Q – Are all travel writers working part-time and do they always receive free trips? I read several of the travel magazines and love their stories of exotic travel. But I always wonder who is paying for their travels and how the financing works.
A – Travel writers are often approached by public relations media to travel to a destination to write about it. Most of the features we see in print and on TV were provided to the writer on a complimentary basis. The one major publication we are aware of that does not accept complimentary travel is the New York Times. We understand that the Associated Press and USA Today also have policies that do not permit subsidized travel for writers on assignment. It is assumed that the destination will be treated fairly and in a generally positive manner. Tourist boards, cruise lines, and hotels routinely offer comp. travel to writers affiliated or freelancing for major publications. Airlines are a bit more hesitant to comp writers but it does happen.
Much of what you read in the consumer travel press is bought and paid for by the destination or product being described, The economics of publishing are such that few publications could afford to send their writers off to the far corners of the earth. Many trips are organized specifically for travel writers and they will travel as a small group. The sponsor can then concentrate on assuring a really spectacular showing.
Travel writers do not enter the profession for the money. They do it for the lifestyle and experiences. Pay varies but is almost consistently low. A payment of $1 per word is not uncommon. It is a better hobby or second job than a neat way to make a lot of money. For examples of some of the best travel writing read anything by Paul Thoreux, Pico Iyer, or the late Anthony Bourdain.