American writer Susan Sontag once said, “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”
One of the reasons we become travel writers is because we love traveling to anywhere and everywhere. But the cost of everything we’d love to see and experience can be prohibitive.
There’s hope though, because savvy travelers know how to navigate that obstacle…
Rather than spending our own money, we provide a service and then travel for free… on someone else’s dime.
Here are a few tips that paid off big time for me… simple tips you can easily replicate for big rewards:
Network to establish relationships
The best travel opportunities don’t always come to you. You have to find them.
This can happen when you network with other writers, become active in social media groups, and join professional writing organizations.
By establishing relationships through networking, I’ve received all-inclusive press trips covering flights, rental cars, meals, and activities like kayaking, horseback riding, and zip-lining.
Be polite with tourism reps
When a magazine provides an assignment, destination tourism board reps become your best friends. They know their area well and can set you up with complimentary lodging and other perks… all in exchange for a published story.
So, always be polite and respectful—communicate professionally, don’t be demanding, and take the time to say thank you.
By doing this, I’ve had tourism reps book me the most impressive accommodations (oceanfront rooms) at five-star boutique hotels. They’ve also included activities like whale-watching, sunset cruises, and five-course dinners with wine pairing.
For example, a recent couple’s weekend in stunning Laguna Beach would have cost $1,500 out of pocket. Instead, it cost me nothing except tips and the time to pen a thank-you note to the tourism rep upon returning home.
You may wonder how meeting a deadline can yield travel opportunities. It can: in more ways than one.
First of all, tourism reps like to have a general idea of when the article will publish. I never promise an exact date in case there’s an unanticipated delay. But I keep them in the loop. When the story publishes, I provide a link.
After working with me on a five-day press trip, one tourism rep was so pleased she referred me to another California coastal destination. That referral landed my hubby and me yet another all-inclusive no-cost beach vacation.
Meeting deadlines also works magic with editors. When an article is submitted ahead of schedule, editors are thrilled.
Happy editors equal more letters of assignment. This equals more trips for you.
You’ve probably heard the saying “under-promise and over-deliver.” It holds true in the world of travel writing.
For example, when I take a press trip, I already know the publications I’m writing for. Let’s say I’ve promised the tourism board two published stories for a trip. But once I’m on location, doors open that often provide opportunities for additional articles. So, instead of just delivering two stories, I deliver three or four. That makes the reps extremely happy.
Strive for excellence
Delivering a well-written story, with little to no required editing, makes the editor’s job so much easier. This “striving for excellence” mentality has paid big dividends for me in terms of free travel.
Editors not only come to me with assignments (resulting in complimentary travel), but one of my editors even recommended me for a press trip to China he couldn’t attend. Then, a free trip to the Caribbean.
When I look back at the thousands of dollars of free travel I’ve had as a result of my travel writing, it’s astounding.
It may have all started with my desire to travel to more destinations without wreaking havoc on my budget. But the light really went off when I realized that being smart and savvy was the master key to unlocking more travel opportunities than I ever dreamed possible.
You can do it, too… just follow the tips above, and they will pave the way toward becoming an in-demand travel writer—one who’s first in line for exciting and complimentary travel perks.