Jennifer Miner is the go-to girl for all things Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles. An east-coaster by birth, she migrated to California and now lives in L.A., where she covers the nitty-gritty of family travel, the best of luxury travel, and the basics of the West Coast. Her must-see site, The Vacation Gals, which she co-authors, is the perfect place to find tips, tricks, and all-around great advice for traveling with kids in tow. A contributor to Fodors and Hybrid Mom, her pieces have also been picked up by CNN, Fox, Reuters, and USA Today. See her bio here.
Like me, you’re a parent, yet you still manage to travel quite a bit for researching stories. How do you work that out on the home front?
My kids have been traveling with me since, well, before they were born! They are excellent travelers because they’re used to it. Whenever feasible, I take my children (and my lucky husband) with me to experience different travel destinations as a family. Since they’re both in school, of course, this doesn’t always work out. However, my husband also travels pretty frequently for work, so our kids are able to feel comfortable with only one parent at home now and then. It’s really one of life’s pleasures that I get to share my work with my family, and that my kids know they play an active role in it. I’m very thankful for being able to share the world with them.
How did you “break in to travel writing”? What have been the keys to your success?
The web has been, and continues to be, a great source for novice travel writers. There are many sites that accept “newbies,” where we can learn the ropes as freelancers – despite the low wages therein. I started at Suite101 in 2006, and it’s an easy place to create content and have it up on the web immediately. There are other websites that probably pay better — maybe Examiner, but I never worked there, or Associated Content. What I admire about Suite is the level of professionalism and high standards held by the current crop of editors. The low barriers to entry at many of these sites make then perfect for newbie travel travels to at least get their toes wet.
Where do you see your career as a travel writer being three years from now? How will your income mix change and what are you doing to adapt to the changing media landscape?
I plan to focus more and more on writing for the web. This includes beefing up my content at a couple of travel websites, along with occasionally contributing to others, I’d also like to put a stronger focus and more energy into the continued growth and success of my small, group-run (well, there are 3 of us) travel blog, The Vacation Gals. I believe that old-school advertisers are finally beginning to come around, and see the targeted audiences that travel blogs garner is worth their weight in gold. This should translate into even small, independently-owned (i.e. not National Geographic or Conde Nast) travel blogs being able to demand and receive more ad revenue. Glossies will never go away, but the web is the only form of media with great growth.
What advice would you give to someone near and dear to you who wanted to become a travel writer—assuming they had zero credits to their name. (Besides “Don’t do it”?)
Don’t expect to get press invites to London or Paris right away! Start local; review free attractions in your area as a resume builder. These reviews can go on a personal travel blog or on sites like Examiner.
I’d also ask my friend to be honest with herself and decide what kind of travel suits her best. That is, to work on developing a well-defined niche, like family travel, backpacking, etc., and to focus on that. Or, to focus on a particular region or destination. I live in Los Angeles, hence have several posts about my city. But I have been to Hawaii plenty, and love it there; hence, I have a healthy chunk of hawaii travel content as well. If I were starting out right now, I’d have a separate Hawaii-focused blog like Pam Mandel does. However, too late for that for me! I love owning, editing, and writing at The Vacation Gals.
You’re the only writer I know personally who can boast two Master’s degrees. Has any of that schooling come out in your work?
Well, those two master’s degrees were originally intended to be en route to a PhD in psychology, but I obviously stopped at some point before my dissertation. While knowing way too much about different aspects of the human mind may not have any application to my day to day life as a travel writer, studying for the GRE’s sure has; the vocabulary is much bigger than it would be otherwise! It’s nice being able to come up with synonyms for, oh, let’s say, hors d’ oueuvres on the sly. That way, I don’t have to look up the darn spelling every single time. Yes, I just did.
Jennifer Miner is a freelance luxury and family travel writer with an extensive background in psychology and counseling, holding two masters degrees from Columbia University. Born in New York, Jennifer moved from Manhattan to Southern California in 2003. She is one-thrid of the popular, friendly travel blog The Vacation Gals. More recently, she is one of the four founding members and owners of Best Family Travel Advice, a questions-and-answer database that is growing as a resource for family travel planners. She also conceived of the Los Angeles Consortium of Online Travel (LACOT), a very new project that brings LA-area travel writers and members of the tourism industry together.
Interview conducted in November, 2010 by Travel Writing 2.0 author Tim Leffel and edited by Kristin Mock.