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Freelance travel writer Theresa St. John has broken the code on scoring all-expenses-paid press trips to exotic destinationsPress trips, ah, the holy grail of travel writing.

Haven’t we all coveted opportunities to be wined and dined, not only in places a mere drive away, but also in exotic locations that take a boat, plane, train, or combination of all three, to get there?

Until I attended Great Escape Publishing’s Ultimate Money-Making Photography Workshop and The Ultimate Travel Writing Workshop in 2013, I’d never heard the words “FAM trip,” “media trip” or “press trip” before. Once I did, though, the idea of scoring one landed at the top of my to-do list.

I wasn’t totally convinced they’d happen in my travel writing career, but maybe, if I kept that goal front and center, I’d have a shot.

Already, in 2017, I’ve been on nine press trips—each one designed around my personal interests— and three more adventures are scheduled within the next few months!

Let me share one of my favorites.

I was invited to a winery about 30 miles away from Saratoga. They were having a special chocolate/wine pairing event and asked if I would come write about it. They said I could bring a guest.

I decided to make a weekend of it, reaching out to a 5-star resort in the Adirondack area. I crafted a letter explaining who I was, what I did, and what I could offer them.

Although I had letters of commitment from editors in hand (also called “letters of assignment”), I honestly didn’t know if I’d hear back. The resort is often featured in travel magazines, they’ve won numerous awards in the hospitality industry, and might not feel it necessary to have a local writer promote them, as well.

Not only did I receive a response… they went overboard!

Before we arrived at the resort, our room had been upgraded to a Governor’s Suite. There was a sitting room and bedroom, both showcasing windows that opened up over the water. It boasted an extra-large bath.

On our table, a humongous platter displayed a variety of cheese, chocolates, brownies, cookies, chocolate-covered strawberries, two long-stemmed glasses, and a bottle of wine. 

We didn’t dare touch anything… until I called the front desk. We learned it was a gift from management—they wanted to thank me for coming to review the resort and its amenities.

Unpacking our bags, we chatted about how wonderful it was already. Then, the phone rang. It was the manager, calling to make sure everything was up to snuff; did we need anything else?

I told him how excited we were to be visiting. I was hoping someone could talk to us during dinner. I expressed my interest in the history of the resort, as well as ghost hauntings, often alluded to in articles I’d read in the past.

A few minutes later, we opened the door for a young bellboy. He stood quietly, holding a paper bag. Inside, a handwritten note welcomed us. A book from the gift shop, wrapped carefully in tissue paper, offered me all the history and ghost stories I could possibly want, for help with my articles.

Over the weekend, we enjoyed five-course dinners, fabulous wine, fruity cocktails, and amazing desserts. The waitress sat us near glass doors that opened up to the terrace beyond. The views left us speechless. She regaled us with stories of ghosts that left us shivering.

Our leisurely breakfasts were fit for royalty. We were also pampered at the sauna before our full-body spa treatments. Those rooms were secluded and lit with scented candles. Soothing music was piped in while we relaxed under the hands of a well-trained masseuse. 

I’ve been on numerous media trips, both before and after this one, but it ranks as one of my favorites.

Management took care of every little detail, before, during, and after our arrival. We were treated like movie stars. Besides that, I was able to share the experience with my girlfriend.

Before becoming a travel writer, the weekend would have set me back $1,300. Instead, the out-of-pocket cost was $20 in gas, plus tips for our meals and spa visit. Since that trip, I’ve written four articles (two paid), and I’m working on one more. 

Relaxing at home again, I ate chocolates and sipped wine from the tasting event, then slept like a baby.

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