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When was my last vacation? As a travel writer, my “work” is what a lot of people might call a vacation.  For example, in the last several months, I’ve enjoyed these trips… all complimentary…

5-Day Press Trip to Fredericksburg, Texas where my meals were all free and my itinerary included a wineries tour in Texas Hill Country, a brewing company tour, a visit to Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park, the Luckenbach country music town, and more. 

6-Day Press Trip along Central Oregon Coast with all transport, meals, and resort accommodation included. Here I got to go whale watching at Depoe Bay, take a cruise on Marine Discovery Tour boat, visit Sea Lion Caves at Cape Perpetua, go dune-boarding, take a helicopter tour and a dune buggy ride. 

9-Day Self-Guided Fam Tour of Virginia with airfare, meals, and accommodation. Here I got to do a tour of Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and James Madison presidential homes, a guided tour of Manassas battlefield with park ranger, visit the U.S. Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, and take a guided tour of Air & Space Museum at Hampton. 

4-Day Self-Guided Fam tour of Tri-Cities, Eastern Washington, with a guide from CVB, including all wine-tastings, hotels, sampling, and excursions. I visited five wineries, went kayaking on Columbia River, took a jet boat trip past Hanford Reach National Monument area, and enjoyed cheese sampling at Cheese Louise in Richland, visited a distillery, and took a hike up Badger Mountain. 

Sound too good to be to true?  As a travel writer, it never is. I’ll explain…

Exciting trips like the above are offered all over the United States to qualified travel writers. Known as press trips (or “FAM” tours), these tours are usually hosted by the local Convention and Visitor’s Bureaus (CVBs), Chambers of Commerce, and PR agencies.

There are many types of press trips. Some tourist bureaus offer a comprehensive, all-encompassing tour that takes in most of the region’s main tourist attractions. Other press trips offer themes or specialty tours such as culinary, cultural, or historical tours.  There are usually four to seven writers on FAM (familiarization) tours, which last anywhere from two to 10 days. 

Writers with assignments in regional, national, or international media are treated very well on these press trips and given complimentary accommodation, meals, free entry to tourist attractions, and often, transportation with guides. 

FAM tours are easy for writers because the CVB does all of the organizing: meals, the tour bus, accommodation, and visits to attractions. It’s all on the house. You simply go along for the ride, shepherded around by one or two reps from the CVB who are trying hard to impress you. They’ll take you to their nicest restaurants, put you up in their best hotels, and show you their most interesting attractions. The downside of a FAM tour is that you’re on the CVB’s schedule and you’ll see what they want you to see rather than what you may want to see.

A self-guided FAM tour is like a group FAM tour except that you decide where you want to go, what you want to see, and when you’ll take the tour. Some self-guided FAM tours last a week or more, depending on the generosity of the local CVB. 

Self-guided FAM tours are generally more difficult to organize, but they can be potentially more rewarding. After deciding on your destination, what you want to see, and what you want to write about, you’ll need to get those all-important letters of assignment. 

How do you get invited on FAM tours? It’s more a matter of inviting yourself than getting invited. Here’s what you do: Contact the CVBs in your region and politely request that they put your name on the list for future FAM tours or press trips.

For self-guided FAM tours, once you have your letters of assignment, contact the CVB at your destination and let them know the details of your trip. Once the CVBs know what you want to see, they’ll organize your tour itinerary for you.  This is a big time saver for you because they know where each attraction is located, how long you’ll probably spend at each one, and how long it takes to drive from one place to the next. 

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