Monday, 29 December 2008

#67 – Snap up great deals when they’re available

Or the kick up the backside

Covering all costs?
There are some travel writers out there that are too hung up on the idea of making sure that someone else covers all of their costs. They’ll only go somewhere if they know that the tourist board/ hotel/ travel company is paying for everything, including flights.

Personally, I think this is stark raving lunacy. Many of my best articles have come from when I’ve paid for at least part of the trip out of my own pocket. This doesn’t mean I splash money about willy-nilly with no thought given to how I will recoup it, but I am prepared to spend a bit to make a lot.

Buy now, plan later
I work on a general rule that if I can get a flight to a country I’ve not been to before for less than £150 return, I’ll take it. It may be six or nine months down the line, but I can always sort out commissions and tourist board assistance nearer the time

Trip to Cyprus
A good example is my three day trip to Cyprus in June earlier this year. I booked it on Christmas Day 2007 when I saw an absurdly cheap return flight on offer for something like £80. I’d never been there before, fancied a look, and before I knew it, my credit card was out and I’d booked it.

Eight weeks before departure
I didn’t think about it again until about eight weeks before I was due to depart. I then did a bit of research for a few angles I thought would make interesting stories, sent out a few pitches and contacted the tourist board. I ended up with two good commissions, a guide for while I was there, free accommodation and entrance to places I wouldn’t normally be allowed into.

Caribbean in February
Similarly, in February I’m off to the Caribbean for two weeks. I haven’t a clue what I’m going to do there, but a £299 return flight from Manchester to Antigua was too good to turn down. I’ll sort out regional flights, accommodation and commissions nearer the time. I did something similar last year and probably spent about £800 all up – I secured assistance on four of the six islands I visited which kept my costs down. I also ended up getting more than treble that in payment for the resulting articles.

The kick up the backside
Snapping up such deals has more than one effect. Yes, you save money on the ordinary prices, but once you’ve booked, you’re pretty much locked in to doing it. At this point, you stop looking for excuses not to go. You get proactive about reducing your costs whilst on the ground and making money from articles. It acts as that kick up the backside – you’re committed, so you have to make that commitment pay off.


Lara Dunston said...

More great tips here! I totally agree with you on all of this.

Terry and I do exactly the same thing. We find it impossible to plan so far ahead of time, so if we have some time between commissions, we'll get last minute tickets for flights somewhere or hop on trains.

We try to pitch stories as we 'discover' them, or we simply do 'content-gathering', i.e. do research, line up interviews, shoot lots of photos, and later when we have time we pitch away, write them up, and seem to do pretty well selling stuff this way.

Rarely do we not sell stories and make money out of trips like those, but in the cases where we occasionally don't, we trip it as a learning trip anyway. We've experienced the place and gathered knowledge on it, which makes us far better placed than a writer-photographer team who hasn't been there when a commission does come around.

David said...

Yup. I'm exactly the same - it's very rare to not make the money back. And even when I don't, so be it, I've seen somewhere I've not been to before.

Just did Munich and Salzburg on the same principle, and have sold four pieces within a week of getting back.