Expense Reports: The Bane of Travel Writers

Travel writers have one of the most envious jobs in the world. They travel on someone else’s dime, write about it, and get paid. Not too bad.

Every travel writer I know, however, claims it isn’t a dream job at all. They tell me that there are many hassles involved with travel writing that the ordinary person would never imagine.

Take for instance, the expense report.

The joy of having other people pay for your trip is often ruined by accounting departments who scrutinize every line item. Since I am not a full-time writer for a newspaper or magazine, I haven’t had to deal with this. John Flinn, however, has had a nightmare of a time doing so with the Hearst Corporation and has decided to share his experiences, and those of other writers in a recently published article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The most typical problem is that off-the-beaten-path destinations rarely offer receipts. Accounting departments just can’t seem to understand that the tea house atop a Himalayan mountain in Nepal that added up your bill with an abacus isn’t likely to be handing over an itemized receipt when they come asking for your money.

While this is par for the course, Finn’s article is enjoyable for the hilarious exceptions encountered, like the woman from accounting who wondered why a Hawaii bill wasn’t converted from a foreign currency, or the bills turned in for sword wounds, being robbed, and paying bribes.

I don’t know about you, but this travel writer gig still sounds like a pretty cool job to me, accounting be damned!