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Making Travel Count
by Cindy Ladage

It is common sense to make the most of every travel dime. There's the high cost of gas and admissions fees to parks, historic homes and other stops. By the time you add in food and lodging for a trip, the amount can be enough to make a family park the vehicle and stay home. One way to justify a trip is to look at it as a writing opportunity and turn it into a writing stop. Check with your tax man, it might even be a tax deductible.

While there are many trips or stops that must be made alone to get the full effect of a destination, there are many times when family members or friends can be a boon for a writing gig. Seeing the site through a variety of eyes, especially when writing for family publications, can offer the insight you need to make a travel article marketable.

Senior News & Times, that I write for, appreciates comments from my mother whose age is a bit closer to their readership than my own (though not by much anymore!). When writing a story about a museum or historic home for Little Green, a John Deere children’s magazine, a comment or two from someone in that age bracket is always appropriate and appreciated by parents. They like to ensure that when they take junior somewhere, it is a trip the whole family will enjoy, not just a parent destination dressed up to look like a place for kids. My cousin writes a family column for a newspaper and her children’s insights about the places she visits are what her readers want to hear. While this has worked for us both, be sure to check guidelines and make sure that the editor you are writing for doesn’t have any prohibitions against comments from those you know and love.

How does this work? To make the most of my travel dollar it works best to choose a destination where I know I can sell a story. What is even better is if the site is one that can fit more than one publication. The facts are the same, but the story is different for a different audience. Use your imagination, do some digging about what is onsite, ask a lot of questions and take lots of pictures.

For example, I recently visited Robert McCormick’s Cantigny Park, a beautiful site in Wheaton, Illinois. My mother and a friend both came along. Besides having a lovely day, I got fodder for a travel story for the next edition of Senior News & Times. This historic site also fit into the antique tractor magazine I write for, Red Power, because Robert McCormick was related to Cyrus McCormick, the founder of International Harvester. That same farm angle will work for Farm World, a publication that I am an Illinois Correspondent for. The site also had an amazing war museum that would fit wonderfully in a historic or war publication.

Many times when traveling alone or with just one other person, I've had admission fees waived and press kits presented to me. If you contact the site public relations director prior to the trip, this could happen for you too. Often the site has pictures they supply that are of very good quality and can be substituted or supplement those you take. The trick is planning ahead. Many times I have received a guided tour with insight into the destination that I never would have received had I not contacted the public relations director.

You get the gist of how it works. When you love to travel and love the places you visit, it will come through in your prose and please your editor as much as it pleased you! So check your calendar, get out your map, fill the car with a tank of gas, grab your pen and go!

© Copyright 2008, Cindy Ladage

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