Have you been on the fence about attending any blogger conferences? More specifically, a travel blogger conference?
If so, I hope this article helps you in two ways. I hope it helps you decide IF you should attend one and then which one should you invest in as a travel writer.
Y’all. Let me clear the air with this first…I am a blogging virgin. This blog is just a wee baby and I’m doing everything I can to learn as much as I can…including attending blogging conferences and courses.
This post is my personal opinion. I’m sure if you ask 100 folks from each conference which one you should attend and why, well, you’re going to get 100 different answers.
Anyway, this post will serve as breakdown of the many aspects of a conference. I will share everything I know based on attending them both as a beginner blogger.
Let me start out by saying that if you really want to be a blogger, like, you’re serious about blogging, then I highly recommend you attend a blog conference.
There are two major benefits of attending conferences:
1. The blogger community is strong, supportive, and helpful. You will be introduced to so many new blog sites, which will help you with future blog ideas. Lastly, everyone learns. Even those who run very successful blogs.
2. You will create an instant built-in network of friends just by attending these blog conferences.
I’m going to compare a couple of the biggest conferences in the US, TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) and TravelCon.
At the end of this post, hopefully you’ll be booking your first of many blogging conferences. Oh, but which one will it be?! I’ll share my winner at the bottom of the post.
Bottomline, the friendships and overall networking to be made at these conferences are priceless. So, if you’re in the market for new friends who love to travel, looking for a new travel buddy, or looking for a reason to meet your Instagram friends in real life, well then, attend for these reasons alone.
How Long Is Each Conference
TBEX is the shorter of the two conferences. Kind of. We’ll get into that next. However, as far as the actual number of days for sessions and speakers, TBEX is two full days.
TravelCon offers a longer blogger program. It lasts a full three days of both sessions and speakers.
So, when I said TBEX was “kind of” shorter, I wasn’t factoring in the Pre-Bex Tours and FAM Trips. Pre-Bex Tours are local, pre-arranged tours that you get to go on…for free, well, they’re included in your ticket price.
Pre-Bex Tours are first come first serve, so register early and be watching for those tours! These are AMAZING travel blogger opportunities.
(Quick tip: Even though the tour is free, please still tip your guide. Personally, I think it’s common courtesy.)
FAM trips (familiarization trips) are a little different. You have to apply for these bigger trips. They are normally after the conference, last a few days, but everything is included.
TravelCon didn’t offer either one of these during the first two conferences. However, they took feedback from past conference surveys, and they will be adding FAM trips for their 2020 conference.
They are also offering a scavenger hunt at the New Orleans conference. Not sure what this involves, but it sounds fun.
TBEX offers an early bird ticket price for $197. When you see all that comes with that price, including the Pre-Bex Tours we talked about, you’ll be shocked.
Once you miss the early bird price, it goes up $347. So…you know what to do!
TravelCon offers an early bird ticket price for $299. It’s definitely more expensive, but you do get one more full day of blogger networking events.
Once you miss the early bird special, the price goes up to $349, and possibly $399!
*I will update prices as I see them change.
TBEX offers additional workshops before the conference starts. For an extra fee, you can register for a blogging workshop.
That workshop can be a SEO writing course, an Instagram course, or other blogger opportunities. The prices range from $85 for two hours up to $197 for for up to five hours of time.
TravelCon offered two speciality workshops at past conferences: writing and photography. They were both free, but they were held during the conference, so you would have to skip out on sessions to attend either one of these.
They have experts in each field who meet with a small group to provide a small group learning environment. These book FAST, so as soon as you see them listed, don’t waste time booking!
For TravelCon’s 2020 conference, they have changed the workshops to be like TBEX’s. They will now be add-ons prior to the conference, so you wont have to miss any sessions. The cost will be $99 for a four hour workshop.
Location of the Travel Conference
I’ve only attended one TBEX and it was in Billings, Montana, but I know that they have met in Huntsville, Alabama, and in Finger Lakes Wine Country, New York.
TBEX will be held in Lafayette, Louisiana, in 2020.
TBEX also holds travel blogger conferences once a year overseas. Normally in Europe and Asia Pacific. Which I think is AMAZING and I need to attend on of these!
I can only speak for the conference I have attended and for the one that I’ll attend next year, but TBEX hasn’t been held in the most central location. For example, the conference hotel in Billings has nothing around it to explore except for a gas station, a lingerie shop, and a Cracker barrel.
Look, I don’t think the conference needs to be in a large city, but a more central location for the conference hotel would be perfect. Walkable to restaurants and places to explore.
If the hotels is away from the main part of the city, it causes some frustration when you’re trying to explore on your own. It leaves you either having to rent a car or take an Uber everywhere.
TravelCon goes big! Now, although they have only had two conferences, the cities of Austin and Boston ain’t a bad way to start out!
TravelCon will be having their 2020 conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.
I have to admit, TravelCon nails it with location. I don’t just mean the city, but their choice of venue too.
They have all been scheduled in very central and walkable areas of the city. They have also picked the best hotels for conferences.
I was surprised by how much food TBEX offered during their two day conference! During their coffee breaks, they had bagels, fresh fruit, yogurt, granola bars, and donuts.
They had a full lunch spread right on site and even had live music playing, and for the afternoon break, they had meats, cheeses, and brownies.
Then for the evening parties…So. Much. Food. Like, real food that filled you up. Well, except for one night. The hors d’oeuvres just didn’t cut it. They were good, but we needed more.
Don’t expect too much from TravelCon when it comes to food. The coffee breaks just that, water and coffee.
