Twelve Ways to Improve Your Travel Writing: Read Good Travel Writing

It’s a fact that reading excellent travel pieces can make you a better travel writer. Read articles that top-tier publications run and study the style. Did the travel blogger use humor, or is it all serious? Is the language formal or informal? How did they grab the reader’s attention; how did the story start? How did it end?

After a while, you will notice what’s a good article and what isn’t. Many outlets have a newsletter you can subscribe to. Do that and read not just as a reader, but as a writer.

Understand the Point of Your Story

Before you start smashing your keyboard, understand the point of your story. If you don’t know it, the reader won’t know either. What are you keen to write about? Why do you want to write about that? What’s the angle, the perspective of your story? And finally, what do you want the reader to come away with?

Also, put yourself in the editor’s shoes. When they add content to their website, they’re looking for something and have a word count in mind. You’ll also get a feel for the target audience by figuring out what kind of articles they run.

Twelve Ways to Improve Your Travel Writing: Take Notes on the Road

Travel blogging can only be as good as the notes are. If you don’t jot down the tiny little details on your travels, it’s unlikely you remember everything that could make your article stand out.

Don’t worry about writing complete sentences or grammar just yet. What matters are keywords and bits that will help you craft a winning travel piece later.

To take valuable notes, you need to be a vigilant observer and notice specifics. Use all your senses, not just eyesight. What did you hear, and how loud was the sound? And does it reek of diesel, or did you catch the pleasant scent of jasmine? Smells are a lot more effective than descriptions of what you see. Aside from eyesight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell, you can include humidity, temperature; whether you feel comfortable or barely have space to move.

If you write down not just what you see but also details like traveling time and your impressions of local people, you’ll bring the story to life and take the reader to where you are.

Apart from jotting down descriptive notes, shoot plenty of photographs.

Start Writing

Rumor has it that 80% of success is turning up. In other words, don’t be afraid of the cursor on the blank page. Read your notes and think of what could make for an attention-grabbing lede as it’s called in the business, or intro.

Work out what drives you and what sparks ideas, then take advantage of that. Write at least 30 minutes per day so running your travel blog becomes routine.

If you want to succeed, you need to be motivated and keep it up. No one is going to do the work for you. Develop your style and voice; your experiences and background are one of a kind after all.

Know What You’re Talking (Writing) About

Everyone determined to convince others to do something needs to know what they’re talking about. Knowledge gives a travel writer the edge they need to persuade people.

And to be informed, you need to do your research before you set off, on the road, and maybe even when you arrive back home. You can do that in the library or online. Here’s what to look out for:

  • Off the beaten track destinations and attractions
  • The history of the people and the place you’re visiting, or the lives of locals you know you will meet and talk to
  • Religious beliefs, traditions, politics, etc.

Detailed knowledge and your unique take give your audience the chance to learn from your experience.

Twelve Ways to Improve Your Travel Writing: Know the General Rules of Travel Writing

The five Ws and one H of journalism who, what, when, where, why, and how also apply to travel writing. If you’ve got them down, you have the essential tools to report not just a news story but also craft a travel piece.

  • Who: Can be a person, the writer, the reader, a destination, and even an activity
  • What: What your story is about (including history, setting, and other background info)
  • When: When an event or festival happens, when attractions are open or closed (though ‘when’ isn’t always mentioned in a travel piece)
  • Where: The ‘where’ tells the reader which place the story centers on
  • Why: The context of your story focus
  • How: A publication’s guidelines dictate the “how” (can be in a sidebar “if you go,” embedded within the article, or in a blurb near the end of the story)

Very important is also to avoid clichés. Don’t write about the charming or quaint village without describing what’s charming or quaint. Likewise, “rustic,” “cute,” “unspoiled gem,” “breathtaking view,” “kaleidoscope of colors,” “Philippines is the next Thailand,” have been done to death. Be specific.

Avoid clunky constructions; write short and snappy. 

Don’t Stick to Linear Writing

You can start your article in the middle of the story (or anywhere!). The point is to pluck readers from their chairs, pull them into an electric moment, and keep them there, eager to know what will happen next. This could be something frightening, peculiar, exciting, or hilarious.

At this point, you don’t need to tell the reader where they are. That can wait until paragraph three, when they’re hooked. You can write chronologically later on; just make sure to explain how the lede fits in.

Know How to Shape Your Story

A good travel article is structured with a clear beginning, middle, and end. 

Ideally, a story starts “in medias res” – in the middle of things. Starting “in the action” draws a reader in; beginning with what you’re going to say doesn’t. You can set the scene and hint at why you’re there, grabbing your reader’s attention. By the end of the lede, they should know where the article is going and whether it’s worth reading.

The middle makes up 85–90%. Both an emotional and chronological arc work. 

Then, segue into the end, wrapping up the article by tying it back to the beginning. You can also end a piece with an effective jab that captures the point of the story. God forbid, don’t ever end your story with a vow to return – it’s been done to death.

Twelve Ways to Improve Your Travel Writing: Write a Full Draft

Don’t worry about creating a perfect first draft. It’s normal for writers to tweak their pieces several times. Patience is vital, and knowing when a story is complete comes with practice.

Reading out loud what you’ve written, you’ll immediately know whether your story flows well. It will help you find those convoluted sentences and detect what doesn’t sound natural, and it will also improve your travel writing.

Self-Edit, but Get It Peer-Reviewed, Too

Flesh out your story, revise it, and keep an eye on grammar. Also, is the tone of voice consistent; did you jump from one tense to another? And did you avoid repetition? Is your article concise, or did you talk about your spouse or partner that doesn’t play a crucial part in your story?

Getting it peer-reviewed also helps find out whether everything serves the larger purpose of the post. While friends and family mean well, their eyes are not as trained as a writer’s. Join writer groups and find a writing buddy.

Write on a Regular Basis

Write every day if you can, or at least five times per week. You don’t have to craft a whole article, but make it a point to jot down a few story ideas, write the lede, or just about what you’ve experienced during your day.

While some say the more you write, the better your writing will be, bear in mind that you could also do it wrong over and over again. To avoid that, don’t forget the other points mentioned here, such as read good travel pieces.

Make sure you write the way you talk. It doesn’t have to be perfect for now. Once you target a publication, you can still edit the piece according to the tone and style of the outlet where you’d like to be published.

Write from a Unique Point of View

Figure out the angle you want to take, then shape the story accordingly. Perhaps you want to show the importance of a shrine you’ve discovered or shrines of a city, and then suggest the value of visiting them.

Your take, your expertise is what matters here. And that’s one of the rewards of travel writing; you have the freedom to be your boss and work on your own terms. Now it’s your turn – get the ball rolling.