Posted in Conferences & Conventions, journalism

How To Pack For #NABJ19 In Miami


I am a world traveler who has been on the road since taking my first flight – New York to London – when I was six.

As an aviation journalist, I’m an expert in packing, especially now that airlines (except for Southwest) charge for checked bags.  As you prepare to pack for your upcoming trip to Miami, please allow me to offer you some of my best packing tips.

  • Choose a primary color, like black, navy or brown, and accessorize accordingly. Bring basics like pants, suits, skirt and blazer, and use accessories and different shirts/blouses to mix and match;
  • Roll your clothes to make sure things fit accordingly. If you don’t want to roll, then buy Space Bags or packing cubes (my new favorite) to compress your outfits. Use the space in your shoes to pack things like underwear;
  • Go to a dollar store and buy TSA-friendly bottles for your shampoo, conditioner, moisturizers, make-up, lotions, etc. You don’t need to pack the full-size bottles. They’re heavy and take up space;
  • I know this is hard, but limit yourself to 3 pairs of shoes, including the ones you travel with. Shoes take up a lot of space;
  • Weigh your luggage BEFORE you leave. Airlines limit that first bag to 50 lbs; after that, hefty fees kick in. Don’t beg-they won’t waive them and you don’t want to shell out that money;
  • Pack important/valuable items (jewelry, medicines) in your carry-on. Include a portable toothbrush, underwear and a small deodorant just in case your luggage is lost;
  • Keep a list of what you packed (I like this $2.99 app, but find free options here). You know what you’re wearing every day and you have a list just in case your luggage is lost and you have to file a claim with the airline; and
  • Don’t overpack. You know you’ll pick up materials at your destination and you’ll want to have room for them. Plus you don’t want to pay those overweight bag fees.

I hope this helps. See you in Miami!

Posted in journalism, News

AllDigitocracy Looks at the Numbers Behind the NABJ Board’s Travel Expenses

The NABJ Board of Directors
The NABJ Board of Directors

Denise Clay has an awesome story about NABJ and its out-of-control travel expenses on If you care about the association and have ever wondered about its internal workings, you’ll want to read this piece. Here’s an excerpt:

Right now, journalists hoping to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) at its annual convention in Minnesota this summer are shopping for low airfare — and in some cases hotel accommodations — to Minneapolis on discount travel websites.

But it might be a good idea for NABJ executives to start surfing those websites as well, especially if they plan on continuing to rack up skyrocketing travel expenses. At a time when journalism diversity is stagnant at best, a set of expense reports released to NABJ’s membership last month shows that its executive board spent more than $190,000 solely on travel in just two years.

According to the reports, the largest expenditures ($13,116.60 in 2013 and $28,391.24) can be attributed to NABJ President Bob Butler alone.

Read more: What does ‪#‎NABJ‬ have to show for the nearly $200,000 it’s spent on travel?

Posted in Conferences & Conventions

10 Packing Tips For #NABJ13

By Benét J. Wilson, chair, NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force & social media/eNewsletters editor, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association


I am a world traveler who has been on the road since taking my first flight — New York to London — when I was six.  And as an aviation journalist, I have taken more than my fair share of trips and have become an expert in packing, especially now that airlines (except for Southwest and JetBlue) charge for checked bags.  As you prepare to pack for your upcoming trip to Orlando for the NABJ Convention, please allow me to offer you some of my best packing tips.

  1. Choose a primary color, like black, navy or brown, and accessorize accordingly. Bring basics like pants, skirt and blazer, and use accessories and different shirts/blouses to mix and match;
  2. Roll with it! Roll your clothes to make sure things fit accordingly. If you don’t want to roll, then buy Space Bags to compress your outfits;
  3. Pack older underwear. You can wear them and throw them away;
  4. Limit yourself to 3 pairs of shoes, including the ones you travel with;
  5. Weigh your luggage BEFORE you leave. Airlines limit that first bag to 50 lbs; after that, hefty fees kick in. They also kick in after the first checked bag.  To see just how much, click here;
  6. Pack important/valuable items in your carry-on. Also include a portable toothbrush, underwear and a small deodorant just in case you luggage is lost;
  7. Keep your luggage claim tags in your purse or pocket. It is 1000% easier for the airline to find your luggage if you have your bag tag number.
  8. Take a picture of your luggage. If it’s lost, you can show it and email it to the airline. If your bag is black, put a colorful tag, tie or even duct tape to make it more easily identifiable.
  9. Keep a list of what you packed in case your luggage is lost and you have to file a claim with the airline; and
  10. Don’t overpack. You know you’ll pick up materials at the convention, and you’ll want to have room for them — plus you do NOT want to pay those extra baggage fees!
Posted in Conferences & Conventions, Technology

NABJDigital: My Top 5 iPhone Travel Apps

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair, Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group

Those who know me know that I’m not only an aviation journalist, but I’m also an aviation/travel geek (you can see my personal writing on this over at As we all prepare to travel to Philadelphia next week for the National Association of Black Journalists’ Annual Convention and Career Fair, I thought I’d share the top five travel apps on my iPhone that can help you organize your travel to and from Philly.  All are free, unless otherwise noted.

