10 Travel Writing Prompts (To Smile During Travel Delays)

This is exactly what it sounds like — ten travel writing prompts, which I’d recommend saving for when you’re sitting on an airport (or bus station, or train station, or wherever sort of station) floor, waiting for some delayed transportation. Your trip isn’t going how you thought, but I hope these prompts bring you to a place of joy (or at least appreciation for the journey), and make you smile during your delay.

If you happen to use any of these prompts and post the results anywhere, please include the link back to this page, and let me know! I’d love to read what comes of this, if anything, and would love to share your writing, as well!

  1. Describe today from the perspective of someone working on the transportation you’re waiting for, whether the driver/pilot, baggage handler, gate agent, or person selling snacks through the window of the bus.
  2. Pick one person you see, and write about them for one minute. At exactly one minute, start a new paragraph and begin writing about another person you see. Repeat until your transportation leaves.
  3. Describe yourself, as you wait. Write about where you’re sitting, what you’re wearing, how bad you smell, how long it’s been since you last ate anything. Write about how hard the floor is. You’re probably fine, but write something overdramatic about the suffering you’ve endured (no matter how minimal), the tenuous nature of your current predicament. Become philosophical about how horrendously difficult this delay has been for you. Write like this until you laugh, until you are overcome by the giggles.
  4. Write a gourmet food review of whatever mediocre food is available in the bus station, ferry terminal, airport, or wherever you are. Whether it’s some random street food, junky fast food, or a tiny packet of airplane pretzels, write a sensational review, highlighting the unique flavour combinations of whatever you just pulled out of your pocket.
  5. Describe your journey to reach your boarding gate/area as an epic adventure, full of trials and tribulations and grandiose chase scenes. Narrate the overtures of finding your taxi, reading the subway map, dragging your bags across deserts and rainforests. Emphasis the disappointing irony of having rushed there, only to wait. Be dramatic as possible in the contrast.
  6. Look around and find the calmest person you can see — the one who seems entirely unaffected by the six hour delay. Channel their energy. Write about what you think they’re thinking, where they’re going, how content they are just to wait. Interview them in your head, and write their profile for the in-flight magazine. Feature them as a superstar passenger, a model for us all.
  7. Write about how people are connecting to the ground, whether that be through shoes, suitcase wheels, or butts straight on the ground. Describe what is happening, what people are doing, how they are feeling, how fast time is passing, focusing on the horizon between land and air.
  8. Describe where you’re waiting in magnificent terms — soaring architecture, gleaming engineering, jaw-dropping natural features, and the best people you’ve ever met. Write the luxury feature article for the glossiest of travel magazines. Convince your reader that they’d do anything to be in your place. Write the lie of an experience that you’d want to post on your Instagram feed. Then, slowly add details until the facade crumbles. Write a gorgeous piece of literature, and then poke holes in your beautiful balloon until it shrivels before your reader’s eyes.
  9. Write about the philosophy of time, and how it connects to the place you’re in. Reflect on your own conceptions (and misconceptions) about the importance of punctuality. Discuss whether it really matters that you’re late at all, or whether the transport is even really late. What does late mean? How do we measure it? Other than the numbers on your phone screen, why do you even think there’s a problem? Perhaps you’re just early. 
  10. Write a thank you note for the pilot/driver/company for the delay. Tell them how much you appreciate the extra time, wherever you are. Describe everything that you’ve experienced during the delay, the unique sensory stimulation you’ve had the opportunity to enjoy. Share your gratitude for the delay with them.

Happy writing, and don’t forget to comment/get in touch if you write something based on one of these prompts! I would love to read and share it.

grey sky, view from airport window during travel delay
Stuck in an airport on a dreary, rainy day? All the seats taken? No outlets left? Indefinite delays? Try these writing prompts to put things in perspective and put the smile back on your face.

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