What’s Involved In Writing A Trip Report?

Filed Under: Misc.

We get a lot of questions about what blogging is like, and even more questions about writing trip reports. Having just wrapped up an extremely lengthy series on my trip to Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, the process is pretty fresh in my mind, so I thought it would be a good time to share some of what goes into something like this.

This last series ended up being 19 segments and over 40,000 words, making it longer than The Wizard of Oz. That’s with skipping reviewing the longhaul flights and lounges, which could have added another 10-12 posts. Granted, this was a long trip, and even attempting to do any kind of justice to a destination almost requires a lengthier post.

But even “quicker” reviews are still very different from other blog posts or tutorials, in some pretty significant ways. So let’s pull back the curtain a bit (yes, that idiom choice is intentional given the above-referenced novel), and talk about some of them. It should go without saying that none of this construes a “complaint” or anything like that — and while some people like to hear about the mechanics of the site, others definitely don’t, so if you fall in the latter camp please feel free to skip this post.

Time spent on the trip itself

Obviously in order to review any aspect of a trip, you have to document it. That includes making notes about the experience and the atmosphere, along with jotting down any anecdotes that might be fun to share later, and then taking photos.

Lots, and lots, and lots, of photos.

Even the most snap-happy travelers probably don’t take half as many pictures as are used in an OMAAT review (though one could argue that we could use 50% fewer photos and still tell the story, which would be fair, but house style is house style). And this isn’t just stuff like taking pics of every corner of a lounge, it’s also taking multiple photos of things that might get mentioned in a review.

I don’t care how much you love your hotel bathroom; you’re likely not taking seven shots of the toiletries in hopes there’s at least one with non-blurry text and not too much glare, or awkward reflections in the mirror.

Hotel bathroom photography sometimes means literally bending over backwards

Knowing something is a “review trip” influences the itinerary too, and not just in the choices of flights or hotels. It sometimes means extra time at the airport, queuing up to board a flight long before boarding starts, or having drinks or a meal at the hotel for the sake of being able to report back on the experience. And then there’s setting alarms for 4:30AM in order to take pictures of the gym when it’s not full of people, or to see the breakfast spread before it’s demolished, and so forth.

Plus there’s the fun of making your travel companions stand in the hallway while you photograph a room after your 11PM arrival, which my family at least is a great sport about, but still makes for some awkward moments.

So while none of that takes a ton of time, if I had to ballpark it I’d say it’s about an extra hour per review post, in addition to whatever time is spent organically at the airport or hotel.

Writing trip reports is different too

When the trip is done, and experiences have been reflected upon, the actual “work” starts. As opposed to a post about something happening in the news, or a tutorial of something, or a post on card features, there’s much more narrative creation when it comes to the trip reports.

Photo editing, sorting, and filtering

During this last trip, I only took my Pixel 3, which was annoying when it came time to take wideshots, but was amazing for sorting purposes. Generally getting photos from multiple devices sorted into folders for each “segment” of a trip report is a pretty miserable process. This time around, I sorted everything on my phone as I went (rather, on all the short intra-Asia flights with no Wifi), then was able to pull everything down from Google Photos in one shot.

As you can probably tell, there isn’t a tremendous amount of post-processing that happens with OMAAT trip report photos. Views are often cropped, and horizon lines are straightened, but given the guerilla-style of the photography to start with, it’s not like there’s much point in extensive editing.

Going through and deciding which photos to include does take a large chunk of time though, and then files have to be resized, renamed, and exported in a web-friendly format (which is fortunately something that only takes a minute or two).

The actual writing

Contrary to what you might expect, there isn’t a template or something that content just gets dropped into. Life might be easier if there were (or if we had dozens of people on staff, I suppose).

While there are certainly things that are common across reviews, and we try and format them consistently, each flight or hotel stay is unique, and there’s quite a bit of thought that goes into telling the story. There’s also some time spent researching or going back through notes (e.g. “wait, how much was that fare to/from the airport?”), deciding what elements to include or exclude, and so on.

