Traverse 17 Travel Blogging Conference…

Last weekend I attended the Traverse travel blogging conference in London, held in a fantastic location at Ravensbourne next door to the O2 and sponsored by some big travel brands, Jet2holidays, Cheapflights and Cathay Pacific to name just a few.  The two-day event consisted of sessions, workshops and pro bars with an opportunity to book a one on one appointment with the speakers, plus plenty of networking with other bloggers and travel brands.  In between chatting to the various travel brands and tourist boards I also picked up some great freebies, who doesn’t love a freebie?!  I attended the first Traverse event back in 2013 and although I’d been before I was a little apprehensive about going alone.  I needn’t have been though, I Tweeted a few days before to find out who else was attending and got a ton of responses from others going alone.  From that Tweet I met and bumped into pretty much all the people I spoke to, it just goes to show the power of social media.  If you are going alone don’t be nervous get chatting to people online, you will meet plenty of new bloggers and everyone is so friendly.
There were so many interesting sessions and workshops I struggled to choose which ones to attend.  I finally settled on the ones below, click on the links to see the slides and presentation notes.  For the talks you can’t make, a good plan is to swap notes with other bloggers who attended different sessions.  The speakers will often provide their notes afterwards on their blog as well or keep an eye out on Twitter or Traverse Events.  This year the #Traverse17 hashtag has been used for all things Traverse related, so take a look for information and updates from the weekend and from those who attended.  It was also used to order booze during the closing panel, a genius tradition that has been going since the first conference!
Sessions I attended:
PR yourself and your blog – How to stand out through content and connections – Susan Schwartz and Alexandra Delf
How to gain followers on Instagram without loosing yourself – Nicola Easterby
Work with Spain – Brand session
Money making game changers – Monica Stott
SEO – what you need to know in an increasingly visual world – Adrian Land
How to successfully pitch to editors – Lauretta Wright and Tania O’Donnell
How to work with brands and negotiate – Kylie Bawden
How to create successful professional partnerships based on the written word – Abi King
How to be prepared when pitching to an airline – Kerwin McKenzie
The other thing I should mention is that Traverse isn’t just about sessions and workshops, the social side is absolutely awesome!  The opening party was held at Altitude London’s Skyloft bar in partnership with Jet2holidays, stunning views of the city accompanied by complimentary alcohol and canapés made for a fantastic first evening.  Saturday night was hosted by City Cruises and sponsored by Cheapflights.  We boarded our boat for the evening at Greenwich Pier and cruised all the way along the Thames passing plenty of famous landmarks such as the Tower of London, London Eye and the highlight was passing under London Bridge.  The sparkling wine was flowing and the evening was a pretty magical one!  Finishing off at Westminster it was time for one last sneaky drink at St Stephen’s Tavern opposite the Houses of Parliament before bed.  Sunday’s conference was rounded off with a closing panel and party at Iberica in Canary Wharf for more drinks and food.  Lunch was also provided over the two days, so you definitely won’t go hungry!
What to wear:
This was a big question mark for me, I couldn’t decide between smart or casual, boots or flip-flops, I’m so indecisive! I struggled with my packing especially as the Saturday conference was followed by the boat trip, what would I wear?!  I eventually settled on a smart casual look and definitely packed more than I needed for the weekend!  From trainers to heels and dresses to jeans, the answer is dress how you feel comfortable as everyone certainly did at the event.
What to take:
I wasn’t sure if I should take my laptop to make notes on, in the end I opted for good old-fashioned pen and paper, which gave me the perfect excuse to buy a new notebook.  Take business cards with you and hand them out at every opportunity, especially when chatting to the travel brands, you never know where it could lead.  I took a copy of the timetable with the weekends talks on too so I could keep an eye on the different sessions going on and work out what to attend.
What I’ve learnt:
I learnt so much from the weekend but the main things I have taken away with me include the fact that your blog needs to have a niche.  It’s not enough to simply say you are a travel and lifestyle blogger you need to delve further! So my niche is: I’m travel and lifestyle blogger with a passion for road trips, surfing and outdoor adventures; as a first time Mum family travel is a focus too. There we go, I now have a niche…or a few!  Being yourself goes along way too and putting personality into your blog will make it a more interesting and personal read.  Less is more: this is definitely something I am taking on board when writing, don’t ramble just get to the point!
I met so many lovely people, it was great to talk travel with fellow travel bloggers and brands.  Shout out to Kerry from 9 – 5 Girl Escapes for the selfies and to Nicole from Lost In This Whole World, Claire from Saltwater, Gemma fromLittle Miss Gem Travels and Neil the Barefoot Backpacker. #Traverse18 is being held in Rotterdam and I’m looking forward to it already!  Huge thanks to Paul and Michael from Traverse Events for putting together another awesome conference!
If you are new to blogging and attending travel events for the first time fight those nerves and just go for it.  Learn, network, but most of all don’t forget to have fun, I certainly did!

