Guest Article — How Writers Can Score Press Trips, Part I: Landing A Press Trip

by Roy A. Barnes

www.inkthinkerblog.com — For travel writers, it’s challenging to recoup the cost of their trip expenses with sales of articles. Writers can save much if not all of their expenses (and thus, net more from their writing while getting new ideas) when they participate in group or individual press trips (also called FAM {for Familiarization} Trips), where the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) of a city or region (or the Public Relations firm who handles their account) pays some or all of the writer’s trip expenses like air, hotel, attraction fees, and meals, or gets the local venues to “comp (make it complimentary)” the charges. These organizations do this to encourage writers to write about the attractions they wish to see featured.

Writers wishing to attend press trips need to realize a lot of competition for these exists, as well as the expectation that article(s) based on these trips will be published. Here are some tips on scoring a press trip. 

Have Published Clippings

Many CVB/PR firms won’t even consider writers unless they have published travel clippings, which are weblinks or hard copies of your travel articles. At times, this isn’t even enough as the published clippings or potential editorial interest has to be from certain print magazines that focus on specific areas of travel or newspapers with a minimum circulation. Other CVB/PR firms will consider travel websites. In this case, ask the online editor for the monthly/yearly unique visits the website gets. If the numbers/demographics are impressive, you might draw interest from the CVB/PR firm.

For writers who have only non-travel-themed clippings, don’t fret. Think of the publications you’ve been published in. Many of them publish travel-themed articles based on their covered subject matter. Some or all the venues or personalities covered in a press trip could make for a feature article(s) that inspires reader visits. It never hurts to ask editors you’ve built up a good relationship with if they’d consider a travel tie in article. Asking doesn’t cost anything.

Subscribe To Online Travel Newsletters and Cold Call

Three free online sites regularly announce press trips:

As for cold calling, the first two all major expense paid press trips I attended came about because I cold called via email two CVB’s for cities I was interested in visiting. It’s easy to find the CVB of a certain region in the United States just by googling the name of the geographical area and adding “cvb” after it. When I cold call, I inform them I am interested in visiting their area, show the CVB/PR firm some of my online clippings as a travel writer (and include readership statistics if possible); furthermore, I ask if they host press trips, what expenses are covered, then go from there. Don’t expect to score a press trip with every cold call. You may not get any interest, or the CVB/PR firm may only offer to pay a fraction of the expenses, etc. If you’re comfortable with footing some of the major expenses, then it’s more likely you’ll be able to secure a press trip. And remember, your writing-related expenses incurred on the press trip could be eligible for tax purposes, though it’s best to check with the IRS and/or your accountant for specifics.

If the CVB/PR firm doesn’t have any group or individual press trips planned, study the area’s literature (ask them to send you a free media kit) or website and propose your own ideas. Many of the online sites for a city or region have a “Media” page, where you can read press releases, get story ideas, and learn about any upcoming press trips.

Make The Proposal With A Letter of Assignment

A letter of assignment is a letter from the editor of a publication that states the editor is willing to consider an article(s) about the subject matter of the press trip.

What does a letter of assignment contain? A letter of assignment basically contains the contact information of the publication’s editor, greetings to the CVB/PR official, and states that you have been a contributor to the publication and that he approves of you going on this trip to write up the things outlined. It can state what expenses are to be covered.

Speaking of expenses, many publications will not publish articles that come as a result of sponsored travel (that is, some or all your expenses on the trip were covered). Make sure you know the publication’s policy in advance. You may even be able to work with the CVB/PR officials for “press rates.”

What will CVB’s approve of in publications? It’s best to propose your letter of assignment to the CVB/PR official from publication(s) that match the venues they want to promote via your writing. For instance, it wouldn’t be wise to propose asking for a letter of assignment from the editor of an outdoors publication that focuses on skiing, hiking, and rafting when the press trip you’re interested in features a fine dining tour of the Boston area.

Making A Proposal Without A Letter of Assignment

If you can’t get a letter of assignment from the editor you’ve had publishing success with for one reason or another, it’s not necessarily a lost cause. Don’t misrepresent yourself, but use your past publishing successes to let the CVB or PR official know that you can get articles published, and that you’ll do your best to submit to editors. Now, this may lessen your chances of landing the press trip, since a letter of assignment/interest carries a higher probability of getting published because the editor knows what you’re going to write about and you’ve had past success with the publication.

Read Part II, “Things To Keep In Mind Before Attending,” at Kristen’s free e-newsletter, Notes in the Margin.

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Roy A. Barnes writes from southeastern Wyoming. His travel-related articles for pay have appeared at such venues like Transitions Abroad, Live Life Travel, Associated Content, Go World Travel, Northwest Prime Time, and The Traveler. He’s contributed to Inkthinker, Notes in the Margin, and other writing-themed publications like The InkSpotter News, Writer 2 Writer, The Willamette Writer, The Dabbling Mum, and Writng for DOLLARS, plus more.

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3 comments… add one
  • sarah islam Apr 9, 2008

    good article, interesting information. Would have been better if teh writer had elaborated on how foreign travel writers can also get into the loop. Thanks again!

  • Damaria Senne Apr 9, 2008

    Hi Sarah

    Don’t know much about travel writing, but a lot of foreign writers I know ( business, technology; myself included) score international trips by covering niche industry conferences.

    At first the writer approaches the target company’s communications department/its PR firm to discuss the possibility of covering a specific event.

    It helps when you have written about the company that you’re asking to sponsor you, as they may already be familiar with your work.

    Usually I’m asked to submit a resume and letter explaining what value I would bring to the trip. I also provide clips related to the subject. They also like it if you write for more than one publication, as it means they get more coverage.

    However, the writer doesn’t have to guarantee specific articles for specific pubs.

    Depending on the sponsor, the writer may be on a regulated schedule, or the writer may design own programme.

    If you get the chance to design the programme, you can also travel around to see the city and its surrounds and develop some travel articles based on that.

    I’ve also found that multinationals are more inclined to sponsor an international trip than local companies. Maybe in my particular case it’s the availability of resources?

    I hope this helps.

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