Writing about destinations is particularly difficult, we’ve realized, because there’s no right answer when it comes to how much to include. There’s often such a huge difference between “this is the stuff I did” and “this is the stuff I wrote about” (unless one wrote about everything one did, which would likely not make for an enjoyable read), and deciding what to edit out is tricky. I like sharing enough details to show a sense of what a place felt like to me, or inspire someone else to visit, without it feeling like an attempt at being an authoritative guide.

Still, these posts are by far the hardest to write — for this last series, the seven posts on our ground experiences each took between 6-8 hours to put together.

Finalizing the post in WordPress

Before a post can actually be published, there’s an assortment of things that have to be done on the backend. None of this is terribly interesting, and for most posts it takes less than five minutes to set the featured image, choose appropriate categories, make sure the appropriate disclosures are there, and queue things up for social media.

Trip reports require some extra tagging to make the map work, and then the little index at the top of each post in the series has to be updated. It’s maybe an extra five minutes (which I guess means it doubles the normal amount of time).

Timing a review post

When I sat down to write up the Raffles Phnom Penh review last weekend, it was under truly optimal blogging conditions. Like, it was a Saturday afternoon where I wouldn’t have to pause for calls, meetings, or urgent emails; my husband was off making some repairs to my aunt’s house across town; the doggy was worn out from a morning hike and happily chewing a marrow bone; and Ben was asleep in Asia.

Perfect, distraction-free writing time.

So I decided to time it. This was a relatively straightforward post (just a one-night stay at a city hotel with fewer amenities than a large resort), and the potential photos were already sorted into a single folder. I sat down at my desk at 1:15PM:

  • Choosing, sorting, and lightly editing photos (I started with 134; 62 made it into the review) — 45 minutes
  • Resizing, compressing, exporting, and uploading said photos — 10 minutes
  • Writing the actual ~1600 word post — 1 hour 35 minutes
  • Fussing with WordPress and setting the post up to be published — 12 minutes

With no interruptions, I marked the post as done at 3:57PM, so just about 2 hours and 45 minutes from start to finish. But this was a comparatively short and basic post for a trip report. The review of the Park Hyatt Siem Reap, for example, was twice as long, and took a commensurate amount of time. In surveying Ben and Steph (she has a trip report coming soon, and you’ll love it!), their time estimates are in line with mine, at about one hour per 500 words for review posts.

In comparison, a ~1500 word tutorial or news post would typically take less than an hour (more like 45 minutes for me, or probably 25 for Ben, as he types much faster than anyone I do). So that’s a pretty significant difference.

Bottom line

When we talk about trip reports being a labor of love, we truly mean that.

We love sharing them, and feel like they are a core part of what makes OMAAT unique. We’ll always keep doing as many as possible, because it’s such a large part of what makes this whole blogging thing fun. But they are read at a fraction of the rate of other posts, and as you can see they take oodles more time to compose.

And of course, it’s far easier to carve out thirty minutes or an hour to write than it is to create 3-6 hours of distraction-free narrative-crafting time — especially when on the road, or when it’s a busy business week. If there’s any chance of my writing a trip report, it has to happen on the weekends, as there just isn’t bandwidth to focus on telling a story like that in-between the normal tasks that make up a work week. It’s even tougher for Ben, as he’s writing 98% of the content in general — if it were a choice between “write a trip report” or “write this one other thing” I know he would always choose the trip report. But the actual decision point is usually between “write a trip report” and “write anything else today at all” or “write all the normal posts, and skip the gym, walking the dog, answering emails and reader questions, plus stay up late, and thus get half of the next review post written.”

So when there are gaps in reviews, it’s not because we’ve quit doing them, or aren’t as anxious to get back to them as their most ardent fans are; it’s just all a bit of a juggling act sometimes.

Anyway, hopefully that’s helpful to those who are interested in this kind of thing, and provides some insights to those who love the trip reports more than any other content on the site!

  1. I’ve been reading this blog for about three years, but never commented before.

    Thank you for writing this. The rate at which news articles and trip reports are written can make us forget how much work goes into them.
    And for the record, I don’t really get how trip reports get read a lot less than the rest. I love them!

    So, for all the time and energy you put into writing all of these great reports (and articles), thank you—we truly appreciate it.

  2. It takes ton of time and effort to put together. I think most people who have never done one have no idea. Editing and uploading the images. All the captions and so forth.

