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Home & Away: Writing The Travel Piece

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on August 7, 2012 in Magazine Writing
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Have you always wanted to be a travel writer? Do you long to see your byline next to some great pictures and a narrative about a cool place to visit? Do you want to know how to get there?

I've mentioned the first part of this before--but it bears repeating.

In my humble opinion, writing about where you live is the best way to break into travel writing. Be it a glossy mag or a newspaper, there is still plenty of room for travel articles, and writing about an area you know is a good way to get your name among the published.

When you write about your hometown area, you know the hidden gems. You can speak with total authority and probably even provide photographs to accompany your piece. It's a good way to go.

So...what then? Once you've broken in by writing about your region/city/state, how do you keep the magic going?

Take a vacation.


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Vacations can provide a treasure trove of travel writing material, but there is a catch...you have to approach your time away differently than you normally would. It won't be enough to flit about and shop in the cool stores or close your eyes and drink in the sunshine and the smells of the ocean on the beach. You have to go in armed and ready--and be willing to leave a bit of the fun by the side of the road.

Here are five tips that will help you prepare yourself to do some travel writing on the go the next time you take a vacation:

  1. Research, research, research. You simply can't do enough research before you go. Find out everything you can about the area. Look up its history, check and see where the best restaurants are, read other travel articles on the spot. You want to have a game plan going in--even if it changes when you arrive.
  2. Ask the locals. Find a good breakfast spot and chat with the locals when you get there. Ask them where the coolest places are in town--they can lead to the stuff you won't find on your own. Much like you know your city well enough to break in to travel writing...they know their city well enough to keep you in the genre. Avoid the trap of writing about where all the tourists go--it's not that interesting.
  3. Change your attitude. Most of us tend to zone out on vacation and let go of the senses, just drinking in our surroundings and experiencing the trip passively. Can't do that if you want to write about it. You need to remember details that will make your writing come alive later. Yes, it's work, but that is part of being a writer. Keep a notebook with you (or iPad if you are so inclined). Jot down thoughts. Take pictures. Be an active participant in your vacation and you'll be more likely to remember things when you go to write about them.
  4. Load up on materials. Bring a bag and grab every brochure you can get your hands on. Throw travel guides and free newspapers in there too. If you can afford to, hit the magazine rack and see if there are any local magazines you can buy to read on your trip. It's the research you can't do ahead of time.
  5. Write as much as you can while you are there. I know. It's vacation. You really don't want to be working on an article, but guess what? That's what you have to do if you want to get into travel writing. Not too many people get all expense paid trips so that they can write about an area. You'll have to do what it takes. The more you can jot down while you're there the better. Memory fades really quickly once you get home, and you will probably have a lot of catching up to do on other things anyway.

Travel writing can be a fun way to make extra income, and nothing quite beats seeing your byline in a mag next to this type of piece. Take some simple steps next time you go out of town and see if you can pull together a piece that will get you in print.

Have you written about a place on vacation? Got any tips to share?

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Catherine L. Tully has over nine years of experience writing for magazines such as American Style, AAA Living and Boys' Life. She is the editor for an award-winning blog on freelance writing and also owns and edits a blog for dance professionals.

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2 Comments

  1. Pam Houghton August 8, 2012 Reply

    Timely post about travel writing as we are leaving for a trip to Germany next week. I pitched our major, metropolitan newspaper a story but they said they no longer have a budget for freelancers. I will keep trying – and will take plenty of notes on our travels.

  2. Amandah August 8, 2012 Reply

    I was hired for my first blogging job because of a travel article I wrote about my solo travel to Edinburgh, Scotland in 2007. I always wanted to experience the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival and that experience is how I fell into freelance writing. Since then, I’ve written about my experience living and traveling throughout Arizona when I lived there from 2007-2010. I love travel!

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