I recently spent a week in Portland, Maine, at the Women in Travel Summit (WITS) travel conference. To say I felt right at home would be a complete understatement! Joining together with several hundred fellow travel addicts for multiple days of inclusive seminars was a breath of fresh air I didn’t even realize I needed.
From chatting about destinations to delving deep into the blogging industry, I was surrounded by people who got me.
For someone who works alone at home…I truly struggle to put into words how welcome and included I felt at this conference.
Learn all about the Wanderful Community for women in travel
Add all that to the fact that I’d never explored Portland before and it came together to create the most fabulous week!
About the Women in Travel Summit (WITS)
This was my first WITS travel conference, but it was actually the 6th WITS hosted in North America to date.
As a bonus, the inaugural WITS Europe will be hosted by Riga, Latvia, this November. (Just saying…in case you want to join me!)
WITS is all about bringing together travel influencers, bloggers, content creators, tourism boards, travel agencies, and anyone else who lives and breathes travel.
Sure, it’s mostly women, but gentlemen are allowed to join!
The Women in Travel Summit is all about fostering connections and collaborations.
From the many social occasions to the Mentor 1:1 meetings, I made amazing contacts that are already providing me with new opportunities and with endless inspiration.
While the travel conference itself started on Friday and ended on Sunday, the officially organized events for WITS extended from Wednesday to Wednesday.
The reason for those extended days? TRAVEL.
WITS didn’t only offer seminars and workshops. Both before and after the conference, local businesses offered free tours to attendees.
These tours ranged from walks around the historic part of the city to 4-day FAM trips along the entire Maine coast up to Acadia National Park.
Gee…did I capture your attention yet?
What makes WITS special?
There are plenty of travel-related groups that you can connect with for personal and professional reasons.
I am an active member of groups like Travel Massive, but WITS offers a segmented opportunity even within that larger framework.
But what I loved about WITS was that it brought together a multinational and very diverse group of (mostly) women from all levels of travel adoration.
Some are just thinking about starting a travel blog while others are some of the biggest names in travel blogging in the world today.
Sponsors and presenters range from tiny tourism boards to multinational brands.
The Women in Travel Summit is as diverse as the places we all aim to travel to and to learn from, which offers WITS credibility and depth.
WITS and Wanderful
Wanderful is yet another travel-related group where I’m proud of my association.
This fabulous organization offers an international group of women the option to connect over a love for travel.
Find out more about Wanderful membership and join us!
Wanderful aims to empower women to travel safely and confidently through its global network of over 40,000 members worldwide.
Those members create authentic, memorable experiences through homesharing, face-to-face meetups, and locally tailored tips.
Both events create positive, in-person interactions for women of the world to make new friends, build connections, and strengthen our global sisterhood.
The Wanderful homesharing network allows women to travel around the globe and stay with a fellow Wanderful member.
Wanderful chapters also host regular gatherings and organized international trips are available (like Morocco and India coming up soon).
Have you ever traveled somewhere but didn’t feel comfortable or safe booking random accommodation as a solo female? You are not alone.
Wanderful encourages solo female travel by offering resources, contacts, networks, and inspiration to take the plunge and get out there on your own.
That is what makes WITS so special.
A basis in empowerment and a focus on inclusivity is what makes the Women in Travel Summit a worthwhile investment for your next vacation.
Volunteering at WITS
I’ll be fully honest with you, though: I did not pay to attend WITS in Portland.
In fact, I was visiting my family anyway, borrowed my mom’s car to drive to Portland, and found the least expensive (while still not supporting chains) hotel accommodation I could find.
I benefited by volunteering at WITS, thereby getting free entry to the sessions and workshops and tours offered to all attendees.
And my responsibilities as a volunteer included a measly 8 hours of time.
Eight hours…over a week of conference activities. That’s extraordinary!
My favorite part of attending WITS was actually my volunteer experience.
I loved getting to chat with so many other volunteers, organizers, sponsors, speakers, and attendees.
And I truly valued the time I spent at the Registration Table, offering insights and answering questions while getting to meet so many like-minded ladies.
Going into this volunteering option, I was hoping for a free ride to a conference for which I couldn’t rationalize paying.
For the record, that is a terrible attitude regarding both personal and professional investment…I’m working on changing that!
Instead, I benefited greatly by forging many bonds that came all too easily due to my role as a volunteer.
Getting that behind-the-scenes look granted me insider access to some of the brands and top names in the travel industry that I otherwise might have had to vie for.
So, yes, volunteer at WITS if you can!
Highlights of WITS Portland
WITS Portland was my first WITS travel conference but it will not be my last. While the connections I made were reason enough to love this event, my professional takeaways from sessions and 1:1 chats were even more significant.
Here’s a rundown of the sessions I attended:
- Pippa Biddle: Shaping the Future of Tourism: How You Can Use Your Platform To Transform Travel
- Jenna Howard: 6 Years on the Coast of Maine: What I Learned About Marketing an Off-The-Beaten-Path Destination
- Gabi Logan: How to Scope Your Brand Contracts (So You Don’t Get Screwed and Hate Yourself and Your Clients!)
- Jen Ruiz: Build Your Brand and Generate Passive Income with a Self-Published Book on Amazon
- Samantha Nelson: WORKSHOP: Wait! You took those travel pics with your PHONE?!?
- Natalie Jesionka & Sophia Hyder Hock: Telling Travel Stories with Integrity: Connecting with Cultures Through a Meaningful and Unbiased Lens
And all of these sessions and meetings fit easily around the hours I volunteered!
Beyond those structured conversations and sessions, I also spent a great deal of time chatting with brand representatives, travel companies, and countless fellow content creators.
Every single day was chock full of learning, leaning in, and building a broader network of fierce and fabulous women.
Tips for Attending the Women in Travel Summit
After attending my first Women in Travel Summit, I have a few lessons learned and advice for anyone thinking about joining us next time.
Riga 2019 will be my next WITS, and you might even see me in Kansas City in 2020!
Top WITS Tips:
1. Know yourself
If you are an introvert, then schedule solo time throughout the week so you can decompress and find your balance.
If you are an extrovert, then revel in all the interactions and sympathize with/help the introverts nearby.
Conferences are always pretty intense, but WITS is 110% at all times! Give yourself whatever space and time you need to process all of the interactions, meetings, and information that will be flooding over you every single day.
2. Know your budget
If you need to share a room to cut down on costs, then use the roommate list provided for each WITS conference.
If you want to carpool to save on transportation costs, use the carpool buddy list. Both lists are shared via the attendees Facebook group and are also linked within your attendee guide.
If you want cheaper accommodations than the conference hotel, then go out and find your own space! I stayed at the Inn at St John, which was just over a mile from the conference hotel and I adored it.
Fantastic staff, super cute and quirky rooms, and loads of history in a locally-owned and operated boutique hotel!
3. Know your purpose
Why are you attending WITS? Take the time before the conference to consider this. What do you hope to achieve by going to this particular conference?
How do you want to talk about yourself and your work?
Think through your elevator pitch, as well as your longer discussion of your goals and experience.
Practice talking about who you are, where you’re from, what you do, and where you’re going in your career and life.
Everyone at WITS wants to get to know you…so you have to know that first!
Get Other WITS Perspectives
Clearly, I had a fabulous time at the WITS conference and I feel confident saying it was the overwhelming reaction from attendees.
Wondering if I’m just embellishing here? Feel free to read and watch the experiences and stories of some of my fellow WITS attendees!
WATCH: Monica Goes Travel Show
WATCH: The Abundant Traveler
I hope to see you in Riga this November! Let me know if you’ll be there!
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