  1. Gate Guru.  This app was featured in an Apple iPhone TV commercial. It gives locations and user reviews (including mine as Aviation Queen) of retail, restaurants and services at airports across the country.  I was in Atlanta last week and needed a drug store at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.  Gate Guru told me that Drugs & More was there, pre-security, in the atrium. Nice!!  And when you have a tight connection and want to make sure you get something to eat for the plane ride, this app is a godsend.
  2. Currency Converter, by Oanda. This app converts currencies from the Afghan Afghani to the Zimbabwe Dollar, quickly and easily — so I don’t have to!
  3. I HEART Travel Packing ($1.99). Kids, my mind isn’t what it used to be, so I need all the help I can get. Believe me, it is NOT fun to realize you’ve reached your destination and forgotten to pack underwear (yes, this has happened to me). This app has sample lists for men and women; it also allows you to create your own list and create a master catalog where you can drag items for new lists.
  4. Next Flight ($2.99). Let’s say you’re at JFK Airport and your flight to San Francisco is delayed or canceled. What do you do? Go to this app, type in the city-pair and it will tell you what airlines have the next flights going there. Call your airline (using the Flight Sites app for the phone number), give them the options and voila-you’re on your way, while the rest of the crowd is standing around the gate agent desk praying they get on a flight.
  5. FareCompare. This app gives you real-time air fare alerts from the city of your choice.  As of this morning at 10:08, I can go to Boston for $107.  It will let you post the fare you found on your favorite social media outlet.  It will even take you right to Orbitz to book the flight.

So what apps am I missing? What travel apps are on your smartphone?

Posted in multimedia journalist, Social Media

NABJDigital Profiles Travel Blogger Kiratiana Freelon, Part 1

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair, Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group

Kiratiana Freelon is a travel blogger who is carving out her own path with her writing.  I “met” her via Twitter, where there’s a very active community of black travel bloggers and tweeters.


Kiratiana Freelon

Right before graduating from Harvard in 2002, Freelon landed a $20,000 fellowship around the world. She decided to create a series of travel guides to destinations in the African Diaspora—destinations like West Africa, Paris, London, Brazil, and the Caribbean. She took the $20,000 trip around the world in 2002 and 2003.


On April 6, 2010, Freelon received the first physical copy of her first travel guidebook: Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to Black Paris. In conjunction with the book, she decided to start a travel blog: Kiratiana Travels: Let a Black Girl Show You the World. Her goal? To inspire people to travel and live abroad.  She is also the editor of, American Airlines’ website that offers travel insights from an African-American perspective.  Freelon spoke to NABJDigital on how she got started and advice for those who want to do the same.

NABJDigital: What is your journalism/writing background?

Kiratiana Freelon: I’ve been writing since forever, but the only “real” journalism job I had was for 1.5 years at a local community newspaper in Chicago, the Hyde Park Herald.  Coming out of high school, I just knew I was going to be a broadcast journalist. I had completed the Northwestern Journalism High School Institute and I was headed to Harvard for college. There, I wrote for the Harvard Crimson and wrote and edited a book called The Black Guide to Life at Harvard.

ND: How did you begin blogging?

KF: I first heard of this idea of blogging in 2002 when I was graduating from college. I only knew of one person who had a blog. So when I moved to Paris, I KNEW that I wanted to share my experiences with people by blogging. Back in the day when I traveled around the world, I would just do email updates. So I started a blog called Black Girl in Paris, which I updated while I was living in Paris from 2005 to 2006.

ND: How did you come up with the Black Girl In Paris blog?

KF: Well there was already a book called Black Girl in Paris. The title just FIT me. I was literally a Black Girl in Paris and I was there to discover the black culture of Paris.

ND: How did you end up writing the Black Atlas blog for American Airlines?

