What is the Women in Travel Summit?
The Women in Travel Summit (also called WITS) is a conference for women travel bloggers and influencers. It’s put on by Wanderful, an international community of women who travel. The conference started because the women of Wanderful saw a need for an event where travel bloggers and influencers could come together to share their experiences about being a woman in this industry. The conference features hands-on, applicable workshops and networking opportunities to empower and inspire women in the blogging and influencer world.
The 6th Annual Women in Travel Summit (WITS) is in Portland, Maine from May 3-5, 2019.
WHO SHOULD ATTEND WITS?
WITS is a great conference for women who are thinking about starting a travel blog, are new to blogging, or have been blogging for several years. It’s also helpful for brands looking to connect with female travel bloggers and influencers.
HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT THAN OTHER BLOGGING CONFERENCES?
I’ve been to a few other blogging conferences and what I’ve noticed is they are either fun and empowering OR they are focused on applicable knowledge and takeaways. The Women in Travel Summit does a brilliant job of balancing these two concepts. The keynote speakers bring their humor and expertise to create a really positive environment. And then the sessions feature practical knowledge and bite-sized takeaways.
The best way to sum this up is a direct quote from their website:
By creating an empowering, encouraging, and supportive environment for women to learn new skills and grow professional relationships, we hope to help more women find their voice in the online travel world.
What Happens at WITS
So, the actual conference is just 2 full days of speakers, sessions, and power networking. Oh, and there are some meals provided. But, WITS also has travel opportunities and events before and after the conference dates.
The FAM trips at WITS have limited spots available and you need to apply for them ahead of the conference. For the 2018 WITS in Quebec City, there were two multi-day FAM trips. The first was a road trip to Tadoussac area in Côte-Nord region for whale watching. The second was a Quebecois history and cultural tour of Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean. These trips were hosted by Québec City Tourism and Québec Province Tourism Alliance.
PRE-CONFERENCE AND POST-CONFERENCE TOURS
This is one of the most valuable parts of the Women in Travel Summit. While I’d say WITS is pretty affordable compared to most blogging conferences, you can really justify the price when you include all the tours. Bloggers can do a few tours each day. It’s a great way to get to know the host city and get great content for your blog. There isn’t pressure that you HAVE to write about everything, but these tours are so cool that you’ll probably have a million ideas for blog posts after them.
For the 2018 WITS, here were the tour options for before and after the conference:
- Art & Architecture Tour: Let a specialist guide you through the streets of Québec to discover its unique buildings and parts of the city’s extensive outdoor art collection.
- History & Heritage Tour: Learn about the French and British history of the place once called New France.
- Wellness Tour: Visit the first hospital in America north of Mexico and do a little yoga practice.
- Farm & Market Tour: Visit wine makers, cassis producers, cider, chocolate, and nougat shops in Ile d’Orleans.
- First Nations Tour: I am Wendake! Wendake Endi’!: Immerse yourself with the rich history of the Huron-Wendat Nation, the only indigenous community of Quebec City.
- Food Tour: Go where the locals go and visit some of their favorite venues and enjoy regional cuisine.
- Microbrew Tour: Put on your walking shoes and follow your guide on a stroll through Saint-Roch, epicentre of Québec’s brewing scene.
- Saint-Roch Food Tour: A guided 3 hour walking tour, with 6 tasting locations showcasing the rich, vast Saint-Roch foodscape.
- Shopping with Style: Start your visit with a fashion conference led by a professional stylist and get a goodie bag.
- Under the Terrace–A Chateau: Accompanied by a Parks Canada guide, discover its history and stroll through the remains of Château Saint-Louis.
For an extra fee, attendees can sign up for Blogger 101. It’s a special mini-conference for new bloggers or those looking to start a blog soon. It has sessions focused on how to launch your travel blog.
OPENING NIGHT PARTY
The Women in Travel Summit is known for having amazing parties. The Opening Night Party was no exception. There were giant wearable puppets, tons of food, a few bars, costumed characters, photo opps, and a make-your-own maple candy station, just to name a few.
I actually debated attending the Opening Night Party. It was located outside of the hotel and I’d need to walk 15 min or catch their shuttle. Despite my previous career as an event planner (or maybe because of it) I’m not really a party person.
But, WITS made it really easy to attend. I hopped on the private bus for a few minutes and was able to meet lots of bloggers and participate in the epic (fake) snowball fight! It was a nice bonding experience and set the tone for the whole conference. And, I was able to leave really early so I could rest up for the conference.
