize your hands before touching food after you buckle-up.
4. The Overhead Air Vent
When the TravelMath microbiologist tackled the overhead air vent button, it measured in at 285 CFUs. That’s not even taking into account the microbes that may be running through the ventilation system, which spews re-circulated air. That said, you might be better off avoiding the vent altogether.
5. The Lavatory
This one is a no-brainer. Consider the outside and inside doorknobs, the lock, the flush panel, and whatever else is in there. Knowing the nature of the loo in general, it does makes one question the mental health of those who use said privies to join the Mile-High Club.

So what’s the germaphobic traveler to do?

1. Get a seatback organizer that fits into the pocket and put your stuff inside that. Wash the organizer when you get home. Short of that, line the seatback pocket with a plastic bag.
2. Buy a tray table guard or fashion your own out of a piece of fabric. One company claims to have a product made with patented copper and ion technology that actively attacks harmful microbes on the table.
3. Wash your hands frequently. If you can’t wash, douse yourself with hand sanitizer (you might also want to bring along hand lotion, as the alcohol in the sanitizer is quite dehydrating).
4. Use a tissue to open and close the lavatory door and lock, and always wash after flushing.
5. Consider bringing a magic wand. Battery-operated ultra-violet sanitizing wands eradicate micro-organisms with a zap of light. Your seat mates may think you are crazy as you wave the wand over the tray table and into the seatback pocket. Let them laugh. Better yet, offer to do the wave over their germy parts and make new friends.
- See more at: http://blog.shermanstravel.com/2016/5-of-the-dirtiest-places-on-a-plane-and-5-ways-to-avoid-them/#sthash.DO441uhM.dpuf

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Puns A' Plenty at the DC Improv

News from the DC Improv and Me

Beltway Pundits

Beltway Pundits


Produced by Laura Powell, it's #SundayPunday! Come out to our lounge and compete in DC's new pun competition. Two ways to play ...

This is another new "game night" that we're testing out - the first edition in March sold out, and we're bringing it back for another round in two weeks. It's "open registration," so anyone can sign up to compete if they pay the $5 cover.

The registration is full for our "Pun Battle" (a bunch of short pun speeches). But you can still compete in The Punger Games, a quick-draw tournament in which up to 24 puntestants face off in punder and lightening rounds. This is where improvisers can shine - competitors have to come up with puns on a dime, making 'cents' of a given theme. The last punster standing in each round moves on to the next quarter... or semi ... or final. If this sounds confusing, don't sweat it - we made a short video explaining the process.

Right now we only have about 15 seats left, so if this intrigues you, get a ticket ASAP.



Monday, May 2, 2016

9 Gnomes About Travel Writing

...and no, I am not referring to the Travelocity troll. Look it up.

In honor of the new year, I am revisiting one of my most popular posts. The sequel can be found  here.

The Top 9 Travel Writing Taboos

#1: Avoid cliches like the plague. The Danish in Copenhagen isn't the best thing since sliced bread (since when is sliced bread so great, anyway?) When was the last time you really felt like a kid in the candy store? And unless you are trying out a carousel, you don't give things a whirl.


#2: Avoid words you never use when talking. I'm talking iconicquaint, and rustic. 

#3: Just to prove that I am not overly persnickety, I'll allow one quaint or iconic per article. But never, ever use luxe or azure, for sure.


#4: That the grass is green is not newsworthy. That the beach is sandy is not newsworthy. Don't include useless and/or redundant adjectives. Keep it pithy, people.

#5: Can a city boast? Apparently, it can, as "Chicago boasts the best deep-dish pizza in the world" and "Honolulu boasts grand luxe hotels, sandy beaches, and azure skies."  But IMHO, a place cannot boast.


#6: Is Albania the next Italy? I don't think so. But some travel writers do. "The next...." is not merely cliched writing; it is also somewhat pejorative if you think about it (i.e.--the next best thing to sliced bread....but it ain't no slice of bread).

#7: Don't trash the locals or local customs just for the heck of it. If you do, as in this piece I did for National Geographic Traveler  that literally trash talks Albania, provide context and balance.

#8: Maybe it's me, because I simply abhor chick-lit. Articles about your journey of self-discovery are usually a yawn, even to your closest friends. Sure, an Elizabeth Gilbert or a Frances Mayes may hit the jackpot with prosaic poppycock. But my best advice is to circumvent this form of literary litany.

An aside--why is it that 99 out of 100 of self-confessional, self-delusional pieces are written by women?

#9: Never, never, never use the term "something for everyone" in your writing. It's lazy, it's annoying (to me, anyway) and it's simply not true. Don't you be telling me Des Moines has something for everyone. For example, if you are a surfer, where's the beach? New York City doesn't have something for everyone. If you are a climber, try finding a mountain to scale in Manhattan (skyscrapers don't count). Heck, even Sydney, the best city in the world (again, IMHO), doesn't have something for everyone. For example, if you are an astronomer, you can't see the Big Dipper and vast parts of Ursa Major in the Australian night sky. But you can pet a koala.