KF: The opportunity became open at the perfect time for me. I had just published my book, Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to Black Paris. I was also establishing myself through social media by tweeting, blogging and attending conferences like SXSW and Blogging While Brown. When the position opened as editor, I had the right background for the job and a friend thought it would be a perfect fit. It’s an interesting position in which I get to write, interact with bloggers and manage social media.

ND: What advice would you give to others who might want to begin blogging?

KF: The first advice is to decide what you want to blog about. If you have passion for a subject material, then start stalking ALL the blogs on that specific subject. When I knew I wanted to be a travel blogger, I started reading TONS of travel blogs. Look to see how they are designed and what types of widgets they have.

This is going to come off as rather snobbish but DO NOT use Blogspot to begin blogging. Yes, Blogspot is an easy platform to just start blogging, but it usually doesn’t project a professional image. It’s pretty easy to find a nice clean WordPress blogging theme. Check out for some great online tutorials on installing WordPress yourself.

Additionally, blogging is all about community. Find the people in your niche and SUPPORT them and they will start supporting you. It can be as simple as retweeting them, or profiling them.

Posted in Uncategorized

NABJDigital Profiles Marian Anderson of Haute Travels Blog

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair, Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group\

In my day job, I write about the airline/aviation business.  I also have a personal blog where I post about travel and I contribute to the I’m Black & I Travel blog.  I’ve also developed a nice travel following on my @AvWeekBenet and @benetwilson Twitter accounts.

Marian Anderson

And it was on Twitter where I discovered the Haute Travels blog, written by Marian Anderson. Her blog covers two of my favorite things, so I though it would be fun to speak with her.  But a great discovery for me was finding out Anderson had reinvented her career after 10 years in broadcast journalism, most recently at the FOX Network in Chicago as a regional producer.  We talk with Anderson about her transition, her blog and creating a job you love.

NABJDigital: Where are some of the media outlets where you worked?

Marian Anderson: I started out as a news writer, and most of my career was in Chicago at WFLD-TV as a writer. I then moved to FOX News Channel as a regional producer, where I decided what would be of interest in the state or across the country.  I was in TV for 10 years.

I left because I wasn’t enjoying the work anymore.  For years, I worked nights, doing the evening news.  There would be plays right across the street at the Chicago Theater and I felt like life was passing me by.  On my days off, I was sleeping. I missed being out and about with people.  I didn’t want to be in the news business anymore.  But I wanted to take those skills and my personality and move to public relations and strategic communications.

I’m solo now, but I worked for two advertising agencies — E Morris Communications as a medial relations consultant and Burrell Communications as a PR strategist.  In those jobs I worked with clients including Disney’s Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey, McDonald’s, Walmart and Allstate Insurance.

Now, I’ve gone a step further by becoming a speechwriter.  My current client is the CEO of the Chicago Urban League.  Speechwriting is another way to use my writing and communications skills.  I was also PR director for the Salvation Army in Chicago.

ND: How did the idea for the Haute Travels blog come about?

MA: When I left news, I wanted to write about things I like to do — shopping, travel and spas. A friend told me about a magazine for affluent black women, and saw that the spa section needed worked.  I pitched them a Chicago spa story and shopping in Paris, and that’s how I started writing about travel in 2006.  Last fall, I went to the Blogalicious conference and people told me to start blogging.  I was also encouraged by Natalie McNeal, aka Frugalista. So I went to Blogspot and set it up six months ago.

ND: What are your favorite types of stories to post?

MA: All my posts are based on things I do. I’m an inquisitive type, so I like to travel, but I also like fashion, the beauty of fashion and what’s in beauty bags.  People ask me questions like `what kind of sunscreen do you use’ or `I’m going to Miami, what hotel do you recommend?’  People thought I was a travel expert and I became one because people told me I was.  Even now, I have 1592 followers on Twitter and they ask me about all things travel.  People are doing research (and they come to me as a resource like Pro Football Hall of Famer Darrell Green’s wife Jewell Green.

ND: How important is social media for what you do?

MA: Twitter is a PR tool for me.  It gives people direct access to what you’re doing. It also allows you to tap into groups that you otherwise would not have access to.  Extra TV follows me. Spencer Pratt from The Hills follows me.  Because of Twitter, I’ve had people see my blog ask to contact me and interview me for travel trips.  A South Florida newspaper interviews me for travel tips.  Social media is a great marketing tool.  I hear from PR firms, hotels and convention and visitors bureaus.  It’s a blessing and a curse.  I send out tweets for travel tips and got an invite to Disney and to France.  I also get products to test and write about them all the time.  When I was in Chicago, a local spa called me because they wanted to test travel-ready hair, and they had a treatment they wanted me to try.

