Or how to avoid being a history sponge.
In my previous tip, I suggested using forthcoming anniversaries as a hook to hang destination stories on. But of course, you’ve got to find those anniversaries. And not everyone has a brain that soaks up historical information like a sponge. I’m not bad for it, but I’ll concede that I don’t know which year the Panama Canal was built in (for example) without looking it up.
Sheep-like travel publications
The first method I would use is to read other travel stories. If Paper X is running a piece on the 100th anniversary of the building of the Incredible Bongo Towers, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve missed the boat. Travel publications can be a bit sheep-like, and once one decides a place is a ‘hot’ destination, others will follow. In this situation, you can always pitch a similar story to Magazine Y or Website Z.
Year searches on Wikipedia
Another useful source is Wikipedia. Simply bung in a year (say 1909 or 1959 for anniversaries this year) and a list of events that happened then comes up.
The best resource I have found, however, is the Date-a-Base from Ideas4writers.co.uk. It’s pretty darned comprehensive and while it doesn’t point the story ideas out to you, it’s fairly easy to come up with some after reading through it. It costs GBP4.99, but I’ve found it an extremely worthwhile investment.