Four Days of VIP Treatment: Land Press Trips as a Travel Writer
This Spring I was whisked away on a press trip to Branson, Missouri, and almost immediately taken to watch a marvelous acrobat show. I sat spellbound in my front-and-center VIP seat, watching 40 young Chinese acrobats do amazing gymnastic feats of balance, coordination, and strength.
This was the New Shanghai Circus show, and the athletes performed all manner of spectacular tricks involving aerial ballet, pole climbing, roller-skating, chair stacking, juggling, the bicycle, the Russian Bar, plus dozens of other gravity defying acts.
Afterward, we met and interviewed the acrobats, gaining an insight into how theirs is a much-revered profession in China. The New Shanghai Circus performs in its own enormous new theater and changes its performers every year through a rigorous selection process from all over China. It’s a big deal for these youngsters to live in and perform in the U.S. After the show, our press group left with goody bags that included free CDs of the show.
This was the first of seven shows that I would see in the next four days—all as a VIP guest and all complimentary. Later that day, I watched “It” at the Hughes Brothers Theater, where four generations of the Hughes Family performed lively country, gospel, and rock-n-roll songs, dances, and music, interspersed with comedy acts. The next day, I saw the “Down Home Country” show, with renditions of George Jones, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, and Waylon Jennings songs.
That afternoon, I watched a fabulous two-hour comedy, magic, and song and dance show on the Branson Belle Showboat while we sat in the upper VIP level, eating gourmet meals. In the evening, after dinner at the Black Oak Grill, I rocked to another favorite group of mine at “Take It To The Limit: An Eagles Tribute.”
The following evening, I watched “Oh What a Night: A Tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons,”probably my favorite of all these great shows.
The small rural town of Branson, population 10,000, boasts over 100 shows in 50 theaters! Who knew?
In between shows, we toured the Titanic Museum and then watched fiery Argentine songs and dances on stage at Silver Dollar City, a 120-acre Missouri-style Disneyland nestled in the rolling foothills of the Ozark Mountains.
This press trip had to rate as one of my most fun ever, because of the plethora of exciting family shows and the great hospitality extended to our group of journalists. Everything from the airfare to hotels, meals, and shows, was comped. And we were taxied everywhere by professional media PRs; collected after our shows and taken to our next destination. We met the restaurant owners and chefs, and the performers, for interviews. In short, we were treated like royalty.
How did I land this cool press trip? When you’ve been writing for a while—and if you go about it the right way—you’ll build up a stable of magazine editors that will consistently take your articles. Once you’ve established your reliable “regulars,” you’re well positioned to take advantage of the many press trips that are offered around the country (and even around the world).
And if you’re smart, you’ll also write in a wide variety of genres—the more, the better. That way, you increase the likelihood of being able to write about some aspect of the press-trip destination.
On this trip, I was on assignment for a military magazine, writing about the Branson Veterans Memorial Museum, which has some world-class exhibits including Herman Goering’s silver tea-set and a 70-foot long bronze sculpture of 50 life-sized American soldiers storming a beach, representing every state in the Union. Each of the faces on this sculpture was modeled after a real soldier from each state.
I’m on the road about 150 days each year, and last year went on 21 press trips and FAM tours. I visited 10 states, 19 luxury lodges and resorts, and visited Canada, Singapore, Borneo, and Bali.
I learned how to do all of this, and the tricks of the trade, at the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop in 2007. The workshop accelerated me into the advanced level of travel writing and saved me between three to five years of learning by trial-and-error. In fact, I would have dropped out from travel writing long ago if I hadn’t taken this workshop. I have no hesitation in recommending this workshop. And, if you attend it this year in Boston, I’d be happy to answer your questions on how I got started in freelance travel writing. See you there!
[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.]