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WTM London 2018: How To Survive the Bloggers Speed Networking Event

Hi guys,

So last week I attended World Travel Market (the biggest travel exhibition show on the planet) for only the second time in my blogging career, and what a whirlwind of a day it was! After my first visit back in 2016 left me feeling pretty overwhelmed, I was understandably feeling anxious ahead of my second visit. Set in London’s ExCel centre, WTM is the biggest and best travel show of the year, with thousands of people from all corners of the industry attending across the three day period. You’ll find everyone from bloggers and journalists to travel agents and tourism boards all hoping to meet new faces, catch up with old friends and of course do some business networking. Last time I visited I wrote a blog post sharing my top tips on how to survive your first time at WTM, which gives an insight of what to expect from the exhibition, so I hope some of you found that useful! This time though was a very different visit for me as I was lucky enough to be selected as one of only 120 bloggers to take part in the digital influencers speed networking event, so I was very focused and determined to walk away from WTM with some new business as a result of my visit. Here are my top tips on surviving the Bloggers Speed Networking and how to get the most out of your valuable time there…

 

 

Choose the right category upon registration

 

This is probably the single most important piece of advice I can give to anyone looking to take part in the speed networking. Upon registration you will be asked to provide some information about yourself and your blog and will then need to select which category you feel you fit into best (solo, group, family, adventure, budget, luxury etc). I found this quite tricky actually as my blog is so varied and I do a little bit of luxury travel, a little bit of adventure and a little bit of solo sometimes, so I could have slotted in to a few of the categories, but I settled on adventure as I felt this suited me best. When I arrived to set up my stand I was sooo glad I chose this category as they are listed A-Z (I didn’t realise this til I got there) and adventure is on the front row meaning you get to see all the prospective brands and PRs queuing to approach you before they actually arrive at your stand. I was also listed on the print out brochure on the first category as adventure was right at the start, so I definitely think I got more footfall as a result of this, but I do think it would be great if the organisers put a little bio or a line or 2 about your blog on the print out brochure so brands looking can find out more about what you do before they approach you, rather than just having a name to go on!

 

Dress to impress

 

Wandering around WTM is overwhelming, stressful and completely exhausting, and I would definitely recommend you wear something comfortable on your feet as you will rack up the FitBit steps in no time! However, it is important to remember that you are in a working environment, meeting people from all areas of the industry who want to do business, so looking the part is key to making a good first impression. I’m not saying you need to wear a dress and 6 inch heels, but pop on a blazer and fix your hair so it looks presentable. I treat my time at WTM as if I am going for either a work meeting or a job interview and like to look my best – there are also lots of photo opportunities so it doesn’t hurt to take pride in your appearance!

 

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So today, after four long years of blogging, I had a career highlight when Journeys with Jessica was given its very own stand at WTM – the biggest travel conference in the entire world! 🌍 I was selected as one of 120 travel bloggers to come and showcase what it is that I do and how my blog works. I had brands approaching ME, not the other way round, and I met and spoke to tonnes of people who had a genuine interest in my blog and wanted to know more about me as a person too. 🎉 I ended up staying an hour longer than I was supposed to because I was talking way too much to too many people and having way too much fun! I've learnt so much today and I've never felt prouder of my little blog 💖 Here's to the next 4 years of blogging, adventures and even more fun! Thanks @wtmlondon for an amazing day ✨#WTMLDN #travelblogger #London

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

Visually represent your blog

 

As it was my first time doing the bloggers speed networking I really didn’t know what to expect and had no idea what was included with your stand upon set up. I didn’t know if your business card or logo would be printed and attached to the stand, and I didn’t know if there would be a picture of me on it or not. I took some chocolates with me as a way to break the ice if I needed to, and so my stand didn’t look totally bare, but I also spent some time printing out A4 media kits and taking plenty of business cards too. Business kits are an absolute must at networking meetings so always remember to take more than you need! I’m also glad I printed out my media kits (x50) as it really helped me to talk potential clients through my blog. My media kit is very clear and concise, with important notes including audience demographics, social media statistics and a brief bio about me and my blog. This, coupled with my laptop on display, allowed me to visually showcase my blog to everyone I spoke to at the speed networking. I think they found it really useful that I could make a point and then back it up with imagery, or facts, and liked the fact that I was able to show some of my most popular blog posts on my laptop screen in front of me, rather than just talking about something and not actually having anything physical to show them. I would 100% take a laptop with me if I ever took part in the speed networking again, and business cards/media kits are a definite too.

 

Show that you’re confident (even when you’re not!)

