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*** Last Minute Gift Ideas for the Traveler… Writer…Photographer… and Reader
*** Practical Writing Prompts of the Week: Write about How Other Cultures Celebrate Holidays and Life Passages, or Your Own Family Reunions
*** Reader Feedback: What to Charge for Your Article

Dear Reader,

Christmas shopping was particularly hard for me this year.

Normally, in January, I start a list on my computer of gift ideas and update it throughout the year, whenever one pops to mind.

… So when my sister complains that she lost her favorite necklace, I write that down. A necklace might be a good gift for her come Christmas.

… And when my brother complains that the seat on his bike is coming apart, I add it to the list. A new bike seat could make a great gift.

But this year, my list was fairly lean. It’s the first time in a long while that I actually had to sit down in December and think about gift ideas for some of my family members.

I created a list, this past week, of possibilities. I’m including it here in case you, too, find yourself short on last-minute gift ideas…

** The Lovely Bones  — for women.
** The Nanny Diaries, and A Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing  — both gifts for younger women.
** And The Tipping Point — for anybody.

** Stephen King on Writing
** Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss
** The Best American Travel Writing 2006
** Travel magazine subscriptions (I like Budget Travel, Conde Naste and National Geographic Traveler. You can subscribe to each of these on their respective websites.)
** The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Course
** 1000 Places To See Before You Die, by Patricia Schultz
** Jaguars Ripped My Flesh, by Tim Cahill
** An online-subscription to the New York Times
** A subscription to, one of the first and foremost magazines existing solely on the web. Lots of features on politics, the arts, travel, and a decent market for writers.

** A downloadable language course — Pimsleur has three levels of courses from beginning to advanced, so you can learn while you’re walking around.
** A GSM phone (to make calls from abroad) – Available at most phone stores.
** Space bags — these handy plastic bags are used for packing. You can stuff all your clothes in and squeeze the air out to compress your load.
** A subscription to — Featuring hundreds of books, radio shows, courses, speeches, etc, that you can download into your mp3 player.
** A crushable hat (for the men) — Tilley makes a very well-regarded chapeau, and other clothing made to take with you.
** A tube of good sunscreen and a travel towel
** Luggage and/or luggage tags — I like Travelpro luggage and prefer bright luggage tags so that I can identify my bags at baggage claim
** Membership is US Servas (free home stays around the world).
** A Zagat guide — known for their recommendations for restaurants, nightlife, hotels, etc.
** A Webcam for communicating home while you travel.
** GPS device — This is ESPECIALLY useful for the person who gets lost and refuses to ask for directions.
** Travel charger for laptops and phones — Available at most electronics stores.
** Mp3 player — I recommend getting one with a voice-recorder, so you can record your impressions while you travel.
** XM radio — Commercial-free and offers programs that you can’t get elsewhere.
** Hands-free headset — good for somebody who might want to use Skype to make calls home through a computer or anyone that talks on their cell phone while they do housework, drive, or work with their hands.
** Transfer your frequent flier miles — some airlines allow it, some don’t. Check yours.

** Gift certificate to B&H Photo, a store that has almost everything photo-related, at good prices.
** A digital camera (Read our camera buying guide first.)
** Memory cards — But before you pick one, make sure you know what type of camera the gift recipient has.
** Camera filters — For all sorts of lighting and perspective effects.
** Lenses
** An ultra-light tripod, because if it’s heavy, they’re going to leave it at home.
** A subscription to National Geographic — Still has the best travel photos.

** Flash drive — You can never back up enough, and these are ultra- light. You can also bring them to internet cafes, and upload your files to send.
** Portable hard drive — More storage than a flash drive.
** The Writer’s Tax Guide.
** Writer’s Market Online subscription.
** A wireless mouse for their computer
** A PDA — With this you can e-mail, phone, schedule, cook breakfast — well, not yet, but anyway, some people find these indispensable.
** A fold-up keyboard for the PDA — available most places you can buy a PDA.
** Quicklink pen — These amazing devices can translate, scan, and even help dyslexic readers!

And that’s it. If you’ve finished your holiday shopping, keep this list for next year. I hope it helps you find something for that hard-to-buy-for friend.

Tune in tomorrow for some advice from Jennifer Stevens on a seldom-acknowledged truth about travel writing that will guarantee you’re writing about a salable topic… and advice for the best ways to write about a trip that’s gone awry.

And don’t forget to scroll down below for this week’s writing prompt and the answer to a common question: How much should I charge for my articles?

Have a great holiday week!

— Lori
Lori Appling
Director, Great Escape Publishing

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]


For the holiday season, write 300 words on a different or unusual holiday celebration you witnessed while traveling.

It could be the way another culture celebrates New Year’s Eve or Christmas, or a holiday that they have, that we don’t. Or, if you prefer, the way events like a funeral, wedding, or birth are commemorated there.

If you don’t know any, here’s one I bet you’re familiar with: your own family’s holiday reunions. What are they like?

Do you have one big happy family, or do your get-togethers make “Meet The Fockers” seem like a Norman Rockwell painting? Do you have a nutty uncle? How has he changed (or not changed) over the years? Write a few hundred words on what makes your reunions “special.”

“Family” magazines like Good Housekeeping and Woman’s Day are good markets for these types of stories, as is Reader’s Digest (300-word anecdotes in various departments, depending upon subject matter).


READER FEEDBACK: What to Charge.

Long-time reader Linda Steinmuller wrote in this week with a question that’s not that much different from a question we get often: How much should I charge for my article?  She writes…

“During the summer, I went on my first semi-press trip. I had a vacation to Cape Cod already planned and saw a press trip announcement for Provincetown, Mass. I called the PR person and explained that I already had lodging so they were more than happy to accommodate me!

“My local paper decided they didn’t want any more travel articles so I needed to find a different angle. After learning that the Pilgrims landed in Provincetown before landing at Plymouth Rock (a little-known fact), I pitched the idea to The Courier, and they liked it! I wrote an article on the Pilgrims’ landing and the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown which was published the week before Thanksgiving.

“I have a question on my Cape Cod press trip. One of the Provincetown PR reps e-mailed me and stated that they would like to buy a copy of my article after it is published. Is this something that one would normally do — sell an article to the people who are advertising the press trip? If so, how do I know how much to charge them or should I just send them a copy of the article?

“Thank you for your help!”

Before I answer the question, let’s congratulate Linda on her ingenuity and tenacity.

When her paper told her that they didn’t want any more travel articles, she didn’t give up. She came up with a compelling “non-travel” angle that they bought. “Travel articles” can encompass many, many different types of material aside from the usual “destination” piece or travelogue.

As for the question, I think it’s a matter of judgment. Linda, since they offered to pay you, I would be inclined to accept their offer, especially since you paid for your own lodging. On the other hand, if they had just asked for a copy, I would certainly send them one.

But another question you might consider is: What are they going to do with your article? If they’re going to include it in their press kit or tourist information packet, then I think it’s legitimate to be paid. After all, while I’m sure they were good hosts, they didn’t offer you the trip out of the goodness of their heart: they hoped you’d bring business to Provincetown.

As to what to charge, for an article of the type you described, I’d say somewhere in the ballpark of $100-$250. Any less and you might as well just give it to them: any more, they’d likely think twice.

Whatever you decide, Good Work, Linda!

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