How to Write a Travel Story: By Staying Home

Friday, April 15, 2022
By Barbara Noe Kennedy

 You don’t need to jet-set around the world to come up with a good travel story—as nice as that may be. Remember that old adage about writing what you know?

Maybe you live in an under-the-radar small town, a hidden gem of Khmer culture, a wilderness/camping/trail haven, or home to the best small museum/cooking school/monument you’ve never heard of. The possibilities are endless! It’s just a matter of viewing a place that you know inside-out through visitors’ eyes. What would a visitor want to know?

Honestly, as a travel writer who covers destinations around the world, I often find myself writing about my hometown—Washington DC. By virtue of living here, going about my daily life, seeing it through the different seasons, I have insider knowledge. I read local newspapers and magazines, watch the local news, talk to friends. I eat at local restaurants, run and bike on local trails, see shows at local theaters. I’m constantly running around town, visiting a new hotel or museum or restaurant. I’ve watched this city grow from a provincial southern town to a veritable global city. In short, I’m an expert.

In addition, I have developed relationships with local tourism representatives, who invite me to museum openings and hotel tours and put me on press release lists that keep me in-the-know on upcoming events. I always know when a new museum has been approved or when a distillery opening has been delayed. In addition, their website,, is a font of information, including a special “press” section that offers story inspiration, resources, and the latest industry news. Most cities and towns have tourism staffs that are just as helpful.

So, what I encourage you to do, especially if you’re just breaking into travel writing, is take a look around you—and write what you know.

Here are some prompts to get you started: 

1. Small museums: Does a local museum have any intriguing artifacts (check out Old Rip in Eastland, Texas)? Is there a collection of sites related to a famous (even not-so-famous) person?

2. A local food specialty: Everyone may eat cheese curds (for example) where you come from, but most of the country has never heard of them. What’s their story? What are the best places to experience them?

3. Road trips: Americans love to drive. Is there a scenic or interesting drive in or around your town? Write about sites, restaurants, hotels, and parks to stop along the way, to create an idyllic escape. Or make it a themed drive—the best places to sample cheese curds in the greater Madison area; or Long Island in winter; or “George Washington Slept Here.”

4. Weekend getaways: People also love weekend getaways. Is there a weekend getaway from your town—or could your town be a weekend getaway? Provide restaurant, hotel, and activity suggestions.

5. Freebies: What are the free things to do, whether it’s summer concerts, gardens, museums, festivals, etc.?

Writing about home in the guise of travel writing doesn’t preclude you from hopping onto a plane to go kayaking in Hawaii or wat-hopping in Thailand. But it’s definitely a place to get started. Remember, you’re the on-the-ground expert. That goes a long way in writing an insightful travel story.


Barbara Noe Kennedy is a former longtime editor with National Geographic Travel Publishing. She currently works as a fulltime freelance travel writer, with credits including Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, London Telegraph, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, National Geographic, BBC Travel, The Points Guy, and more. She also teaches travel writing and creative nonfiction and leads tours.

Barbara is also a WOW! Women on Writing instructor. Check out her upcoming webinar, Travel Writing 101. More information about our classes can be found on our classroom page.

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Renee Roberson said...

I love this! I'm a regional magazine editor, and this helped give me even more ideas for pitching to other markets. I live in the suburbs of Charlotte, N.C., and there are so many things you could write about, from our great variety of pro sports teams, arts and culture, cuisine, nearby lakes, etc. I even looked at a ghost tour I've never attended in my town and thought it would be a great article or blog post topic.

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