Traveling the world is no easy feat. More often than not, it’s just a pipe dream for most of us.
Mention ‘travel the world’ to anyone at your next BBQ, and you’ll hear the words: ‘I wish’, ‘when I retire’, and ‘good luck.’
Who can blame them though?
This allure of exploration has been put on such a pedestal that it has led to the false narrative of thinking we need millions of dollars, a gap year, or retirement to make it happen.
Rarely do you see an actual step-by-step process on how you can see the seven wonders of the world while receiving a paycheck.
Sounds too good to be true? So did I.
*If you just want the actionable steps, you can skip the introduction by scrolling down*
Three years ago (at the time of this writing), I ‘stumbled’ into my first sponsored trip to Germany.
The opportunity came through a media publication I was working with (don’t worry, you don’t need a publication for this to work).
I only know so many languages to say ‘Yes’ to, but pretty sure I yelled all of them out loud (or I had a stroke).
Two weeks later, off we went.
Included in the trip was a private suite at one of the top hotel chains in Germany, plus meals at 5-star restaurants, private tours, and much more. To put it bluntly, the purpose of these trips is for these brands to ‘seduce’ you with glamour and luxury, so you can write nice compliments in return.
I share this not to brag, but to show you an alternative way to travel the world. One that does not involve budgeting every single penny you spend, which is what most travel advice is focused around.
Despite the abundance of ‘travel the world for $X a day’ advice you may encounter online, I’ve found very little solutions to do it sustainably, and stress-free (financially).
I say stress-free because I’ve personally experienced what it’s like to travel and worry about every change in your pocket. You can only sleep in a bunk bed with 9 other strangers for so long.
Sure it sounds adventurous at first. But eventually, your need to save money takes over your entire enjoyment of traveling.
How to Get Paid to Travel Luxuriously Around the World
The following will allow you to comfortably enjoy short-term to long-term travels, financially and more importantly, emotionally. Nearly anyone can do this, as long as you have the willingness to learn the strategy, take action, and persist.
Time to setup: 30 to 60 days (for the first time)
Travel length: 3-7 days (no limits on how many trips you can take)
Geographical options: Anywhere
Great if you have:
- an audience catered towards those who travel often (i.e. business travelers, digital nomads)
- a position as a writer/editor for a well-recognized media outlet (leverage someone else’s audience – must be transparent with outlet)
- a professional media background where you can create a video/marketing campaign in exchange for the traveling opportunity
Most large brands have ‘$X MM’ budget to spend on raising awareness of their products and services. From their perspective, instead of paying a premium price for a TV commercial or an exclusive banner ad placement, they can sponsor trips to multiple influencers with a loyal audience to get the same if not greater results for less cost.
This perspective is crucial to keep in mind when you’re negotiating. You’re giving just as much value (if not more) than they’re offering you in return, especially with the measurable ROI of influencer marketing today. This bears repeating because you’ll need to resist flashy offers like ‘first class seats’ and ‘free tours’ dangling in your face.
Safe to say that first trip to Germany couldn’t possibly be my last. I was hooked at this point.
But this time, I took matters into my own hand by actively reaching out to brands. This is what 99% of us will need to do when first starting out.
From my experience (and learning from the veterans who do these trips nearly every week), the following industries are where you should be spending your time reaching out:
- Hotel chains
- Tourism organizations (these are companies that partner with airlines and local tours to create travel packages — ex. ‘All-Inclusive Machu Picchu Tour for $XXXX’)
- PR agencies of these brands
Step 1. Nail down your unique value proposition
Companies aren’t just going to give you a free trip without receiving something in return. So the first step is to figure out what value you’ll be providing for the brands you’ll reach out to.
Do you have a loyal audience (i.e. blog, podcast, Youtube) that you can share your travel experience with? Or do you work with media publications where you can leverage their audience?
*You’ll need to get permission from the publication before accepting the trip*
Another common way is to be a kickass videographer or photographer to provide media assets in return for a trip. But don’t limit yourself to these options, be creative and understand that these companies simply want to either: reach more people that they’re not already reaching, and/or improve their brand positioning in the market.
You should also have a Media Kit handy (see example) or gain access to one if you work with another media outlet. This will be required for the next step.
Step 2. Look for companies that are already sponsoring influencers
The easiest (and fastest) way to your first sponsored travel experience is to find brands that already ‘get’ how it works. It’ll be a huge uphill climb if you need to educate a brand why they should be sponsoring a trip as a marketing plan. Don’t sell the unsellable.
a. Seek out who the top travel/lifestyle bloggers are (example list)
This is the best way to discover brands who already understand the value of offering sponsored trips.
Look at recent posts around ‘city reviews’, ‘hotel reviews’ or ‘tour reviews’ from these bloggers, and you’ll find the brands that sponsored this trip for them. If the brand name isn’t mentioned (which is rare), you can scroll down to the bottom where you’ll usually find a ‘Note’ or ‘Disclaimer’ sharing why the post was written.