 

My 2015 Travel Highlights…

Wow, 2015 has really flown by!  I’m pretty sure I said this about 2014 as well in last years round-up: Cheers 2014…you’ve been a good’un!  So much has happened this year, I thought it would be fun to look back and to share with you some exciting new developments for the coming year…

 

January
I started the year off with a surf trip in Barbados, the sun was shining and the surf was pumping.  I surfed at Freights and hired a board through Zed’s Surfing Adventures.  Check them out of you are planning a surf trip out there.  This trip was the first time I used my GoPro on a board and I was pretty stoked to have some half decent images and video content.  With the help of my lovely filmmaker husband Mattwe put together a short video of my surf session.
For more reading on my trip head to: Barbados: A Surfers Paradise

 

 

February
A winter break away with a our very good friends Sam and Graham has become a bit of a tradition, last February we spent a long weekend in the quaint fishing village of Port Isaac.  This year I found a cottage through Helpful Holidays in the tiny village of Golant set on the River Fowey in Cornwall.  ‘Island House’ had river views on three sides, underfloor heating and a log burner making it a very cosy cottage.  We were greeted with a bottle of wine and a cake on arrival and spent the weekend on blustery coastal walks and visits to local harbour towns.  This mostly involved eating scrummy treats and drinking lots of cider!  Our favourite place for lunch was Sam’s in Fowey.  Fowey is such a sweet little place, set on the river and full of lovely pubs, quirky shops and art galleries, definitely worth a visit if you are planning a trip to the west country.
 
March
My March highlight was a trip to Antigua, it was very nice to have a clear day down route to be my own boss.  Working as cabin crew I am lucky to get to explore different countries on an almost weekly basis.   With a house move on the cards and feeling a bit tired I spent the day relaxing on the beach, catching some rays and swimming in the warm Caribbean sea.  It was bliss!
 
April
It was Matt’s birthday in April so we decided to do something a bit special and booked a night away at Hotel Du Vin in Poole.  Our room was very plush, with a freestanding bath right in the middle and a massive queen sized bed.  It was a fab weekend and nice to spend some time away together.  We enjoyed exploring Poole harbour by boat and had a very tasty meal at the restaurant in the hotel.  For more on this luxurious weekend click here: A weekend in Poole.
 
May
I was invited to quite a few weddings last year, my favourite was a wedding in Westminster, London followed by a beautiful reception at the Dorchester.  It is one of the world’s most expensive hotels, I was very excited to be there!  The champagne reception was just perfect and the food was incredible, I particularly loved dessert, hence the name of my blog: Dessert at the Dorchester.
May also saw the start of one of many trips with work to Mauritius.  With a fabulous crew who all wanted to do something exciting, we chose to go swimming with dolphins which I wrote about earlier on in the year: Swimming with dolphins in Mauritius.  The crew had already excitedly discussed the plans on the flight over so I knew it was going to be a good trip.  Waking up early we set off for the southern end of the island to Black River.  Jumping in a boat and cruising out to the open water just as the sun was rising we slowed down and sat in silence watching and waiting for the dolphins to appear.  All of sudden the flat water changed as a pod of dolphins broke to the surface cruising right past the boat.  With that we were instructed to jump in and swim…such an awesome experience and what made it even better was knowing that these dolphins had appeared of their own accord, wild dolphins who could stay or go as they pleased.

 

June
Back to Mauritius and this time I went on an adventure to Black River Gorges National Park, I explored rainforests and waterfalls, marvelled at the Seven Coloured Earths, took photos of some epic views and got blessed by a Hindu priest at the sacred lake Grand Bassin.  Topped off with a curry in the evening and a spa treatment the following day, it was a fantastic adventure!
In contrast to Mauritius I had an afternoon to explore Edinburgh in June too, it was a sunny afternoon with a fresh chill in the air.  I took a stroll along the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle taking in all the gorgeous architecture and having a nosey in all the touristy type shops.  On my way back down I stopped in a cosy coffee shop for cake and tea.  I didn’t do all that much but sometimes it’s the simple things that you can take pleasure from and it was a lovely, leisurely afternoon.

