The trip to Gujarat was a journey with a group of travel agents. There was no other travel blogger in our group. There were five travel agents from West Bengal, one from Delhi, one from the Netherlands, two from the UK, and one freelance photographer from UK. We had two people from Gujarat Tourism traveling with us. Most of my FAM trips have been with either other bloggers or with media people. I have been on trips where we had a mix of travel agents and media people but somehow I did not interact much with them!
Initially I was unsure as to how the trip would go but by the second day I realized that we were going to have a blast. For one, Gujarat Tourism knew how to show us places! And the group made sure that we had even more fun!
Show Us a Lot of Hotels is their Motto!
If you ask bloggers or media people seeing hotels is not very high on our lists! After all I am going to write only about the hotels I stayed in unless there is something really special about one of the experiences. But travel agents get upset if you do not show them enough hotels! Heck people in my group got the itinerary changed to visit two hotels in Little Rann of Kutch. And for the first time in my life I was able to understand why some tourism boards show us a lot of hotels on FAM trips!
From now on when I see a lot hotels, I am going to look at them with more kindness rather than getting stressed about writing every bit!
Show us Around is their Slogan!
On our way back from LRK the visits to Modhera and Rani ki Vav were optional. Once again our super group made sure that the visits happened and that we still reached Ahmedabad at a reasonable time. How did we manage that? We had a packed breakfast at LRK, we did a light brunch at 11.00 am and we skipped lunch! That is how we managed to fit in both the places. We stopped on the outskirts of Ahmedabad for evening snacks and tea! It was their super enthusiasm that convinced our organizers that none of us really cared for lunch! और दिखाओ और दिखाओ was written for them!
Good at Organizing
On this trip the business of giving tips was taken care by our travel agent friends from West Bengal! They were super efficient at collecting a small amount of tip from everyone in the group and giving it at the places we stopped and to the driver and his helper of the bus. There was no fuss, there was no confusion.
I had so many fun conversations with all the members of my group! I remember Debolina saying she worked only with senior citizens as they had willingness to spend but no one to travel with them!
I also got to hear about customers who called at all hours of day and night! They took it in good humor but they were extremely happy to be on a break! For once they were not organizing the trip, it was organized for them.
Ease of Photography
This was one of the most relaxed groups I ever traveled with when it came to photography. I learned a lot from hanging around Bernard. He never made me feel uncomfortable for clicking the same pictures as him. Some of the group members didn’t even bother about a SLR.
I have been on trips where people snap at you, worse still push you (and I am not kidding) for accidentally getting in their frame! No such nonsense with my group in Gujarat, everyone was welcome to copy everyone else’s frame! No was in a hurry to click their shot, no one even said anything about being in the other person’s frame! Pushing and shoving did not even enter the scene, ever.
Next time I end up on a journey with travel agents I am going to look at it as an opportunity to have even more fun!
On and often people ask me how do I get to go on many FAM trips for bloggers. And before you wonder FAM is a short form for familiarization. They are know by various other names like media trip, junket etc.
There is a short answer to it and there is a long answer to it. The short answer is that I am an awesome blogger 😛 However, since you already know that I am sure you are more interested in my long answer 😀 So here I go.
I have a Bit of a Head Start
Go to my archives, the link is in the sidebar just above the Facebook like widget. Scroll down and see when I started blogging. Tell me the answer in the comment box if you wish, that is why I say I have a head start (which also means I am old).
However, in that era there were no freebies. We blogged because we wanted to. Things changed over the years, and FAM trips happened. However, I have seen people getting established quickly too! So if you have started recently it doesn’t take away anything from you!
Check Your DA and PA
DA stands for domain authority and PA stands for page authority. It is determined by a company called MOZ. For a lot of services you have to pay to use MOZ but you can check the scores for free. The good bit it you can check it out for any site, including mine. So go ahead and have fun comparing all the sites you want. The higher your DA the better it is. Maybe the people who invite bloggers for FAMs check it too?
And while we are talking about authority there is Alexa too. Once again you can check it out for any site, but here the lower it is, the better it is.
