When I first started my travel blog, I had no idea that travel writers often receive free trips. But in just the second year of my blog I was invited on 15, and I only had to pay for transportation to the destinations. All of these comped stays were within the region where I live, but most were in cities I had never visited before.
I was still working full-time in the corporate world back then. With limited vacation time and a small budget, I couldn’t travel extensively. Instead, I concentrated on short getaways, places I could spend two or three days. That’s why I chose my local region for my niche.
After my blog was in place and I populated it with several articles about places I had already been, I emailed every visitor bureau in my home state. I told them about my blog and asked to be put on their press lists. I was shocked when two of them sent me invitations to visit their cities. They said they would host my husband and me on a weekend trip. They would pay for our accommodations, meals, and take us to local attractions. I thought, is this for real? Yes, it was.
Following those trips I published several articles about each on my blog and shared the articles on social media. Both of those places have since invited me back multiple times, whenever they’ve had new events or attractions. I’ve built great relationships with them and with others like them by keeping in touch and sharing some of their own blog articles on my social media sites.
Once I realized that visitor bureaus are happy to host travel writers, I got brave and started writing to destinations within the region, letting them know that I’d like to visit and share what they have to offer with my readers. More often than not they agreed to host me. I also began to receive invitations to FAM trips. A FAM (which stands for familiarization) is a trip hosted by a visitor bureau for a group of travel writers. It is on those trips that I met and established great networking relationships with many of my fellow travel writers/bloggers.
That second year, when I went on 15 trips, I stayed at upscale resorts and in glamping cabins, rode on horseback and in two helicopters, participated in a dragon boat race, ate at fine dining restaurants and at iconic 10-seat diners.
I’ve done so much as a blogger that I wouldn’t ordinarily have done on my own, like indoor skydiving, parasailing, and a fishing excursion on one of the Great Lakes. One of the best things I love about travel writing, though, is that I learn more about the backstory of places than I would as a regular visitor. I get private tours, often conducted by the director of an attraction. I see the backstage areas of historic theaters and learn stories that aren’t usually shared. It’s amazing how much even a shop owner opens up when they learn I’m a writer. After all, everyone loves to talk about themselves. All it takes to get them going is a few questions and the announcement that you’re a travel writer.
I am no longer tied to a corporate job, and my husband has joined me as a full partner in our website. We can now travel farther and for longer periods, but we both continue to be amazed at what is in our own backyard—from adventure, like exploring caves and kayaking rivers, to history and art museums, festivals and fairs, and so much more. Looking back, starting local was a great way to begin blogging. Not only did it fit my schedule and budget, but I became known to area destinations as a specialist in the region.
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