 

July
July saw Matt and I off to France, two hours drive from Toulouse we stayed in a Gite in a little village called Loudet.  The week was spent exploring the surroundings and a drive over the border to Spain for Tapas.  We took a gondola in Louchon to a mountain resort, it was strange being up so high without snow!  Exploring gorgeous towns set along alpine rivers, fields of sunflowers and indulging in red wine and cheese, it was just perfect!

 

August
August is my birthday month and I always like to have something exciting planned!  This year we combined a trip to see family in California with an awesome road trip.  We hired a campervan from Wicked campers and went on an eight day adventure.  Starting off in Sequoia National Park we camped under the stars and saw black bears followed by a few nights on the coast near San Francisco and then continued to drive down south along the Big Sur.  It was an unforgettable birthday trip. 
 
September
After coming back from California we had withdrawal symptoms from camping and living outdoors, so we went off for a few days in our own van to Dorset.  With plenty of coastal walks and chilling by the campfire it made us reminisce about our recent American adventure.  It was really nice to have a few days away not so far from home…read more here: A weekend in the Purbecks.

 

October
I started studying for the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism a few years ago as a self – study course but struggled to complete it due to working full-time and undertaking freelance writing work at the same time.  In October I made the decision to pick it up again and so far am really enjoying it.  I really have to be strict with myself as it is a self-study course but hopefully this time next year I will be a qualified journalist!  I am studying with the College of Media and Publishing who are so helpful and really quick over email if I have any questions.

 

November
A hen weekend in Brighton was my November highlight, on the Saturday a ‘Beyonce’ style dance class, afternoon tea and a good old night out were the main events of the weekend.  Staying in a house in central Brighton meant we also got to do some exploring in this quirky seaside town.  We had lunch on the North Laine on the Sunday and believe it or not it was warm enough to sit outside, great for people watching!  The lanes have some very cool, unique shops so went spent some time browsing and window shopping before heading to the seafront just as the sun was setting for a ride on the Brighton Wheel.  We had beautiful panoramic views of the coastline, city and pier; it was a lovely way to end the weekend.

 

December
December saw the launch of my new website which you will be reading this on right now!  I’ve wanted a re-brand for a while and I’m so pleased with how it has turned out.  Andrew at Fix8 designed my logo, he’s done a cracking job at capturing just what my blog is all about. 

 

 

It has been an action packed year of travel but most importantly, I’m so excited to share with you all that Matt and I found out in August that we have a baby Dunkinson cooking!  We had our 20 week scan on 14th December and it looks all good and healthy.  We chose not to find out the sex and are so excited for our new arrival in April!  On that note we have a babymoon planned for January to Iceland!  I wanted to do that this year but haven’t quite managed to fit it in, so January 2016 seemed the perfect time to go away as our last trip abroad as a two…I’m looking forward to letting you know all about our adventures in Iceland and our adventures with a baby in tow!
What has been you favourite trip of 2015?  What are your travel plans for 2016?  Let me know in the comments below and I’d love to hear any tips and things to do in and around Reykjavík and Iceland…Happy New Year and see you all in 2016!

 

Tips and tools for travel bloggers…

I am by no means an expert when it comes to the best tools for travel blogging but it can be a bit daunting when you first think about setting up your own blog, so I thought I would jot down a few tips and tools to get started.  Through trial and error these are my trusty go to tools when I’m travelling and when I’m at home editing my work and blogs.
If you are thinking of getting into the world of blogging and want a few suggestions then read on, hopefully I can help…

 

WordPress:
I originally set my blog up through WordPress, a free blogging platform with the option to upgrade to payable services. It is easy to use and allows you to view your blogs daily stats.  Choose a name and in a few simple clicks you will have the basics ready to go.  I’ve read a lot of tips from other bloggers and articles on social media while building up my blog and in terms of social media presence you should be posting ideally at least 2-3 times a week.  I am guilty of not doing this!  At the moment in all honesty I am only posting once a month.  In terms of personal goals this is something I want to improve on.

