Starting a travel blog is a great way to see the world, share your experiences, and make money doing it. You can create your travel blog on a weekend and have your first visitors to your blog come Monday. Best of all, a blog is about one of the cheapest businesses you can create—you can get started for as little as $2.95 per month.
1. Select a Travel Blogging Niche
What’s your travel style, and what do you want people to think of when they hear your blog’s name? Perhaps you are an adrenaline junkie and want to show others how to tackle their bucket lists. Or, maybe you prefer to stay safe within the confines of a luxury villa. No matter your travel style, you need to pick a travel niche so that you can attract readers just like you that benefit from your content. Staying true to your audience by creating content specifically for them makes it easier to make money blogging.
- Family: If you have children in tow, you have a much different travel experience than a couple or solo traveler. Showcase your family travel tips and tricks in a travel blog as Have Baby Will Travel does, so your readers can also have the courage to embark on a family adventure.
- Solo: Sometimes, adventures are best experienced alone. There’s no one to tell you how fast or slow to travel, where you go, and what your budget is. An example of a popular solo travel blog is Adventurous Kate.
- Luxury: Swedish massages, five-star suites, and personal concierge services are the norm for luxury travel bloggers. Carmen’s Luxury Travel is an example of a travel blog showcasing the best of luxury accommodations, food, and wine.
- Budget: If you prefer hostels over the Four Seasons and Spirit Airlines over Qatar Airways Qsuites, you might want to consider the budget travel niche. Will Hatton at The Broke Backpacker blogs about budget travel, and even wrote a book about traveling on $10 per day.
- Overlanding: Want to traverse an entire continent while living out of a Jeep or van conversion? This is a niche for you. Popular bloggers in this niche include Desk to Dirtbag and My Overland Adventure.
- Hiking: Share about the hikes you’ve done and the hikes on your bucket list. You don’t necessarily have to write about a thru-hike. Instead, you can share your favorite weekend hikes.
2. Choose a Host and Install a Theme
While you can definitely have a blog on a platform like Wix, if you want to work with brands, you want a self-hosted WordPress blog. This means you’ll have to pay for a web host. We like Bluehost because you get a free domain name for a year (this is your blog’s URL), a free SSL certificate, and you can get started for just $2.95 per month.
After you sign up for web hosting and choose your domain name, you need to install a theme. This simply changes the look and feel of your blog. There are a lot of free WordPress themes to choose from, otherwise, you can purchase one on Etsy or Theme Forest. If you come across a theme on another blog that you love, you can find out what theme they use using What WordPress Theme Is That.
Try to pick a theme that isn’t too cluttered. You want your readers to navigate easily. Additionally, look for a theme that offers a static front page, rather than one that lists your latest blog posts in reverse chronological order. Most static front pages allow for adding an image slider so you can showcase your most visually-appealing posts.
If you choose a free theme offered by WordPress, you simply click a button to install it on your blog right from the theme dashboard. When purchasing a theme, you have to download the zip file from the seller and upload it to the dashboard. This is also done with a simple click of a button after you’ve downloaded the theme.
3. Install Helpful Plugins
Plugins help expand the functions and capabilities of your blog. Many plugins are free, so you may be tempted to download a bunch to your site (or, maybe I’m the only one who did that before I knew better!). However, too many plugins can slow down your website, which hurts your search engine optimization (SEO). Try to stick with just the basics plus a couple of fun plugins.
- Google Analytics: If you install just one plugin, this is the one you want to install. The vast majority of influencer networks, if you choose to work with one, require you to have Google Analytics installed on your blog. This measures your blog’s traffic and demographics. There are several plug ins available that work with Google Analytics.
- Interactive Maps: This plugin makes it super easy to showcase all of the countries (or states) you’ve visited. You can change the colors so it suits your blog’s branding, too.
- Akismet: Unfortunately, spam is pretty common in the blogging world. The Akismet plugin will prevent most spam comments and contact form messages. This plugin has blocked 37,233 spam messages since I installed it on my blog in November 2019 with 99.82% accuracy.