There used to be Google Page rank but looks like Google no longer puts emphasis on it. Also, all these figures change frequently.
A word of caution though, if you put a .blogpost domain chances are your DA will be 70 (at the moment) which could be due to the generic blogspot domain having a DA of 70!
Install Google Analytics
Google Analytics gives us an idea about the traffic we are generating for our blogs. It does a lot more but to start with, knowing the total number is good enough. If you are curious you will anyway figure it out. But you can only check your own analytics and not of other bloggers. Companies ask for the traffic figures and most of them go by analytics.
Social Media Platforms
In addition to blogging data, sponsors usually ask for the number of followers at Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. So it helps you have a following on those platforms as well. Once again if the user has not kept their profile private you can check anyone’s numbers.
Learn Some SEO
I resisted it for a long long time. I still do not know much, but I am better than before. Learn a bit of SEO. It can not hurt. It can on the other hand help in getting more traffic to the blog.
When you get invited, or when you are contacted for work, it pays to be professional. I know it is obvious but it is crucial to deliver on the results that you promised for. Acting up (behaving like a diva is closer to what I want to say) after the trip is over is not in your long term interest.
Also going back to the head start bit once again, it pays to be consistent too. There were many awesome bloggers when I started. But only a few kept at it. I am sure it is true for the present time as well.
In conclusion, none of the metrics work in isolation. A company may want a blogger with the DA (or Alexa) in a particular range but with X number of Twitter followers as well! And this is anyway an educated guess on my part about the matrices that may matter! In the end only the people who sponsor us can give a definitive answer.
I hope you will find some of the tips useful. And the next time someone asks me how do I get to go FAM trips for bloggers, I am going to send a link to this post as well!
This year I have taken many flights. Last year I took even more flights. I know the drill, more so at T3 or 1D in Delhi, my home base. I can do it on auto-pilot, I don’t need to think much. So, I stood in line of the Singapore Airline counter this Monday and waited my turn. It came quickly. And then things started happening which lead to my first ever Singapore Airlines Business Class experience!
The guy who was checking me in looked at the screen and blinked. And then he blinked some more. After a while he said, “ma’am you have been upgraded to business class”. I also snapped out of my zombie mode and started paying attention. He asked me to wait a minute as he would make a call. I am guessing that he was talking to his supervisor, double checking that it was not a mistake. Then he put the phone down, gave me a business class boarding pass and asked his colleague, “Aman please escort ma’am to the lounge.”
Suddenly my familiar drill had gone for a toss. I asked Aman after a while, “Can’t I go on my own?” He replied, “ma’am I will walk with you up to the lounge.” The trouble was I needed to fill the immigration form and change currency. I almost always end up changing currency at the airport. Usually I arrive in quite early so it is never a problem.
But I didn’t wish to waste the time of an employee. The queue at the exchange counters was long. I decided to withdraw money from an ATM in Malaysia. I have done it before, I could do it again.
Aman and I proceeded towards the immigration. There was only one person ahead of me in the first/business class counter! I was out of immigration and security in jiffy. And then we went to a part of the airport that I never ever venture otherwise, the lounge area. Aman dropped me at SilverKris Lounge. He told me he would be back at the time of boarding. I think this is not normal procedure, but as this was a Silk Air/Singapore Airlines FAM, I am guessing that I got this special treatment.
I had a bit of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ kind of feeling. As I had checked in early, there were hardly any people in the lounge, however it got quite full later. There was complimentary WiFi which was fast. I made good use of it. I updated my status on FB about my first ever business class travel on any airline ever!
There was a dining area in the lounge which had dinner, tea, coffee, snacks and drinks both alcohol and soft. I had several cups of tea with a bit of makai kabab and veg Manchurian. I used the time to complete an article I had promised to someone. I barely managed to finish it when Aman came back, telling me the flight was boarding.
