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Travel writer Noreen KompanikI’ve always loved to travel. But before becoming a travel writer, those long weekend and far-away vacation destinations came out of my pocket. It never entered my head that I could travel for free.

When I attended the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop in San Diego, one of the most profound moments for me was when members of the success panel talked about their many adventurous travels and that often these were “on the house.” 

Not just intrigued, I set my sights on landing these types of trips. I believed that if they could experience extraordinary adventures and travel for free, so could I. If I followed a plan, this could be me traveling to the Caribbean, Norway, Thailand or Fiji on someone else’s dime.

One of my personal goals this year was to increase the number of press trips I was taking. Writers need goals. It’s how we get better at what we do. And how we get to travel more often.

Though I’ve had numerous press trips set up by CVBs (Convention and Visitors Bureaus) or Public Relations reps, we writers know the best and most coveted ones are the all-inclusives—the Holy Grail of travel writing.

Networking is vital in this business and it played a crucial role in me landing these press trips— one to beautiful picturesque Northern California’s Mt. Shasta region, the other to the land of the Pandas—China. And these opportunities happened all within the same week. How? Let me explain.

A PR rep in Northern California saw articles I’d written and posted about an up-and-coming California beach town called Oceanside in an online global media network. A press trip was opening for the Mt. Shasta area and she asked if I’d be interested. By coincidence, she knew the Oceanside media rep who confirmed I’d done an outstanding job for them.

Being a columnist and regular contributor to several publications, I quickly reached out to my editors asking if they’d be interested in stories. 

Within the hour, two editors jumped on the bandwagon and, with those “letters of assignment” in my back pocket, I contacted the rep. The four-day, three-night stay includes round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations, rental car, tours, and all meals. 

A few days later, I received an email from one of my editors. He’d been contacted about a press trip to China this fall. He wrote, “I can’t do it, but, I think you should go for it,” and of course, he guaranteed me a story.

In the meantime, three other editors responded that they, too, would be very interested in stories on the region.

I submitted the application with all information requested, and unbelievably 30 minutes later, I was notified I’d been accepted for my first big international press trip—11 days in Chengdu which includes a Yangtze River Cruise. Everything is covered, including airfare. I was over the moon!

Lessons learned from my almost three years of travel writing enabled me to land these two amazing trips in the span of one week. Without them, I would never have had opportunities like these arise:

  • Establish a well-respected reputation for excellence. Deliver a quality product on time or even ahead of schedule.
  • Relationships are crucial in this business. Develop and maintain them with honesty and integrity.
  • Under-promise then over-deliver after a press trip. The PR reps will be impressed. And many times these reps cover more than one region.
  • Network and network even more. Everyone knows something we don’t know and vice-versa. The sharing of information in our industry (the quid pro quo) is key to our success as travel writers.
  • Keep active on social media. The more others know you’re out there; the more doors will open as a result.

When I attended the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop, I didn’t even know travel for free like this was possible. Now, I’m landing more free travel than I could ever have dreamed of—and getting paid. 

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