travel & lifestyle blog by ruth dela cruz


How Much Really is An All-Expense-Paid Trip? (A Blogger’s Guide to Free Travel)

May 15, 2016
Every after travel, I always get asked how much I paid or spent on a certain trip. And although my travel stories are ones I would never get tired of sharing, I thought of writing this post to also share my experiences with readers (who might also get a chance to get invited to a free trip via raffle or contest). 
I got the opportunity to travel (both for business when I was working in a corporate and for leisure-business for this blog). The best part, they are usually solo travels 😀 
How Much Really is An All-Expense Paid Trip? (A Blogger’s Guide to Free Travel)
My short travel history:  I may be a hybrid of lucky-slash-blessed and a go-getter when it comes to grabbing the opportunity to travel. I attract the good forces of universe and I get the invitation to be part of a team or project. Or probably I am in the right place, at the right time and I am the right person to take on the role. I remember when my former manager asked me what I really want to do, I told her I just want a job that would allow me to travel. 
It must be probably every employee’s career goal to be sent on a business trip and every blogger’s dream to get invited to an all expense paid trip. The truth is (and I am sorry to break your heart), these trips are not really FREE. Although big expenses like airfare and hotel (and meals) are covered, there are still some costs that you need to worry about. 
Let me share with you the costs and the reality of an all-expense paid trip:
1. VISA Application Fees + Expedite Fees
The first step on every travel opportunity is to check visa requirements of the host country. By experience and based on travel requirements, I always need(ed) to secure a tourist-business visa. 
Visa costs may vary from Php 3,000 to Php 10,000 (depending on the country of destination). 
Some sponsors may pay for your Visa fees. But based on my experience, I just don’t ask (unless they offered during briefing meeting/calls). I shouldered my Visa Application Fees (and other costs associated with it). 
Now here’s the clincher, aside from Visa Application Fees, you might also need to pay for Expedite Fees. During my application for a UK Visa, I had to pay for Expedite Fee of Php 8,000 + (much more expensive than the visa itself – Php 7,000) because my scheduled flight was only less than a week. 
Aside from the actual Visa costs (and associated fees), you will also incur expenses when applying for Visa, such as transportation, meals, mail services, cloaking services and the time you spent outside work. It would mean one day of Leave of Absence. 
(imagine the horror when you got denied of visa?!)

2. Documentation and Photocopy Costs
When applying for a Visa, you have to make sure that you have all the supporting documents that would establish your ties in your home country. 
In such case, you have to secure bank certificates, marriage certificates, etc. 
I always secure bank certificates when applying for Visa. Bank Certificates usually costs Php 100  (multiply to the number of banks that you have). 🙂 
Oftentimes, you also need to provide photocopies of your documents and other Visas and Stamps (add the time spent lining up at the Photoline). Compute the number of stamps you have x photocopy fees 😀 
3. Dressing the Part
Dressing up in coats and boots on a snowy background could be the most awesome profile picture you can upload in your social media. 
with friends after work hours
Photos by @c.a.t.h.06
Companies will usually provide Clothing Allowance for travels to countries on Winter Time. For media junket tours and bloggers events, you have to shop and pay for these clothing. Coats can cost you $100 or more + boots, scarf and matching bag.  Lucky if you have a sponsor (why am I not a fashion blogger?).  
4. Taxi, Grab Car or Uber Ride to the Airport
During my business trip, ground transportation was arranged. But for media junkets, this is not usually covered. If you are from Manila, we are lucky that airport is near the city. Imagine those who are from US and would need to travel to different states to get to an international airport. 
5. Travel Tax
Some sponsors may cover for this expense but most of the time, you have to pay for this. 
Prepare Php 1,620. 

6. Incidentals During Travel + Expenses When You Extend Your Stay
For business trips, we usually get per diem allowances which is amount given per day to cover living expenses. It can range from $15 to $50 depending on the host country or state. Receiving per diem is good so you can budget your expenses.
I was a Millionaire in Indonesia!
For media junket tours, you don’t get any allowances (or depends on the sponsor). Your meals are all covered. The best part about this – you get to try the best restaurants and services. 
However, you may have to pay for your designer coffee and espresso. 
If you plan to extend your stay, you would then need to pay for your lodging, food and transportation.


inside hogwarts: harry potter studio tour, london

7. Roaming and Data Services

Bar phone and local SIM provided to us during my one-month business trip in Indonsia
For business trips, you may get covered for this. For media junket, the sponsor will usually provide you with pocket wifi or local SIM. But if you wish to stay connected with your family and business contacts in your home country, you might want to subscribe to roaming and data services. Always check and double check your running bill. Roaming and data services cost a lot. 

