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The Travel Writing Guide

3 Steps to Break into Travel Writing

Cut to the Chase

The question of how to break into travel writing is one that is asked again and again. The good news is that the advent of blogs, collaborative blogs, and many travel websites make it even easier these days to develop clips, practice writing, and earn a few bucks. The "bad" news is you will still need to develop the core skills of a travel writer to find success: traveling and writing.

And for those most suited to being a travel writer, the necessity to travel and write is not exactly bad news.

Step 1: Become a Traveler

Here’s the first step. Pay attention, now, because it’s one word and you could miss it: travel. It sounds obvious, but many aspiring travel writers become so concerned about how to get hotel rooms "comped," sweet magazine article deals or press trips, and how to write the perfect query letter that they forget the most essential ingredient to a travel writer’s success.

Before you even consider anything else, you need a passion for travel. More than that, the need to travel should be so overpowering that you don’t care if you make money doing it. You simply need to travel.

It doesn’t need to be exotic. It doesn’t need to be a trans-Atlantic cruise. You should be happy even taking a daytrip two towns over. You just need to find your joy and you place as a traveler. Try this before you even think about writing. Keep a journal, take some nice pictures, and travel as if that’s the only purpose to your adventure.

See Rolf Potts' Advice to Travel Writers: Make Travel Itself Your First Priority for more information.

Step 2: Become a Travel Writer

Next, you should write about your travels. You don’t need a class to tell you how to do it. You need practice. You need to write, a lot. Often. Much like travel above, you need to write because you love it, because you can’t imagine not writing. You should become a travel writer for your own bliss before you become a travel writer for profit.

If you write for the joy of writing, you will become a better writer. Write until you find your voice, or that special mark that tells the reader, “I know who wrote this!” Write as if you would tell your friends or your mom about your trip. Write until you enjoy reading your own writing, until you smirk, snicker, and tear up.

See Dr. Jesse Voigts' 8 Ways to Become a Better Travel Writer: Great Storytellers are Perpetual Students for more information.

Step 3: Get Published as a Travel Writer

It used to be extremely difficult to become a published travel writer. As a beginner, it was an uphill battle of traveling and writing and querying and begging before you landed a paid gig that put your byline in print or online.

Now there are several ways to get those first crucial clips, and in many cases you don’t even need anyone’s approval:

  • Start your own travel blog. Pick a theme, such as travel with kids or travel by region, and create a blog. You can get a free blog at a site such as Wordpress or Blogger. It takes literally a couple minutes to set up, and they are very easy to use, including thousands of free themes to offer a slick state-of-the-art look to look on all devices that can be enhanced with "plugins" and social media widgets such as addthis.
  • Write for blog post or article submission sites. Find travel sites that accept submissions or posts from newbie writers, and build a portfolio of clippings. You will need to work on "branding" yourself, and a good way to do this is to gain exposure, even if initial submissions do not pay a lot. We encourage you to seek the best payment possible and not write for free, as that brings down the pay for other writers. There are many sites that thrive on free and virtually free content from newbies, even very large and profitable sites, but it is best for the writing community to seek at least some compensation for purposes of solidarity. It is a balancing act, of course. Also, be sure that the site you choose to write for has a good reputation, as that can help with your portfolio when seeking future paying gigs.
  • Look for sites seeking longer-term online travel writers or bloggers. The benefit of this method if you are writing for a company that will already have a name for itself. The nice thing is that many sites look more closely at the travel experience of an applicant than they examine the writing credentials. For example, hires writers and section editors, as do many travel websites with a huge exposure.
  • Pitch smaller online and print magazines. Yes, it would be nice to land a feature in National Geographic Traveler immediately. But as a newbie travel writer, you won’t. Make your peace with that reality, and concentrate on breaking into online or print magazines if that is your goal. There are many smaller travel magazines, or even non-travel magazines with travel sections, that are much more likely to publish the work of an unpublished or rookie travel writer. Here are some sample travel writing guidelines spanning the spectrum between the high- and the smaller-circulation online and print magazines.
  • Approach your local newspaper. Many times, newspapers do not have a dedicated travel writing staff. Contact your paper’s feature editor. Inquire about being a stringer to write about weekend events and festivals, or to provide travel articles on destinations of interest to the readers. If the editor wants to see clips, offer to write a couple just to pique his or her interest. If she decides not to use them, you can always use the articles in one of the media options listed above.

See David Farley's Travel Writing for Fun and Profit for more information.

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