Free or Reduced-Rate Travel Perks
In truth, I’m writing today’s “on-the-ground report” about our Ultimate Money-Making Photo Workshop in New Orleans from the comfort of my own home here in Arlington, VA.
The last two days at the workshop were hectic, and I couldn’t find a spare moment to type up my notes. I thought I might get to it on the plane, but I was asleep before we took off.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one knocked out after this event. It was intense. But fun, too. We laughed so hard on the last day’s Mardi Gras photo shoot, my stomach muscles still hurt.
In between shoots with the models, I went out and bought a Mardi Gras mask, feather boa, and red furry pimp hat.
Attendees took turns posing in front of the studio lights. And in exchange, I gave them a “I got FLASHED in New Orleans at the AWAI Photo Workshop” t-shirt. I’ll try and get some pictures up for you this week (with their permission) so you can see what all the fuss was about.
I did write down a few things I want to send you, though. You’ll find my notes from one of our sessions on Day Three here, below.
I wish I could report back to you on everything we learned throughout the workshop. But for much of each day, there were multiple sessions going on at the same time. So just like the attendees, I had to choose which ones to sit in on.
I’m pasting in here a short sample letter from freelance travel writer Jennifer Stevens’ presentation titled: Your Step-by-Step, Start-Now Plan: How to Turn a 3-Day Family Vacation into $2,700.
In this session, Jen talked not only about landing a paid assignment, but also about getting free or reduced-rate perks when you’re researching and shooting photos on the ground.
Since we get questions about this kind of thing all the time, I thought maybe this letter Jen mocked up could help you…
I just left you a voicemail, but thought to follow up by email. Jasmyn LeFlore at the Visitor’s Bureau suggested I get in touch with you.
I’m a freelancer on assignment for ExpressLane, the in-flight magazine for Express Jet Airlines. I’ll be in Omaha next week with my photographer husband and our three young children. We’re planning to come by your zoo to check it out.
Patrick will be shooting the cover shot for this July issue piece as well as photos for the 4-page spread, so I just wanted to be sure it was ok for us to shoot in your zoo and also simply alert you that we’d be coming by.
Would it be possible for you to leave me a press kit at the front gate? Or I could, certainly, swing by your office and pick one up.
I’m not sure if you have a special press rate we might avail ourselves of or not. If so, that would be great.
I’m afraid I don’t yet know what day we’ll be coming by – it’s likely to be Tuesday or Wednesday.
If you can shoot me an email, great. Otherwise, I’ll call you again once we’re in town or swing by to introduce myself when we’re there.
Can’t wait to see your zoo. I hear it’s spectacular!
P.S. Attached is my assignment letter, just so you have it, as well as a file with one of the stories I’ve done previously for ExpressLane.
Now, a few important points Jen made:
** 1. It’s always easiest to land perks like the free zoo admission she and her family received when you have a firm assignment for a story, just like Jen and Patrick did in Omaha. It makes sense: The zoo figures they’re “the real deal” and the likelihood that they’ll get coverage in a magazine is pretty good. So they’re willing to invite them in at no cost.
** 2. Now, how do you get an in-advance assignment like that? First, get a few by-lines under your belt.
Bottom line: It doesn’t matter if your early articles are paid or unpaid, in print or online. Just get a few “clips” with your name on them. It shows you’re serious, that you understand how the industry works.
** 3. Once you have a few articles published, you begin to establish credibility and a track record. And so at that point it’s easier to both a) land an assignment for an article in advance and b) gain reduced-rate and complimentary access to attractions even if you don’t have a firm assignment.
** 4. When it comes to arranging perks, the earlier you get started the better. It’s best to start your planning at least a month in advance.
** 5. Follow through is important. The only way you’ll consistently land invitations of hospitality when you travel is if you actually “deliver the goods.” That means you DO have to write the articles and take the pictures. You DO need to send a polite thank you to anybody who offered you a perk along the way.
[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.]