My top travel writing tips – what would you add?

April 23, 2013

WaikikiNow, I’m not for one moment suggesting that I know everything there is to know about travel writing, and everyone has different taste when it comes to reading travel reviews, of course. But I have been travel writing professionally for over 15 years, I’ve been a travel editor for numerous publications, and I’m currently the Editor of a glossy travel magazine. I’ve also contributed a lot of freelance travel features. Basically, travel pays my mortgage. And I think the principles of good travel writing are the same, no matter what the style is.

So here are my top travel writing tips – and I’d love it if you would add your own:

1. No one is interested in HOW you got there, unless it’s particularly fascinating. Leave out the early start and the long car journey, the torturous transfer, and unless there’s a particularly funny incident or a mishap at security (for example, my bra underwire ALWAYS sets off the alarms, without fail, and I was once put inside the glass box at Orlando for closer inspection, no kidding) then leave out the airport bit too. Cut to the chase.

2. Give them the full five senses and really take your reader to the place. I like to use intros that pull you straight in – like this feature on Vietnam and Singapore and this one on Chicago. Conjure up the smells, the sounds, the sights, the tastes. Bring the place alive, transport your readers there through your writing.

3. If you’re giving a negative review, be fair. Don’t whinge because you didn’t get an upgrade (I have actually seen copy like this); or because you missed a flight because you got to the airport too late *looks at no one in particular*. Or because the sky was too blue. Put yourself in the mindset of your readers, consider their circumstances. Be honest, be truthful, but don’t just bitch for the sake of it. As an example, here’s a post I wrote about my experience of the No. 1 Traveller Lounge.

4. Writing something packed with lots of tips? Doesn’t mean it has to be dry. Anecdotes and humour are always welcome – here’s an example of a piece I wrote about visiting Disneyland Paris.

5. Take lot of photos and if you’re blogging, videos. I’m a bit of a late adopter to the vlogging craze but now I’ve started I love it. Room videos are very popular on You Tube – now I make them as soon as I’ve put my key in the lock (ie, before I’ve unpacked and made everything messy). Here’s one I made earlier (on board Liberty of the Seas).

Finally, I’d just add, if you’re spelling a place name, for goodness’ sake check you have the correct spelling.

So those are my top travel writing tips – what would you add?

*The Mum Blog has been shortlisted in the ‘travel’ category in the Brilliance in Blogging Awards. You can vote for me – if you want to, no pressure, obvs *cough* – here.

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  • Hussy London Housewife May 2, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    Thank you for such great tips.
    Really need to revise my China posts now 😉

  • Zoe at Splodz Blogz April 23, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I’m new to the travel blogging scene, just writing about trips and holidays I’ve booked myself. I really enjoy it and anything that helps me do it better and hopefully make more of it is very much appreciated!

    For me when reading articles I want it to be nice an informal, with anecdotes and little tips and tricks thrown in.

  • Sarah Ebner April 23, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Really like these tips and the links. I also think that you shouldn’t be scared of making it personal, explaining why you liked it for you/your family. I also like travel pieces written with humour and personality (er, like yours and the other good ladies above…)

  • Jennifer Howze April 23, 2013 at 11:30 am

    Great tips, especially the one about doing videos before unpacking/messing up the room (*clear throat nervously*).

    My big tip is to reach beyond the cliches and usual adjectives. “Lovely” is a perfectly good word but saying a hotel or destination is this doesn’t tell the reader much. Gardens always have flowers; to describe one well, think about colour, texture, what makes it different.

    Love the examples.

  • MummyTravels April 23, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Absolutely – I agree 100%. I’d add (and you’ve sort of said this), it’s not all about you the writer – it might be your experience and your voice, but the piece has to have something for the readers, so it’s about giving them the advice and information through your anecdotes.

    The big one for me is conjuring up the atmosphere – sights, smells, sounds, tastes etc. Sometimes one snapshot of a moment at the beginning just sets the scene for the whole place.

    Interesting! It got me thinking – I do this for work all the time. But I wonder if I do it in my blog?

  • Erica April 23, 2013 at 8:10 am

    Great tips, particularly the intro one. I always sttruggle to know how to start these kind of posts, I’ll definitely us that in the future.