I have always been enthralled with the thought of going to Europe. So much culture, art, architecture, and history. When you think of Rome, Florence, Paris, Munich, and London, you think of so many historical events and people that have impacted civilizations worldwide.
Before I became a travel writer I had been to Europe three times. Each time was a thrill, but each time I was also very limited in what I was able to see and do.
Visiting relatives, working during the week, and taking care of business occupied most of my time. I only had a few short days for actually seeing and experiencing my destinations.
This June, I’ll be making my fourth trip to Europe as a travel writer!
Each time, I now have two or three weeks where I can focus solely on traveling and writing, and that has made a world of difference.
This summer, I’ll be in Bath, the Cotswolds, London, Paris, the Loire Valley, and Normandy.
Why go back every year?
The more I go, the more I see, the more I do, the more I want to go back.
As a travel writer, when I see bits and pieces of so many different places, I am already formulating a plan for my next visit before I leave. Excitement and new discovery builds and builds, so that each trip seems even more adventurous and exciting than the one before.
I usually return to some of the same places, but also expand my itinerary to visit some new places, too.
Making Lasting Connections
On one of my first trips to Italy, when I was just beginning my career as a travel writer, we were visiting a wonderful agriturismo in San Gimignano.
We were there for a brief tour, lunch, and tasting, but we got to know Fausto, the friendly owner. I planned to include a few paragraphs about the tour and tasting in one of my articles about Tuscany. However, after getting to know Fausto better, I was enthralled with the personal story of Fausto and his wife Susana and how they had built up Guardastelle. I had an idea for next summer.
When I got back to the States, I thanked Fausto again for a wonderful tour and asked if he would be interested in me writing a standalone article about his winery and agriturismo. I would include a description about the beautiful lodgings, the tour and tasting lunch, the fun cooking classes, the lovely swimming pool, and other amenities available at Guardastelle.
In return, I was asking for complimentary lodging, as well as a tour and tasting for four people. He agreed, and the next summer we returned to Guardastelle.
But instead of a just a quick two-hour lunch and tour and then leaving, we were able to stay and enjoy the lovely grounds, swim in the pool, and have drinks on the terrace with a view of San Gimignano at sunset. I was also able to sit down with Fausto and find out some detailed information about his family and how he and his wife had restored and renovated the old farmstead into the wonderful agriturismo it is today.
Had I not been a travel writer, I probably would never have returned, and certainly would not have been able to afford an overnight for four people and all the amenities. Most of all, I would not have been able to spend time with Fausto and develop a better understanding and a friendship with his wonderful family.
My next European adventure
For my next trip to Europe, my wife and I will be going to Bath, the Cotswolds, and London in southern England for a week. We will then take the “Chunnel” (Channel tunnel) over to Paris for several days and then on to the Loire Valley, Mont-Saint-Michel, and Normandy.
During our two-week trip in England and France, we will be hosted by numerous CVBs, lodgings, restaurants, and attractions. Using what I learned in my previous trips to Europe, I’ll work with my European contacts to make the most out of my time there.
How to make it happen
Here are the basic steps I follow that can assist travel writers planning their own trips to Europe:
About 9 to 12 months before the trip, I decide specifically when and where I want to go. Not just “Europe,” or “Italy”—I lay out specific cities, sites, and a window of time I can go (I try to come up with a flexible window of time so I can get the best fares). Next is to find the best flight prices in this window, and book it.
• Now I can use the specific dates and times as the framework to develop a specific itinerary listing each city, sites, and dates.
• About 6 to 12 months before the trip, get those all-important letters of assignment. I send out queries to editors I have worked with as well as new outlets. I aim to have a letter of assignment for every 2 to 3 days I’m there, and try to group the destinations so I can write 5 to 6 articles to cover the time I’m in Europe. For example, for my upcoming trip to England and France, I already have letters of assignment for: Bath; The Cotswolds; London; Paris; Loire Valley; and Normandy.
• About 6 to 9 months before the trip, reach out to the local Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) with detailed requests of things you’d like to see and do. Include specific dates you will be there and which sites and attractions you plan to include in your article.
• About 3 to 6 months before the trip, follow up with CVBs to nail down details. Not all CVBs will be willing or able to accommodate your requests, but you won’t know unless you ask.
• About 2 to 3 months before the trip, for those requests that are not accommodated by CVBs, fill in the gaps with requests to individual lodgings, restaurants, and attractions.
• Continue to confirm arrangements as final details are worked out. For some destinations, you may have to pay out of pocket for lodging, meals, and other expenses. Before leaving on the trip, confirm all arrangements with each contact.
• Go on your trip, explore, and take lots of notes and photographs. Following submission guidelines, write informative, interesting stories with quality photographs. Submit your articles well before the agreed upon deadlines.
• When articles are published, send links to all of the CVBs, lodgings, restaurants and other attractions that you worked with. Thank them for their time and assistance and wish them well.
I have well over half of the details nailed down for my trip in June, and will be finalizing details by early May. And, I am already in the process of deciding where and when I will go on my next European trip. It takes a lot of legwork and planning ahead to make it happen, but the rewards are so worth it.
Europe every summer.
Try it. You’ll like it.