- Yoast SEO: The best thing about the Yoast SEO plugin is the specific instructions it provides on a blog post to make sure it’s SEO-friendly. If your blog post receives a score of green, you are good to publish. If it’s yellow or red, you have some work to do to make the blog post better.
It’s also important to note that you don’t want more than one plugin measuring Google Analytics. This is because it will duplicate your blog’s data and make it look like you have significantly better stats than you really do. Even after blogging professionally since 2012, I only recently discovered this the hard way.
A good way to tell if you have duplicate data is to look at your bounce rate. This measures the percentage of people who land on your blog and don’t leave that page for another page. If it’s below 50%, you more than likely have more than one plugin pulling Google Analytics data.
4. Plan Your Cluster of Content
You might think, what in the world is a cluster? I could write an article on this topic alone, but for the purposes of today’s lesson, know that it’s an SEO strategy designed to help improve your reader’s experience. Not only that, but it also helps grow your blog’s page views.
Think of your blog as a network, or web, of content. If you blog about budget travel, you can write about lots of different topics under the budget niche. This content consists of both higher-level and micro topics.
Higher-level topics might include:
- How to Save Money for Travel
- How to Travel the World on Someone Else’s Dime
- The Ultimate Guide to Credit Card Travel Rewards
- The Best Suitcases on a Budget
Each of these higher-level topics is pretty broad. If someone wants to get started traveling on a budget, they likely want to read these topics before reading micro topics like, “The Best Street Foods to Try in Vietnam.”
Other examples of micro topics include:
- How to Backpack Your Way Across Southeast Asia
- Carry-on Packing List for Two Weeks in Thailand
- Best Budget Hotels in Bali
When writing your content, whether higher-level or micro, you want to internally link to other relevant articles. For example, if I wrote an article about backpacking across Southeast Asia, I will link to a blog post I wrote about how to save money for travel. After all, the reader probably wants to know how to save up for this epic trip, right?
Your job as a travel blogger is to cover your entire niche thoroughly. This is because you want to become the most authoritative source on budget travel, or whatever your niche is. When someone needs a resource in your niche, don’t you want others to identify you as the foremost expert on it?
When I plan my content, I like to use Miro to help me strategize at a high-level. Think of Miro as though you’re using sticky notes on a wall. After doing a high-level overview of topics you need to create, you will plug these topics into an editorial calendar.
An editorial calendar simply helps you plan out your content and keep you accountable. I wrote a pretty in-depth guide to blog planning you need to check out to know how to properly build an editorial calendar (notice how I linked to an article I already wrote here that goes in-depth on this topic? That’s an example of a micro topic).
5. Publish Your First Blog Post & Promote It
After you’ve assembled your editorial calendar, it’s time to write your first blog post. You can tackle this one of two ways:
- Write about places you’ve already visited, which is micro-content.
- Start with higher-level content to help your readers build a foundation.
There are merits to each option. For the first choice, you likely already have most of your images and videos you want to showcase in the blog post. This means you can get started right away on chronicling your experience at that particular destination. These don’t typically take a lot of research to write. However, readers might inevitably want to know how they can get started, too, and you won’t have a blog post to point them to that explains how.
Higher-level content allows your reader to get started right away—almost like you’re teaching them the basics in school. Then, as you write more content, the topics get more in-depth. However, higher-level content usually takes more time to write because you often need to do a lot of research.
No matter which route you decide to take, the process of publishing your blog post is the same. The WordPress editor works a lot like Microsoft Word, only it lets you do HTML in addition to standard word processing.
After publishing your blog post, you must promote it. I like to create multiple images using Canva, and upload them to Pinterest with a link back to my blog post. By far, this is my biggest source of traffic. If you’re new to Pinterest, it might take a while to gain some traction on a blog post.
You can also share your blog post to social media and reciprocal sharing sites like Tailwind. Tailwind is a site made for bloggers, full of bloggers who share each other’s content. Once you’ve established an email list, you can send your new blog posts in a newsletter to your subscribers. Learn more about how to do email marketing for bloggers.
As you write more, you will inevitably need to travel more. You can start locally, and eventually expand further away from home. Of course, this will also cost you more over time, so many bloggers seek to help offset some of those travel costs.
