Traveling the world, meeting new, interesting people and being paid to write about your adventures… isn’t that a dream many of us have? And I’m not talking about bumming around on the cheap, surviving on bread and wine (as I did in my younger days in Europe), lugging all your worldly possessions in an over-sized backpack, either.
I’m talking first-class accommodations all the way.
Accommodations you won’t even have to pay for. In fact, after you’ve read this article, you may find that you can turn travel and writing into a very profitable business. And don’t worry all you “homebodies” out there; you can still make money from this opportunity even if you’re not willing to leave your hometown.
In fact, let’s tackle that first…
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Being a Stay at Home Travel Writer
Though this may seem counter-intuitive, there is absolutely a way that you can become a travel writer without ever leaving the snug confines of your home.
There are two ways you can do this.
First, if you have a reliable Internet connection, access to a public library, and a touch of flair to your prose, you can soon find yourself being paid to write about faraway India and the beautiful French Riviera.
Don’t believe me? Have a look at the travel section in Yahoo! right now. Chances are, you’ll find a number of articles on a range of topics: top 10 cities for recent grads, top 10 European tourist destinations, top 5 Asian countries for travelers on a budget, and so on. Do you think the person writing that article has traveled to each city or country they’re writing about? Of course not!
That’s because, with the amazing plethora of information now available on the Internet, you can get all the juicy details and sensuous observations online.
Want to write about an article for families thinking of traveling to, say, Australia?
A quick Google search will quickly provide the top tourist destinations, the best hotel prices, and even pictures of the country, so you can color your article with actual illustrations of the shimmering Sydney Harbor or the rusty-sanded Outback.
And the reason I mentioned having access to a public library above is that I’m a bit of an old-school researcher. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a time when a trip to the library was obligatory whenever you had to do research for a school report, but I find the atmosphere (and the books!) very conducive to writing and research. It’s a personal preference, but it’s one I wanted to pass along to you.
The other stay at home travel writing opportunity is this: simply write about attractions and destinations of interest to tourists in your hometown or area – or even places you’ve traveled before.
Sure, it helps if you live in a really cool spot like New York City or Key West. But even Omaha, Nebraska is of interest of at least some travelers.
Wait! I Actually Enjoy Traveling!
Ah, I was hoping you’d say that, because I love travel, too. And the only thing I love more than traveling is traveling for free…or better yet, getting paid to travel.
I’m here to tell you there’s a way you can do this, too. I’m talking about traveling to some of the most desirable locations on the planet, like the Virgin Islands, Indonesia, Italy, you name it, and you can make a trip there happen for free.
Here’s how: hotels, airlines, and resorts love publicity coming from unbiased, third-party members of the media. That’s right, the media. And that’s exactly what I’m going to show you how to become.
First, you’ll want to start a website. Head over to www.godaddy.com and register a domain name with a nice, travel-oriented flair to it. Then get hosting and set up WordPress to build the site. If you’re tech-savvy and can build the content and design of the website yourself, great. But if not, don’t worry. Website construction can be easily and cheaply outsourced. Simply advertise the job on a website such as www.elance.com, and you’ll soon have web designers competing for the job.
Now you have to start filling the site with content. All your articles should be in the travel niche, in your specific geographic or specialization if necessary.
Since you’re going to want a fairly large website (about 50 or so pages) you might even want to outsource some of this article writing, depending on the amount of capital you have. Like I said above, you don’t even have to leave home to write travel articles, so building the content for your website is something you can absolutely do yourself; it will just take a little more time. Set reasonable goals – 50 pages is a daunting number for any writer, so give yourself time to build the website. Write an article or two every other day, for instance.
Next, you want to promote your website. Adding content regularly will put you high in the search engine rankings, and offering diverse content (audio, video, newsletters, etc.), and having a presence on social media websites like Twitter and Facebook will also help in driving traffic to your site.
Getting Paid To Take a Vacation
Now that you have a fairly large website devoted to traveling, you can approach different resorts, hotels, cruise lines, and such and inform them that you would like to write a review of their establishment for your website. Show them the amount of traffic your website already has. Mention that you’ve heard great things about their resort and a review on your website, written by yourself after a visit, would be a win-win situation for both parties.
Another route to becoming a successful travel writer is doing it the more old-fashioned way: getting a few articles published under your own name, building your credibility as a qualified writer, and letting the perks come to you.
You see, while resorts and other popular destinations can buy advertising space and market themselves, they also realize the value of positive exposure in conventional magazines. If their hotel is mentioned in a travel hub like Conde Nast Online, for instance, that good press can be more valuable to them than a splashy full-page ad. There are also many online only publications that are eager for content from newcomers (see resources below).
To get in those pages, it’s as a simple as looking on the publication’s websites for submission guidelines and following them to the T when submitting content. You can start with short “snippet” type articles. For example, the top 5 restaurants in your hometown, or the most romantic sunset spot in south Florida. Then once you get to know the editors, you can submit (and even be invited to send in) longer, more in-depth pieces.
And once you’re recognized as a pro in the business, you can expect hotels, airlines, and even tourist boards to invite you to experience a place for free in the hope that you’ll write about it. But you don’t have to take such a laid-back approach to getting these perks. Once you’ve built up your credibility, you can absolutely approach hotels, museums, resorts, and airlines and parlay your status into some great free perks.
Tips for Approaching Hoteliers
When you send off your initial query letter about getting a comped room, don’t send it to the general information email address that’s usually provided on their contact information page. Dig a little deeper and try to find the PR department’s email, or better yet, the director of the department.
If all goes well, you’ll be offered a complimentary stay at the resort or cruise line of your choice. Your job now is to go there, experience all it has to offer, soak up the relaxation, and then write a review of your stay.
It might be hard to get that first complimentary vacation, but once you do, the others will follow much easier, believe me. Showing that you can offer a hotel or resort free and widely-read review, they’ll be lining up to offer you complimentary rooms and services. And then you’ll be well on your way to the land of the frequent flyer and international jet-setter and all the perks that provides.
And remember, in these cases, a little chutzpah goes a long way.
I wish you the best of luck!
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P.S. I’ve just given you all the tips you need to become a travel writer by staying at home or traveling yourself. But here a few resources to make that dream become a reality.
Building Your Travel Writing Website
Tips for Getting Published and Comped
Inspiration for Your Travel Writing Career