It’s now almost October and about, oh, 4 months ago, I attended and spoke at the 2017 BlogPaws Conference in Myrtle Beach, SC. While cleaning out my inbox and thinking about how my summer went, I realized that I hadn’t actually shared here how the conference went! Since the 2018 BlogPaws Conference is only about 7 months away, I figured I should get to it.

If you don’t know, BlogPaws is a company that works to teach pet lovers and enthusiasts about blogging and how to effectively use social media. Along with an awesome team, BlogPaws has built a fabulous community of pet bloggers which I’m thrilled to be a part of. Each year they have a conference, so that bloggers can meet in person and have an immersive three day learning experience.

BlogPaws 2017 - Ralph enjoys his BlogPaws experience

I’ve been fortunate to attend every BlogPaws Conference since I started blogging in 2013. I have to give a shout out to my friend Carol of Fidose of Reality (and BlogPaws) who practically forced me to go to my first conference, which happened to be located right in my backyard in Northern Virginia.

This year we headed down to Myrtle Beach and next year I’ll be driving over to Kansas City from our new home in Colorado.

The trip and experience this year was a bit different than past years. The last two conferences to Nashville and Phoenix, I was lucky to have my boyfriend traveling along with me. Having him along for the journey was incredibly helpful in wrangling our two dogs and he did ALL the driving, which let me focus on the conference.

BlogPaws 2017 - LOTS of big checks and HUGE donations to animal welfare groups

This year my boyfriend’s brother just happened to graduate from college the same weekend as the conference, so of course he traveled to celebrate with his brother. But, that meant he couldn’t be my chauffeur or second pair of hands on this trip. Luckily, the drive from Northern Virginia to Myrtle Beach was only 6.5 hours, so I could do it on my own in one day.

I also made the crazy decision to bring both Ralph and Luna along for the ride. I knew having two dogs with me would be tough to ensure they get enough attention, exercise, and just feel all around comfortable, but I also knew that if I didn’t bring them with me I would have to board them. Since we already had a big two week trip planned to Scotland less than a month later, I really didn’t want to have to board them for even more time.

I also knew that both Ralph and Luna travel pretty well in the car and are good in hotel rooms, especially when they are together. And since BlogPaws is a pet friendly conference, they could attend sessions, events, and even meals with me if I needed them to. Plus, BlogPaws even hires a pet sitter who watches and takes care of pups who need a bit of quiet time or a romp in the indoor dog park.

BlogPaws 2017 - Luna in Pet Park - Photo Courtesy of Atlantic Pet Sitting

Photo Courtesy of Atlantic Pet Sitting

Bringing them became a no brainer for me, but I decided that I wanted to invest in a dog stroller. I hoped having a stroller would make managing multiple dogs a bit easier while I also enjoyed the conference activities. I lucked out and found a Pet Gear AT3 NO-ZIP Pet Stroller on Craigslist for only $25! Even though it was blue (my least favorite color), I jumped on it because those strollers sell new for anywhere between $170 and $220!

The stroller had a few holes and needed some detail cleaning. I’m not sure I would have paid full price for the stroller, but it was well worth the $25. After I vacuumed, washed, and disinfected it, I was ready to give it a bit of custom flair.

BlogPaws 2017 - Ralph visits the VCA booth in the exhibit hall

I knew I would have to patch the two big holes, so I headed to my local JoAnns to pick out some fabric. And since it was blue, I wanted to find something that was bright and colorful to make me forget I had to push around a navy blue stroller (bleh!). I found a super fun fabric in the outdoor fabric section, so I knew it would be durable enough and would add a bit of pizazz to the Ralph & Luna Mobile.

This year was also a bit different because I didn’t have the same income as in previous years. I left my corporate job in June 2016 to pursue building my own business. While I’ve been successful, I’m not quite to the point of earning what I used to. So this year I looked for a few amazing pet brands who would consider sponsoring my trip. Thankfully I found not one, not two, but FIVE amazing brands who helped me afford to attend BlogPaws 2017.

BlogPaws 2017 - THANK YOU SPONSORS - Alcott, Caru, Simple Solution, Sleepypod, and P.L.A.Y.

I have to give a HUGE shout out to all of my BlogPaws 2017 Sponsors! I would only accept sponsorship from brands I truly love, so these are THE BEST. We regularly use products from each one of these great companies every single day.

Platinum Pawrtner: Alcott
Best Dog Leashes Ever!

Gold(en) Retriever Sponsor: Caru
Amazing Dog Treats and Stews!

Silver Hound Sponsors: Simple Solution and Sleepypod
Magical Cleaning Supplies + High Quality Travel Gear!

Bronze Barker Sponsor: P.L.A.Y. Pets Lifestyle and You
Have You Seen How Cute These Cute Are?

Since I was planning to drive alone, I was also a bit worried about handling bathroom breaks and food stops. Of course I could go through a drive-thru no problem, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go over six hours without having a bathroom break. I wasn’t too familiar with the route – though it was a pretty straight shot down I-95 – so I didn’t know ahead of time where I would stop. Instead, I made myself a custom Google Map with pet stores, rest stops, and other places I might want to stop so I could reference it on the drive.