 

Cameras:
Nice clean images are key to making your blog appealing and attractive to your readers I mix up cameras when I’m out and about….
iPhone: I’ve got to say the camera I use the most is the one on my iPhone.  I recently upgraded to the iPhone 6 and the image quality is really good.  With the options of panoramic, video and time-lapse it can do so much.  I also love that it is discreet, if I am somewhere I don’t want to draw too much attention to the fact that I am taking photos then this is perfect.
Canon 550d: I love this camera!  It takes great quality images and is fantastic for capturing long exposures.  Compared to the iPhone you obviously really do notice the difference in image quality.  I must confess, I’ve not used this camera as much as I should have.  I have no excuse, as my husband Matt is a photographer!  I tend to put it on automatic settings having not got the confidence to play around with it just yet.  Mine is actually a Rebel, the American version of the 550d.  After doing some research I discovered that there are different variations of this camera sold in different countries and these equivalents can often work out cheaper, like the one I bought.  It is essentially the same camera, just a different name.  So if you are on the hunt for one it is worth checking out these different versions.
GoPro: I love the GoPro too; the wide-angle provides really cool images.  It is small with very durable housing which is also waterproof and can be used in all sorts of different situations to capture all your adventures.  I have mounted mine on the front of my surfboard in Barbados, taken it snorkelling with turtles on the Great Barrier Reef, snowboarding in  New Zealand and in a helicopter on a glacier trip.  It is perfect for all-weather situations.  The GoPro also has video mode and time-lapse.  There are all sorts of accessories available for it including long-range remote controls and mounts for a ton of different activities including for bikes and surfboards.
Laptop:
I couldn’t live without my MacBook Air.  I have the 11-inch model; it is perfect for travelling due to its  small size and being so lightweight.  Macs are generally more expensive than a PC laptop but well worth it in my opinion as having had PC laptops in the past I have found the life of my Mac has lasted a lot longer (so far!) than any of the other laptops I’ve had before, making it a very good investment.
 
Hard drive:
A hard drive is vital for storing and backing up images and documents.  They are great for when you are on the move too as you can buy very compact ones.  iCloud storage is also useful for backing up data.
I also have an i-Flash HD Drive, which allows you to transfer images, documents and videos between devices.  Of course iCloud does this too but the i-Flash drive can be used to transfer between PCs as well.  It’s a nifty little gadget perfect for transferring instagrammed images from my phone to my Mac and a handy storage device too.
Apps:
Evernote is brilliant for keeping notes in one place.  It has the ability to create separate folders or ‘notebooks’ to keep everything on the same subject together.  You can add images and sound clips to notes, share notes via email, Twitter, Facebook and many more as well as exporting notes onto your device.  I couldn’t live without out it now.

 

Notebook and pen:
I love nothing more than putting pen to paper, especially if I am at work, as I can’t just whip out my Mac in the galley on an aircraft!  It’s also good for giving your eyes a bit of a rest from the glare of your laptop screen.  I often find I put all my thoughts and scribbles down on paper first before heading to my Mac, it somehow feels more creative and seems to get my thoughts flowing.  Even with all the modern technology of today there is nothing quite like a good pen and pretty notebook.
 
Social media:
Social media platforms are fantastic for sharing your work, searching for travel inspiration, chatting with other like-minded bloggers and sharing travel tips and inspiration.  I use Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook and Vimeo to promote my blog and chat about all things travel.  Using hashtags is key when posting on social media channels; it helps to get whatever you are mentioning noticed.  My favourites are #traveltuesday, #wanderlustwednesday, #beachthursday and #frifotos.

 

Travel bloggers:
As well as reading about other bloggers travels and adventures I also love learning from them…these are a few of my favourites…
Jayne Gorman over at Girl Tweets World has some fantastic inspiration and how to guides on blogging and social media, I love her honest approach and have learnt a lot from her.  She has a whole section on her website dedicated to blogging, definitely worth checking out.
Young Adventuress has a marvellous guide to becoming a travel blogger: So you want to be a travel blogger, do you?
A Lady in London, Julie Falconer has written a very helpful book: Blogging basics: How to create a successful blog and build a loyal following.  I went to a class of hers at the Traverse travel blogging conference in 2013 (more on this below) and took a lot of very useful information away with me on blogging and how to use social media.
Monica Stott has some brilliant advice on travel blogging over at her blog The Travel Hack.
Wanderlust magazine have some very handy articles on blogging I particularly like this one: Get paid to travel – become a travel blogger.
Mollie Makes have a magazine on all things social media, I love magazines like this. I  have been blogging for a couple of years now but there is still a lot more to learn especially in such an ever-changing industry.
A great way to delve into the world of travel blogging and to meet other bloggers and brands is to attend conferences.  Traverse host awesome travel blogging events.  I attended Traverse 2013 in Brighton, not only did it arm me with heaps of information on improving my blog but it also gave me the opportunity to meet fellow bloggers, get an idea of how to potentially make money from my blog, improve my confidence and inspire me to develop my blog further.
Anything I’ve missed? What are your tips and tools for blogging? I would love to hear them…