Jonesborough, TN

How to Get Started as a Travel Writer

John M. Dabbs

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So, you want to be a travel writer, eh?

You and about a million other keyboard hackers wanting to write and live the dream. The dream of traveling place to place, all on somebody else’s dime.

The image of travel writers — a classy man and woman riding in first class. They ride in a limousine to a five-star resort. Their days comprise lounging by the pool, drinking Mai-tai cocktails. The nights include schlepping in cocktail lounges over martinis after a dinner party.

Boy! That’d be great, wouldn’t it! Leading the “James Bond” lifestyle without having to kill or be killed. Sadly though, you may be mistaken and in for a disappointment if that is what you are seeking.

Being a Travel Writer

Now you too can be a travel writer. Not that difficult. To be a travel writer, you must write about travel. Write about the places people would like to see and visit. You can write about destinations close to home. Writing close to home is the best way to get acclimated to the industry.

Get to know people at your local chamber of commerce and the convention and visitors' bureau. They can be a wealth of information and an asset for breaking into the trade.

1. Your First Assignment

Write a piece on several local businesses, from the perspective of a traveler. Contact upscale hotels, dining establishments, and attractions. Talk with the marketing or public relations manager, or owner. Let them know you are writing a tourism article and wish to feature their business.

You aren’t fishing for a free night’s stay or a free meal here. Ask them about their business and if someone could show you around. Let them know you’ll be taking some photos. Get the names of the owner and people helping you, along with their contact information.

Send them hand-written thank you notes afterward.

Inquire about this history of the business. Ask about famous people who’ve worked or been to their establishment. There may be information to add more intrigue to the story.

In older locations, ask about ghosts. I am not joking.

You may have to put the business owners at ease if there are any reports. Let them know you will make light of the subject — but there are often people who travel with that intent.

Jonesborough, Tennessee is one such location. Entrepreneurs have pounced on reports. They even have nightly ghost tours, though I’ve never seen ghosts there.

2. Second Assignment

After making contact, touring a few businesses, and talking to the staff, get organized. Put your photos together and work on a few articles. After having something worthy of publication — Pitch it!

No, I’m not suggesting you throw it into your trash can. Contact a few local tourist magazines and see if they could use the articles. Contact paid and free media outlets(print). If you don’t have any luck — Put them on your own blog!

Yes — You should have your own blog and put a section with travel articles on it. You can also submit these to travel publications on Medium too. Writers On The Run is one, and Kristi also has her own travel site JustCheckedIn.com. She accepts submissions from other writers.

Always send your host a copy or link to articles you’ve written about their business. It adds to your credibility and gives them access to more publicity.

3. Assignment Three

Now you’ve got the gist of how to get started as a travel writer.

You can make a list of the places you’ve been and write about them. Put these articles and photos on your own travel blog. Submit the better ones to travel sites or try pitching them as guest blogs to other travel writers.

Once you’ve gotten the feel for how it works. Get comfortable repeating these steps. Ask your contacts at the local convention and visitors bureau if they have a contact at “X”. (X is a place you’d like to travel and see on holiday). If they don’t, you can look them up yourself on the internet. This is not a substitute for a personal connection if your home CVB can provide one.

Use the same formula. Make contact, get referrals, explain the reason for your trip, and ask if they can show you around. When you feel comfortable with the process — up your game. Ask about press trips, or if they would host you during your stay.

Your travel writing isn’t limited. Explain to them what you are doing — writing a series on luxury hotels/resorts in major cities. You are writing about the best vacation spots in the Florida Keys/Bahamas/etc...

Look for more places to market your articles. You may pitch destinations and articles to editors in advance once you get some published work under your belt. Be creative there are lots of ways to market pieces and get paid.

If you put together a book on the best luxury travel accommodations in “X”, you can make it a book. Order at least 20 copies yourself and gift them to your hosts. Why do you say? Because who wouldn’t want a book listing their location as one of the best locations in the area? They may want a copy for each room! You can sell them from your website or self-published on Amazon (or both!)

Final Tips

As we part ways, for now, remember:

If you’re eating, drinking, or lodging, or entertaining at a business, always tip the staff. Gratuities are not usually included when hosted. If your hosts include tips, they will let you know.

KEEP All receipts!

As a travel writer, when traveling and eating out, you are always conducting research. This can be for current for upcoming articles and books. These expenses can be deductible, even when on vacation. Check with your tax person for detailed information. I can’t stress this enough – we don’t want to get caught up in a struggle with the tax man.

Happy Travels!

If you’ve liked the article, I hope you read more of my work here.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Johnson City, TN
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