Which brings me to one more parenthetical point. You can pet a koala, but you can't pet a koala bear. Koalas are marsupials, not bears. Put that in your pouch and ponder. And one more point that may save your life one day: If you want to pet a koala, don't do so by awakening it from a eucalyptus-induced stupor. I can tell you from experience.. this not a good idea. A koala awakening from its hebetude can be vicious, vicious, I tell you.  But that's a story for another post.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

International Travel Bargains: Where the Dollar is Sky-High

Pondering an exotic locale for your summer vacation? Start by considering international exchange rates and bargain airfares.


w
Today, I discussed both topics on Great Day Washington on WUSA TV in DC. We focused on three key areas. Here's a link to the segment: http://www.wusa9.com/entertainment/television/programs/great-day-washington/travel-tuesday-4-places-to-travel-where-the-dollar-is-strong/143025718   *

The lagging euro means that countries in the Eurozone are cheaper than usual for Americans. The dollar is about 16% stronger against the euro than this time last year. Among the 19 countries in the Eurozone, Portugal is likely the biggest bargain.  It's traditionally been cheaper than its continental cousins and this year is no exception. United starts seasonal non-stop service from Washington Dulles to Lisbon this spring.

www.visitportugal.com


O Canada. Your loonie dollar is no longer on par with the US version, as it was three years ago. Today, it's only worth 80 cents vs. its U.S. counterpart. 



Then there's the South African rand, which has been plummeting for awhile. Three years ago, one buck bought 9.6 rand. Today, the almighty dollar buys 15.6 rand. Now, as many safaris are priced in U.S. dollars, you may not find huge discounts there. But when it comes to lodging, meals and activities like golfing or wine tasting or concerts, South Africa is going for a song. Add in the frequent deals offered by South African Airways, and you can have yourself a trip down under for less than ever before.

*Please don't hold me responsible for the video. That part of the production was not in my hands. Hence, the video of Paris while I'm talking about Portugal and cheesy tourism videos used for other footage.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

So You Want to Be a Travel Blogger?

www.travelocity.com
.....and no, I am not referring to the Travelocity troll.

From dictionary.com:

gnome

2  noun
a short, pithy expression of a general truth; aphorism.

If you are looking to become a travel blogger this year, I beseech you to follow the advice seen below.

The Top 9 Travel Writing Taboos

#1: Avoid cliches like the plague. The Danish in Copenhagen isn't the best thing since sliced bread (since when is sliced bread so great, anyway, I wonder?) When was the last time you really felt like a kid in the candy store? And unless you are trying out a carousel, you don't give things a whirl.

#2: Avoid words you never use when talking. I'm talking iconicquaint, and rustic. 

#3: Just to prove that I am not overly persnickety, I'll allow one quaint or iconic per article. But never, ever use luxe or azure, for sure.

#4: That the grass is green is not newsworthy. That the beach is sandy is not newsworthy. Don't include useless and/or redundant adjectives. Keep it pithy, people.

#5: Can a city boast? Apparently, it can, as "Chicago boasts the best deep-dish pizza in the world" and "Honolulu boasts grand luxe hotels, sandy beaches, and azure skies."  But IMHO, a place cannot boast.

#6: Is Albania the next Italy? I don't think so. But some travel writers do. "The next...." is not merely cliched writing; it is also somewhat pejorative if you think about it (i.e.--the next best thing to sliced bread....but it ain't no slice of bread).

#7: Don't trash the locals or local customs just for the heck of it. If you do, as in this piece I did for National Geographic Traveler  that literally trash talks Albania, provide context and balance.

#8: Maybe it's me, because I simply abhor chick-lit. Articles about your journey of self-discovery are usually a yawn, even to your closest friends. Sure, an Elizabeth Gilbert or a Frances Mayes may hit the jackpot with prosaic poppycock. But my best advice is to circumvent this form of literary litany.
An aside--why is it that 99 out of 100 of self-confessional, self-delusional pieces are written by women?

#9: Never, never, never use the term "something for everyone" in your writing. It's lazy, it's annoying (to me, anyway) and it's simply not true. Don't you be telling me Des Moines has something for everyone. For example, if you are a surfer, where's the beach? New York City doesn't have something for everyone. If you are a climber, try finding a mountain to scale in Manhattan (skyscrapers don't count). Heck, even Sydney, the best city in the world (again, IMHO), doesn't have something for everyone. For example, if you are an astronomer, you can't see the Big Dipper and vast parts of Ursa Major in the Australian night sky. But you can pet a koala.

Which brings me to one more parenthetical point. You can pet a koala, but you can't pet a koala bear. Koalas are marsupials, not bears. Put that in your pouch and ponder. And one more point that may save your life one day: If you want to pet a koala, don't do so by awakening it from a eucalyptus-induced stupor. I can tell you from experience... this not a good idea. A koala awakened abruptly from its languor is a vicious animal. But that's a story to be chronicled later in my new blog called Adventure Travel for Weenies.