 

Confidence is an attractive trait, but it doesn’t come natural to everybody. At places like WTM it is important to have your business hat on, but you also need to be yourself. Being yourself is the only thing that makes you unique, and that makes you stand out. You are representing your blog and, in some cases, this might be your entire business, but don’t forget that your blog is something personal and something that represents YOU, so don’t be afraid to show your personality and inject a bit of passion in to your meetings! I took a few notes as a cue card, and had my blog on my laptop screen so I could scroll and show people what it looks like, but to be honest it felt so natural once I’d had my first or second meeting I just kept talking and interacting and I think this was because I so relaxed and was completely myself which made me feel so much more confident!

 

 

Be active on social media

 

I know it can be really hard to try and keep up with social media whilst you’re physically at an event, rather than posting about it afterwards, but I always find I get the most out of my events when I keep up with current news from the hosts and post live ‘real time’ updates. Twitter and Instagram stories are my go-to platforms when posting live content, and my notifications on Twitter tend to go through the roof when I engage with people whilst I’m actually on-site. I met up with a few fellow bloggers at some of the Traverse Events talks on the WTM Global Main Stage because I’d seen their whereabouts on social media, and I even set up 2 meetings with brands on the day purely because they had seen my tweets and wanted to meet me, so I told them which table I was on at the bloggers speed networking and they then came to find me! I know it can be difficult to spin so many plates, but I strongly believe that being active on social media before, during and after the event made it a real success for me. Lots of companies ask you to take part in online competitions throughout the day too, so make sure you’ve got your power pack handy and tweet away whilst you’re there!

 

 

The speed networking gives you a chance to have one-on-one time with various travel brands, including tourism boards, hotels and PR companies, and is the perfect way to meet people and make new contacts. Sometimes it really is who you know, not what you know, in this business so making important connections at events like WTM is absolutely vital! Overall I really enjoyed my time at the bloggers speed networking, so much so that I ended up staying over an hour longer than I was supposed to because I was too busy chatting away… oops! I genuinely feel I made some fantastic connections at this event with real people and real brands who took a real interest in me and my blog. I’m already hoping to do it again at next year’s WTM and would highly recommend it to anyone looking to take the next steps in their travel blogging career.

Have you been to WTM before? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments below!

Love Jess x

 

 

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How to plan your European interrailing trip on a budget

 

 

Last month I took my first trip of 2018 as I went inter-railing round Europe (again!) with my sister. After inter-railing round Italy together back in 2016, we were super excited to be back on the road again, but this time exploring three countries in a row: France, Luxembourg and Belgium! We’d planned the route fairly quickly and, once we decided that we wanted to use the Eurostar to get there and back, had chosen our starting point as Paris and our final destination as Bruges, so just had one stop in between meaning that Luxembourg was the obvious candidate! Getting to and from the UK and each city was extremely easy, and both stress and hassle free. My sister and I organised every aspect of the trip before we left and we managed to get a week-long stay, including transport to and from the Eurostar stations, national and international trains plus six nights’ accommodation in 3-4* hotels for just £437pp! We had given ourselves a budget of £600pp for the entire week and well and truly smashed it. I like to think I’m quite good at getting a bit of a bargain, and this trip was certainly a steal. Being the geek that I am I’ve even worked out all the individual costings for this trip and included them in my total  pricing breakdown below. Want to know how I got a week’s inter-railing trip for less than £500pp? Let’s find out…

 

UK transport

 

 

Obviously this one depends on where you’re based, and I am lucky to live in Oxford so am very close to London, but our capital can be reached easily by most of the UK’s major cities, which makes getting to St Pancras Eurostar Station very accessible. We were travelling on Easter Sunday which may have slightly put the prices up, but usually a one way ticket from Oxford to London costs around £10 per adult, and is cheaper for me as I have a young person’s rail card. The Eurostar tickets themselves, from London – Paris and from Brussels – London were pretty reasonable and each journey was less than £70pp return. Have a look to see which trains are cheapest/most expensive on the day of travel as you could save a lot of money by going later in the day, or earlier on in the morning, or even the day before or after if you’re really flexible and want to get the best deal possible!

Costings:

Oxford – London return train – 1x adult, 1x rail card holder = £28.90pp and £19.05pp

London St Pancras – Paris Gare du Nord one way train – 2x youths = £65pp

Brussells Midi – London St Pancras one way train – 2x youths = £53.30pp (don’t forget your ticket should state that departure is from any Belgian station and includes onward travel between cities ie if you’re staying in Bruges and need to get back to Brussels Midi for your departing train, the journey between Bruges and Brussels is included in your ticket price, you don’t need to buy an additional ticket).

 

International trains

 

 

Sadly we were hit by the dreaded SNCF train strike during our time away – they had only just started and it caused havoc! Our train from Paris to Luxembourg was cancelled and, because it was bank holiday Monday, none of the phone lines were working and no one on the website online chat/social media pages were able to get back to me. Luckily we were able to use our existing ticket free of charge on the next available train which was only 3 hours later than our scheduled train, but if that one had been cancelled I don’t know what we would have done! I would recommend downloading the SNCF app for live updates to your train as this came in handy when the website crashed! All other trains ran smoothly though and international train travel is so enjoyable for me as I love the scenery between cities and the excitement when I pass over the border into a new country! My top tip is to book your trains as far in advance as possible for the best rates, be flexible on timings, and don’t forget if you’re under 26 you qualify for youth prices.

