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When freelance writer Jennifer Stevens and her photographer husband Pat headed to Omaha to do a story for an in-flight magazine, they didn’t have to pay a dime for the trip. And they got to bring the kids along, too.

Granted, they were “on assignment” from the magazine, which offered — in addition to payment for the story and photos — reimbursement for hotel and transportation costs.

But even if you’re not on assignment, you can still save when you’re traveling as a writer. Hotels, museums, restaurants, and other city attractions are often willing to cut you a deal or offer you free admission — even if you can’t say for certain where your article will appear.

Here are three of Jen’s suggestions for arranging discounts and perks:

** 1. Let the tourist board help you. Call or email the tourist board in your destination at least a couple of weeks before you go (the more time, the better — and some request at least a month’s lead time). Introduce yourself as a freelance writer. Mention that you’re coming to town to do a story and let them know which publication (or publications) you’re targeting.

Even if you don’t yet have a firm story idea, talk about who your potential audience is. Ask which sights and activities they recommend. Often the tourist board can provide you a “VIP pass” of some sort that gets you into regional attractions for free. Or, they’ll pass along to you the name of the person to speak with at each place you’d like to visit. And then you can ask that person directly about a special rate.

** 2. Stay on the cheap with a hotel press rate. Contact a hotel in the area, let the P.R. person there know you’re a freelance writer doing a story, and ask if there’s a special discount you might take advantage of. Jen did this before heading to Omaha. First she did enough research to target the hotel she thought her readers would like most. Then she emailed the P.R. person there (whose name she got from the tourist board) and asked if they had a special press rate. They did. Pleased at the prospect of some free publicity, the hotel let her stay with her husband and kids for $75 a night — a $70 discount off the regular rate.

** 3. Arrange for free and discounted entry into museums, parks, and attractions. Start by calling the highlights suggested by the tourist board and asking to speak to their media relations or public relations person. Mention that the tourist board referred you and let them know you’re a writer doing a story on the area. Jen called the zoo in Omaha, for instance, and explained that she was doing a story for an in-flight magazine. The P.R. person there left free tickets at the entrance for her and her family — no questions asked. In fact, Jen received similar invitations to visit every attraction she contacted.

TIP: Don’t forget to send a thank-you email out to everyone who helped along the way. Then, once your story is published, send another thank-you and attach your story and photos.

[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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