    Thanks for all your efforts! I took a trip to Seychelles in February and still haven’t had the time and or desire to post it.

  3. Interesting and informative post. I recently gave up doing a social media photo album for my trips as I just couldn’t be bothered to filter down 700+ photos per trip to something reasonable. I just found it too much of a hassle even though I only travel about 4 times per year. The effort OMAAT puts into its trip reviews are notable… your work pays off.

  4. I’m surprised they only get a fraction of the traffic of other posts. They’re consistently my favorite. I may or may not read other posts but always click on a trip report.

  5. The trip reports are the main thing I read on OMAAT. They are unique – full of good info and personality.

    Now I’m curious what posts get the most traffic.

  6. I also recommend checking out the trip reports written by Loose Cannon on FT. He is a master of the form; an acquired taste, perhaps, but one that never fails to satisfy my palette.

  7. @ Ricky @ Mark — Hah, it depends on the day, but in general the rule seems to be that the less interesting something is to me personally (I love the trip reports best too), the more widely read they are. Like the day we published the Park Hyatt Saigon review (which seems like it would have broad appeal, given that it’s a great use of the Hyatt card certs, etc.), it got less traffic than an update to the value in using the CSR + Freedom Unlimited (https://onemileatatime.com/the-best-credit-card-duo-for-maximizing-your-points/) and less than 10% of the the traffic on the post about United threatening to pull their flights from Expedia (https://onemileatatime.com/united-airlines-threatens-expedia/).

    Ben did a recap of the most popular posts from last year as well, and it ultimately boils down to OMAAT having a very broad and diverse readership, with widely varying interests: https://onemileatatime.com/most-popular-posts-2018/

  8. @ Points Pinnacle — Ugh, don’t talk to me about the Seychelles and the New Years 2017-2018 trip I haven’t gotten to yet. :p

  9. Does no other writer work for this website anymore other than you and Lucky? I’m not complaining as I found you two’s posts most informative anyway, but I never saw an announcement. Or, at least I don’t recall.

  10. I find these types of articles very interesting. I never realized how long trip reports take, but now that I do, I fully understand the pace at which they are released. Thanks for putting all the time and effort into them.

  11. Thanks, Tiffany 🙂

    I’m a reader who can’t make use of the numerous credit card/miles/points deals that are continuously posted. I only focus on the airline and accommodation reviews for when travelling.

    How often are these posted? Every month or so?

    Cheers 🙂

  12. Thanks for sharing this Tiffany! It wasn’t until I started post some flight reports of my own that I realized how time-consuming they are, especially the pictures. Always appreciate the trip reports even if a majority of the readers like the general content posts.

  13. @Tiffany — As I don’t do the credit-cards-points thing, it’s the trip reports and Lucky’s more general industry news that keep me coming back to the blog, so please keep them up.

  14. Interesting point of view. I think the blog is a great place for a collection of latest deals and promotions – that’s what I use it for. I always found the destination reports to be lacking the originality – or that x-factor which makes other established publications more interesting for the globe-trotter. This is not a criticism, but simply a comment on the strength of this blog. It’s still great to see the effort to diversify with different personalities, styles and angles.

  15. @ LMcK — Well, sometimes we fall behind, but most weeks there are at least three review posts.

  16. Tiffany –
    I’ve always had an appreciation for how long it takes to put together a post. It happens that I enjoy doing the photographic version of what you all do, and telling the story or creating a feeling for the viewer through imagery (4-week trips result in 4,000+ images). Still, on every international trip we have taken, I also do a hand-written journal of all the places we go, complete with the experiences and impressions of the people that live there, to arrive at the perspective we’ve gained as a result. I get it, and please know this long-time reader appreciates what you, Ben and all of the other contributors do!
    Thanks for all of that!

  17. I really think that OMAAT’s reviews are some of the best, if not the best, in the industry. Personally, i think it’s a great blend of photos and commentary and sometimes reasoning behind a certain thought.

  18. I’m also excited for the upcoming review from Steph – her style of writing and comments are always a fun read

  19. @ Kelly — Wow! I could truly never do that much handwriting, but I’m sure your kids will treasure that someday!

