I will never forget my first press trip. I had just started writing a travel column for a new regional magazine in Palm Beach where I was living at the time. The editor wanted travel pieces about places throughout Florida. After acquiring a couple of bylines for pieces I had written about parks and other nearby Florida attractions, I decided to attempt an overnight press trip to Palm Island Resort. The resort had been one of my favorite destinations for years and I knew it would make a great article. Using the tips I picked up from Great Escape Publishing’s Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop, I called the resort and asked who handled their media requests. I was given the name and contact information for a public relations firm and, before I knew it, arrangements were in place for a complimentary one-night stay in one of the resort cottages. I remember thinking as I tossed my overnight bag into the car, “I’m going to work, but it sure doesn’t feel like work!” For a travel writer, there’s no better way to get the true essence of a destination than with a visit. From the destination’s perspective, press trips are an ideal way to showcase all they have to offer. We need them, they need us. I’ve been a travel writer for a few years now and have enjoyed press trips to numerous destinations since that first overnight visit to Palm Island. My press trips have included U.S. destinations from California to New York and all kinds of places in between. I’ve traveled to Canada, Norway, Germany, Holland, Peru, Belize, Guatemala, and numerous other destinations. Over the years I’ve developed relationships with tourism representatives which have landed me these amazing trips. But when you’re just starting out, you need a little help. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Get a handful of bylines and join ITWPA. The first thing a destination representative is going to look for is credibility. They want to know you’re really a writer and not just someone looking for a free trip. I used the advice I got at Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop to land a regular travel column in my local newspaper and that’s where my first bylines came from. You can do the same and contact your local paper, or you can try writing for the thousands of other magazines and websites that need content. I also joined the ITWPA to get the monthly member newsletters from Kyle Wagner, a former food critic, editor, and now, full-time travel writer. I use her advice regularly for approaching destinations and requesting press visits. And, at the bottom of every issue, you’ll find a current press trip opportunity.
- Get in touch with a destination’s Convention and Visitors Bureau. The CVB’s are responsible for driving tourism to their destinations and they know the media is the best way to make that happen. Google the destination’s CVB, look for the media tab on the website, and locate contact information. Some CVB’s have forms for you to fill out to be added to their press mailing list. Others simply have you enter your e-mail information. Don’t stop with adding your name to the mailing list. Send a personal e-mail to the director or media relations contact to introduce yourself and let them know you are interested in visiting. Some destinations host group trips while others prefer to work with you to plan individual visits. Both are excellent ways to land a press trip. Just remember to get those bylines first. Don’t waste their time if you haven’t done your homework. You don’t want to be remembered as “that guy.”
- Marketing yourself is vital to success as a travel writer. Networking with destination representatives and experienced writers is an excellent way to accomplish that marketing. Consider attending a media marketplace. Several media marketplaces run throughout the country. Early in my writing career I happened upon MATPRA which is the Mid-Atlantic Tourism Public Relations Association. MATPRA holds a yearly media marketplace which is a bit like speed dating. You have 15-minute appointments with each destination’s representative where you can introduce yourself and find out what the destination has to offer. Then, you’ll attend dinners and cocktail parties to help boost your networking opportunities. Different requirements apply for securing an invitation to each marketplace, but a little research on the Internet will point you in the right direction. Writers of all levels attend, so it’s worth reaching out and giving it a try. The relationships I’ve developed with destination representatives and other writers has led to more opportunities than I could ever have imagined.
And note: Even after all of the press trips I’ve attended, when I start the trip I always think, “I’m going to work, but it sure doesn’t feel like work!” One day this could be you. The hardest part is just getting started. Share on Facebook [Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel. Sign up today here and we’ll send you a report, Get Paid to Travel as a Travel Writer, completely FREE.]