All travel writers get excited about the possibility of free perks. Perks cover a wide range of experiences. A delicious meal at a new or trendy restaurant, a complimentary stay at a hip boutique hotel or luxurious resort are standard perks. A perk can also be an insider pass for front row seats or behind the scenes access to an exclusive event. Who doesn’t like getting pampered with something free and special?
The easiest way to get travel perks is by securing a letter of assignment from an editor. Think up a unique story angle, then write up a great query letter that convinces the editor that this is a worthy topic and you are the right person to write the piece.
Once you have your assignment letter or email, approach the venue either in person or by phone or email. Help them understand why your article will give them value. Will it increase their exposure to a new client base? Will it highlight something special or timely that people may not be aware of? Will it keep their location top of mind for the local population or draw in visiting guests? The more the story idea aligns with the venue’s marketing needs, the more likely they will provide a low or no-cost perk.
If they are interested in your story idea, respectfully ask for a complimentary meal, short stay, or entry to the event. Remember, your complimentary perk costs money. Be sure to provide excellent value through your writing and make the venue happy by being an exemplary guest.
The following tips will ensure you are a welcomed guest. These tips can help you to be invited back or have your name passed on to others who will host you in the future.
Dress the Part
This doesn’t necessarily mean dress up if you are attending a festival, but be sure you fit in with the paying crowd. If it’s an exclusive restaurant, make it an occasion to dress up for the special occasion it is. You’ll be meeting the owner or manager and possibly the chef. Let them know that you appreciate their generosity and venue by how you dress.
Introduce Yourself to Everyone and Be Respectful
Introduce yourself to everyone and let them know why you are there, as appropriate. If it’s an event or festival, introduce yourself to the crew and watch what they are doing. You want the best views, but you don’t want to get in the way of the staff or the show. Respecting the backstage crew can help you get even better access and the ability to plug in electronics if you are there for a long time.
If you are staying at a resort or having a special meal at a restaurant, remember that the staff who spend time with you are not assisting paying customers. This may affect their take-home pay. You’ll want to tip staff generously to make your free meal/room, etc. worthwhile for them. For example, if the chef is creating a special meal for you, find time to slip away at some point to look at the standard menu. Figure out an approximate amount that the meal might cost and tip appropriately.
In today’s busy world, it is easy to be off and running onto the next thing. Remember to thank everyone who helped you get your story. A handwritten note, a personal email, a shout out to someone’s manager or in some instances an inexpensive small gift can go a long way to getting future perks or asking for a referral.
I live in Grenada, West Indies, which produces luscious organic chocolate. I stash a few bars in my suitcase to give away to people who have gone out of their way to help me. It’s fun to see someone’s face light up when they receive a bit of chocolate as a thank you.
Getting perks is the goal of many travel writers. Perks allow us to see and do things that we might not be able to afford or gives us new, exciting experiences at little or no cost. Remember that the venue is looking to get value and exposure from our writing in return for providing complimentary access. Being an exemplary guest is our responsibility for receiving the opportunity to experience the venue for free or low cost and paves the way for future perks for ourselves and other writers.