Tour providers and visitors bureaus regularly send out requests for writers and photographers to join them — for free — at festivals, resorts, spas, tours, or other fun travel adventures. Here’s a sample press trip release: ***** Places for qualified journalists are available on Star Clippers’ three tall sailing ships during the upcoming winter season in the Caribbean and Costa Rica. Preference is given to those with confirmed assignments, writers with multiple outlets, and writer/photographers. Airfare, cruise fare, port charges, gratuities, select shore excursions, and transfers are provided. We will evaluate all media pitches and will respond to those that most closely match our client’s objectives. ***** “Preference given to writers on assignment.” Scroll down to the bottom of a press-trip announcement and you’ll often see those words or something to that effect. It means that the sponsoring organization wants to be as certain as it can that the trip will generate media coverage. The hosts are looking for the best odds they’ll “get press” in exchange for their hospitality. You can hardly blame them. After all, if they’re going to fly you in, put you up, feed you, and make sure you’ve met all the folks you need to meet… then they want to be sure they’re getting some reasonable return on their investment. So how do you get one of these magical assignment letters that can land you a place on one of these free press trips? You write an editor and ask for one. If you already have a firm assignment, you simply get in touch with your editor and say something like: “Hello, Jim, I’m working on that article we discussed — on non-Disney travel in Northern Florida — and I wonder if you might write me a quick letter of assignment to flash around to PR folks and whatnot? Thank you.” But even if you have an editor who agrees to look at your article “on spec” (meaning you don’t actually have an assignment, yet), that may be good enough to satisfy a PR official looking to fill a press trip. You’ll need, however, to be up-front with that PR official in saying that you’ve got a “spec” assignment. You might increase your chances of garnering a spot on the trip if you’ve got two or three such jobs lined up. One quick note on this front: If you’re in this situation and pitching an article to an editor, check the publication’s guidelines ahead of time to make sure the editors don’t have any rules against publishing articles written by writers who have received special rates or consideration while on the road. Some publications make a point of publishing stories written only by people who have paid full-fare. You’ll just need to make sure you’re not stepping on anybody’s toes. Plenty of publications don’t mind if an article is generated from a press-trip.