Whether you’re planning your first trip as a travel writer or heading back out into the field after a well-earned break, it can be beneficial to make a plan for your expedition before you even think about leaving the house. Although it’s not always possible to foresee every hurdle and roadblock you might encounter along the way, having a solid plan in place increases the chances of your success.
In this article, we’ve put together a guide to the who, what, where, why and how of travelling as a writer, packed full of handy tips and useful advice. It’s helpful for both newbies and old hands, so read on and see what you can learn.
First of all, you need to identify why you are travelling. Yes, it’s a given that your journey will be undertaken in order to write an article, blog post, travel guide or book at the end of it, but you also need to consider your target audience.
Are you focusing on unusual experiences in familiar places? Or are you venturing further afield to discover great holiday destinations in overlooked areas?
Are your readers simply looking for some fun inthe sun? Or are they adrenaline junkies searching for their next hit?
Once you start to think about why you are travelling, the other aspects of the trip will become clearer to you. It can help to narrow down your purpose by thinking about things like budget, transport, accessibility, climate and accommodation options.
In a world where it sometimes feels as though even the most remote corners of the globe have been taken over by tourists, it can be tricky to come up with a unique angle for your work.
It doesn’t matter if you’re writing for the office worker who fancies two weeks on the beach, or the intrepid explorer determined to get the most from their gap year, everybody wants to feel like they’re trying something new and something special when they go on holiday. It’s up to you to convince them that your chosen destination is their best option.
You must have your audience in mind when you choose where to go, but don’t let them dictate everything or you won’t be able to show them anything new.
Do your own research. Ask locals, look at internet forums, read books, check social media and, once you arrive, take a walk and soak up the atmosphere of a place before you decide on the specifics of where to visit.
Once you’ve decided on where in the world you’re heading to, it’s a good idea to check the climate and typical seasonal weather forecast for that place. If you’re looking for a taste of summer on the Riviera, for example, then there’s no point booking a trip in the middle of January.
Likewise, if you’re hoping for a magical Bavarian Christmas, you’ll need to arrive during the festive period rather than at the height of summer. This might seem like an obvious point, but it’s amazing how many people end up disappointed by the entirely predictable weather they encounter on holiday.
This applies both to who you’re writing for – is it a couple on their honeymoon? or a group of friends on a summer break? – but also to yourself. Some travel writers are lucky enough to be able to take their partner or family with them on jobs, meaning that they don’t have to endure long, lonely weeks without them.
If this option is not open to you, then perhaps you can team up with a colleague and cover more ground whilst splitting the costs between you. If they’re more experienced, this could result in some insider tips for you, whereas if you’re both starting out together, the presence of both camaraderie and friendly competition will spur you on.
Sometimes, however, travelling alone is the best option. If this is the case for you, make sure that you’re stocked up with activities for your downtime. Download gaming apps like Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and The Sims Mobile, or investigate larger gaming platforms so that you can switch off and relax when you’re not working. Make sure that your social media is up to date so that you can keep in touch with the folks back home whilst you’re away, and ensure you have the appropriate banking apps downloaded, for added security.
What to do?
Other than soaking in the unique ambiance of your destination once you arrive, the activities you take part in will be entirely dependent on the nature of the city or country that you’re staying in.
If you already know the purpose of your trip (see above), then it’s a good idea to get some activities booked in before you arrive.
For example, if you want to take a bungee jump off Victoria Falls Bridge, it’s best to book in advance. This allows you more control over the timing of your jump, and gives you the option of blocking out the rest of the day as ‘recovery time’.
Bear in mind that popular activities like safaris, firework displays, guided tours and hikes may be of interest to your audience, but they require careful planning before you arrive to ensure that you’ve got enough material to report back with.