An additional benefit of seeking out recent sponsored posts from these top bloggers is that they’ve most likely delivered a positive experience for the brand. It’s much easier to convince a brand to work with you when they’ve recently had a great result from a similar partnership.
b. Find the contact email (or phone number) of the person you need to get in touch with
In most cases, it’s going to be the Marketing or PR department that you’ll need to reach. If you can find a firstname.lastname@example.org email, then email them directly instead of the ‘general inquiries’ email.
c. List and organize them into a spreadsheet
d. Create an email template (with a catchy headline) that you can replicate to other brands
This is one of the most important steps to nail down. Since these major brands are being bombarded by hundreds of requests by the day, your email needs to stand out.
The best way to do that is to:
- create a catchy, clickable headline (most emails don’t ever get read)
- keep it short, precise, and to the point
- get straight to what you’re willing to offer them (don’t mention anything about a trip)
- show that you’ve invested time to research about the brand
Here’s an example template you can use:
Example Email Headlines:
i. Working with [Media outlet] (great if you work with a recognizable media company)
ii. Content Partnership Opportunity with [Brand name]
iii. Would you find this partnership opportunity valuable?
Example Email Message:
“Hey [First Name or Brand Name],
My name is [Your Name], and I’m a [Blogger, Youtuber, Podcaster, Photographer, Writer for X Publication].
I recently read about your brand through [Travel Blogger], and the amazing experience he/she had during this trip. I have a similar audience of [Audience Demographic] that I think would find value in learning more about [Brand Name] and how it’s different from other [airlines, hotels, etc.].
I’d love to explore a way to work together in the near future if you’re interested. Here’s a link to my [previous work/media kit], please let me know!
Of course, you can adjust this based on your unique value proposition, previous experience, and which type of brand you’re reaching out to.
Step 3. Get to work (start reaching out)
The ratio that I’ve found to get an interest response is around one to twenty. That means one interested response after sending twenty requests.
This may be completely different for you, based on what you’re offering, what season of the year you’re reaching out, and which brands you’re targeting.
But understanding this ratio will give you an idea of how many brands you need to reach out to before finalizing a deal.
Step 4. Work out the details
Now comes the real fun. This is when you can get creative to take control over your travel opportunity (and your paycheck).
Often times, the brand itself needs to be guided on how you can work together. They need to justify the spend and partnership to their bosses, so you need to approach the conversation from their perspective.
In other words, telling them that you want to go to Mexico because it’s Spring Break season will get you thrown out faster than you can say ‘Ay caramba!’
Instead, you could say… “my audience is mostly young professionals (25-35) who are based in the United States. I’ve noticed that you recently announced a tour down in [Specific City, Mexico], which I know you’re looking to promote. I think my audience would like to know more about [Specific City] based on how well this previous post did about [Another city in Mexico]. What do you think?”
What should the pay be?
This is case-by-case. Certain influencers with a small audience may not even charge a fee because they can justify the free trip as a form of payment. Also, you can leverage the first trip to show future partners the work you’ve done (think about it as your portfolio). This is something I recommend to build trust and leverage.
My recommendation is to experiment and adjust based on the feedback you receive.
Step 5. Be transparent, over communicate, and over deliver
This goes without saying: be transparent with everyone involved. That includes your own audience, the publication you work for, the brand you’re partnering with.
You should always be over delivering in the way you communicate, and the result you deliver. Most of these brands are willing to build a long-term relationship with their partners. By over delivering, you’ll be the first person they approach for their next sponsored trip.
That’s it! You have now entered the ‘secret’ world of paid travel.
Will this work for everyone today? Maybe not. Is there going to be work involved? Yep. Is the payoff worth it? Hell yes.
The experience you’ll gain to structure a creative deal with a travel brand should be convincing enough to try this for yourself. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that while there is an expected result you must deliver, the way you get there is completely within your control.
Alternative (And other common ways) to travel around the world
For many of you, the above formula may not be applicable. Here are some additional ways you can travel luxuriously around the world.
Given the length of this post, I won’t be able to expand much further on these two options. Let me know below if you’d like me to dig deeper into these two options (as I’ve had experience with both), and I can write an in-depth post about it in the near future.
1. Work with a Remote company
This option works great if your value can be:
- delivered online: a software engineer, digital marketing consultant, business coach, etc.
- a results-oriented role: measurable metrics (i.e. $$ increase, customer support tickets, code delivered)
More than ever, companies (from small to large) are open to remote opportunities, as long as the result is there. Even my own company, Rype, works with freelance language teachers around the world, and our internal team is completely distributed.
You can approach this from a: Consulting/Freelance route (slightly easier) or the full-time employee route. To find remote consulting (and full-time opportunities) I recommend checking out the post, ‘How to Win 30 Consulting Offers in 30 Days.‘
Here are a few resources where you can find these opportunities:
2. Create an Online Business
Types of business models this works well for:
- Selling software: widgets, software as a service, etc.
- Information products
- Services that can be delivered online (ex. digital marketing, software code)
If you’re serious about pursuing the online business route, check out the following resources:
- How to Validate Your Business Idea With $100
- How to Run a 6-Figure Business While Traveling Around the World
- Complete Guide to Building a Busines Online and Traveling the World
Share your thoughts
I’d love to hear from you and your experience. More specifically, could you think of any other ways to partner with brands for sponsored trips? Do you have a success story to share?
Let our community know below!