Lunch was offered the first year of the conference, but was only offered one day the second year. However, due to the past conference surveys, they’re adding another lunch for the 2020 conference in New Orleans.
Dinners were not included. Maybe a couple of lights snacks, but nothing memorable and we went out to eat before heading to the nightly parties.
I loved that TBEX had a dedicated time for Speed Networking appointments. If you have an appointment with a brand, you don’t have to miss a session to go to that appointment.
TBEX allowed the last hour and a half to two hours solely for these appointments. This also allowed the brands to also attend sessions.
The brands at TBEX were amazing and friendly! They were open to meet with micro-influnencers along with the bigger folks.
TravelCon’s speed networking was held throughout the day, so you might have to miss a break or part of a session to attend that meeting. (I’m not certain if they’re changing this or not.)
The businesses and brands that Travel Con brought in were also the top of the line. Although I didn’t have as many appointments for TravelCon, I was able to work with a few brands afterwards.
*Speed Networking is your chance to meet with brands you’d like to work with in the future. You reach out to the brands via Blogger Bridge, a website designed to help bloggers and brands connect.
They can also reach out to you if they’d like to work with you.
You set up a blogger account and once you’re registered for a conference, you can start reaching out to the brands you’d like partner with.
(I highly recommend you message them AND request a speed networking appointment.)
Both conferences use this platform, so I’d start looking into how to use Blogger Bridge for yourself.
Breakout Sessions and Speakers
I’m just going to throw this out there…TBEX has some freaking amazing speakers. I left every session that I attended with actionable items to bring home and implement to my blog.
I feel like they taught at blogging 101 level, but not in a bad way. The material itself was difficult, but the experts had a way of presenting it to you where you easily grasped it.
I felt like some of the material taught, was stuff that people actually pay money for. The Pinterest session was incredibly valuable, as well as, the SEO course.
TravelCon is known for its powerhouse of speakers and experts. There’s no doubt about it. I mean, Cherly Strayed?! One of the largest blog names, Kiersten from The Blonde Abroad? And Tony Wheeler…founder of Lonely Planet!
Those speakers alone can fill a room with so much inspiration.
My issue from TravelCon is that I left most sessions with no actionable steps. My blog questions were left unanswered, because so many of the sessions were just very broad.
I felt like the sessions were more pep talks then actual learning. Some of the session descriptions weren’t clear and possibly misleading. A friend and I attended an Affiliate Marketing session, but nowhere on the schedule did it mention that it was actually more geared to YouTube.
Anyway, I was not as impressed by the session speakers at TravelCon than I was at TBEX. BUUUUTTTT, I did get to hold hands with Cheryl Strayed…that has to count for something, right?
*Someone recently told me that if I wanted to get serious about my blog and become a full time blogger, then I needed to attend TBEX. If I want to focus more on social media and the big names, then attend TravelCon.
Check-in for the conference was super smooth and easy. It’s held in the lobby of the hotel and they offer early morning blogger sign in. You had to be checked in before you went on your Pre-Bex Tour.
At check-in, you’re given a huge swag bag full of gifts from the sponsors and brands.
You’re also given a paper copy of the schedule and a lanyard that not only holds the schedule, but has a pocket for business cards too. Genius.
The check-in at TravelCon was also rather smooth. There wasn’t a wait and it was super quick.
However, TravelCon did not offer swag bags at the second conference and I’m not sure if they will at future conferences. They provided a few things through a virtual swag bag. One being $200 towards the tour company, Walks.
Rather than paper copies of your schedule, all communication and schedules are all though one of the coolest apps for conferences, the TravelCon app. It’s pretty great for getting reminders and having an all-in-one source for information.
*Overall, both TBEX and TravelCon are very organized and professional.
Dress Code for Conferences
TBEX was overall casual. Although, you did see some folks dress more business casual and even dressier, but I saw plenty of folks in nice jeans with a nice top.
Although TravelCon seemed more dressy to me, there were still plenty of people n casual dress. Plenty of folks in jeans and nice tops.
*Helpful hint: I was told to dress how you represent your brand. Be comfortable, and be yourself.
TBEX offered a nightly party beginning the night before the conference started. As matter of fact, one of the sponsors even hosted a party with free dinner two nights before the start of the conference.
Transportation was provided to every TBEX sponsored event. So, no worries about taking an Uber or anything else. TBEX had you covered to and from each hosted event outside the conference.
The parties hosted by TBEX ended relatively early too. I want to say they were planned for 7:00-9:00pm. This was plenty of time to network, eat, and then get back to room for some rest before the next day.
*Most, if not all, TBEX parties offered open bar! No tickets or limit. Cheers! Oh, and they freaking made it snow. SNOW!
There is no transportation for the nightly parties hosted by TravelCon. In Boston, you had to take an Uber to the events.
I thought I heard that they’re going to try and schedule the parties closer to the venue for future conferences.
TravelCon offered free drinks, but most were through tickets and it was a two drink max. This is still very generous blogger event.
Blogger Conferences – Our Pick
Now, out of these best blogging conferences, which one will you attend? Or will you attend both?
Whether you run a food blog, one of the amazing mom blogs, or maybe you’re one of the famous bloggers out there, everyone has something to learn from from attending one of the conferences.
Now for the winner (insert drum roll here): It’s TBEX!!
Overall, for the money, I think you get more from TBEX than you do with TravelCon. However, if you’re able, I highly recommend you go to both and see which conference is a better fit for your blogging business.
Oh, and if you decide to go to LaFayette for TBEX in 2020, then I’ll see you there!