I had priority boarding to the upper deck of the A380-800, as that is where the business class is. I had a single window seat which was as large as three economy class seats. There were two seats in the middle and one more at the other end of the aircraft. So the configuration is 1-2-1. Needless to say my seat was large! It could easily accommodate two people, and three if everyone followed “thoda adjust kar lo” (please adjust a little) attitude. I touched every knob in order to figure out what it did. There were side compartments for light luggage like hand bag and ample area to stow away my laptop bag in front of the seat. But try as I might, I could not figure out how to switch on the TV screen. I had to ask the air hostess in the end. The remote is beneath the right hand side arm rest, under the flap.
As we boarded first there was ample time for the crew to serve drinks. I missed out on it as I went to use the wash room. But I was served Champagne as soon as the plane was at the cruising height. On the flight back, I was served Champagne even before the flight took off! There are plenty of choices, it is just that I took Champagne. After all the first ever business class flight called in for some celebrations!
I was remembering the conversation I had at the Singapore Airlines Shahi Thali event a few weeks back- that an A380-800 if full becomes a 500 seat restaurant! And in business class they literally do it like it is done in the restaurants. When you open the tray by pressing a lever on your left hand corner, the cabin crew spreads a table cover over it! Then came the starters, the main course, papad, curd, pickles, two vegetables, daal, rice, roti, bread, butter and forgive me if I forgot anything, served in proper plates and bowls.
This was accompanied by a choice of your drink, I went with white wine. When the pretty lady gave me a few names of wine which made no sense to me, I smiled and asked, “What would you recommend?” She asked if I wanted dry or not so dry wine. When I said not so dry she bought me something which tasted delicious. After this there was dessert, Gulab Jamun in a mango base and then cheese and fruits.
As the good lady had told me where the remote was, I was already watching ‘The Mansion of Gods’ an Asterix movie. After the Meal was over the lady asked me if I would like my bed to be made? I happily got out and left the task to her. And lo and behold, my already large seat became a flat bed! I asked her to click a picture for me which she happily did.
But then I am so used to watching movies that I could not fall asleep even though I really tried. After struggling for sometime, I watched Tanu Weds Manu Returns. After that I must have dozed off for what felt like 15 minutes but the plane was ready to land. The bed was folded once again. I snuggled in my blanket trying to rub off sleep from my eyes. The hostess came and told me to wait after the plane landed, they would assist me at the terminal! And sure enough there was a lady waiting for me who took me to the Skytrain which went to terminal two from where I was taking the Silk Air flight. I was in business class on the Silk Air flight too but I it is in a separate post.
On my return flight, I was already familiar with some of the business class procedures. I enjoyed my Champagne even before the flight took off. They asked if I wanted a refill which I politely declined, all before take off. Once the plane was at the cruising height, the service started again. I asked for a Milo and Bailey’s based drink called SG50. I was not so sure about Milo but I like Bailey’s. I liked the drink, so much so, that I asked for a refill. Three glasses of any kind of alcohol are my absolute limit and I stuck to it. My feeling is that they would have given me more refills if I cared for.
The food followed the same procedure as before, only the dessert was a choice between chocolate or raspberry ice cream. I could not finish all the food, the air hostess was quite concerned that I didn’t like it. I told her that it was too much for one person like me. I think she was somewhat pacified by my explanation.
As it was a day flight, I had a cup of coffee and two cups of tea instead. That is what actually I like. I would have actually stopped at one coffee and one tea but at one point I asked for a blanket. The charming lady then suggested if I would have something hot to drink as well. That is how I asked for a second cup of tea. In Dwivedi family a hot drink means tea and no one says no to it! I watched Dum Laga Ke Haisha and Get Hard on the return leg. There was a glorious sunset in the sky, which was the icing on the cake.
As the plane made its descent eventually and landed, I was all eager to get out. And to my surprise there was Aman to see me back to the exit gates! I cannot remember when I was pampered like this on any flight ever. Thank you Singapore Airlines for making my first ever business class journey so memorable.
PS. I was on a Silk Air/ Singapore Airlines FAM to Kota Kinalabu, Malaysia.
PPS. All configurations I talked about are of an A380-800 on the Delhi-Singapore-Delhi sector.