Are You As Organized as You Can Be?

helping travel writers get organized

Think back to when you first started traveling.

Did you know all the “rules”? Maybe TSA wasn’t even in your travel vocabulary. You probably didn’t even really know what 3 ounce liquids really meant…right?

But you’re a smarter traveler now, aren’t you?

Now think about when you first started as a travel writer. Did you know everything there was to getting your articles published? Did your first query to an editor sail right through to the “published desk”? If not…why not? Once again, you’re a smarter travel writer now, aren’t you?

For those of you that are just getting started as a travel writer, this isn’t as daunting as it may seem at times. You just need to get yourself organized in the business of travel writing. Here are a few simple tips that may just help you.

Organize your space

This may sound simple. You may even say “I work better in clutter.” Take it from someone who helps organize other writers and I’ll bet you will work more efficiently when you have a system. This doesn’t mean all piles must be put out of site or stuffed in a file cabinet…but they must be organized in some manner. Try file folders, large sticky notes, color coded tabs or whatever is your choice….just do it. I suggest making a list of things you are working on, projects due later, ones that need immediate attention, queries you need to write and upcoming due dates.

Personally, I like file folders. Some of mine include: sites to look into, sites needing articles, monthly to do, weekly to do, follow up, ideas for articles, places where I have recently traveled and trip advice. These make sense to me…they might not to you. That way I can take one out of my stand up file holder and work on it. Sure, I may have a couple open at any given time. But they are organized and they stay that way.

Trisha tells me she uses large zip bags to collect info on trips. That way she keeps all things together from a trip or a place of interest. She can remember her trip when she starts to write her articles, she writes where she sent the article or query on the bag, file it and everything stays neatly in one place.

The point is…find a system that works for you.

Maybe you could start by spreading everything out, put it in piles that make sense to you, make your list and organize your system. Make it your system…because if it’s too complicated you won’t follow it.

There are two key points here… (1) get started and (2) follow it.

Work with a travel article specific calendar

If you write regularly for a publication, put the name of that publication on the day of the month your article is due. Also put that same name a week or so earlier as a reminder. For instance if I write for ABC Magazine and they want the article on the 15th of the month, I add ABC to the 15th of every month. I also put ABC on the 7th to remind myself it is due in one week. If I have finished the article, I send it then. If not, I get in gear to get it sent within the next couple of days. Editors like early submissions. They do not like late ones.

Use this calendar to follow up with queries you have sent, as well. Have you ever sent out a query where you were to wait six or eight weeks before following up, then followed up and discovered it was only three weeks? Oops…but it happens. If it’s on your travel writing calendar, you will know when the appropriate time is to follow up.

This can be a paper calendar or an electronic version. Once again…do it, remember to look at it and follow it.

Use a database

When you really get start submitting articles, queries and follow up’s…a database can give your memory a break. I like it because it’s all in one place on my computer. Some things you might want to consider in your database are a list of publications, your articles list, dates you submit queries, dates you submit articles, responses to both queries and articles and which publication your articles have been submitted to for review or print. You can sort in several ways, get reports by specific publication or article and in general make your life easier.

I use Access Database. I told my computer person exactly what I wanted to get out of it on the back end and he designed the database to fit my needs. As I used it, I had him tweak it a little. I have two parts to mine.

The first part is “forms”, with articles, publishers and queries as their own separate entity. I add an article with its title, word count and date. Publishers are just a list. Queries include date, article name, who it was sent to, action on it and date everything is complete.

The second part is “reports”, with article listing, publisher listing, article by query and article by publisher. This is helpful to me if I want to find out exactly which articles I have sent to ABC Magazine. I can print out a report with all the articles they have printed.

If you take a few minutes to update it when you submit an article or a query, this tool can save time, headaches and embarrassment. It’s like any tool of the trade. You don’t update it…it won’t be your friend.


I can’t stress this enough. Take time to read newsletters like Travel Writers Exchange, attend workshops and continue refining your skills. Travel writing is fun and can be your business. But, like any business you need to continually improve your writing skills, your contacts and your knowledge base. Editors are savvy people. They know what they want. It’s up to you to show them you can provide exactly that.

A good travel writer is always learning something new…Good Luck.


What system do you use to stay organized? Share your advice!

About Wendy VanHatten 11 Articles

Wendy VanHatten left the corporate world to become a professional freelance travel writer and author. In addition she is an editor, travel business owner, author of a variety of published books, and photographer.

Currently, Wendy is writing several books on such topics as women and success, positive travel experiences, and recipes combined with destinations.  She continues to write several times a week on her blog Her website,, features sample articles, photos, services and links, and her newest ebook can be found at



  1. Thanks for the tips. I am going to set up my calendar this afternoon. We have so much work ahead of us. Just starting our travels for the first time as a writer and already finding it overwhelming. I think that if we follow your advice and get organized, things will go smoothly.

  2. Love the idea of a database and a calendar! Gmail offers the ability to create different calendars…I will implement this tomorrow!

    Also, like Trisha, I use a plastic bag as a collection bin for names of hotels, restaurants and stores. I record my thoughts on the back of the card and cart the bag around with me everywhere, until I am able to record everything on our computer. Obviously, with this strategy, a backup is super important. We use Mozy to make sure we never lose these important notes.
    .-= Jennifer @ Approach Guides´s last blog post: Top Three Favorite Restaurants: Florence, Italy =-.

  3. i like to be organised too … but i slowly sink into a mess and need to ‘clear the decks’ peridically. i use ziplock bags for lots of things … receipts, notes, and info about places i have been to, or want to go to …. and i write on the putside of my notebooks where teh notes are about and even the year, eg one notebook could say thailand 2002/ christchurch 2006 / malaysia 2002/3 … i have one deep drawer in my desk for niteboks adn many of them i know exactly where the blue one has info on . or the the one with the palm tree on the cover is from (france)

    i am teaching travel wrting next year in Fiji and will certainly be covering many of the issues you talk about here too as i find them essential
    .-= Heather Hapeta´s last blog post: Mad About Tulips =-.

    • I know what you mean. Organization works only if you start & follow your plan. Funny how my desk just won’t organize itself. If you need tips for your class next year, let me know.

Sorry, Commenting is automatically closed on all Posts older than two years.

Some links on this page do earn us a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. Not much, maybe enough for a cup of coffee or a beer, but we would never recommend any item if we didn't believe in it's value to you. Plus, every little bit helps keep this site going and helps us continue to provide you with great information.  We appreciate your support!