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Imagine getting this news…

“You will be traveling from Feb 14-16. We will send you round trip vouchers for BC Ferries to Vancouver Island, which will also include complimentary passes for the Seawest Lounge and the Pacific Buffet.

“I will book you in at the Accent Inns in Victoria for February 14 and 15. I will also request a media attractions pass from Tourism Victoria. I can have them send it to the hotel or to the Visitor Information Centre along with a press kit for your reference.”

How exciting — I’d landed a press trip on my very first try. This gave my husband and me a romantic, three-day Valentine’s weekend at someone else’s expense.

Here’s what I did to land this trip and what you can do to earn one, too.

Before I landed the press trip:

STEP #1: I joined AWAI last June to help me attain a personal life-goal: To generate future retirement income as an international travel writer and photographer. I joined the ITWPA, which taught me more about press trips. And I listened to AWAI’s seasoned writers when they stressed that if you want to land a press trip, you need to build your resume. And to build your resume, you should start locally.

STEP #2: I wanted a resume with clout, so I telephoned my local newspaper editor and offered to write a travel column for free. During our telephone conversation, I told the travel director what I could offer, stating my preferred writing style and photographic accomplishments. After an enthusiastic transfer directly to the publisher, I sealed the deal in 15 minutes and my new column, “Here, There and Everywhere,” made its debut July 9, 2008.

STEP #3: I did my research. Somewhere along the e-mail trail of helpful resources, AWAI recommended Media Kitty (www.mediakitty.com). I subscribed and found the media trip to Victoria. I inquired with a brief e-mail citing my interest, credentials, and links to my gallery and travel column. In three days, I was accepted to go on the press trip for free.

What I did next:

STEP#4: I wanted to write a story on my press trip and get paid. So I returned to Media Kitty A.S.A.P. to post an “Assignment Desk” message seeking editors interested in my upcoming “How-To” in Victoria. Within 18 hours, the editor of a regional magazine contacted me asking what my “one-time, non-exclusive rate” was. This is where writing for the newspaper for free paid off for me.

STEP #5: Throughout the trip, I took notes and collected business cards or contact information from each helpful person we met. More important than landing the press trip was making sure I got everything I needed for the story and also showing my appreciation for everyone who helped after our return.

STEP #6: I enjoyed the trip and the perks, taking notes along the way. My husband and I cruised the Gulf Islands with complimentary refreshments and full buffet meals, photographing picturesque island-scapes and leisuring like the rich and famous.

Using our attraction passes, we toured the Royal BC and Maritime Museums, Fort Rodd Hill, Fisgard Lighthouse, and the delightful Victoria Butterfly Gardens.

We dined where the locals hide out and toasted new friends at the Irish Times Pub. We browsed galleries, bookstores, and Chinatown… admired a chalk artist sketching a sidewalk masterpiece…waltzed alongside the carillon… sampled fine wines and decadent chocolates.

At night, the prestigious Parliament buildings and harbor came alive with twinkling lights, transforming our promenade stroll into a starlit fairytale. How apropos for our Valentine weekend.

What I did after the trip:

Step #7: I followed through and wrote the story. “Victoria: An Island Ferry-Tale” (with images) ran in the Ferndale Record Journal just two weeks after the trip. I satisfied the sponsors’ requests by promoting local travel for mid-income households and highlighting BC Ferries and Accent Inns. Additionally, I noted driving directions, costs, freebies, insider tips, and attraction information.

STEP #8: Grateful for their participation, I quickly e-mailed personal thank you notes to each sponsor and person who helped along the way, followed by snail-mail clippings of the story.

What’s next for me? I’ve been offered three more trips!

[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.]

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