2023 September Featured Journalist of the Month: Kimberly Button

An Orlando local for nearly 20 years, I’ve worked in the theme parks, visited them daily (1,000s of visits!) and worked onboard Disney Cruise Line.

Along with my sister, we share the best insider tips for theme parks, visiting U.S. National Parks, and traveling the world. We have nearly 30 years of experience globetrotting the world via river cruises, cruising, and full-time living in an RV.

Digital content producer and Editor in Chief of WanderfulWorldofTravel.com, HistoricVirginiaTravel.com, CouchPotatoCamping.com and other websites.

YouTube video creator.

Freelance journalist published in National Geographic Traveler, American Airlines, AAA, GoRVing.com, Sherman’s Travel, Business Jet Traveler, Private Clubs, Blue Ridge Country, Martha Stewart, The Miami Herald and more.

1. What got you into travel writing?
I have been writing since high school, when I was part of my city’s newspaper staff. In college, I was editor of the campus newspaper, even though my intended major was science. Early on in college, I realized that I loved writing and should pursue that as my goal, rather than bio-medical engineering at NASA (yep, true story).

My college allowed me to custom create a degree program, so I developed a Business Communications degree, which gave me the benefits of being business-minded yet pursue writing.

Upon graduating I took an internship at Walt Disney World which then turned into a full-time job. From Disney I would then go on to work onboard the Disney Cruise Line, with Delta Airlines, managing tours with Contiki Holidays, as well as other jobs within the hospitality industry.

After a few years, I realized I loved traveling but not being stuck as a hospitality worker. While the benefits were great with each company at the time with free travel perks, they were limited and could only be used during my 2 weeks of vacation each year.

I got a copy of Writer’s Market (the only place to get editorial contact details at the time) and scoured magazines to pitch articles to. I used a unique angle of a local attraction in my area, pitched it to a local magazine, and got accepted.

From there, I continued to write for local and niche publications before starting to write for major magazines such as National Geographic Traveler, American Airlines’ inflight magazines, and many more.

When I was going on epic press trips but couldn’t share much of what I experienced because my print assignment was narrow in scope or the limited-time experience could never be pitched and printed in a magazine before it was over, I decided to start a travel website so that I could share what I loved about a destination immediately.

2. What’s the most challenging part of being a travel journalist for you?
Time management. As travel writers, we need to see the destination first-hand to expertly share travel tips, take photos, produce videos and enjoy a destination as a tourist would. And that takes days for a destination.

Yet we still need to produce epic content that will make us stand out from the rest. So a few days of travel turns into many more days of writing, photo editing, video editing, social media shares, etc. And all of that goes into one post or a series of posts that you hope has an ROI (return on investment) for your time and any travel expenses.

3. What is one thing [equipment or personal item] you can’t go without on the road?
Phone. It’s a camera, maps, research assistant, booking engine, everything.

4. What’s your most unusual and/or memorable travel experience?
Being invited by NASA to cover one of the first SpaceX launches was among the most memorable travel experiences so far. I was invited based on my social media and blogging skills, not print journalism, which was a first for me back then, when most people did not think of travel blogging as a viable career.

It all came full circle for me at that point. I went to college to study engineering to work for NASA. There were even moments living in Orlando when I tried to get a job at Kennedy Space Center and it didn’t work out. Yet I was invited by NASA to come to one of the most anticipated events in human spaceflight and get a behind-the-scenes look and do things that I never would have been able to do even as an employee.

I was given a press pass and allowed to drive through security and onto the base, which is a huge deal. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried a lot of happy tears during those drives!

I attended mission briefings in the NASA press room, was part of their live television broadcast, interviewed scientists that were part of the mission (and took video which went viral and has been licensed by many international television networks), and stood at the base of the SpaceX rocket hours before launch. Then we stood in the media section for the lift off, the closest you can get without being on the launchpad.

There is no way I ever would have been able to do this without being a travel writer.

5. How did you learn about NATJA and why did you join?
I’ve been a member of SATW for over a decade. After talking with a few people at SATW events that mentioned that they were a member of NATJA, as well, I realized you don’t have to pick one over the other. You can be a member of both and reap the benefits of each organization.

I think my friend Terri Marshall is the one that really convinced me to join NATJA and I’m glad I did!

NATJA definitely values and supports digital publishers. As my business model has changed over the years, I need to be part of a community that understands the unique challenges of digital publishing and supports professional development uniquely tailored to website publishers and digital content producers.

6. What is the best piece of advice you could give to a rookie travel journalist?
You literally just have to start. You can’t research the industry and think you can find a perfect entry point. These days, when people tell you how to become a travel journalist it usually involves picking blog themes, and WordPress tutorials and SEO research and 100 things that can make an online website perform better than others. They are all valid. But none of them matter if you don’t just start writing.

You have to write – even if it is never published – to learn what you do and don’t like about travel journalism. Is your heart in sharing the small details about a destination, or do you love sharing travel narratives? Do you like writing about local destinations or only want to write about exotic places around the world?

You literally cannot move forward in your travel journalism career, whether it is print or digital or video, until you start producing content. Only by working are you ever going to find what you are good at, what you enjoy the most, and what your readers or editors respond to in the greatest way.

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