Travel Blog Exchange Conference '09 - a Recap

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Jul 29, 2009 / 8 comments

This weekend we went to TBEX 09 - Travel Blog Exchange's conference for travel bloggers and writers. Held in Chicago after BlogHer, it was attended by over 100 travel writers (many of whom we've featured here on Wandering Educators, and many more whom we WILL feature soon!). We learned a great deal from both the panels and from everyone we met.  It is inspiring and energizing to meet with your community, especially when our community (travel bloggers) are spread across the globe.


TBEX '09 was organized by Kim Mance, Debbie Dubrow, and Maren Hogan, with help from a team that worked with the swag bags, livecasting, twitter, and more. THANK YOU!

The program was packed with four GREAT panels!

Creating a Lively and Successful Travel Blog
Sean Keener - BootsnAll Travel Network
Heather Poole - Gadling
Matt Kepnes - Nomadic Matt
Michael Yessis - WorldHum

This panel was fun and filled with stories. We learned the personalities of people that have successful travel sites and what their motivation was for starting their sites. What interested them and keeps them bloggging was at times funny and at times serious - tips for content were timely. It was interesting to learn the mindset of a successful blogger, and how to grow your blog into a significant business. This was a great start to the day!

Working with Public Relations
Leanne Jakubowski - Social Media Director, Walt Disney World Resort
Kristin Unger - Chicago Tourism Office
Angela Berardino - Turner PR
Pam Mandel - Nerd's Eye View
Jamie Pearson - Travel Savvy Mom

As travel writers who have used PR offices for trip planning, this session was illuminating as to what PR people are looking for from travel writers. As well, the travel writers on the panel talked about the ethics of accepting travel perks/comps.  They talked about etiquette for engaging PR offices, what PR agencies can and can't do for travel writers, and the importance of both an accurate summary of your site visitors and social media for determining your influence in the market. The good news for bloggers is that corporate partnerships with bloggers are in the infancy stage - this has a potential for being a significant way for bloggers to monetize their sites.

Travel Journalism vs. Blogging - is it all just writing?
Wendy Perrin - Conde Nast Traveler Magazine
Jen Leo - LA Times Daily Deal Blog
Chris Elliott - Nat'l Geographic Traveler's ombudsman and columnist for
Rosalind Cummings-Yeates - Far-Sighted Fly Girl

This was interesting because some see a dichotomy in travel writing vs. travel blogging, and some see no difference. This was reflected on the panel, as well. They talked about how blogging has become more recognized as a more legitimate journalistic outlet, and is just now being taught in J-schools. It was also interesting to read of the differences in web content vs. print, as Wendy Perrin noted in the differences in her column at CN Traveler and her blog on CN One has a 3 month lead time, whereas the web version is timely and up to the minute with deals, news, and more. All of the panelists noted that they are sometimes creating their own path, since blogging is relatively new in the Travel Industry.

Podcasting and Video
Chris Christensen - Amateur Traveler
Mark Peacock - Travel
Chris Elliott -
(moderated by Kim Mance of

The web is maturing and multimedia is becoming a significant part of how people use the internet. We learned that 30-second to 1-minute videos seem to be the optimal amount of time that viewers will spend on your video.  There was a discussion on the different types of equipment that could be used for podcasting; how syndicating your podcasts can greatly expand your following in a more intimate way; and for people that have families that may be worried about putting video of their kids up on their site (potential dangers), Chris Elliott shared his experiences and talks with safety people.

Because of other commitments, we were unable to attend some of the pre- and post-conference get-togethers. One of the biggest benefits of attending conferences is the ability to interact and network with others in the same field. It can be very isolating running a website. Even though we are in constant contact with travelers, and website owners, the joys of travel blogging are unique.

It was nice to be able to talk with others that have the same passion for travel and sharing it with people that we do.  Because of the intimate size of the room and the number of travel bloggers attending, there was a great chance for interaction with other travel bloggers. We met people we'd featured on our site, and it was wonderful to say hi in person! We also met people whom we WILL feature on our site, and share their work with our readers. Unfortunately, we did not meet everyone there, and feel sad about that. There just wasn't enough time. 

Before the conference, in between panels, during lunch, and after the conference, the discussions were animated, lively, and joyful. We were so happy to be there. As one attendee said, it was like old friends meeting for the first time.

It was so amazing that Kim, Debbie, Maren, and team put together SUCH an incredible conference (with a GREAT swag bag). Thank you to the sponsors!

Suggestions and ideas for the next TBEX!
We'd be happy to help out next year. We were so inspired and glad to be part of a real-time community.

A two-day conference might be a good idea, to include more networking time, and a chance for the community to strengthen our relationships.

A larger venue would be ideal - maybe two rooms instead of one, or a larger room to allow for accessibility. A lounge area for informal chats before and in-between sessions would be fantastic.

A session on traffic and monetization would be helpful.  These are two different subjects that are closely tied together. Ed is willing to coordinate this panel if there is enough interest.

Academic conferences often have a mentoring program for newbies. Several people we met at TBEX were just starting their blogs. If there was a conference mentoring program to match newbies with people with established sites, or a breakout session for newbies, this could be a way to lend a hand and share our hard-earned experiences. Established bloggers seem more than happy to help out the newbies.  I am happy to coordinate this if there is enough interest.



Thanks again to the Sponsors:
BootsnAll Travel, Vail Resorts,, Homeaway, gogo inflight internet, TravelPod, and Savvy Navigator.


and a BIG THANKS! to Kim Mance, Debbie Dubrow, and all of the organizers.  We are so inspired, andhappy to have shared this day with everyone.



Comments (8)

  • Happy Hotelier

    14 years 11 months ago

    As I couldn't attend by last minute business I'm glad to find this nice review. Thank you!

  • Carrie Williams

    14 years 11 months ago

    I love all of your suggestions for TBEX 2010! I'm sure they'll have even more planned for next year. Great to meet you!

  • Barbara Weibel

    14 years 11 months ago

    Excellent review and suggestions. Thanks for your kind words about my blog - - it is my passion!

  • NancydBrown

    14 years 11 months ago


    Thanks for the re-cap. I enjoyed the panels, but I really enjoyed meeting so many of my fellow travel bloggers in real life.

    What a Trip!


  • Lorraine Akemann

    14 years 11 months ago

    Jessie, I did not make it to TBEX so a summary like this is invaluable. Thanks so much for taking the time to write it up. I also think the idea of a 'newbie' session is a great one.

  • Dominique-Midwe...

    14 years 11 months ago

    I mentioned SEO and monetization as some of my top interests when I answered Kim' post-TBEX survey. Doing TBEX as a two-day stand-alone (rather than a BlogHer weekend lagniappe) was also another of my suggestions-I'm reading a lot of others who feel the same way about that!

    I thought TBEX was a great effort for the first time and gives us all a solid platform on which to build even bigger and better TBEX sessions in the future.

    Guess I better get it getting my own recap up :)


  • Alexandra Korey

    14 years 11 months ago

    Sounds like tbex was a really interesting conference. Too bad coming in from Florence would be truly excessive. I think you make some excellent constructive criticism. How about a web cast in streaming or at least video's on youtube so that those of us so far away could attend?

    I also think a session on monetization would be interesting to everyone - I have been trying to get my site ( to make money, and figure we all have the same problem.

  • Dr. Debra Payne

    14 years 11 months ago

    Thanks for the recap. It sounds like it was a great conference! I wish I could have been there. I love what you guys do. Thanks for opportunities you have given me here. I love writing for you!

    Saludos desde la Republica Dominicana -- 

    Debra Payne Chaparro, PhD

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