By Wendy Helfenbaum
I joined FTA as media member in early 2018 hoping to expand my network and keep up on family travel trends. Because that year’s Summit in Bermuda fell on a week my husband was off work, I decided to attend with my family.
My goal was to meet other FTA members, collect information on trends and destinations, and perhaps pick up a few story ideas. The Summit far exceeded my expectations. Not only was it fun, informative and welcoming, it turned out to be very lucrative, too!
Here’s how I leveraged the event:
- Using insights from the Summit’s keynote presentations, I pitched an idea to PBS’ NextAvenue.org that led to this story, For Multigenerational Travel, Think Outside the Mouse. I quoted Rainer Jenss and Sally Black.
- I’d found Sally online in 2017 when I was looking for a knowledgeable travel agent to quote for another PBS story I was writing about mistakes people make when planning multigeneration vacations. Sally was so helpful that I couldn’t wait to meet her in person in Bermuda. While speaking with her over a drink during the Summit, she shared an anecdote about clients taking a cruise without knowing the regulations about foreign-born nannies being denied entry to certain ports. That comment led to me selling a story to CruiseCritic.com about things you should never try to hide from a cruise line.
- My son and I took advantage of the introductory scuba-diving lesson being offered onsite by PADI. That experience generated several published stories. First, I sold an idea to Your Teen magazine about giving your kids the gift of adventure and then I wrote another about conquering your fears while on vacation for FamilyVacationCritic.com.
- Speaking of FamilyVacationCritic, I’d already met and worked with then-editor Amanda Norcross prior to seeing her in Bermuda. But because we had the chance to spend lots of time together, our relationship grew much stronger. Amanda assigned me several stories that all included Bermuda. First, I wrote an update of the site’s Bermuda destination guide. I then pitched Amanda 10 cruise ship excursions you didn’t know you could take. The post-media fam trip included a wonderful haunted history walking tour, which inspired this story. Later, Amanda greenlit two more stories featuring Bermuda: The best adventure vacations for families with young kids and 10 Momcations we’re dreaming about right now, which ran during the pandemic.
- That same scuba-diving lesson generated a totally different story. On the boat, I got to know Carnival’s director of strategic partnerships, Jodi Kinmon. Later, over drinks, she mentioned how some of the line’s cruise directors had huge social media followings. I sold a really fun story starring the most popular cruise directors and their insider tips and tales from the sea – my first story for CruiseCritic.com. That piece got me on then-editor Erica Silverstein’s radar, and she assigned me another dozen CruiseCritic.com stories over the next two years. Plus, Jodi’s warm introduction to Carnival’s media contact led to a future cruise where my family was hosted on their newly renovated vessel, Sunrise. Several stories resulted from that voyage, including one about why it’s great to sail on a refurbished ship. I also sold a review of the Carnival Sunrise to my editor at Travel42/Northstar Media.
- My editor at Travel42 also wanted a review of the Fairmont Southampton, which I happily suppled.
- For Today’s Bride Destination Weddings magazine, I pitched and sold three stories that included Bermuda: One about how to choose the best cruise port for your destination wedding (page 32), plus Splurge-worthy excursions for wedding guests and how to plan a wedding at sea.
I didn’t just find story ideas at the FTA Summit. In addition to Rainer and Sally, I met other fabulous contacts that ended up becoming sources in my stories. I happened to sit next to blogger Hilarye Fuller during the post-Summit media trip, and her amazing stories about living in an RV with her four kids inspired me to pitch and write a story about full-time RV families for Realtor.com.
Lastly, I had the pleasure of meeting editor Ken Shapiro, and wrote a story about The Daytona hotel and my spin around the Speedway for TravelAge West.
There’s no question that attending the FTA Summit in 2018 was worthwhile for me. I was sorry to miss 2019’s due to scheduling conflicts, and as for the next one, count me in!