ND: How do you financially sustain the blog?

MA: Initially, people think they can make money. But once you take ads, people think they can control what you write and that is unacceptable for me.  My blog is not an advertisement platform.  But if it’s a brand I like, I’ll write about it.

ND: What advice would you give to journalists interested in pursuing their own blogs?

MA: Change, and figure out what you love among your skills. I love writing and found that I could use that.  I did freelancing, then PR, consulting and speechwriting.  My vice president at a PR firm decided a client needed a speech and said I could do it and she was right.

When it comes to blogging, just do it.  You can always course correct. My blog is organic.  I keep it simple.  My blog is about things I do, but I try not to insert myself into it.  I use professional photos that are ready to go.  I hate looking at blogs that are badly written with bad photos.  And buy your name at

Posted in Uncategorized

NABJDigital Profiles Founder of “I’m Black & I Travel” Blog

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair, Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group

Photo by Benet J. Wilson

National Association of Black Journalists Treasurer Greg Lee recently posted a guide to our upcoming annual conference in San Diego that was written by Greg Gross. As I read the great guide, I saw that Gross, a journalist for more than 30 years at the San Diego Union-Tribune, had a blog that instantly appealed to me: I’m Black & I Travel.

Gross was a public safety specialist at the Union-Tribune before being laid off last May. In that job, he says, he never had the chance to write about travel, his true passion. So he started the blog on June 12. He recalls being bitten by the travel bug when he took the Sunset Limited train from New Orleans to Oakland, Calif., as a child.

“I always wanted to write about travel,” says Gross. “Several years earlier, I started a personal web site with friends of mine where we would travel to different places to watch minor league baseball.” Places he visited included Tijuana, Mexicali and Hermosillo, he adds. “We also attended the Caribbean World Series, which is rotated between Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela,” says Gross. He didn’t ever make it to Venezuela.

Gross firmly believes that travel opens your eyes and broadens your mind. “If the only experience you have is a narrow circle of life, there’s a lot you miss out on. One thing you learn when you travel, is that although you love your country very much, the United States is not be-all, end-all of planet Earth,” he states. “The U.S. is not the only place where people have ideas, imagination, passion, dreams and a soul. By traveling, you learn that humanity is an incredible thing and is very diverse.”

Travel also makes you a better student of history, Gross observes. “When visit places around the world, a lot of what you learn comes alive when you’re there,” he explains. “You also find out that a lot that you learned in school may not be exactly accurate.”

Gross cites a visit to Germany with his wife to see concentration camps as an example. “We found out that although there were camps all over Germany, the death camps were mostly in Poland,” he said. “Looking at a map, I found a camp right outside Berlin called Sachsenhausen. I had never heard of it.”

Sachsenhausen was not just a concentration camp. It was the first purpose-built camp, said Gross, noting that Heinrich Himmler had his offices there. “Camp guards were trained there and the camp served as the prototype for all the others built,” he points out. “We went there and honest to God, it was like walking in the presence of evil.”

The I’m Black & I Travel blog seems to have stuck a cord with a lot of people beyond our own, Gross observes. “The main point of the blog is to show you don’t have to be afraid to travel. Our people will give you all kinds of rationale on why not to travel,” he says, including fear of a language barrier, getting ripped off, terrorism and a fear of the unknown, the foreign and the unfamiliar.

Currently, Gross tries to post on the blog at least twice a week. He gets his ideas for posts from many different areas. “Some are things from memory. Some are things I come across from reading on the web or magazines or newspapers,” he says. “I also get inspiration by talking to people.”

So far, the blog doesn’t have advertising, says Gross “That’s the next challenge for me. My first goal was to create the blog. My second goal was to build it up as a credible web site. Now it’s time to monetize the blog,” he says.

Gross recently took the first step toward that goal by moving from WordPress to a hosted web site. “WordPress is free, but you can’t put ads on your blog,” he says. He also changed the blog’s domain name to something that more reflects what blog is.

At this point, Gross is looking for almost anybody and everybody for advertising. “I spent 41 years in mainstream journalism and I was part of the strict church/state divide, so I’ve learned nothing on how to solicit advertising,” he admits.

I hope NABJDigital readers will put this blog on your RSS feed. And after our chat, I am now the latest contributor to the I’m Black & I Travel blog. You can see my first post, here. We’ll contact Gross  from time to time to follow his progress in turning the blog into a paid enterprise.