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5 Tips & Tricks for Travel Writing Research

Updated on June 9, 2015
JohnMello profile image

JohnMello is a writer, composer, musician and the author of books for children and adults.

Travel writers use simple techniques to turn their adventures into articles they can sell over and over. Here’s how they do it.

If you like to travel and you like to write, then travel writing could be a fabulous way for you to combine the best of both worlds. It's like getting paid to go on holiday. You have to sell the articles you write and the photos you take - or you could write Hubs about it which will also earn you money - but once you start getting published the world really is your oyster.

Travel writers use simple techniques that transform their trips and adventures into articles they can sell. Here are some tips that will show you how they do it.

Hotel courtyard in Marrakesh
Hotel courtyard in Marrakesh | Source
Storks nesting on the city walls in Marrakesh
Storks nesting on the city walls in Marrakesh | Source
Moroccan scarf makes anyone a man of mystery
Moroccan scarf makes anyone a man of mystery | Source

1. Experience Everything

If you know your trip or holiday might become the fodder for a series of articles, make sure you don't miss anything. Use all your senses to explore the world around you. Ask yourself what a visitor might want to see, to taste, to touch, or to hear.

  • What's the public transport system like? Is it clean? Is it busy? Is it cheap?
  • Does the sea air calm the senses? Are there unusual odours in the atmosphere? Are the streets noisy, quiet, dirty or pristine?
  • What sounds do you hear first thing in the morning or last thing at night? Drums? Frogs? Fireworks? Airplanes?

As a travel writer your job is to paint a picture in words of everything you encounter. One of the easiest ways to do that is to describe your surroundings as a sensory experience in terms of what you see, what you hear, what you taste, what you touch, what you smell, and what you feel.

2. Know your Facts and Figures

Knowing there are 99 winding steps to the top of a watch tower might seem trivial if you’re young and healthy. But how would a 73-year-old with emphysema cope with that situation? Or someone who suffers from vertigo?

Marrakesh, Morocco

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The devil, as they say, is in the detail. Details are useful to highlight the best and worst a place has to offer, but they're also more than that. They help you get under the skin of a town, city or village and put it into perspective. Knowing you can walk down the street and visit a lemon grove - where you can also pick up a small bottle of Limoncello - is far more interesting and compelling than grabbing one in a souvenir shop. You get the chance to take lots of engaging photos, too.

Trying to remember details can be a challenge, especially if your holiday is a lengthy one. Don't bother. Write things down, take lots of pictures and videos, and talk to the people you meet. Be curious and ask questions. Local people will be proud of their culture and heritage and will be happy to share their knowledge and insights with you.

One Thing Often Leads to Another

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The fairytale-like Old Town Square in Prague with the Astronomical Clock Tower rising on the leftA close-up view of the Astronomical ClockWinding internal staircase that leads to the top of the Clock Tower for spectacular viewsAwesome view of Prague's Old Town Square...... from all sides...... complete panorama...... spotting a restaurant's rooftop terrace...... another architectural treat taken from the rooftop terrace
The fairytale-like Old Town Square in Prague with the Astronomical Clock Tower rising on the left
The fairytale-like Old Town Square in Prague with the Astronomical Clock Tower rising on the left | Source
A close-up view of the Astronomical Clock
A close-up view of the Astronomical Clock | Source
Winding internal staircase that leads to the top of the Clock Tower for spectacular views
Winding internal staircase that leads to the top of the Clock Tower for spectacular views | Source
Awesome view of Prague's Old Town Square...
Awesome view of Prague's Old Town Square... | Source
... from all sides...
... from all sides... | Source
... complete panorama...
... complete panorama... | Source
... spotting a restaurant's rooftop terrace...
... spotting a restaurant's rooftop terrace... | Source
... another architectural treat taken from the rooftop terrace
... another architectural treat taken from the rooftop terrace | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
A free map of Prague handed out by a taxi driverShows Prague laid out with major landmarks highlightedOn the other side of the map are attractions, hotels, meeting points and an undergound mapA free map of the Sorrentine PeninsulaA ticket stub from a trip on the cable from Castellammare di Stabia to Monte Faito
A free map of Prague handed out by a taxi driver
A free map of Prague handed out by a taxi driver | Source
Shows Prague laid out with major landmarks highlighted
Shows Prague laid out with major landmarks highlighted | Source
On the other side of the map are attractions, hotels, meeting points and an undergound map
On the other side of the map are attractions, hotels, meeting points and an undergound map | Source
A free map of the Sorrentine Peninsula
A free map of the Sorrentine Peninsula | Source
A ticket stub from a trip on the cable from Castellammare di Stabia to Monte Faito
A ticket stub from a trip on the cable from Castellammare di Stabia to Monte Faito | Source

3. Exploit Free Materials

Wherever you go on holiday you'll find a FREE source of materials that can be used to add credibility and substance to your articles. These are the papers, pamphlets and leaflets you find almost everywhere you go. Brochures, magazines, newspapers, business cards -- they litter the restaurants, museums, hotel lobbies and tourist information centers. They're a simple way to get your hands on local maps and lists of popular places to visit.