  20. I stopped readig at the statement ” It should go without saying that none of this construes a “complaint” or anything like that ” – because I knew from that moment on that the following will sound exactly like this: “a “complaint” or anything like that “”.

    You chose to do this for a living, you get to travel around the world and seem to enjoy it. You have the urge to let others know about your experience.

    All of this is fine. But, let me repeat: you chose to do this.

    So, quite frankly I don’t care how you do it and how much effort it is and if you have to endure certain restictions or hardships.

    If you don’t like it, stop it. But don’t try to impress anybody with your story. Do it or leave it – I don’t care.

    Having said that: I like to read your reviews, it helps me to broaden my knowlegde. But if you don’t want to do it, don’t. 30 or 40 or 50 years back we used to make our own experience – and I am ready to do it myself.

  21. @ Alex — You could, perhaps, consider reading the rest of the post before making assumptions about either the content or tone. Some people are interested in the mechanics, none of which I would ever describe as a “restriction” or “hardship”, and which have nothing to do with my liking or not liking any part of this gig.

  22. Thanks for sharing! I’ve really enjoyed OOMAT over the years.

    I was sad to see Ben go and his contributions.

  23. I suppose that even if trip reports are less read on the day or week after they are published, they probably have more ‘enduring’ value, in that years later, they may still be read by someone visiting a hotel or taking a particular flight, but the other types of posts become less relevant as time goes on?

  24. Too bad Alex didn’t stop writing at his statement:-(
    I stopped readig at the statement ” It should go without saying that none of this construes a “complaint” or anything like that ” – because I knew from that moment on that the following will sound exactly like this: “a “complaint” or anything like that “”.

  25. Really helpful to hear how the “pros” do it. The careful delineation of how/when/why is quite interesting and expansive. Thank you. Does OMAAT accept submissions or farm out submissions to guest writers? (I’ve written for some other popular travel blogs). Please advise and Thanks!

  26. I enjoy these trip reviews; they are easy to read and full of usual information. I appreciate the fact that there is always detailed information on how the activity was paid for, helping to make a judgement about how the experience would likely mimic my own. ( I don’t give much credibility to sponsored hotel reviews, eg “ Xxxx stayed as a guest of Marriott”, although even that acknowledgement is appreciated).
    My only frustration with them is the selection of destination: for example, literally dozens and dozens of reports on hotels in Dubai but almost nothing on Canada. Just one example.

  27. @ Kelly
    Great. That reminds me of the demise of the humble postcard and Aerogramme, both of which were central to international travel in the days before email, twitters, and Instagram. Very few people seem to bother with them these days, although I enjoy the sending and receiving much more than something electronic and instant.

  28. Thanks, I found this interesting – I agree with the enduring value of a trip report and I have gone back to them years after they were written and found some great nuggets of info both when debating a trip and then when planning an itinerary. I always love Tiffany’s in particular!

  29. Thanks for pulling back the curtain, Tiffany!

    And for giving me the chance to mention that you’re a star!

  30. Thanks for the info, I find the trip reports to be the best content on the blog and frequently revisit old reports when planning my own trips.

  31. @Alex – what a shame you didn’t read the rest of Tiffany’s blog before you rolled your eyes and got out your poison keyboard. There’s and old saying, “Better to stay silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt”.

    Tiffany – like a number of the above posters, I only read for the trip reports and general travel updates as I don’t live in the US and can’t take advantage of the c/c offers, etc. I have learned heaps over the years and just wish I had the means to travel more. Thanks for to all the OMAAT team for the work you put into this site.

  32. The trip reports are definitely why I’m here!!!
    And since I’m here I’ll read the general industry news as I think it’s good stuff to know, and I may click on a credit card link occasionally…but for me, the trip reports are what keeps me checking the site daily. I appreciate the effort that goes into these and please don’t ever stop!

  33. To be honest: this article serves as excuse for Lucky. He rarely posts trip reviews (down to 1 or 2 per month). I really start losing my interest in OMAAT.

  34. Amazing. Truly, love to hear how the pros do it.
    Readership seems to be a funny, self absorbed process, almost a “what can you do for me not lately, but right now?”
    We may never go where you go, but we want the currency (points, miles.)

