Travel writing tips

The dos and don’ts of writing for Simonseeks

Your guide will not be published if you do not follow the guidelines below. Please read them carefully.

Do

  • Do fill in your profile fully (make sure you use your first and last name in the “name” field in the profile tab), so we know more about you, and upload a photograph of yourself.
  • Do give detailed recommendations of hotels/restaurants/attractions in your guide and tell the reader why you are recommending somewhere. Don’t keep a brilliant find to yourself.
  • Do recommend at least one hotel in your guide and make sure you add it using the “Hotel recommendation” tool provided. If your hotel isn’t already in our database, add it using the “Add it now” button.
  • Do include contact details after each recommendation. Address; phone number; website is ideal - eg Example Restaurant (21 Example Street, example area, postcode; telephone number only; www.example.com). You only need to include the street address for hotels.
  • Do offer an idea of price after your recommendations and remember to quote all prices in the currency of your destination.
  • Do check spelling and grammar thoroughly before you submit your guide – even small mistakes will cause the reader to question your guide’s authority. If in doubt, use a spell check!
  • Do use sub-headings and phrases/keywords/places in bold type as they improve presentation and make guides easier to read - don’t write in one long stream of consciousness. Please use the “Heading 3” style for sub-headings.
  • Do mention the name of your main destination in your guide’s title and summary to optimise your guides for the web. Find out more here.
  • Do complete the destination tag box accurately – only include the main destination(s) covered in your guide. For example, if your guide is on Madrid, only tag it Madrid (and not Spain or Europe). Your guide on Madrid will automatically be found in a search for Spain.

Don’t 

  • Don’t submit guides that have been published elsewhere on the web. This includes your own blog.
  • Don’t forget to include photographs and caption them – if your guide does not include at least one photograph it will not be published. Landscape-oriented photographs work best as the first image in the frame of our guides. See more photography tips below.
  • Don’t use 50 words when 10 will do. The ideal length of a guide is between 800 and 1,200 words; we rarely publish a guide longer than 1,500 words.
  • Don’t try to cram too much into one guide; covering a whole country, such as France, is a lot to attempt in one guide. Be more focussed. Even a general guide to Paris would be hard to tackle in 800 words and themed guides work well for larger cities – eg “Six perfect romantic hideaways in Paris”.
  • Don’t use lazy travel writing clichés that tell readers little. Phrases to avoid include “city of contrasts”, “hidden gem”, “where old meets new” and “history comes to life”. Be wary of “bustling markets” and “picturesque villages”.
  • Don’t complain about trivial things which won’t be of interest to readers. Instead, pass on what you learned.
  • Don’t write out-of-date guides. If readers find mistakes or out-of-date recommendations in your guides, they’ll have little faith in it, and this will have an adverse affect on your ratings.

Some writing tips

  •  Write about a place that you know and love – your aim is to inspire people to go there and you can only do that if you have real enthusiasm yourself.
  • Write a colourful introduction that grabs the readers’ attention. Give them some background about why you like a place, or what is special about it - make them want to read on.
  • Be descriptive – don’t simply tell us that a place is “beautiful”, “stunning” or “breathtaking”, use more evocative and specific words to explain what makes it so. Focussing on detail, rather than the big picture, often helps. Imagine you’re describing it to someone who can’t see it.
  • Look for new angles. If you’ve already written a guide on family fun in Rome, why not go back and write another guide about the city, but this time looking at it from another angle?
  • Look at the top-rated guides to see the types of guides that work well on the site.
  • Don’t be afraid to write about destinations that are already covered on the site. An article about cycling across the Gobi Desert may be fascinating, but you are likely to get more clicks – and earn more cash – if you write about a popular destination such as Paris or Barcelona.
  • Include lots of local flavour in your guide(s). To bring a place to life, recall the quirky details, the people you meet, the things they say. Describe sounds and smells as well as sights. Use quotes. Don’t just say your tour guide was hilarious – include one of his best jokes.
  • Don’t forget to make notes when you travel and always write down prices. Everybody wants to know how much things cost.

Please remember

  • If your writing isn’t good enough to be used on Simonseeks, we’ll let you know. The best thing to do, if you’re not sure you’ve got what it takes, is to read lots of other guides on the site as well as the feedback left by editors and community moderators.
  • We do not accept guides from writers with a commercial interest in a hotel, enterprise or destination, or who is otherwise connected with it - that includes PRs, tourist boards, and anyone who is a friend or relation to someone connected with that hotel, enterprise or destination.

How to take and submit photographs

Whenever you see a travel article in a newspaper or magazine, chances are it will be accompanied by some beautiful colour photography. The fact is, even the best writing needs an image or two to make it more appealing to the eye. And if you want to make money from your writing, you too need to think about pictures. Just follow our tips.

  • You don’t need an expensive camera to take great photos. You can do it with a simple point-and-shoot camera or even a mobile phone.
  • Get people in your pictures. When you flick through a friend’s holiday snaps the most interesting ones are not the buildings or the sunsets, but the people. Even if you are photographing a building, including passers-by will add human interest and scale.
  • Be respectful, not shy. It’s polite to ask people’s permission if you want to photograph them.
  • Take pictures that illustrate your article. If it’s about clubbing in Ibiza, include some blurred photos of the inside of a nightclub, as well as your perfect picture of a sunset.
  • Look for original angles. Climb a flight of stairs or lean over a balcony to view a street scene from above.
  • Before uploading your photos, crop them so that the subject dominates the image. If the files are large reduce the image size and definition using editing software such as Photoshop or Picasa. Files should be no larger than 0.5MB and 1024x768 pixels.
  • If you’ve got a great article but no pictures, search the web for images you can download and publish without paying. Try tourist board websites or free photography sites such as PD Photo (www.pdphoto.org) or Bigfoto.com (www.bigfoto.com). And always give credit where credit is due.