How I Can Afford to Travel Extensively
I started travel blogging long before I ever actually got paid for it. I got my start as a health and fitness blogger, and later pivoted to writing about lifestyle topics. My coaching business took off, and as I started to make more money, I realized how much I loved to travel. This led to me getting my passport and traveling to 28 countries in a little over a year and a half—in the beginning, much of it was on my own dime.
To get started, try to travel as much as possible. Even if you have a 9-to-5 job, you can still travel on long weekends. Many of my international trips were long weekends spent thoroughly exploring cities. To pay for the travel, you can collaborate with brands and do freelance work to bring in additional income. I know several bloggers who do work and volunteer exchanges—like WWOOFING (Worldwide Opportunities On Organic Farms)—in exchange for free room and board all over the world.
Find Cheap Flights:
- Kiwi.com: Like a search engine for flights, Kiwi.com can help you find the cheapest flights. Its Nomad feature allows you to search for flights for any destination for any date—so if you’re only looking for super cheap flights so you can travel more, this is a must.
- Scott’s Cheap Flights: Scott scours the web for flight deals and sends emails to his subscribers with these deals. There’s a free version and a pro version of Scott’s Cheap Flights. I’ve scored killer deals with just the free version, like $124 USD roundtrip flights from DC to Oslo and back for 10 days.
- Matt’s Flights: Similar to Scott’s Cheap Flights, Matt sends emails with flight deals just about every day. The service is completely free, and Matt often hosts trip giveaways in conjunction with major travel brands.
Collaborate With Brands
Most of you reading this article are brand-new to travel blogging, so you probably don’t have an established audience yet. Don’t let this stop you from asking to work with brands. You can absolutely offer your services to a brand in exchange for travel (such as hotel rooms, food, tours, and flights). For example, offer to create a video or shoot photos of a hotel in exchange for a stay.
Until you’ve established an audience, you must pitch brands yourself. After you’ve grown your blog significantly, many brands will come to you. For now, you’ll want to reach out and ask to collaborate. This process involves you sending an email to the PR team or partnership team at a company. These email addresses are pretty easy to find with a simple Google search. I’ve written a sample pitch email for you to send below. Feel free to make a copy and customize it.
Once you’ve secured a brand collaboration, it’s important to do a great job. Not only does this encourage the brand to work with other influencers in the future, but the brand is more likely to want a long-term relationship with you. One of the best ways you can ensure a great collaboration is to be clear of the expectations up-front, under-promise, and over-deliver.
What exactly does this look like? Let’s say you promise to deliver three Twitter shares, and instead, you give seven shares across various platforms in addition to the three you already promised. Brands love when they can measure their return-on-investment (ROI), so I usually give a Google Doc listing all of the shares delivered and the results gained (such as 900 views of an Instagram Story, 70 likes on a Facebook post).
Do Freelance Work
Even as a seasoned blogger with a full-time writing career, I regularly do freelance work to help supplement my income. I use this money to help fund our travel not covered by brand collaborations.
- Submit to publications: Ever dream of seeing your work in publications like National Geographic and AFAR? You absolutely can, and should submit your best work to major publications. Most publications pay for submissions, others don’t.
- Ghostwrite posts: Bloggers will happily pay for good content. A short, 300-word article typically goes for $25 to $50 a piece. Articles over 1,500 words can easily fetch $300.
- Use a freelancer network: A freelancer network allows you to bid on relevant projects so that you can use your talents and get paid for it. Many of these projects include writing, graphic design, and web development.
- Offer your services to established bloggers: When you can work for already-established bloggers, you get an opportunity to learn best practices and how a blogging business runs. Services you can offer include being a virtual assistant (VA), admin tasks, and community moderation.
No matter which travel niche you choose, starting a blog can be fun and rewarding. After all, it’s one of the few industries in which you actually get paid to take vacations and create epic content. The best part is that you can get started relatively quickly, even if you’re on a budget.
When you launch your travel blog, you must choose a reliable host that can grow with you. Bluehost offers a free domain name, SSL certificate, and 24/7 support. Plans start at just $2.95 per month, so you’ll have plenty of room left in your budget to travel.