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9 Simple Ways to Make Your Travel Blog Better

by Pam Mandel Dec 13, 2006

FOR MONTHS NOW, I’ve been traveling the blogophere seeking out the interesting, the obscure, the obscene from the world of travel bloggers.

Good lord, there’s a lot of us out there. Seeing so many blogs, it’s natural that I’ve developed a marked preference for certain characteristics.

Even though I have absolutely no editorial “cred” other than my reading habits, I’m going to scribble a brief rundown of what catches my eye and what makes me click away.

There’s truckloads of text out there on how to write about travel, but hey, what’s stopping me from adding to it? These are my opinions only (I have plenty of those!) so take it for what it’s worth, my two cents, etc.

Make it physically readable, for starters.

I can’t read pink text on a yellow background, for example. And sometimes, wow, there is so much going on that I can barely find the text. Which leads me to…

Minimize the design toys, please.

Everyone wants a custom blog, but if you don’t really know what you’re doing, you just end up with noise. There are plenty of perfectly acceptable templates to use, it’s not a crime to use them, especially if you’re a good writer. I want to read you, not hire you as a designer.

Reading itineraries is really boring, unless they’re mine.

I skip right over blogs that list where the writer went without telling me anything about what happened there. These things get hidden in entries – first we went to the Museum, then the park, then we took the subway back to the old part of the city…. Meh. Doesn’t tell me anything. What did you do, see, eat there?

Turns out I do want to see a picture of you, who knew?

I love the surprise of seeing that some big dude in a Hawaiian shirt and a silly hat is writng culturally sensitive stories about visiting holy sites. Or some hard core outdoor climber is a woman of a “certain age.”

Speaking of pictures, bring ’em.

It’s nice when there are thumbnails in the posts, or a single photo up top, and then, after reading, I can click through to an album. I don’t care for it when people use a linear blog format for photoblogs, however, there are better ways to present photos only. If you’re keeping a photoblog, use a tool that’s designed for it, not one that’s designed for text.

Negativity can be okay as long as it’s not cultural imperialism.

“Oh my god, I ate the most disgusting thing ever!” is all right as long as it’s followed by a description of what the thing was and how it’s a local specialty and how you had the nerve to try it. Props to you for being adventurous. Just don’t diss the locals, man.

Too much introspection?

“I was thinking about my friends back home and how they were so not having this experience that was totally changing me and everything is different now…” Click. Next please. I get that travel can equal huge transformation, but I’d much rather read about how that transformation is being experienced.

Is that too woo woo to make sense? Maybe. Maybe you get what I mean. Ditto for irony and uber-coolness. What’s the point in traveling if you’re going to spend too much time inside your own head instead of what’s happening in front of you?

Gimme the details!

I absolutely want to read about how the waiter looked like he was wearing his Grandmother’s wig, that his hair could so not have been real, or how the train station smelled of cigarettes and pee and oddly, roses. Good travel writing doesn’t miss the little things hovering in the corners in the background.

Take me with you.

This is difficult to define and quantify, but good travel writing makes the reader feel like they’re on the trip too. Put me in the car, on the bus, next to you on the plane. I really want to be there, so take me with you. No, seriously, take me with you. I can be ready to go in, like, 20 minutes.

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