The seasons are changing and travel fever has sparked the minds of content creators worldwide. From taking on paid assignments to capture each moment with your creativity to hitting the beachy shores of Bali with your friends. Travel season is upon us. As a world traveler myself, one of the most common questions I get asked is how I’m able to get so many paid travel campaigns or free accommodations. Well, I’ve got some answers for you to make your traveling needs easier and help you save money (and make some too). So let’s take a look at ways you can master the art of travel as a Content Creator.
1. Make a Plan: Every good idea starts with a good plan. I challenge you to sit down and make a list of beautiful destinations you want to visit and when you would ideally like to take your trip. Take it a step further and jot down a list of things you’ll want to do on your trip from finding a location for the perfect photo to just getting drunk with a bunch of locals while listening to great music. Visualize it. Write it down. Enjoy this process. Especially note what you want to do creatively on your journey. Do you want to focus more on being in front of the camera? Take photos? Shoot videos? Blog every moment of your adventures? How many times do you want to post on social media and which channels? Try to be as detailed as possible. This will make things so much easier for you moving forward. Trust me. Now it’s time to turn your plan into reality.
2. Contact the Gatekeepers – Now, that you have a plan, you’ll soon discover why it was such a great idea to create one vs. spitballing it. You now know what you need, when you need it, and what you can offer. It’s time to reach out to the “Gatekeepers” who can make your travel dreams come true. Who should you contact? Typically, it’s one of these four (or in some cases all four): Airlines, Tourist Boards, Hotels, and local establishments in your destination area. Note, I did not say travel agencies. From my experiences, most agencies consist of lean nomadic teams and have limited resources to provide you with pay or even have any great hookups for freebies. You can honestly get more on your own. Be sure to make a list of the gatekeepers you need to contact (I typically do 8-10 of each four to contact). Making these lists may be a bit daunting if you’re not sure where to look for contact information. Simply do some research on Instagram (you’re always on there any, LOL) or fire away searches online. Once you build your lists it’s time to move fast with contacting the gatekeepers. How do you go about this?
3. How to Contact the Gatekeepers – Make sure you have a clever pitch (see: “Step 4” here). You want to be clear about what you can provide with examples of your best work that features travel destinations, scenery, etc. This is where all of your cool “vibe” shots come to your aide. The best-performing methods to contact these gatekeepers is to do it via email (through company websites), direct messages via social media channels and good ‘ol fashioned phone calls. Yes. It’s okay to talk to an actual person on the phone. You’re going to be surprised at the awesome results. Special Note: Yes, there is much more power in pitching traveling pairs (best results) or groups (no more than 3).
4. Bring the right gear – Pack light. Make sure you have clothes for every type of situation: rain, casual, dressy, swimwear, etc. There’s been more than one occasion where we thought we would have beautiful weather and it turned out to be a series of rolling thunderstorms or got VIP access to a club that had a specific dress attire. So pack smart. Also, here is a quick list of things to bring that I found essential to travel: notepad and pen (yes, this will come in handy when you don’t have wifi and/or feeling a bit creative somewhere), cell phone, laptop, iPad, camera, GoPro, toiletries, portable chargers (I like to use Nomad Goods and Bezalel – use CJ30 for 30% off products in shop).
5. Use the Best Travel Apps – We all have amazing apps we like to use to use when we travel. What I did was I beta-tested the best performing apps on my domestic and international trips to see which ones I had the most success with. So the following listed apps are based on three variables: 1. Saves money 2. Saves time 3. Usability. So here we go: Google Trips, Skyscanner, Airbnb, Uber (Lyft isn’t available everywhere where Uber is), Google Translate, Olivia, Paypal, Workfrom, and Day One. Special Note: Always make sure the area you’re off to has wifi access. I was once stranded in front of the President of Mexico’s compound because my wifi wouldn’t connect to my Uber service.
6. Good Company – I believe taking a big adventure by your lonesome is one of those experiences that help you grow as a person. But, traveling with someone else or a group is one of those things that make travel all the more special. So, if you’re looking to have good company during your travels. Here’s a great way to do it. First, I’d recommend signing up to The Hub (if you haven’t already, what the hell?) or if you’ve already signed up, it’s time to connect with next-level creative talent on the Hub. Secondly, there are tons of Facebook Groups and your trusty buddy, Instagram to help you connect with more people.
7. Make time to create – So, let’s address the elephant in the room… you REALLY want to travel… especially to exotic places, get paid to do it, eat/drink for free, relax, and look good doing it. But, the truth of the matter is that if this plan works out even half as well as you want it to you will have to find time to actually create premium content. So, be smart. Make a schedule for when you’re going to create and where you’re going to just relax. What I typically do for example is, make note of particular places I want to shoot at and see how far away they are from each other. If they’re close I will set aside a day just to create. This is where I bring out the big guns of professional equipment and showcase the brands I’m collaborating with. When I don’t have my professional equipment with me doesn’t mean I’m not creating. After all, we all have, don’t we? If anything I’m able to take two types of content: the stylish, premium, “holy shit” content and the authentic, in the moment “that looks fun” content (when I want to). I have both at my disposal and showcase my adventures.I also set aside time for editing content and when I’m going to post. The rest of the time, I’m really enjoying myself without lugging around my equipment or worrying about getting a shot. Also, as a courtesy, it’s a good idea to touch base with brands you’re collaborating with to let them know your tentative rollout schedule and a general message that lets them know you may be hard to get a hold of because of travel.
8. Pick the best time to travel – Now, if you want to travel when everyone else does (Spring and Summer) that makes perfect sense. But, it’s the off-season that you’ll find the best deals and get the most attention with your creative content. While everyone is at the grind of work or school you’re sipping on tequila in Tulum and everyone is watching vs you’re posting about being in Bali with everyone else. Also, during the off-season, it’s the cheapest time to travel which means the odds of you getting exactly what you want just shot up.
9. Airbnb vs Hotel – I did a compare and contrast with this too. I took a two week trip to New Orleans and for the first week I stayed in a fancy hotel for free (collaboration) and the second week was a string of Airbnb’s. Which experience was cooler? Depends on your needs. With the hotel experience, we got free breakfast, wifi, cable tv, room service, etc. With Airbnb, we got our own private getaway and the same (minus the free food). Which was more costly? Airbnb. Which place allowed us more creative freedom? No difference but as a content creator, we actually created more stylish content staying at a hotel. Special Note, if you’re pitching to hotels, aim for 2-3 nights (3 at the most).
10. Traveling is the best – If you’re a Content Creator and not interested in travel… rethink that. Traveling will provide you brand-new life experiences that won’t just help you grow in a personal way. It will also help you grow as a creative. Imagine the reason why you wanted to be a creative in the first place and the creators you admire. They all traveled often. New places spiked their imagination. Allowed them to express themselves in a brand new way.
I’ll close this out with one of my favorite quotes…
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharlal Nehru
CJ Johnson is an award-winning content creator, entrepreneur, author, speaker and internet personality. Best known for a being a prominent millennial voice and his work in digital marketing and social media, former digital agency, J+J. Learn more tips, tricks, and creative inspo and follow CJ on Instagram and Twitter at @cjjohnsonjr.