I’ve always recommended that we pitch our travel stories and line up multiple assignments before we visit our destinations.
Being thoroughly prepared and well organized is crucial for efficient cost-effective travel writing. So, get your ducks in a row before you leave. Another advantage of having advance assignments is that you can plan your day-by-day travel schedule in advance and request those money-saving comps.
However, this doesn’t mean we should close our minds to new potential travel stories when you’re on the road. In fact, I’ve uncovered hundreds of new story ideas while I’ve been traveling. And these new story ideas have significantly boosted my income and bylines.
So, keep your “story antennae” up when you’re traveling!
When you unexpectedly encounter a tourist attraction, or a place, or a person you think would make a good publishable story, there are several things you must do immediately. If you neglect these steps, you’ll lose the story before you can even launch it.
First, be sure to take plenty of high res photos. And I do mean plenty of images. Shoot the attraction, place, or person from multiple angles. Shoot it from close-up and from a distance. Do not skimp on your photography. In this age of digital memory cards, there is no reason why you shouldn’t take dozens of photos of any place that has potential for publication.
If you can offer the editor a gallery of high-res images to accompany your story, you’re much more likely to land the assignment. And, some magazines even pay extra for photographs.
Next, collect all pertinent brochures and business cards. Write down the attraction’s website address. If you have the time, take copious notes in your writer’s notebook. You do carry a notebook with you at all times, don’t you?
Taking notes while you’re actually at the place, or immediately afterwards, is critical. You won’t remember the important details the next day; those details that can often make or break a story. Jot down your impressions of the place and why you think it would make a good story. Write down in your notebook the travel writing basics about the place: who, what, where, when, why & how.
Here’s an article on my PitchTravelWrite website about what to put down in your notebook, that will help you write a nice descriptive piece later on.
Next, locate the person who supervises the attraction and introduce yourself. Tell him or her that you’re going to pitch a story about their attraction and that you’ll be back in touch when you need further information and quotes.
Finally, when you get back to home base do further online research about the place to see if it has some “juice” and create your query letter and distribution list.
I’ve reaped new, unplanned assignments from every press trip or Fam tour I’ve been on. I love it when I’ll be strolling along a new destination and see something about a place that hits me like a bolt of lightning; “wow, that would make a great story!”
And usually, they do!