Serious Travel Writing: It’s Not About First-Class Hotels

travel writing - it's not all 5-star hotels

Since I started just over a year ago, I’ve been approached by many writers who say they simply want to write for the site so they can stay in luxury hotels.

This always stops me.

I can’t help but wonder….did they get into the field so they could stay in luxury hotels?

I have a very hard time identifying with this. Of course, I enjoy staying in fabulous places as much as anyone else and frankly, among other things, my readers are looking to my site for these sort of recommendations.

Remind yourself of what drew you to travel…it was not likely a hotel.

But more important to me is where I’m going. I will choose a place because of the history, the art and architecture, the birdwatching, the skiing…but rarely because of the hotel. And frankly…I am more interested in a hotel if it is super convenient to what I’m researching, rather than if it has five stars.

Ironically, because of my site’s demographics, when I travel, I usually have to stay in the finest hotels or at least visit them. But I can count the number of times I’ve actually had a chance to soak in an enormous bubble bath or wrap up the day in the hot tub on a my private deck. Usually I’m just too busy and the great room with the astounding view, the humongous bathroom is somewhat wasted on me (aside from the fact that I’m taking notes about it).

When approached by writers I don’t know, I’m far more impressed by those who come to me with an idea about visiting a place for some other reason.

Tell me you want to go to Paris and stay in Le Marais because you’d like to do a story on the galleries there. Tell me you want to a fishing village in Maine so you can kayak out to explore the archipelago. Don’t write to me and tell me you want to go to Paris and stay in Hotel de Crillon or Kennebunkport, Maine so you can stay at the the White Barn Inn.

Chances are these may very well be the places we need coverage on, but look at them as places where you toss your bags for a night or two. If you’re lucky, you may have breakfast on your porch overlooking a narrow cobbled street festooned with blossoms or you’ll be staying in a sprawling two bedroom suite inches from the water’s edge.

But start by having a real purpose to be visiting the area.

In fact, remind yourself of what drew you to travel. Was it your curiosity about different cultures? Was it to see the wildlife around the world? Please assure me…it wasn’t to stay in luxurious hotels.

~ Susan

Why did you get into travel writing? Share your memories!

About Susan Farewell 27 Articles

Susan Farewell is the editor-in-chief of, a travel information and planning site drawing on the experiences and insights of passionate travelers all over the world. It features animations, videos, photography, artwork and of course, words, to showcase travel destinations, experiences and products.

A former travel editor and staff writer at The Condé Nast Publications in New York City, Susan is a widely known digital, print and broadcast travel journalist. Her work has appeared in numerous publications (and sibling websites) including  Condé Nast Traveler, Vogue, Gourmet, Cooking Light, Travel and Leisure, Outside, Metropolitan Home, McCall’s, Child and Bride’s. She also writes for newspapers such as The New York Times and The New York Post, newsletters (BottomLine Personal) and numerous in-flight and regional magazines as well as various websites.

In addition to writing, Farewell has also developed countless products both in digital and traditional media from travel guides to online magazines.

She is the  author of several books including "How To Make A Living As A Travel Writer", "Hidden New England" and "Quick Escapes from New York City" (the latter two have had multiple editions). She has also co-authored many books.

Susan is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, the New York Travel Writers, the North American Snowsports Journalists and the Eastern Ski Writers Association.


  1. This reminds me of the “must be nice” conversations I have with friends and family all the time. I try to explain that it IS nice, but that visiting a place because you’ll be writing about it also isn’t leisurely. You’re constantly alert, taking notes, looking for the angle.
    .-= Britt Reints´s last blog post: Closing Time =-.

  2. Spot on, Susan. Every now and then someone will ask me if they should get into travel writing (or travel blogging) so that they can stay at expensive hotels or resorts for free (or for a discount)…..I always tell them that that’s not a good reason to get into this business….that in order to get really plum assignments you have to work your tail off and develop solid relationships with editors and publications, so that a host can be assured of getting some good coverage from you, not to mention that you need to be a good writer!

    • Oh but Jeff, you ARE a travel writer! We call your type a “location based” travel writer, because you write about where you live, which is still a ‘destination’ for many other people….

      If you want to expand your resume, try touching base with editors at your local newspapers and magazines to pitch some stories AND don’t overlook your region – nearby cities/newspapers where YOUR city can be a “weekend getaway”…. Good luck!
      .-= Trisha´s last blog post: Serious Travel Writing- It’s Not About First-Class Hotels =-.

