A Day in the Life
of a Travel Writer

By Roy Stevenson

As a travel writer I have a lot of variety in my life. Sometimes I’m on the road and sometimes I’m in the office – and no two days are the same in either place. People are always asking me about my life, usually assuming that it’s exciting and glamorous – so I’ve written this page to give you an idea of what a day in the life of this writer is like.

To set the stage and give you a high level viewpoint, I’m on the road 150 days per year.  (You can read about "A Year in the Life of a Travel Writer" here.) 

My travel schedule is hectic - even by travel writers’ standards. When I’m traveling I have to make the most of every moment, and I’ll often see - in one day - what the guidebooks recommend seeing in two days. When I’m on an assignment, it’s definitely not a vacation.

Dispel any unrealistic romantic notions you might have about how travel writers prance around the world traveling first class, and stay in luxury resorts. Or sitting at a Bistro on a street corner in Paris for 2 hours, over an espresso, taking in the sights and sounds.

Writers need to see a lot of things in a compressed time period to make every trip profitable, so they are constantly on the go.

Having said that, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that it's a good life, albeit somewhat hectic.  You can read about some of my favorite travel writing assignments and decide for yourself if this sounds like fun.

A Travel Writer On the Road

So, how do I spend my travel time? Here are five random travel days selected from one of my annual trips to Europe:

Sample Day #1: Take the Eurostar train from Paris to Birmingham, rent a car, and drive 40 miles to a small medieval town called Tewkesbury, to attend a medieval festival and battle re-enactment. That evening, drive back to Birmingham to stay in a low budget hotel.

Sample Day #2: Drive from B&B in Tunbridge Wells to a military vehicle show at the Hops Farm in Kent, about ten miles on narrow country roads, watching out for slow moving tractors, sheep, and lunatic drivers coming the other way, while trying to remember to stay on the left side of the road. Stay at the show all day taking photos, watching and photographing the vehicle parades and shows, do a couple of interviews, then drive back to B&B in the evening, too exhausted to drag myself out for dinner.

Sample Day #3: Spend 9 hours walking around a self-guided tour of Prague, photographing attractions and architecture, with a 30-minute break for lunch in a beautiful cobble stone square, all in baking 90-degree heat. That evening, attend a classical music concert in a cathedral, and get back to hostel at 11 pm, exhausted. Missed dinner, again.

Sample Day #4: From Edinburgh, take an early morning bus trip into the Scottish countryside to the famous Rosslyn Chapel for a personal guided tour by the chapel curator. That afternoon, walk along Rose Street, photographing the 13 pubs and bars for an article for a beer magazine - and taking notes of what the pubs look like and which bars have what ales on tap, rather than sitting down and enjoying a few beers.

Sample Day #5: In the south of England, drive 1.5 hours to Arundel Castle for a guided tour, jump back in the car, drive another 2 hours through horrendous non-freeway traffic. Miss lunch. Visit the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum and take photos before it closes. Struggle to find my hotel in the dark in a town that I’ve never been to before.

You get the idea. It’s non-stop travel. I’m constantly fighting jet lag, strange food, foreign languages, bizarre sights, train timetables, tram rides, and walking around unfamiliar city roads using poorly designed or unreadable tourist maps.

I get lost constantly. I  miss meals frequently, either because I can’t afford the time, or because I just plain forget.  (My wife refuses to go on certain trips with me so I'm left to fend for myself.)

Did I mention that I love this life - insanity and all?

A Travel Writer in the Office

The other 215 days that I spend at home in Seattle are filled from early morning to late at night, usually seven days a week. I write this on a Sunday afternoon, while the rest of the world is taking it easy.

My typical day is structured. I write every day, no matter how I feel. Here’s my schedule:

  • write from 5:30 am until 11:00 am, stopping for breakfast around 7:30 a.m.
  • do a fitness workout from 11:30 until 1 pm, and have lunch on my way home
  • write and do other office work until 6-7 pm

The writing part is rather obvious – I’m either marketing my articles by writing query letters or I’m writing the articles that have been assigned.

The rest of the office work varies and might include several of these activities:

  • reviewing my travel article matrix to see what magazines have not paid yet for published articles
  • sending invoices to magazine editors
  • preparing photo galleries to send out to magazine editors
  • researching destinations that I am planning on visiting
  • emailing and calling tourist agencies about upcoming trips
  • sending requests to hotels, tourist attractions and restaurants for comps or press rates
  • researching books and online for new articles that I am preparing to pitch
  • signing magazine contracts and putting them in the mail
  • visiting the bank to deposit checks, and other kinds of business errands

So that’s a snapshot of a day in my life.  It's full of adventure when I'm on the road, and beyond writing, I'm running a business at home.  It's work - but it's work that I love. 

I can't pretend it's easy or glamorous.  It's work - sometimes hard work.   Still want to be a travel writer?

If the answer is yes, then you will definitely want to sign up for my weekly e-zine.  I talk about all aspects of travel writing, with a big focus on selling your travel stories because that's the biggest challenge for most writers and it's the thing I'm very good at doing.  I love to share my knowledge and other great information that comes across my desk. 

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Related articles that you might be interested in reading:

A Year in the Life of a Travel Writer

Different Kinds of Press Trips for Travel Writers

My Best Travel Assignments:  Writing Gigs that I Really, Really Enjoyed