You can find similar information by visiting the local library or skimming through the headlines in daily newspapers. Remember to save stubs, tickets, and any paper souvenirs: they don't take up much space in your luggage but can help jog your memory about days out when you get back home.

Travel Writing Jobs

The legenday blues singer/songwriter/guitarist Magic Slim
The legenday blues singer/songwriter/guitarist Magic Slim | Source

4. Get In On the Action

No matter how inquisitive you are or how many bits of paper you manage to accumulate, you can't find out everything unless you're willing to go the extra mile. That means getting out of your hotel room or B&B and maybe even spending a few dollars.

On a visit to Fredericia in the heart of Denmark’s industrial triangle, for instance, someone suggested going to the Pakhus music venue on a Friday night. I'd seen the poster advertised in a shop somewhere and, as a musician myself, thought it might be worth seeing. It was a tremendous surprise to find out the gig featured the legendary Magic Slim and his band The Teardrops.

The then 70-year-old blues guitarist was a giant of a man, making a standard size guitar look like a toy in his massive hands. His blues music went down a treat with the locals and it was obvious he'd played here before. It was truly an unforgettable experience as much for the atmosphere as for the quality of Slim and his backing group, who the whole audience wanted to keep playing forever.

It was one of the highlights of the trip, yet without some local knowledge of the venue - tucked away out of sight on Kirkestræde - it could easily have been missed completely.

Lemon trees line the path that leads into the quaint Gardens of Catado in Sorrento, Italy
Lemon trees line the path that leads into the quaint Gardens of Catado in Sorrento, Italy | Source

5. Embrace New Adventures

A holiday is just that; a break from the 9 to 5. But if you're a travel writing, it's also a lot more.

You can't entice people to follow in your footsteps if they only lead from your hotel room to the bar or restaurant in the lobby. Your hotel complex might be amazing, but it's not going to help people get to know the area.

To transport your readers to your destination, give them a real taste of what it’s like. Go out and see it for yourself. Get up early to describe the sunrise, the sounds you hear, or the weather. Take a frightening trip up the narrow winding road to get to the top of the Isle of Capri. Ride the cable car from Castellammare di Stabia just outside Sorrento to the top of Monte Faito. Take a bus or train from point A to point B to find out how efficient or otherwise their transportation system is and how the local people deal with it.

Learn some of the things that make a place tick just by exploring a little, keeping your eyes open, and paying attention. Savor the experience with the curiosity of both a child and a scientist at the same time, revelling in your discoveries while simultaneously keeping track of them to ultimately pass them on.

Sun setting slowly into the Bay of Naples, seen from the balcony of The Foreigner's Club in Sorrento, Italy
Sun setting slowly into the Bay of Naples, seen from the balcony of The Foreigner's Club in Sorrento, Italy | Source

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    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 2 years ago from England

      Hi kalinin1158.

      Take them with you! That's what I like about it - it's a holiday, but you can write about it and get back some of the money you spent. You can even put your articles here on HubPages. You might not want to take the dogs with you to Hawaii, but there are probably lots of places nearby, to visit on weekends, go camping, or that kind of thing. Wherever you go, there's usually something you can write about.

      Anyway, thanks for reading!

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana ZK 2 years ago from California

      Great hub. Travel writing is my dream job...I think :) There is some internal resistance that I am trying to figure out. Something about leaving my husband, my dogs, my comforts and being on my own somewhere...Is this stupid? Did you have these concerns or do you travel with your family?

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 2 years ago from England

      Thanks Kristen. Basically I take a reasonably good camera whenever I go anywhere different. Then just snap away like crazy... :)

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub John. Excellent photos, too. I would love to be a travel writer, if I could afford it. Voted up for useful!

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 2 years ago from England

      Thanks for reading old albion, and for the positive feedback!

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 2 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi John. An informative hub indeed. Easily understood with Tip Top photography. A nice touch with your videos as well. Thank you.

      Graham.

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 2 years ago from England

      Thanks Alun. I think that's one of the great things about travel writing - you can have a holiday and do some work without spoiling the vacation :)

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      Good comprehensive hub John, with details many would-be writers may not think of before travelling.

      I've written quite a lot of travel hubs, and I can echo much of what you say, notably about taking lots of photos and gathering leaflets. At the moment I only write for HubPages, so money is not an issue (though I'd love to write professionally in future). Because I'm only writing as an amateur, I don't allow travel writing to seriously detract from having a good time, but it may affect my itinerary a little. For instance, I may spend more time than I would otherwise spend in a particular locality if I sense the potential for an article, just to get a few more photos or a more in-depth feel for the place.

      Writing about vacation destinations - even on an amateur basis - is an enjoyable past time, and helps to train one to be more observant and informed when they go on holiday. If one wishes to pursue travel writing on a more professional basis, I'm sure your tips will help. Voted up, Alun

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Thanks rhondakim ... glad you enjoyed it!

    • rhondakim profile image

      rhondakim 4 years ago from New York City

      Good article! Thank you for writing it!!