15 Words & Phrases To Leave Out of Your Travel Writing

working on the beach jcdoll

“One of the best-kept secrets of the Andaman Island’s is the exotic Havelock Island. Its breathtaking sunsets are a jewel that is a must-see for every traveler.”

If you’ve done your share of travel writing or reading, you may have been rolling your eyes at my description. (If not, think about if it invokes any sort of non-generic sense of what the Andaman Islands are like.)

Over in the Matador U Resource Section, I recently came across a couple of fun articles discussing 15 words and phrases they never want to see in travel writing again. As someone who has read a lot of travel writing, I must say that the author really nailed it. Here are a few of my favorites from the article:

Best-kept secret — Really? Are you sure The Purple Dinosaur Bar is Denver’s best-kept secret? You found it, after all, and now you’re publishing its location, so it’s a bit of a stretch to call it a secret, much less a well-kept one.

don’t-miss/ must-see — A bit of a bully, are you? What are you going to do to us if we miss it, huh?

Just give us your experience. Let us decide for ourselves if South Dakota’s Corn Palace is a must-see or a see-maybe-if-I-happen-to-be-driving-through-South-Dakota-someday-and-need-to-use-the-bathroom.

Mecca — Mecca is of course an actual place you might travel to or make reference to, and in either of those cases, it’s a perfectly appropriate word to use. But a Shopping Mecca? A Snowboarding Mecca? Really?

Would you ever refer to a “Shopping Basilica of Guadalupe?” Or a “Snowboarding Konark Sun Temple?” Sounds dumb, right? Okay, then.

exotic — “Exotic” is relative—it just means “different” or “foreign”, and depending who your reader is, that could mean ao dai, guayaberas, or blue jeans—so focus on describing your experience, and let your readers murmur, “oooh—how exotic!” if they so choose.

breathtaking — Was your breath literally taken away by the beauty of that sunset? Probably not, so this word is overkill. Unless you’re blue in the face and suffering from awe-induced oxygen deprivation, look for another word.

You can check out the entire list of 15 words over on the Matador U Blog:

Photo Credit: Jcdoll

Jason Demant is the co-founder of Unanchor.com, where you can find self-guided tour itineraries for your next trip. For the latest on travel-writing you can follow him on Twitter @Unanchor, or join the I Love Travel Writing Facebook group.

3 thoughts on “15 Words & Phrases To Leave Out of Your Travel Writing”

  1. Jason, I have to say I was thrilled to see “perched/nestled” in the second list. One of my corporate writing clients is in the hotel biz, and if they had their way, pretty much every one of their properties would be nestled or perched somewhere!

    Great reminder to stay vigilant — thanks.

  2. This is a great article Jason! I’ve done quite a bit of travel writing myself and it is a challenge to do it without using “typical” descriptor words such as these. I’ve read the Matador piece and it’s a good one!

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