    • Jeff,

      I teach travel writing at a couple of writers’ workshops and the first thing I tell my students is to write a travel piece about their own town. You are an expert on the area and the fact that it’s a tourist town is great. Chances are, you can come up with a couple of different angles and pitch them to a variety of publications/sites. Susan

  3. I drifted into it really. There are still so many negative things said about Turkey by people who have never even visited the country so I started the blog, then one thing leads to another. I will read about a place in Turkey from another blogger and then book a trip because I want to go there myself and think my readers should know about it as well.

    Blogging is definitely never boring and I am never short of ideas. Re luxury hotels, nice but my readers are not the kind of people who can afford to spend a weeks wages on a luxury hotel. I would perhaps do a one off post on it, but not base my whole blog on it. The standard hotels need to be mentioned more for my readers.
    .-= Natalie´s last blog post: Sunday Snap – The Open Window =-.

  4. Hi Susan,

    HOW do you write for publications? Where would I even go to find a list of publications that might be able to use me? I write for my own blog completely out of love of writing and traveling, but I’m confident I could do more — if only I knew who to approach, what to do.

    Also, while I feel confident about the quality of my writing, I’m worried that editors will only want to publish travel writers who already have built a reputation. I’ve worked hard and developed my skills, but my publication credits are sparse. I have appeared in two books — real books, not vanity press — but it just happened to be luck that I saw call for submissions on the Internet for one and randomly submitted my work to the other. Do you have any suggestions about how I can build my career?
    .-= Odysseus´s last blog post: Our Wall Is Greater Than Yours =-.

    • Odysseus,

      It’s a matter of examining the various publications/sites you’d like to write for. Zoom in on a couple that you see as a good match for the subject and kind of writing you do. From there, I say, just contact them directly, offering a couple of ideas you could write on. Getting to the right editor can involve a bit of detective work, but it’s doable. First look through their masthead and “contact us” page on their sites. You may even call and ask for the right person. Key is coming up with the right idea that is a good fit for their audience and then following up with the editor once you’ve pitched it. Many writers have grown their businesses very sucessfully this way. I wish you the best of luck. Susan

  5. Interesting post, Susan. I always surprises me that people just want to go somewhere because of a hotel. I travel to see different cultures, meet new people, and learn about the places I visit.
    And as I’m often on a tight budget, I usually stay in youth hostels and backpackers. I much prefer those to luxury hotels. :)
    .-= Maria Staal´s last blog post: York Short Stories Project Part 1 =-.

    • I agree with you Maria – it just doesn’t make sense to me to go somewhere just because of a hotel…..but I enjoy both types of travel.

      I like hostels, small hotels, and B&Bs because they afford me the opportunity to meet other travelers and learn about their own cultures, find out why they’re traveling etc….but I like the large, upscale (and occasionally luxury) hotels because they allow me to just relax and not be around other people if that’s what I need at the time…I’m not a big spender when I travel, but I wouldn’t turn down an invitation to stay at a 5-star hotel!

  6. Hi Susan,

    I really liked this post. I’ve met a lot of people like this, and I think it may have to do with watching Samantha Brown on Great Hotels among other things. I mean who wouldn’t want to get paid to stay in nice hotels! Samantha has it pretty sweet, she gets to check in to a nice hotel and automatically gets upgraded to the presidential suite. However, one thing that people do not realize is that it’s a television show built to captivate one’s attention and entertain. Stuff like this doesn’t happen in real life. I wish it did though!

    I think to do anything you must have a true appreciation for it in every sense of the word. Ever since I was a young kid and to this day I’ve loved hotels. Which is one of the premises for the creation of (coming soon). Over the past few years of studying hospitality in the U.S. and abroad, and staying in various hotels as a road warrior on my actual day job, I’ve learned many things about “Good Hotels”. The good ones (not always 4 and 5 star hotels surprisingly), not only have mastered the “art of customer service”, but also do a great job of telling a story and making sure that your experience the story from the moment you book the room and lingers with you as you fly back home. I know it sounds like I am looking for a needle in a haystack, but there are some great hotels that get it. As a Gen Y’er, I think this is something that other hotels (large chains, boutiques, etc.) as travel demographics start to change.


  7. Sure, nice hotels are… well, Nice! But you’re not going to find the spirit of a place in those ‘nice’ hotels.
    I got into travel writing simply because I loved two things – Travel and Writing. Obvious eh?

    I don’t make much money as a TW but I know that my life has been made a lot richer by my journeys, by the places and events I’ve witnessed, by the countless people I’ve met with countless interesting stories to tell. You can’t buy that, but more importantly, while nice hotels are just that, ‘nice’ they don’t tell the whole story.

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