Travel Conference Agenda
The women behind WITS posted the conference agenda about a month prior to the event. There were several sessions to choose from at any given time. We used an online scheduler to create our conference itinerary and it was emailed to us early each morning. But, you didn’t have to stick with the sessions you signed up for. There was some flexibility and some of the sessions changed before the conference.
For 2018, the keynote during lunch was Ana Flores. She is the founder and CEO of #WeAllGrow Latina Network, the first and largest community of Latina digital influencers. She saw a need for Latina women bloggers to band together. Fro there, she launched hyperlocal events and an annual Summit that boldly propels growth through partnerships and community development. Her personal stories and business advice were communicated well.
The closing keynote for the 2018 WITS was actually a panel discussion focusing on how to move forward as empowered, professional women in an atmosphere of sexual harassment and assault.
INFORMATIVE SESSIONS/PANEL DISCUSSIONS
WITS had sessions about social media, blogging tax information, influencer trends, budgeting, diversity, and the list goes on and on. Each time slot offered multiple sessions and discussions.
What I appreciated most about WITS is that they don’t do strict “tracks” where you have to put yourself in a box and only attend sessions in that track. Even though I’ve only been blogging for 2 years, I attended a session about becoming a boss and taking my blog to the next level. While I’m not quite there yet, it was very interesting to learn the best way to go about it when the time comes.
And the session that I got the most out of was one I wasn’t sure about. Jenny Guy spoke about Mediavine, an online advertising company. One of my blogging goals this year is to increase my blog traffic so I qualify to sign up for Mediavine ads. It’s a great opportunity to earn some income to support this blog. Since it’s a goal of mine, I’ve been doing a ton of research and wasn’t sure what the session was actually going to cover. Jenny was not only hilarious, but she gave us a lot of insight on how to work with brands as influencers and how we can do a few things to make our blog more appealing for collaborations. It was fantastic!
The ticket price included breakfast and lunch on Saturday and brunch on Sunday. The food was pretty tasty. I mean, it was catered by the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac, so I wasn’t surprised. What was extra cool is that they highlighted French-Canadian food. My favorite brunch item was a crepe with real maple syrup on them. So decadent!
WITS brings together some of the top women travel bloggers. It’s no surprise that brands and destinations want access to these bloggers. So, they come set up booths and are available during the conference to speak with individuals about their products or story ideas. Throughout WITS, there are long breaks between sessions so that attendees can take full advantage.
1:1 MEETINGS WITH BRANDS/DESTINATIONS
The WITS conference has a 2 hour block of “power networking” built into the schedule. This is a time where certain brands and destinations will meet individually with bloggers to talk about collaborations. The best way for bloggers to maximize this meeting is to have a pitch ready to present. Bloggers and brands can request meetings, but both parties must agree to meet.
GROUP MEETINGS WITH BRANDS/DESTINATIONS
Do the 1:1 meetings with brands sound overwhelming? The group meetings are a low-key way to hear what destinations are looking for in terms of collaborations. It’s mostly the brand speaking and bloggers listening with room for a few questions at the end. It’s a great way to introduce yourself and then follow up with an email later.
I wasn’t quite ready to pitch anyone a specific story idea, so I signed up for some group meetings instead. It was a great way to learn a bit more about some of the brands and destinations without having to track them down in the sponsor marketplace.
1:1 MENTORING SESSIONS
These mentoring sessions are with the WITS speakers. They are an extra cost and the price varies. But, since I traveled all the way to Quebec City, I wanted to maximize my experience. I was lucky enough to get appointments with two speakers.
I arranged to meet Ciaran Blumenfeld from Momfluential because she was the only family travel blogger doing mentoring sessions. I figured this might be the only opportunity I’d get to chat with her uninterrupted for an hour. She’s known for maximizing hashtags and she told me a Instagram Story hack that I’ve been using ever since!
I got to meet with Megan Stetzel from Why Wait to See the World, who presented about Pinterest. She answered a lot of my Pinterest questions during her presentation. So, she ended up going through my blog and giving me some tips on how to reorganize it a bit. And, she also share a lot of brilliant ways I can easily dabble into video.
My tip is to come prepared with specific questions. And do some research on who you are meeting so you can get the most out of the session.
What to Bring With You During This Blogging Conference for Women?
A CUTE BAG
I reached out to Chalo to see if I could show off my Seattle love with one of their amazing Seattle tote bags. Not only was it durable to hold all my stuff during the conference, it also was a great conversation starter with my other travel bloggers.
I also used the bag during the pre-conference farm and market tour and I’m so glad I did! I ended up filling it with yummy treats from the cidrerie and nougat factory! And then, I carried these items home in this bag as my carry on luggage.
