Travel Writing Tips You Should Ignore

Since the advent of the internet, everyone and their uncle has been offering advice on travel writing. Most of this advice is well meaning, but much of it is outdated, ineffective or just misinformed. Therefore, it needs debunking.

Pooling the extensive travel writing knowledge of our writers, we’ve come up with a shortlist of questionable tips that are regurgitated online again and again. So, without further ado, here are four bad tips that are best ignored.


“Be controversial”
These days, as travel blogs and magazines are getting more and more competitive, everyone is trying to make an impact. As a result, bloggers and writers are increasingly looking at ways to shake things up and get noticed both in the travel realm and beyond.

The thing is, controversy for controversy’s sake rarely works. And if you can’t truly stand behind the argument you’re making, then there’s a good chance you’ll end up red-faced.

For example, naming and shaming what you feel are overrated travel destinations is controversial but valid, but slating whole countries or cultures on a whim is feeble and offensive. We’re not saying you should avoid stepping on any toes, just that you need to be sure you truly believe what you are saying and are willing (and more importantly able) to defend it when challenged. A more useful and practical travel writing tip would be, “Don’t be afraid to be controversial when necessary”.

“The list post is dead”
For years, people have been advising writers to avoid the list format, yet the list article lives on. What’s more, long established newspapers and magazines are increasingly using ‘in brief’ list articles to grab readers’ attention. The statistics suggest that list posts still lure people in, so if you want to attract readers, you might want to reconsider.

Of course, whether you choose to write list posts or not is entirely up to you (or your editor). But there are many different formats of travel writing available, and the list post is as popular – and as meritable – as it’s ever been.

“Keyword density matters”
Keywords are fine when used in moderation, but it’s vitally important to remember there is such a thing as over-optimisation. As Google’s algorithms are getting smarter and smarter, they’re doing a pretty good job of recognising unique, compelling content, without needing to have endlessly repetitive keywords shoved in their face. If you continue to jam in too many keywords, expect to be penalised.

More importantly, the quality of your written travel content should come first and a writer’s main job is to provide compelling content. Crowbarring in keywords where they don’t fit will only derail your copy, so they should be secondary to the quality and flow of your piece. It helps to remember that Google isn’t your target audience.


“Let people behind the scenes/show them the process”
Here’s a content tip we see bandied about a lot online, particularly when it comes to blogging or social media. The argument goes: “Let people behind the scenes – It shows you’re authentic/transparent.” This isn’t necessarily wrong. In fact, it’s often true. But not in all cases. Sometimes, letting people view the process can ruin the magic.

For instance, most people enjoy experiencing behind-the-scenes tidbits from NASA’s space-bound astronauts or seeing other people’s quality travel pictures. On the other hand, most people don’t like seeing pictures of computer screens, hearing about boring lunches or about the minutiae of bus journeys and travel itineraries.

What’s important to remember is that sometimes the behind-the-scenes parts of travel writing are hidden for good reason. Because — to be blunt — they are boring. If you try to let readers into the process of what’s going on day-to-day, you may soon find why this information was kept strictly ‘behind the scenes’ in the first place.

Are there any other top travel writing tips you feel are just plain wrong? Come and tell us all about them on Twitter. Or to see more of our work here at World Words travel writing agency, have a look at our portfolio

Career Advice CC image courtesy of Quinn Dombrowski; Behind the Scenes CC image courtesy of Thomas Leth-Olsen

9 thoughts on “Travel Writing Tips You Should Ignore

  1. I will give you an example from my blogging of #1. I was doing a series of posts for a sponsor agency on travel in Peru. to “rock the boat” i wrote one piece titled “8 reasons to NOT visit Cusco”
    up until this post the client was happy. boy, when this piece came Peru tourism complained to the operator who then requested me to change the title. they left it to my discretion. i did not have to but they asked if i could which i did.
    funnily, my post was written in humor and not actually berating Cusco and it did show up top of google ranking soon after it got published. but that title sounds onerous and it hit me the wrong way. even after rewording it, that titled post showed up on archived links ahead of my actual post!!!

    • That’s a good example – thanks for sharing. It’s funny how difficult it can be to remove things fully from the internet. Once they’re up there, they tend to take on a life of their own. In this case, I do think tone is very important though and humour and controversy often go hand in hand!


  2. “Write only about what you know.” Yes, you should know about it by the time you actually write it, but you don’t have to be an expert in a destination before you set out to explore. A set of fresh eyes might better capture a travel subject than someone who’s lived there for years. In fact, I seldom write about my own area because I’ve lost perspective on it and, frankly, it bores me a little.

    • Hi Clark – nice to hear from you! You’re quite right that a fresh pair of eyes can often capture the essence of a place better than an in-the-know local. A little experience, and a lot of research, can go a long way. However, there is some value in the old ‘write only about what you know’ adage when it comes to specific things to see and do. For example, you can’t write about the quality of a restaurant’s Michelin-star dining if it’s your first time eating outside McDonald’s, and it’s hard to helpfully review a children’s attraction unless you’ve been there with kids. Readers of travel articles expect their writers to have sufficient experience in and knowledge of certain areas to make clear comparisons.

  3. Thanks for posting. I think that a great many people on the internet are looking for that one thing that can “give them a leg up” over any “competition.”

    I believe that if the article is well written, engaging, and interesting, you don’t know to worry about anything you might read on the internet. People are pretty good at spotting the ol’ bait and switch, be it content, delivery method, or whatever cheap trip a website is using to get someone to engage.


    Come Wander With Us @

    • Thanks for your comment – I agree! The quality of the content should always be top priority. Cheap tricks might give sites a short-term boost, but they won’t help you retain readers.


  4. Thanks for posting this Mandy. It’s amazing how competitive this industry can be sometimes, to come across people who don’t share, and who are pretty protectionist about their work.
    Agree re: the lists. The amount of times I’ve been told by ‘professionals’ that lists just makes one look unprofessional, only to find the opposite is amazing!
    Keep up the good work.

  5. Pingback: Popular Travel Writing Tips You Should Ignore - World Words

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