As part of my day job, I am sometimes asked to work with travel brands – selecting bloggers to attend events, review holidays and travel to overseas destinations. As a blogger myself, I’m also regularly invited to review holidays and destinations, to write about here on Who’s the Mummy?
Over the past six years, Flea and I have travelled to a whole host of places in the name of blogging.
We’ve made pizza in Florence and fed giraffes in Wales. We parasailed over the Indian Ocean in Mauritius and paddled sailboats in Cape Cod. There have been musicals on Broadway in New York City and eaten artisan gelato in Ibiza. Over the years we’ve picked up a few tips about what makes for a successful travel review post – the sort of post that’s still generating hits and shares several years after being published.
These are just my tips of course – I’d love to hear yours, if they’re different, in the comments!
Know your Readers
My first tip? Know your audience. Understand who reads your site and what they want to know – Google Analytics is your friend here.
On this blog, most of my readers are women with school-aged kids. They want to be inspired and see great pictures, but fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-adventure isn’t quite so easy for Mums – we want to know how long the flight was, are the rooms big enough to share with kids, what’s the food like?
Things that might seem trivial to an independent, solo traveller make the difference between holiday heaven and hell when you’re travelling with a 5 year old. The second biggest generator of traffic to my site over the past month has been people Googling, “How long is the tour at the Harry Potter Studios?”. Because when you’ve got kids to feed, these details matter.
Stop the Play by Play
I’m going to sound really harsh when I say this but… the truth is nobody wants to read an hour-by-hour breakdown of your holiday. It’s the blog-era equivalent of making someone sit through your slides. I don’t care what you ate every day, or what your entire day looked like.
Instead, think about your trip as a whole. What were the highlights? The really interesting, unusual moments? The bits of practical knowledge you can share to help someone visiting that destination have an even better time? What do you really think your readers should try for themselves? Tell me a compelling story that makes me feel like I was there (or makes me really want to go!)
Use Great Photos
These days, there’s no excuse not to take decent images for your blog – not everyone is a pro photographer (certainly not me) but images are SO important when you’re blogging about a new place. Honestly, my early travel review photos were terrible. I can’t quite understand why I used to post photos that were barely 300px wide and were as often out of focus as in, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Today I make my photos as large as my blog theme will allow (but not too much larger), and I use Lightroom to edit and enhance them before I post. I tend to edit brutally – one well-chosen photo of a scene is more interesting and useful than 20 so-so photos of the same thing. You can use Picmonkey or other alternatives if you don’t get along with Lightroom.
If you’re using a mobile phone, that’s fine, but remember that with a smaller camera, the need for good lighting and a steady hand (or a portable tripod) becomes more important. My Windows Nokia 1020 is my go-to camera when I’m travelling, and if I can be bothered to carry a full camera, I use a Canon 70D with a 24-105mm f/4 lens, which works well for most photos I need to take – I also take along a 40mm pancake lens because it takes pretty portrait shots.
I’m surprised that some holidays I read about on blogs bear no resemblance to the holidays I take, complete with disasters, near-misses and poor transportation choices.
Sometimes, travel reviews wind up being one long series of things that were amazing and magical and aren’t we just blessed to be here? Hmm. For me, balanced reviews that mention the pros and cons of an experience are much more useful, and tend to give your blog a lot more credibility (meaning I’m more likely to believe you when you tell me something is flat-out amazing).
Cover the Basics
A travel review should be informative. You’ve been to a place and know stuff that I, as a reader, don’t know. So tell me.
Tell me the name of the amazing restaurant you visited. What did that boat trip cost? Was that tennis coaching included in the price of your holiday? Is the resort open all year round?
And don’t forget location. Simply telling someone the name of the hotel and town you stayed, and where it’s located within a country is useful information (not to mention being incredibly useful for SEO purposes).
Search referrals remind me regularly how important this is – not many people find my travel posts by searching for “holidays in Florida” but lots of them DO find them by searching for things like – best pizza restaurant in Florence, how much do tickets to Disneyland cost, what to do in Biarritz when it rains.
Explain your Accommodation
There’s a reason why some of the most popular videos on YouTube are tours of hotel rooms, ship cabins and villas – people considering staying at a hotel or resort want to know what it’s REALLY like.
But reading a lengthy description of every room can be boring – focus on the things that really surprised you. Offer some tips on when to go somewhere to get the best table, or experience. Share some advice on what I would or wouldn’t need to take to that accommodation, if I’m a guest.
I find combining a brief description and embedding a room tour video works well – and I tend to shoot those videos on my phone, on the fly, when we arrive somewhere and the room still looks pristine – I’m often to be found nagging Flea, “Take your bag off the bed, you’re smooshing the duvet and I haven’t filmed it yet!” (excellent parenting)
Don’t Shy Away from Prices
Holiday prices are variable, I know. But understanding the rough cost of flights, hotel stays and theme park tickets is crucial – and if you’ve had access to a special experience or premium ticket, mention how much your readers would pay for access to that same service, or if it isn’t available. If nothing else, links to booking pages and price details on the brand website help people to work out quickly if a destination is right for them. Your holiday might be amazing and magical and brilliant, but I’m going to read it in a different way if you tell me it costs £10,000 versus £2,000.
Capture Memories and Moments
When I travel, I tend to use the Notes app on my iPhone to capture details as I go – what was the name of the amazing cake I had in the café in Colombia? What was the name of the street where we found the amazing craft store?
If I meet someone, I will often ask to take a photo of their name badge (this isn’t as stalker-y as it sounds, honest) or I’ll take a business card. I compulsively photograph menus, restaurant frontages, and timetables. Because it’s the sort of thing I have zero ability to remember without help. Keep receipts or pay by credit card, so you can look back at your bank statement for restaurant and bar names, or resort details.
It’s so easy when you’re relaxing to forget to capture these little details – but those are what add colour and personality to your review post when you get home. Take tiny videos of things you want to describe later. I love that Rachael uses her iPhone to capture sounds so she can describe them later (at least, I think that’s why she was waving her phone in the air in the Costa Rican rainforest).
So, those are my tips on writing great travel reviews. I’d love to know what you look for in a travel review, and what tips you’ve found work for you on your own blog.