Chalo has a location at Sea-Tac airport and a large store in Pacific Place. I recently stopped by their Pacific Place location with working with the Seattle International Film Festival and they have even more amazing items! Plus, you can get an exclusive line at Macy’s in NYC.
This is your ticket in to everything WITS-related. I needed these for the pre-conference tours, the opening night party, and the conference itself.
I’m known for leaving my room key in the hotel room. So, now I keep it in my wallet. Even though there is food available during the conference, I like to have my wallet so I can grab a latte or head right out to explore.
This is the first blogging conference I’ve attended where they email you your daily schedule. Prior to the conference, I signed up for my sessions, meetings with brands/destinations, and pre-conference tours. There isn’t a paper schedule at the conference, so I relied on my phone a lot to pull up my emailed schedule and know where to go.
I wasn’t sure how many to bring, so I ended up bringing 500. I remember reading on another blog that someone brought 500 and wished she would have brought twice as many. I probably handed out maybe 50 business cards. Now, I typically only exchange them with people that I either want to work with or someone that I want to follow up with later. Or if they have a cool blog/business that I want to make sure to follow on social media.
The sessions at WITS are pretty amazing. My favorite thing is they provided actionable items that I could start working on immediately. While many of the presenters offered to email us the presentation, I was glad to type up my notes of all the things they said that WASN’T on the slides.
At the end of each session, they asked us to fill out an online evaluation. This would have been tricky to do on my phone. Plus, the wifi was a bit wonky. I’m glad I had my laptop so I could quickly fill it out. Plus, it came in handy when it was time to buy next year’s tickets for WITS Portland, Maine!
You can also bring your laptop cords and a power strip, however I didn’t need to use mine. There were a few sessions where I just took notes on my phone. While I know bloggers work on their blog during other conferences, these sessions had a lot of good material that I was either taking notes or closed my laptop so I could focus better. I mean, I didn’t travel all the way to Quebec to work on old blog posts. I came to learn from inspiring women!
PORTABLE USB CHARGER
Since you’ll be checking your phone a lot for the conference schedule, you don’t want to run out of battery! Plus, it’s great to quickly charge your camera if you run out to take photos.
10 Tips for Your First WITS Blogging Conference
- Wait to buy airfare. Hold off booking your plane tickets until you know what FAM trips and pre-conference/post-conference tours are available. I only gave myself one day to take advantage of the FREE tours. In hindsight, I should have given myself three days. And I should have given myself enough time so I could apply for the FAM trip before the conference.
- Bring your camera. This is important during the tours, so you’ll have photography to back up the amazing posts you are going to write after the conference.
- Set your own schedule. At first, I felt like I had to attend every session and network as much as possible. That was too much. Instead, there were a couple of sessions I felt okay skipping in order to have time to explore Old Quebec City. I’m so happy I did, because it was my only opportunity.
- Know your personality. I’m a friendly introvert. I had the opportunity to room with some AMAZING bloggers for this conference, however I opted to get my own room so I could rest and recharge each night.
- Invite another blogger to dinner. WITS is such a friendly group of women. Most of us came without our families and were eager to try local cuisine. I’m thankful that I asked Elaine from The Family Cruise Companion to check out Chic Shack to see how their poutine compares to the ones I’ve had in Vancouver.
- Sign up for as many group meetings as you can. At first, I only signed up for 2 group meetings. However, I had the opportunity to sign up for several more the day of the conference. Those are actually the ones that I got the most out of. The brands/destinations at WITS are eager to work with bloggers and they had some amazing advice.
- Go into it with an open mind. At first, I figured I’d only want to talk to other family travel bloggers. However, I started chatting with dessert bloggers, solo travelers, empty nesters, foodies, etc and it sparked some collaboration ideas.
- Make a list. To avoid being overwhelmed, keep a list of actionable items you can do for your blog. Add a little bit each session. I walked away with 8 simple items that I could start working on as soon as I got home. Without that list, I would have felt like I had a ton of stuff to do and never would have gotten started.
- Post on social media during the conference. The host city and WITS has lots of hashtags to use. Take advantage and start posting about the conference and the people you meeting DURING the conference. It’s an easy way for people to engage with other bloggers at WITS.
- Join the private Facebook group. I guess this really should have been the first thing to do. It’s a great way to see who’s coming to the conference. But, I’ve gotten the most use of it after WITS. People share their blog posts, memories of the conference, ask follow-up questions, and share resources.
Ready to Sign Up?
Tickets are currently on sale here.
Chalo provided me with a bag for review purposes. All opinions are my own.