Introduction to travel perks for freelance travel writers

By David Hammond 

Establishing yourself as a proven travel writer—that is, developing good working relationships with respected publications—requires effort and stick-to-itiveness.

But then.

In time.

It happens.

And when it does, new doors of opportunity open, which include travel perks.

Travel perks for freelance travel writers include:

  • Publication-sponsored research trips
  • Press Trips 
  • Complimentary hotel stays and travel services
  • Travel costs as legitimate tax deductions 
  • Speaking engagements 

Seem interesting?

If so, read on.

Publication-sponsored research trips

Your travel costs reimbursed, plus a ready buyer for your work 
Publication-sponsored research trips are a great arrangement. The publication reimburses your travel expenses for approved research AND buys the articles you produce from that research.

Who gets publication-sponsored travel
Sponsored travel opportunities usually go to freelance writers who contribute regularly to the same publication over time, building a relationship of trust.

Sometimes you, the writer, propose a research trip to a publication editor. Other times, an editor may propose a research trip to you—a writer well suited for a given assignment.

In either case, you and the editor will likely work together

  • to set trip objectives
  • discuss research findings
  • and agree on article assignments from the trip.

Note: It’s often stipulated if a publication sponsors your research trip, you don’t submit work based on that trip anyplace else—which is only fair.

Press Trips

Free or discounted tours organized for travel writers
The purpose of a press trip is to encourage you to write about a targeted destination.

The press trip organizer—often a convention and visitors bureau or a public relations firm— plan the itinerary.

Joining a press trip is a low-cost way to orient yourself with the promoted destination.

Press trips also provide an opportunity to network with other travel writers.

Who goes on press trips
Press trips usually go to freelance writers with a reputation for getting their work published in high-circulation publications.

To go on a press trip, you contact the organizer with a request to join the tour, which may involve completing an application.

Conditions to join a press-trip tour 
Many press-trip organizers require freelance writers to provide an assignment letter from a publisher.

However, as your reputation builds, organizers may be the ones coming to you, requesting you attend an upcoming press trip.

Note: While many travel publications accept freelance articles based on press-trip research, not all do. So, if you want to take advantage of this type of travel perk, build relationships with publications that don't object to articles from press trips.

Complimentary hotel stays and travel services 

Requesting complimentary accommodations and travel services directly from hotels and travel businesses while traveling on your own 
The idea is similar to a press trip. You receive a complimentary stay or travel service to become familiar with it, so you can write about it.

Not every business will respond positively to a proposal of this sort. But for hotels and travel services seeking greater media exposure, it can result in a win-win arrangement.

Who gets complimentary lodging and travel services
Freelance writers with a reputation for getting their work published in respected publications.

Like press-trip organizers, many hotel and travel business managers ask to see an assignment letter before making a deal.

Also, like press trips, some publications do not accept articles based on any aspect of a trip provided free or at a deep discount. So, again, it’s a matter of submitting your work to publications that accept such pieces.

Travel costs as legitimate tax deductions

Your travel costs become business expenses
Sometimes it makes the best business sense to simply pay your own travel costs.

Many experienced travel writers with established industry relationships can cover their travel expenses and make a profit.

And if you're travel-writing business is profitable or moving toward profitability, many of your travel expenses may be legitimate tax deductions. (Talk with your accountant to learn the details.)

You move with complete freedom
By bearing your own costs, you can write articles for multiple publications on the same trip.

Also, some magazines that don’t accept articles based on press trips or complimentary services pay significantly higher rates.

Speaking engagements 

Speak at events hosted by travel-related organizations 
Many travel-related businesses and associations put on conferences.

Some of these events include travel writers as guest speakers—speaking on a destination or travel topic they know a lot about.

An event organizer usually covers a speaker’s travel costs and/or pays a speaking fee.

Who gets speaking engagements
Travel writers who get speaking gigs are typically experts on a destination or other travel topic that holds interest for a given conference’s attendees.

What makes a travel writer a topic expert? One hallmark of an expert is to have published a book on his or her travel specialty.