What are the qualities that make a brilliant travel blogger? Fabulous descriptive writing? Fantastic photography (and interesting use of instagram?) Witty and entertaining vlogs? A great USP and authentic voice? Or a combination of all these things?
If you think you've got what it takes to be an exceptional travel blogger, here's an amazing opportunity to prove what you can do. First Choice have launched a competition to find five outstanding bloggers to become their Out of Office bloggers. The winners will be sent on some amazing trips in 2014 – starting with an All Inclusive holiday to Thailand. You'll be blogging about your experiences for the First Choice blog, as well as your own – giving you and your blog incredible exposure.
And the good news is you don't have to be a travel blogger to enter - it doesn't matter if you usually blog about fashion, style, crafts, food or parenting, as long as you have a passion for travel and want to discover the world.
How to enter:
1. Create a post for the First Choice blog. To help you get started, we've put together 10 top travel blogging tips (see gallery below). Your post can be in any shape, size, style or format you choose, and on any holiday destination.
2. Post it to your own blog, then fill out the entry form at First Choice Blogging Competition, including a link to your blog post.
3. The competition closes at 23.59PM on 8th November 2013, and the five lucky winners will be chosen by a panel of judges. Click here for full terms and conditions.
It's Not About The Journey...
... at least, not the physical one. No one cares that you got up at 4am to drive to Gatwick to catch your flight and you went through security and waited in the lounge and got on the plane. Unless there's a particularly hilarious/crazy/interesting anecdote, or you want to tell your readers about the in-flight meals and movies on a particular airline (and some bloggers do this very successfully), start with the part when you're actually there.
Set The Scene
Remember learning about 'imagery' at school? The most successful travel writers and bloggers use imagery to bring places to life for the reader, and transport them – the fundamental principle of good travel writing. So, instead of simply reporting what you saw and did, use the five senses, and describe the way a place makes you feel. A scene-setting attention-grabbing anecdotal intro paragraph will ensure they keep on reading. And think about the vocabulary you're using, too (try and ban the word 'nice' from your posts, and avoid clichés.) Which brings us to...
Fabulous photographs are crucial for travel blog posts, whether you instagram or use no filter whatsoever. Try using a slideshow plug-in to show yours off to their best advantage. Vlogs (video blog posts) are particularly popular with travel bloggers: as well as videos of destinations, hotel room vlogs usually get lots of hits on Youtube and can bring a new audience to your blog. You don't need any fancy equipment to make a vlog, just your phone and a steady hand - or better still, a friend with a steady hand, and some basic editing skills. Some travel bloggers achieve amazing results with podcasts, too.
It's important to be fair. Constructive criticism is always welcomed by social media-savvy travel companies - they learn from it, and build on it to make a better customer experience. (The ones that don't will inevitably see their profits fall.) But using a blog post to publicly criticise a company because you didn't get an upgrade or you missed your flight because you were late = not cool.
On Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, your Facebook page. Watch out for #TravelTuesday and #TTOT on Twitter, and also #FriFotos (travel photos posted on a Friday with a chosen theme) - great ways to discover the travel blogging community and reach a bigger audience.
It sounds obvious, when you think about it, but if you think you might want to blog about that great little tapas bar in Barcelona or that perfect beach in Antigua, write down the name of it, so you can remember it and put it in the blog post you're planning to write.
Try To Find The Unusual
If you want to take photos of famous landmarks and put them on your blog, that's fine... but the chances are, unless you're a truly gifted photographer, you're probably not offering anything very different to hundreds of other travel blogs out there. Go off the beaten track a little, discover something unique and unexpected to photograph and blog about.
Not even full-time travel writers can be away all the time. But if you're going to be a travel blogger, although you can write posts about places you'd love to visit, it helps if you actually go somewhere, too. Even just a trip to a local museum or day out at a National Trust property can make an interesting travel blog post.
Check Your Work
Before you hit the 'publish' button, preview the post and make sure you're really happy. Remember, it's going online, and can be seen by (potentially) thousands. No pressure, then.
Write from the heart, and write naturally – the best travel writing is unpretentious. Readers of travel blogs, in particular, appreciate authenticity. Perfect grammar is not as important as passion and a genuine desire to share incredible travel experiences with your readers (although place names should ALWAYS be spelled correctly). Try to find your own voice and USP, and stay true to yourself. Now it's your turn, enter the <a href="http://www.firstchoice.co.uk/blog/out-of-office-competition" target="_hplink">First Choice Blogging Competition</a>. Good luck!