I’ve just celebrated my 90th press trip as a travel writer.
Exhausted from my lengthy international travel in previous years, I decided that I would only travel within North America this year. So, I lined up one trip each month, all on the North American continent.
Some highlights of my press trips in July and August 2015, included:
Guests of Visit Anchorage for one fun week, my wife Linda and I especially enjoyed staying in our log cabin at the Knik River Lodge. For a side trip, we were flown by helicopter out to a glacier that had a sled dog encampment set up on its snowy expanse. We zipped around the glacier on a sled pulled by friendly, excited, barking husky dogs. Afterward, our helicopter flew farther down the glacier where we landed and explored the glacier’s icy nooks and deep blue crevices with our pilot/guide.
We got to stay at Alyeska Resort, Alaska’s finest resort, where we were wined and dined, did some short hikes, and took the cable car for a gourmet meal at their mountaintop restaurant.
Other Anchorage highlights included panning for placer gold at the Crow Creek Gold Mine and taking the Alaska Railroad Glacier Discovery Train to Whittier, from where we cruised past 26 magnificent glaciers in the Prince William Sound on the Klondike Express catamaran.
Yukon Territory, Canada
Our small press group of four journalists, ably led by our Tourism Yukon host, “Yukon Jim,” enjoyed a peaceful guided fishing jaunt on serene Desadeash Lake, and a glacier flight-seeing tour over Kluane National Park’s massive glaciers and ice fields.
Dawson City, the site of the famous 1898 gold rush, was also a lot of fun. The dancers in Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall performed great renditions of the can-can and honky-tonk era, and we visited the original Discovery Claim, Dredge #4, and did a mine tour with Gold Bottom Mine Tours.
Along with a squad of 14 journalists, my trip to Nashville was, as expected, highly entertaining. We visited some of the U.S.A’s most sacred musical shrines: the Ryman Auditorium, the new George Jones Museum, and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
But that’s not all. We sampled Tennessee’s finest whiskey at Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, saw some of the finest country musicians perform at the Bluebird Café, and capped off an exciting week watching the Grand Old Opry, a memorable experience.
I also toured the superb classic cars at the Lane Motor Museum and the unique military exhibits at the Tennessee State Museum. Our Nashville tour included an “outdoor adventure” day wherein I took some unintentional swan dives from my stand up paddleboard and some rather ungraceful zip lining on our Adventure Works Canopy Zip line Tour.
But, perhaps this year’s most memorable travel moment was last week, on my press trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan. One of my assignments was to write about the Yankee Air Museum in Ann Arbor and my flight in a World War II C-47 Skytrain aircraft. We toured the museum, checked out the fascinating artifacts in their storage rooms, and even met a WWII veteran working on a glider that he trained other GIs in.
Then we walked through B-17 and B-24 bomber aircraft, explored the cavernous manufacturing plant where these aircraft were made. Then, at last, we took a flight in the C-47. We flew in perfect weather through the sunny blue sky over Ann Arbor’s suburbs, imagining what it must have been like for the young 101st Airborne paratroopers who flew in this plane on the evening before the D-Day landings at Normandy. I certainly enjoy travel assignments at luxury resorts and exotic destinations, but this was my finest 2015 travel moment.
My other press trips over the past few months included Virginia City (September), Denver (October), and a Wine Tasting tour in Richland, Washington (November).
How did I manage to secure all these travel gigs?
After taking the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop in August 2007, I went on a monumental pitching binge, where I sent queries out to hundreds of magazines.
I soon noticed it was easier to get my travel articles published in non-travel magazines than in “pure” travel magazines. Within two years, I’d established regular gigs with several print magazines in a wide variety of genres, ranging from communications magazines to military and history magazines and from food, wine, and beer magazines to travel magazines.
I even shoehorned my travel stories into classic car magazines, country magazines, regional lifestyle magazines, and several other media genres—anyone who would buy my stories. I was paid everything from $150 per article to four figure contracts.
Once I had a number of “regular” outlets lined up, I was able to choose interesting destinations in North America, S.E. Asia, and Europe, and then line up press trips to them.
What leverage did I use for my press trips? I simply cast around for multiple assignments about my destinations to the editors of my “regular” magazines.
After accumulating several assignments I would politely contact the Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) in the countries I wanted to visit, and request assistance with transport, accommodation, meals, and entry to tourist attractions. And in almost every case, they were happy to arrange these complimentary services for me.
Occasionally, I arranged these complimentary perks through the “back door,” approaching the tourist attractions and hotels directly.
Around this time, a public relations company approached me. They’d heard I was a prolific travel writer with many different outlets and they wanted me on their team of journalists. They invite me on two-dozen press trips each year—most of which I have to politely decline as I don’t have the time for them all. I managed to take three of their press trips in 2015 and they were all fabulous.
While I make this all sound easy, there is obviously work involved.
And you need to be skilled at playing this travel writing game. I apply every tip I learned in the GEP travel writer’s workshop to parlay my assignments into free travel—and it works.