One of the many dazzling enticements for getting into travel media is the idea of jetting around the world in luxurious style for free. The industry term for these free or sponsored trips is “fam trips,” A.K.A. “familiarization trips.” But those of us that have been on a bunch of these like to refer to them as “’Please, for the love of God, can I take a nap?’ trips.”
Similar to almost everything that sounds like the best thing ever, fam trips aren’t the transcendental bliss most people think they are. Sure, you get to sit on a beautiful beach, drinking cocktails in primary colors, but your fam trip hosts have only allotted seven minutes for that indulgence.
The other 16 hours and 53 minutes of densely packed activities scheduled for that day can include:
- Sitting on a bus with 37 other travel writers for an hour to visit the new dog race track that the destination is promoting and would very much like you to write about or else.
- Visiting something that’s almost impossible to hype, like the World’s Biggest Ball of Cat Vomit.
- Having a meet-and-greet with every single tourism stakeholder in the region.
- Eating the equivalent of Thanksgiving dinner three times a day for four days straight or…
- Going nine hours without food or caffeine because your hosts bused everyone four hours each way to spend 30 minutes at a middling waterfall.
- Visiting eight hotels that you’re expected to review based on a 12-minute tour at jogging pace.
- Only getting about one waking hour, from 11 p.m. to midnight, to enjoy the very swanky hotel room that you do get to sleep in, 15 minutes of which are spent photographing said hotel room for the required review before you unpack or touch anything, including the toilet.
- Post everything that happens on social media with near-maniacal enthusiasm, but not while one of your hosts is speaking or you’re actively engaged in an activity, which is constantly, but please post on social media ASAP. What? No, the bus doesn’t have wi-fi. The cell service in rural Azerbaijan should be fine.
- Herd you all out for a surprise, late night fireworks display, that must have been expensive, but adds nothing to the trip (that you can share with your readers). And after the madcap pace you’ve kept up since 6:30 that morning, you would have much preferred a nice glass of wine and someplace to lie down.
- Being loaded down with one metric ton of brochures, delicate glassware, a two gallon jug of the local booze, souvenirs, eight sample bottles of manure-based moisturizers and lotions from a shop owned by the mayor’s close relative, a 16-inch figurine carved in lead, all the swag, hard cover books, a branded pole vaulting pole and other items you can’t possibly bring home, even you if brought two empty suitcases with you, which you didn’t because you never check bags because you’re a professional.
Now that you know what you’re signing up for, there’s a certain etiquette travel writing pros adhere to on fam trips. If you follow these guidelines to the letter, you’re sure to impress both your hosts and the other writers on the tour and be the most popular person on the bus, which is all that matters. Let the learning begin.
Fam Trips: Dos
- Do constantly remind everyone how successful and important you are, even though we’ve never heard of you or your publication.
- Do invite friends who live in the area to meals and activities, expecting they’ll be comped too.
- Do regale the group with tales of previous fam trips, which, by the way, were way better than the trip you’re currently on.
- Do wander off as it suits you, then act surprised and unapologetic when it turns out the whole bus had to wait for you for 40 minutes.
- Do openly lecture your hosts at great length about everything they’re doing wrong and what you’d do if you were in charge of their destination, where you’ve been for only two days, then offer them your consulting services.
- Do lock onto a single sentence uttered by your host (e.g. “Two percent of our truffles are harvested on a plantation, the rest are collect in the wild.”), then interrupt with your unrelated worldly trivia (e.g. “Did you know they have truffles in Nepal? Really? You didn’t know that? Well it’s true. The king told me while I was vacationing with his family in Bali…”).
- When someone on the fam trip mentions a trip or experience they had recently, do interrupt to let them know you did the same thing 10 years ago, except better, and that thing is so passé now.
- Do elbow your way to the front of the group for photo ops and then get disproportionately upset when people, who clearly aren’t as important as you, ask you to make room so they can take a photo too.
- Don’t take any notes, ever. Note-taking is for amateurs and minions.
- Don’t worry about ghosting an appointment, even if you specifically requested it, if something more attractive comes along – or you just don’t feel like it.
- Don’t accept media kits. You don’t need them. You already know it all.
- Don’t make any effort to immerse yourself in the yucky local culture, but do dupe your social media followers into thinking you’re immersing yourself in the local culture.
- Don’t stop your loud conversation with your buddy when your host starts talking about something important. And don’t hesitate to make them repeat everything five minutes later, because you weren’t paying attention.
- Don’t bother telling your hosts that you have a chronic hip thing and can’t walk more than 100 yards in one go, until after you’ve arrived at the Old Town walking tour.
- Don’t bother getting any local currency. Your hosts should pay for anything your heart desires, including tips, whether it’s trip-related or not.
- Don’t do any research before the trip. That’s what the trip is for.
- Don’t clean up after yourself, that’s what the help is for.
- Don’t dress appropriately for the weather, then complain constantly that you’re too hot, too cold, too wet or too sore to finish the glacier hike in the gown and heels you wore for the Instagram photo.