  35. Great post Tiffany – I love these pull back the curtain type posts! Please keep the unique trip reviews coming. OMAAT is where I turn to first anytime I am planning a luxurious trip.

  36. Tiffany, from one Boarding Area blogger @ PMTTP to another, thank you for posting this! There is so much extra work to be posted for a trip report, coupled with the smaller readership, that makes it hard to want to keep up with them. I have several trips from last year and this year I just don’t have the energy to post about. However when I get done with a trip report post they are often the most rewarding as its a record of my own personal travel.

  37. If you loose your interest, go somewhere else. I don’t have any benefit of all US credit card stuff and all that, however I still enjoy the other content, which is normalt written with a nice tone and from an interesting perspective. I know it’s your job, but it is also one of the toughest jobs, trying to keep interest that will pay for the bread. Good job guys!

  38. This blog is entertaining, although not that informative to me. I don’t expect much more from blogs so kudos for that!

  39. Your OMAAT blog is always fun to read because of your HONESTY and non-commericial reviews; thank you always. Your recrtnt recent tour of IndoChina as well as Mr Lucky’s review of the Fogo hotel are always illuminating

  40. The broader the topic is, the more it is read. If it is geared for “common folk” as well (re: non-travel enthusiasts), then it will most likely be read by more people. The downside of that is people like us don’t find it ‘as’ interesting as other things.

  41. Wow. Amazed that there’s not much traffic reading the trip reports. They are definitely the best. Thanks Tiffany- what’s the plan for you next mega trip ?

  42. This is my favorite travel blog. One other site posts more reviews, but…shucks, I can’t even remember them, as they’re fairly homogeneous. Additionally, the number of douchey selfies in them really turns me off.

    OTOH, OMAAT is classier, less cookie-cutter, and much more memorable. I always feel how the service, or lack thereof, affects the reviewer here.

    And lastly, I do like the articles about ongoing aviation news, which often have a different perspective than I get elsewhere, and are willing to take a position of less-than-absolute certainty, which we need more of.


  43. I think that with the exception of one or two grumpy pants, there is wall to wall consensus here that your trip reports, and posts in general, are great and always a joy to read.

  44. You’re lucky – it takes me over a day just to write the review. 40% of that is procrastinating, 50% is editing notes and 10% is turning it into something that won’t get be banned from the Internet for life.

  45. Hi Tiffany,

    I enjoy reading your posts.

    In fact, I enjoy reading from all the different writers. Lucky of course, is the absolute star of all, and it was because I love reading about the travel hacking experience of other bloggers and the fact that he was planning to live in hotels full-time at the time, that I followed him in the first place! However, I really enjoy reading all the different perspectives too, especially from those of you who are married, have children, have other professional day jobs or are simply, new to the airmiles game.

    It’s refreshing and some of you are hilarious!

    I’m a travel blogger myself and although I follow you guys religiously, I don’t actually follow your flight mile advice as I use a wide variety of transport means such as the train, bus, ferry and sometimes by car, and I live in Germany so budget airlines are pretty much on the money!

    I admire the fact that you’re able to get each report down to about 2 hours-ish.
    I wish I could!

    I write about 5,000 words and it usually takes me a week! The writing is actually quite easy. It’s trying to match up each couple of paragraphs / sentences with the appropriate photograph in order to make my posts easier to read! Then I have to tag the photographs with descriptions and copyright details. And after all that, ensuring that all the links are working and correctly updated. Eek!

    Anyhoo. Keep up the good work. 😀

    p.s. I went to Vietnam in 2007 and absolutely adored it, so loving reading your write-ups with your mums!

  46. Does no other writer work for this website anymore other than you and Lucky? I’m not complaining as I found you two’s posts most informative anyway, but I never saw an announcement. Or, at least I don’t recall.

    Must be the “house style” – only welcome articles but no announcement of writers leaving.
    And no response to readers comments re: the same
    James left @ late Jan/Feb.

    Travis writes & posts sporadically – he’s still writing.
    Last article was late May – A total opposite of OMAAT’s mantra of F/J class travel .
    I enjoyed his UA PE SFO-TPE TR a few years ago.

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