How One Travel Writer Travels Like a King and Rarely Pays for It
HOW ONE TRAVEL WRITER TOOK A $5,000 TRIP FOR A FEW HUNDRED BUCKS
By Roy Stevenson in Seattle, Washington
When I go on a trip, I like to have multiple assignments lined up in advance so that I can have most of my trip paid for by the tourist and visitor’s bureaus at my destination.
Here’s the math on my recent four-week trip to S.E. Alaska in August that ended up costing a fraction of what a normal tourist would pay…
I made a huge saving on complimentary hotel accommodation. All except three nights were covered by the tourist agencies.
Hotels averaged about $100 a night, so I saved $2,000 there. I also saved big on press passes to all the tours and attractions that I visited, often with a personal guide—these saved me at least $1,200. Complimentary meals saved me a further $900 at some great restaurants.
These savings, plus the $700 I was comped for my travel on the Alaska Marine Highway System, totaled $4,800. And I paid out of pocket around $900, which included flying in to Juneau, four nights’ accommodation, some meals, and a few small souvenirs and books.
All in all, a great deal for four weeks in Alaska and some memorable guided tours and excursions.
Here’s how it’s done . . .
It’s really through a combination of two tried-and-true approaches.
First, you need to line up as many assignments as you can before you leave for your destination. This way you’ll bring in some income from the trip and you’ll be able to prove to the tourist board and hotels that you’re really going to do the work of getting your experiences on paper. Then, you need to arrange your trip.
There is some work involved in this, obviously. First, research the place and come up with as many story angles as you imagine. Then, pitch your story ideas out to any magazine or newspaper where you think such a story might belong—blitz those magazine editors with your query e-mails. You should start this process three to four months before you take your trip.
Once you have some assignments, contact the media director at the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) at your destination and let them know you’re loaded with assignments and that you’re hoping they’ll help you when you visit.
In the U.S. (and some overseas countries), you’ll find the CVB reps only too pleased to accommodate. You see, it’s a symbiotic relationship. You’re bringing in lots of nice free publicity about their place and in exchange they help with meals, accommodation, and complimentary entry into the tourist attractions, museums, and tours in their territory.
If you’re really lucky, they might even pay for your airfare to their area, although this is becoming less frequent due to budget cuts.
For my Alaska trip, I pre-sold a series of three articles to a magazine about gold panning tours and gold rush history that panned out (get it?) nicely for me. I also sold an article about the Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau to a beer magazine. I sold a story about traveling on the Alaska Marine Highway System to a motorcycle touring magazine.
I arranged to write a roundup piece about Juneau, Haines, Skagway, Petersburg, and Ketchikan for several online travel magazines. In exchange for complimentary travel on the Alaska Marine Highway System, I arranged to write a nice article about using this marvelous ferry transport system, and I also had strong interest from two kayaking magazines for stories about kayaking tours at three of those places, dependent upon the photographs that I took on the tours.
Armed with these assignments, I contacted the CVBs at these towns and all agreed to help me with comp hotel accommodation (except for three nights), most meals, and press passes to all tourist attractions that we thought would be congruent with my assignments.
Most travel writers know we’re not going to get rich with travel writing, but we’ll show you dozens of stamps from exotic countries in our passports—we visit more places in one year than most 9-to-5-ers will see in five years.
You can travel like this, too. Between your article payments and comp travel, you’ll have a nice inexpensive trip. If you hold down a job with regular hours, you can still do this part-time, with some time management and good planning. So, next time you’re looking at your passport, imagine what it will look like with most of the pages stamped.
[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.]