Does Travel Writing Pay?
The answer used to be "Yes!"
Now, it's more often "No."
money! Travel writing is looked upon
as a dream profession,...but then the car
bills or the grocery bills or the mortgage
bills come in, and the dream becomes reality.
As for guidebooks, it's rare to be offered a royalty contract anymore. In recent years most large publishers have gone to work-for-hire (WFH) contracts.
Detaching compensation from sales in the marketplace often means that authors will be allowed an ever smaller piece of the financial pie. Fees of US$400 to US$800 per week for research and writing, plus some money for expenses, is about average these days. That works out to US$20,000 to US$40,000 per year (assuming a two-week unpaid vacation), and includes no benefits such as health insurance, pension savings, or even an office to work in and a computer to work on. Deducting the cost of these necessities can bring the compensation down to near minimum wage, at least for the large publishers.
It's good to keep in mind that publishers are not in business to provide comfortable livings for writers. As business people, they may think it best to pay only the lowest that the market will bear for writers' services.
Because many people want to be travel writers, compensation rates can be quite low. If the writer is good at business however, s/he may be able to negotiate effectively with publishers and convince them that quality is worth paying for.
The writer can also supplement her/his income by writing for more lucrative clients, such as corporations, by consulting on writing and publicity projects, by lecturing, and by self-publishing.