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Spontaneity Champion Guest Post:Top Tips For Travel Blogging Success

We launched our incredible "Spontaneity Champion" competition on November 5; which sees the winner get the chance to enjoy up to £50,000 worth of travel and experiences. The closing date for entries, which include a short video and a 300 word blog at our www.lovelivinglastminute.com, is December 1st.

With that date looming and people frantically putting together their entries, we asked successful travel blogger, Jess Gibson - aka The Travelista, to give us her top tips on writing and producing engaging travel content.

Part of the application process is a 300 word story – what three tips do you have for prospective entrants in terms of structuring a tale in such a short space?

JG - I always find the best ways to summarise a travel experience is to think about the 5 senses. What did you taste? How did it smell? What were the sounds around you? All these finer details help to paint a picture of your experience and transport your reader into your memories. Pick out the highlights and leave the mundane parts out. And remember to always begin with a strong opening sentence to grab your reader’s attention.

What do you think are the biggest dos and don’ts in travel blogging?

JG - I am a ‘seize every opportunity’ kind of girl, so I think there are a lot more dos than don’ts in travel blogging. But here are a few of each: Dos: Find unique angles for your posts, use tonnes of inspiring and unique images to help tell your stories; experiment with video; be consistent in the amount you post on your blog per week; see every day trip / weekend break / holiday as a blogging opportunity; follow other bloggers and build relationships. Find your own personal blogger identity. Don’ts: don’t try to mimic other bloggers out there; don’t be afraid to show your personality; don’t be too formal; don’t use media on your blog without proper accreditation or permission; don’t just accept things just because they’re free (make sure it’s something that will interest your readers)
Top travel blogger Jess Gibson in La Reunion, off Madagasgar
Top travel blogger Jess Gibson in La Reunion, off Madagasgar

Any advice for creating videos using just a smartphone? I know you are an advocate of Instagram as well, so can a little technology go a long way?

JG - There are so many great smartphone video apps these days that a big fancy camera really isn’t a necessity for travel blogging. Best of all, these apps are all free! Instagram is definitely my favourite way to capture short videos. They’re so easy to share on social and can easily be embedded into your blog posts as an alternative to images. Adding videos are a great way to help tell your travel story. Other good video apps are Vine (6 second videos) and Keek. Give them all a go and see what works for you!

When reading travel content – what really inspires you? Is it the images, the story or just the personality behind the tale? Do you have any blogging heroes?

JG - For me, it’s a combination between snappy writing and great imagery. If you have this combination, a blog post has the potential to be engaging no matter what the topic. I have a short attention span so like to read blog posts that have small paragraphs with lots of image breaks (this is how I layout my posts on The Travelista). Remember, reading blogs should be a leisurely activity like reading a magazine, so don’t make it hard work for your readers. My biggest blogger inspiration is The Londoner lifestyle blog. She blogs about her travels as well as many other topics. Her blogger start-up advice posts really helped me in the early days.
beach break in Mauritius
beach break in Mauritius

We are hoping this competition could help launch or boost a travel writing / video career - How did you get into travel blogging?

JG - I have always loved travel and from an early age I wanted to be a journalist but when I graduated from University I moved down to London and took the first job I was offered. It was a deathly boring job as an office assistant but my company shared its offices with men’s luxury lifestyle magazine. I asked the editor if I could begin contributing to the magazine for free to build up my portfolio and after a few contributions he offered me a luxury 5* press trip to Marrakech. I couldn’t believe my luck! I left my boring assistant job and began doing more and more press trips for the magazine. I set up The Travelista blog as I wanted somewhere to showcase and document all of my amazing travels.

Read the full story about how Jess went From Tea Girl to Luxury Travel Blogger here

If you had £50k of travel and experiences – what would be the top three things on your bucket list?

JG - My travel bucket list is never ending! There are so many places I want to see but my top three things would be to 1. Tour the whole of India including Rajasthan, Kerala and of course see the Taj Mahal 2. Take part in the Rio de Janeiro carnival and dress up in all the amazing carnival outfits with sequins and feathers. 3. Trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru
Taking to the skies - La Reunion
Taking to the skies - La Reunion

And finally….. What is the most spontaneous trip you have taken and why?

JG - My most spontaneous trip was a press trip to Mauritius and La Reunion in the Indian Ocean. I was asked to attend the trip with 3 days notice and in what felt like a nano second, I had cleared my diary and was on a plane to Mauritius. I had an incredible 7-day trip which included mountain trekking, a helicopter ride over a volcano, whale watching and snorkelling with turtles. If it hadn’t been for my spontaneous streak I would have missed out on a life changing travel opportunity. Thank god for spontaneity!

Thanks Jess!  To find out more about The Travelista's exploits on Twitter -  follow Jess @travelistajess. To see how the "Spontaneity Champion" competition is shaping up remember to visit our Spontaneity Champion microsite. And hopefully Jess's tips have inspired you to enter, go on, why not change your life in 2014!