Introduction to travel perks for travel writers

By David Hammond 
Breaking into travel writing requires effort and stick-to-itiveness.

But then. In time. It happens.

If you’re a freelance travel writer, “breaking in” means building up a portfolio and forming good working relationships with editors.

If you’re a travel blogger, “breaking in” means establishing a sizable following.

And when this comes to pass, doors to new opportunities open, which includes travel perks.

If you're wondering, what exactly are travel perks? You’re in the right place.

Travel perks include:
  • Publication-sponsored research trips
  • Press trips 
  • Complimentary hotel stays and travel services
  • Travel costs as legitimate tax deductions 

Publication-sponsored research trips
Your travel costs reimbursed
Plus, a ready buyer for your articles

Some magazines will reimburse your travel costs while you carry out article research for their publication.

Publication-sponsored travel is a great arrangement. The magazine or media company reimburses your travel expenses, and also buys the articles you write from the trip.

Who gets publication-sponsored travel:
  • Publication employees, such as senor staff writers and editors (many editors also write) 
  • Contributing editors (a contributing editor is a proven freelance travel writer who regularly contributes to a given publication) 
As a contributing editor, you may propose a publication-sponsored research trip to the appropriate publication editor. Or, a publication editor may propose a research trip to you—a writer, he or she believes is a good match for a particular 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.

The only limitation is this: A publication will likely require that you don't submit work based on a trip they pay for to other publications, which is only fair.

Press trips
Free or low-cost destination tours 

Press trips are free or low-cost tours organized for travel writers. The purpose of a press trip is to encourage you to write about a targeted destination—often a city, region, or country.

The press trip organizer—usually a convention and visitors bureau or a public relations firm—plans  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 meet and network with other travel writers.

Who goes on press trips: 
  • Staff writers for established media outlets 
  • Freelance writers with a reputation for getting their work published in high-circulation publications
  • Bloggers with a large following
To go on a press trip, a freelancer writer or blogger often contacts the organizer with a request to join the tour group, which may involve completing an application.

For freelance writers, many press-trip organizers require an assignment letter from a high-circulation publication as a condition to join the tour.

For bloggers, an organizer may request a media kit providing statistics on the scope and characteristics of your blog’s readership.

However, as you build your writing credits and expand your relationships and reputation in the travel writing world, organizers may soon be the ones pursuing you with press trip invitations.

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

Complementary travel services 
Free or discount lodging and travel services while traveling on your own 

Another option for freelance travel writers and bloggers is to request complimentary accommodations and travel services directly from hotels and travel businesses.

A complimentary stay or service familiarizes you with the hotel or travel service. And if it checks out, you will include it in an article, a blog post, or your social media.

It’s unlikely every hotel and accommodation will respond positively to your request. But for hotels and travel services seeking greater media exposure, it can result in a win-win arrangement.

Who gets complimentary travel services:
  • Freelance writers with a reputation for getting their work published in respected publications
  • Bloggers with a large following
Like press-trip organizers, many hotel managers and travel service providers require an assignment letter from freelance writers and reach statistics from bloggers before making a deal.

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

For bloggers with a large following, some resorts and PR firms representing destinations will pay you to visit and report on their destination, as well a provide complementary lodging and services.

Travel costs as legitimate tax deductions
Your travel costs may become tax deductible 
You move with complete freedom

 Interestingly, it sometimes makes the best business sense to pay own travel costs.

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

By bearing your own costs, you can write articles for multiple publications on the same trip.

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

And if you're travel-writing business is making a profit (or you're building up your travel-writing business with a reasonable expectation of making a profit) many of your travel expenses may be legitimate tax deductions. (Talk with your accountant to learn the specifics.)

Who gets to go: 
Any travel writer or blogger with the money to travel. But, to make a profit:

  • A freelance writer with an established reputation and relationships with multiple editors. 
  • Or, a blogger with enough blog revenue to support her or his travels.