Costings:

Paris – Luxembourg international train (direct) – 2x youths = £25.61pp

Luxembourg – Bruges train (change at Liege) – 2x youths = £29.14pp

 

Accommodation

 

 

We picked some fantastic hotels for our trip and it made such a difference to have somewhere cosy and warm to come home to after a busy day of exploring. I knew the cities we had chosen weren’t the cheapest on earth and so we would have to use a significant amount of our budget to cover the cost of accommodation, but I think we did well considering we got 6 nights for under £600 which is just less than £300pp for the entire duration. I usually look at private rooms in hostels to keep costs down, but actually we found hotels that were still within our budget and so decided to spend a little bit more in order to get maximum comfort and security during our stay. Being a travel blogger, I usually reach out to hotels and offer my services (writing a review/promoting on social media) in exchange for a discounted/complimentary stay, however sadly I didn’t find any hotels that were free on my dates that were able to collaborate with me on this occasion which was a real shame. I did expect this though as we went over Easter weekend and the kids half term holidays, so be careful when you choose to travel if you are trying to pitch to hotels!

I am a big advocate of using online promo codes/vouchers to book hotels though and my travel hack when booking accommodation would be to book using Expedia. I have used them for years and never had a bad experience! For every hotel I booked I was able to find a 10-15% off voucher online (literally just Google Expedia promo code and one usually always comes up!) and also received up to 200 nectar points for each booking which is another bonus for me. I’ll be talking a bit more about the hotels I stayed in over the course of the next few weeks as I will be putting together individual travel guides to each city, but I wanted to keep this post purely about the costings/planning of an inter-railing trip so hopefully these tips will come in handy when you’re looking to book something!

Costings:

Hotel De Seine, Paris – 2 nights = total £246 = £123pp

Hotel Parc Belle Vue, Luxembourg – 2 nights = total £204 = £102pp

Ibis Hotel Brugge Centrum, Bruges – 2 nights = total £140.98 = £70.49pp

 

Activities/optional tours

 

 

Luckily as a travel blogger I am able to reach out and pitch to tour companies/excursion brands in order to enhance my trip and book some much needed add-on’s. On this occasion I was lucky enough to work with tour company Triple and holiday company Euroventure whilst in Paris. I went on a guided tour around the secret passageways of Paris with Triple and went up the famous Montparnasse Tower with Euroventure and both of these experiences really enhanced our stay. Again I will be writing about both tours in more detail when my Paris travel guide goes live. I also worked with the Luxembourg Tourism Board whilst I was exploring their beautiful capital city and was offered complimentary visitor cards which enabled us to make use of free public transport, free museum entry and discounted entry to a range of other attractions which really helped our budget in a city which is quite expensive! Where possible, pitch to brands in order to keep costs down – you’re probably going to be writing about them for your blog anyway, so you may as well get something in return for it. Obviously we did more tours/trips whilst we were there, but here are the ones we pre-booked/pre-paid before we left and what they cost/saved us in money…

Costings:

Montparnasse access for 2 adults, Paris = £17pp – GIFTED to us by Euroventure

Guided passageway tour for 2 adults, Paris = £30pp – GIFTED to us by Triple

Luxembourg card for 2 adults, Luxembourg = £17.50pp – GIFTED to us by Luxembourg Tourism

 

Total breakdown

 

 

Transport: £284.55 (£142.28pp)

Accommodation: £590.98 (£295.49pp)

Extras: £129 (£64.50pp) if we hadn’t been kindly gifted them.

GRAND TOTAL = £437.77pp – still would have been under £500pp even if we had paid for the optional extras!

So as you can see, there were lots of different elements to this trip which did make it add up, but everything was kept at a relatively low cost, which definitely helped to stick within budget. Obviously we had additional spending money for food/drink, other excursions and attractions we wanted to visit, and this was covered by the euros we used for spends. When planning an inter-railing trip like this I would definitely take into consideration the time of year, dates of travel (ie try and go mid-week where possible) and try to book transport as far in advance as possible. As you can see, even with a train strike, we were still able to travel to our intended destination and it didn’t affect our holiday too much, but having as much planned in advance really helped to take the stress away from what was otherwise quite a hectic trip. We had a brilliant week away and I can’t wait for my next adventure… inter-railing is definitely my favourite method of travel and I hope this might inspire you to take a similar trip in 2018!

Have you ever been inter-railing before? Get in touch – I’d love to hear your train tales!

Love Jess x