If there was a single question asked by everyone who knows I write travel this is it, “How can I get on a press trip?” They also have said, “Can I hide in your luggage?” or “Can I be your photographer?” or “Can I marry you?”
Without question, for many this is the golden ticket or dangling carrot of travel writing reward, when money is not always an option, and the question comes up all the time from both experienced and novice travel writers that I hear from.
Here is the truth, press trips happen all the time. I have three invitations in my inbox right now. I also send writers on trips when the opportunity works out. Of course, I have a number of reliable writers that are willing to hop on the plane for the cause of promoting travel, but how can a new writer find a golden ticket of their own?
Here is the short list of things to do other than buying up all the Wonka bars. I am not sure why I am incorporating a Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory theme here.
1. Make friends with an editor.
This does not mean become their pal. It means be reliable, hit word counts, meet deadlines, be dependable, and write well. Also understand that while I have sent writers out on trips after having only written a story or two, it does not happen often, especially with other editors. Usually, when a writer asks about free trips without having developed a relationship with me first, the request never sounds good.
2. Make friends with pr firms and tourism board folks.
Again, this does not mean be their pal. It means keep them posted to where your writing is appearing, especially if it is a staff position. Find out what events, anniversaries, or promotions are upcoming up and see if you can place a story about one of them for them. For the record, I have been invited on dozens of trips, but I have never requested invitation. I have seen other writers do it and it makes me go yuck. I might have missed out on a couple that I wished I had gone on, but I would rather maintain a professional approach than be known as an opportunist.
3. Go to conventions and media events.
Then follow steps 1. and 2.
A final thought
While a press trip is free and usually filled with opportunities a regular tourist will not have access to, it is still work because you are on someone else’s dime and someone else’s schedule. Expect long days, delicious food and hectic deadlines to get your stories in on time.