Trip Planning for Travel Writers: How to Decide Where to Go and What to Write About
Travel-writing assignments now have me on the road for four or five months each year.
By the end of 2011, I will have done a five-day press trip along the Northern Oregon Coast and an eight-day self-guided tour of Southern Oregon; stayed in several Washington and Oregon resorts and B&Bs; and spent three weeks on a press trip of Southeast Alaska, stopping off at five towns along the Alaska Marine Highway.
I will also have toured a dozen Puget Sound microbreweries. Sailed on a four-day beer cruise on a historic schooner in the Salish Sea. Spent a week wine-tasting in the Columbia River Gorge, plus two days wine-tasting in the alpine village of Leavenworth.
Internationally, I will have spent three weeks touring Europe with stops in Paris, Monaco, and England. And taken a five-week trip to New Zealand.
I already have invitations to visit three regions in Washington State next year and have had to decline two more trips this year.
How did I manage to make all of this happen?
I have developed two systems for organizing my trips that work very well for me, enabling me to travel for free or low cost wherever I go.
My first system is the most commonly used one by travel writers and has worked well for me for destinations in the U.S. and Europe. I look at a place that interests me, and then find out what exactly that place has to offer in terms of travel article potential. Then I taper my pitches and query letters to the various angles that my research has uncovered.
For example, with my upcoming trip to Alaska in August, I researched the five towns I am visiting and found that they offer a wealth of outdoor activities like kayaking, off-road four-wheel-drive adventures, and gold mining and panning.
I tracked down magazines in these genres, pitched them the stories, and have pre-sold several articles on these topics. I also found an innovative brewery that uses sustainable energy and pre-sold an article about this to an environmental website. I also found several online travel magazines that will take any round-up stories that I submit about these places.
These assignments and publications gave me enough credibility to approach the Convention & Visitor’s Bureaus in the area where I’ll be traveling (CVBs) to help arrange accommodation, tours, and meals.
Another system I use for free or low cost travel is planning niche trips. For example, when in Europe, I visit a lot of military museums, memorials, and battlefields. Having been widely published in military magazines, I had no trouble getting assignments in advance for some of these publications. Last year, I pre-sold 25 articles to 11 different magazines (most of them military themed), which was enough to pay for my trip. And since returning, I have sold several more articles from the trip.
I find that it’s easier to pre-sell niche market stories to specialty magazines than to sell roundup travel stories to general travel magazines. And some of these specialty magazines pay well. I made $750 off one article about automobiles and $300 for some short military museum pieces for military magazines.
At The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop in Chicago, you’ll learn all about these niche markets because, in the end, they’ll become a big part of your success.
I can’t go this year because I’ll be in Alaska. But it was the jumpstart I needed. And it was a lot of fun, too.
[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.]