How to write a travel article: keep it practical

by Jennifer Stevens

Jen Stevens, Travel WriterIn recent days, I’ve been on a pilgrimage to the holy waters of Lourdes, France… taken a wild ride through Albania… and gone in search of the perfect cup of tea in Darjeeling… vicariously, that is…

I refer to three travel articles bearing witness to the fact that it is, certainly, possible to sell narrative travel pieces. I’m talking about those stories that take you on a fantastic journey—thoughtful, revealing, genuinely educational. These aren’t how-to guides.

Written well, they are a joy to read. Outside Magazine, Afar, and National Geographic Traveler regularly publish excellent examples of these.

Here’s the catch, though: They’re relatively hard to sell. That’s because few publications devote many pages to them. And, frankly, they’re hard to write well.

There’s a more expedient way to get your stories written and sold—so you can start cashing in on those great perks regularly offered to proven travel writers. Here’s how to write a travel article that will sell: go practical.

Share your recommendations, how-to suggestions, time-saving, money-saving, and frustration-sparing tips. Such coverage may not feel as sexy as a narrative travel story does. But it is easier to both write and sell.

Here are three useful tips to get you started…

  1. A practical piece can be short—as short as 100-300 words—about a page or so double-spaced, type written. In such a piece, you’d likely limit your scope to just a single recommendation or a modest bit of guidance. You might write about a great place to hear live music… or a locals’ café in your hometown where the food is good and the price is right.The advantage to a short piece like this is that a) it’s short so it won’t take you that long to write, and b) all kinds of editors have need for little pieces they can slot in here or there, and so this opens up lots of options to you for places you can sell your article.
  2. As with all kinds of stories, keep your reader firmly in mind as you define your article. What you’d recommend to your 90-year-old mother is probably not what you’d recommend to your 23-year-old nephew. So – whether you’re writing a short or a longer piece – always keep the propensities of your target audience squarely in your sights. That’ll help you define the scope of your piece concisely. And it’ll make it easier to target a specific publication where you’d like to see it printed. After all, you simply ask yourself: What publications does this reader I’ve been writing to read?
  3. Use numbers. Editors love numbers. They’re easy to tease on the covers of magazines, they encourage “search-engine-friendly” articles, and they make for concisely defined stories. You’ve seen these things: 5 Ways to Enjoy the Great Outdoors in Denver… 3 Power-House BBQ Joints in Kansas City…  7 Free, Don’t-Miss Attractions for Art Lovers in New York…Use odd numbers—for some reason they feel more authentic, less “manufactured.” And make sure that you do in your story what you promise in your headline.

Frankly, you can slice the practical travel article in all kinds of ways. My suggestions here are meant to simply get your wheels turning.

Editors’s Note

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