I also tested to see if I could lock my car while I still had the engine running and luckily I could. Worst case I could keep the car (and A/C) running, put up sun shades, lock the doors with the dogs inside, and then RUN to the bathroom with an extra set of keys. I ended up having to use this tactic once on the way and once on the way back. Boy, was I stressed! All things considered, it was the best option because dogs weren’t allowed indoors and I wasn’t about to pretend my dogs were service dogs when they clearly aren’t. That’s not okay in my book!

BlogPaws 2017 - Road trip with two dogs

The conference itself took place at that Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center Hotel. The hotel itself was pretty nice. The rooms were super comfortable and clean and there was plenty of room for all of BlogPaws in the conference center. It was also a short walk from the beach, but it unfortunately didn’t have too many grassy areas to walk the pups. Most of our walking took place on sidewalks next to busy roads, but I guess that is just the nature of the area as it is very commercialized.

When we arrived, we checked into our room and unloaded the car. I don’t usually pack light and after the conference, we weren’t going home right away, so we had quite a bit of stuff. Thankfully the hotel had luggage carts and I was able to put the dogs in their stroller.

BlogPaws 2017 - Luna looks on Sheraton Myrtle Beach Hotel room window

We arrived on Wednesday evening, though the conference doesn’t officially start until Thursday. Once we were settled, I headed down to a special event hosted by Bayer. Food was served, but more importantly the Pet and Women’s Safety (PAWS) Act was discussed. The PAWS Act is set to resolve the issue that there is currently no legislation that protects the pets of survivors of domestic violence. Want to learn about it? Go here.

On Thursday, the conference officially kicked off and the exhibit hall opened. I had a blast attending the first few sessions and getting to know some of the amazing brand sponsors of the event. I’m so thankful for BlogPaws and all the sponsors in the pet industry because they make this conference far more affordable than any other conference I have considered attending.

BlogPaws 2017 - Sip & Paint - Sponsored by Red Roof Inn

Thursday evening I was lucky enough to attend Sip & Paint sponsored by the Red Roof Inn. You know those classes where you can paint and enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine? Well for the first time the BlogPaws Conference had one! We were taught how to paint a photo of a beautiful sunset and then put silhouettes of our pets in front of it. I absolutely adored this experience and got to spend some quality time with Rochelle from The Broke Dog and Alison from Sarcastic Dog. Go check out their blogs if you haven’t already!

On Friday, there were more sessions including one where I was the speaker! I was happy to talk about HTML & CSS to empower bloggers to know more about they blogging tech! The day was also full of plenty of networking time with other bloggers and some amazing pet brands.

BlogPaws 2017 - Ralph & Luna hang out with Spencer the Goldendoodle

Since there were no concrete plans in place for Friday evening, I headed down to a restaurant/bar with a group of other fellow bloggers for dinner. We were a big group, so the food took a while to arrive, but we were right on the beach. It’s pretty crazy that this was the only time I actually saw the ocean or any sand during my whole trip down to Myrtle Beach, but this girl had two dogs and conference brain! There just wasn’t any time for building sand castles.

Saturday was the final day of the conference, so of course there were more fabulous sessions and speakers. But, my favorite part of the final day of any BlogPaws Conference is the Nose-to-Nose Awards. It’s when all your favorite pet bloggers and pets get all dressed up to walk down a red carpet, eat a fancy dinner, and find out who won some of the most desired awards in the industry. There are also numerous big checks given out to excellent rescue organizations.

BlogPaws 2017 - Ralph & Luna get fancy for the Nose-to-Nose Award Ceremony

Following the big event, I attended a surprise Baby Shower for my dear friend Maggie of Oh My Dog Blog! She recently adopted the cutest baby Violet, so of course we had to celebrate. You can read more about her new addition here.

And that was it. The conference was over. The next morning, I left Myrtle Beach… BUT our trip was finished there. We were actually headed up to Akron, OH to attend my cousins high school graduation. She was graduating as valedictorian! I only made it to be #2 (Salutatorian) in my high school class, so color me impressed. My entire extended family made the trip from various parts of the US to cheer her on, so of course me and the dogs had to drive the 10+ hours to be there.

BlogPaws 2017 - LOTS of big checks and HUGE donations to animal welfare groups

TEN HOURS! That is the longest I’ve ever driven by myself and I don’t really ever want to do it again. I was pretty exhausted from the conference and of course it was the world’s most gloomy day, so I didn’t have any sunshine to keep me awake. Instead, I alternated between calling my mom and boyfriend to keep my mind alert. I also ate probably 70 lbs of candy. Calories don’t count when you’re driving right?

But I made it. I was pretty proud of myself for completing this trip. I handled traveling with two dogs like a champ and successfully drove over 22 hours in less than a week. (Did I mention I had to drive the 6 hours from Akron back to Northern Virginia too?) Now where’s my gold star?

The 2018 BlogPaws Conference is taking place from April 18-20 in Kansas City, MO. It’s their 10th Conference, so you bet I’ll be there. If you are considering starting a pet blog or have a pet related business that uses social media, I recommend checking out the conference for sure! Hopefully my recap next year won’t be 4 months late.

Jessica Shipman
Share →