8. Gifts and Pasalubong
I usually buy and bring gifts to give to my host manager/sponsor and new friends I would meet in the host country. My favorite buys, jeepney matchbox, pulvoron and goodies from Goldilocks or Red Ribbon. I usually spend Php 1,000 (or more) for these gifts.
Flying back home, the greater challenge is to buy something for family and friends. I am lucky that my family doesn’t expect gifts from me – they just want me to come home safe (sweetest! but I still try to buy them something). 
Gifts can be pretty expensive in other countries. 
A keychain in Barca costs around 4 euros (multiply to the number of friends who collect keychain)
 Ref magnets costs 7 euros (multiply to the number of friends who collect ref magnets). 
Starbucks Mugs (?)
Shirts can cost $10
And we are not yet talking about chocolates and more expensive gifts. 
I don’t usually buy gifts or souvenirs for all my friends. I thought they can always travel to the places I got to visit 😀 I usually buy them chocolates or anything unique from the country. What I do is when I see something that I thought my friend would like, I would buy it. Caring less if it costs a fortune. If it is something that my friend (or someone I know) would like, I buy it. 
 Per history, I usually spend $100 or Php 5,000 for gifts (and these are just little knick knacks, chocolates and goodies). I could spend more and I had spent more on previous travels. It is very tempting when you are in another country especially if you have plastic money. 
9. Costs that Don’t Have Costs
When you get invited to a business trip (to represent your company and/or country), and media junket tours, your sponsor has big expectations from you. And you don’t want to bring them down.  I notice that some people feel the need to receive VIP Treatment.  In the real world, we live in a give and take relationship.  The world doesn’t revolve around you. 
You have to be professional. Always. 
Be a team-player. 
Understand diversity and cultural differences.
You need to be able to adapt. 

I remember when I was on a business trip for knowledge transfer, we would attend trainings during office hours and back in the hotel, we would work on our flowcharts and process documents or review our notes for upcoming exams. In between those things, we would have meetings with Manila team and I would have meetings with my clients for different projects (on different times and timezones – because we were working on a global scene).  We would only have the weekends to explore the city. Nonetheless, all the challenges make it more meaningful.
I also got the chance to get invited to “bloggers events” while I was still working in a corporate. It was far more challenging. I was lucky that I got to work with supportive managers. But the challenge was transitioning my work to my backup. 
Things are different too when you get invited to media junkets. Schedule can be pretty hectic and you have to manage your time (including how many minutes/hours you prepare in the morning) and your social media posting. I am not usually very “social” when I was traveling, so it was a big adjustment for me to stay on my smartphone, share my experiences and at the same time enjoy every minute of my travels. 
10. Opportunity Costs
Every time I receive an invitation to travel (be it locally, abroad – by land, sea or air), I always think of the opportunities I would miss if I said yes to the invitation. 
If I feel that I would earn more when staying in Manila rather than traveling (especially if it is just an overnight or one day trip), I usually say no. I weigh in things, assess the pros and cons, the fun factor and consider other things before I make informed decision. 
Doing a simple math and based on my travel history, it is safe to say that one (or I) need to have at least Php 20,000 (or $500 USD) or more spare money that I can use the next time I get invited to travel outside the country. 
Truly, there’s no such thing as FREE. Every time you get invited to an event or free travel, you have to dedicate your time, talent and skills (and some money) to make it a lot more fun and rewarding for you and your sponsor. 
And although “free travel” can hurt my finances at times, I still and always look forward to receiving an invitation in my inbox. 🙂 
Hashtag blessed and lucky, I have a lot of “once in a lifetime experiences” because of the trusting employer, managers and brands. I get to meet amazing people, see beautiful places and create nice stories. 

Ending this post with “Thank You”s to all the lovely brands and entities who invited me to be part of their events and see the world with them. 

Have you been invited to an all-expense paid trip? 
How much do you usually spend on these trips?
Do you have any tips you want to add? Comment below 🙂 

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