3 Key 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
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
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
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, About.com 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
- 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.
Writing for Fun and Profit for more information.