Dreaming of making a living from travel? This step-by-step guide will show you how to start a travel blog and make money.
Table of Contents
- How to Start a Travel Blog
- Starting a Travel Blog
- Step 1 Pick a Name for Your Travel Blog
- Step 2: Choose a Web Host
- How to Sign Up:
- Get a BlueHost plan now!
- Step 3: Install WordPress
- Step 4: Configure Your Blog Settings
- Step 5: Choose a Responsive WordPress Theme
- Step 6: Install Plugins
- Step 7: Publish Your Blog For the First Time!
- I. Start with an “About Me” Page
- II. Write your first blog post
- Step 8: Sign up for a Blogging Course
- Step 9: Rock Social Media
- Step 10: Set up an Email List
- Step 11: Network with Other Bloggers
- Step 12: Blog Consistently and Keep at It
- How to Make Money from a Travel Blog
- Inspired? Pin it!
How to Start a Travel Blog
When I first started this travel blog in 2008, I didn’t know where it would lead me.
This travel blog changed my life, in every sense of the word. Because of ths blog, I get paid to travel the world: from Antarctica to Arctic, Iran to Zimbabwe. I’ve been to 100+ countries on all seven continents, many of which I wouldn’t have been able to afford on my own money.
In essence, being a travel blogger is a dream job – but it’s definitely not easy. In fact, I’ve never worked this hard in my life or been so dedicated and committed to anything. It took me years to learn the ins and outs of the industry before I started to make money travel blogging.
If you already have a blog, be sure to read my advanced post on how to become a travel blogger.
Starting a Travel Blog
Starting a travel blog is very easy — you don’t need to be a techie to do this (trust me, I’m quite a tech idiot myself). You don’t need to spend lots of money either. If you follow this guide, you can get your travel blog running in just a few hours.
But before you take the plunge, I want you to know that a successful travel blog requires time, dedication, investment and YEARS of hard work. If you are not ready for that, you are better off as a hobby blogger. There’s nothing wrong with that!
For hobby bloggers, I recommend you create a blog for free at WordPress.com. Now I hear you asking, “Why can’t I get a free blog even if I want to make money blogging?” That’s because if you start a blog using a free platform, you don’t actually own the blog, the platform may even sell ad space on your blog and you have absolutely no control over it.
If you are serious about learning how to start a travel blog, here are the steps you will need to take that could potentially generate some income for you. Click to jump to each step.
- Pick a name for your blog
- Choose a web host
- Install WordPress
- Configure your settings
- Choose a responsive theme
- Install plugins
- Publish your blog for the first time
- Sign up for a blogging course
- Rock social media
- Set up an email list
- Network with other bloggers
- Blog consistently and keep at it!
Step 1 Pick a Name for Your Travel Blog
So you’ve set your mind to starting a travel blog, the first — and possibly the most important thing — to think about is your blog domain name.
A blog name could make or break you; having a name that sticks with people will propel your blogging career and make you stand out, while using a common name won’t get you noticed, ever.
Branding is very important in travel blogging — and it helps (and saves you time) if you get it right from the start. It’s not easy or fun changing it later, you may have to undergo the tedious process of rebranding and run the risk of losing some of your audience.
Here are some tips that may help you come up with your travel blog name:
What Are You About?
Start by asking yourself these questions: What am I about? What type of travel do I like most? What defines me?
Get your friends to help! Ask them to describe you using adjectives. Write them down and play around with different word combos. Try to come up with creative combinations that have never been used before.
Your travel blog name should give readers an idea of what type of traveler you are — whether you are an adventurer, a slow traveler or if you travel with your family.
The best travel blog names indicate what’s special about you — for instance, my friend Abigail named her blog Inside the Travel Lab which gives hints about her background as a doctor and also clearly shows the blog is about travel!
One other option is to simply use your own name. Some bloggers like Candace use their full names as their blog domain names (candaceroserardon.com). It’s a great way to secure your ‘virtual real estate’ (preventing someone else from registering your name) plus you get more professional credibility.
Take your time to come up with a name that suits you best and that’s different from anything you’ve seen. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of travel blogs out there. How do you come up with a name that’s different from the rest?
A useful tool that I personally used to come up with my travel blog name is the thesaurus. I wanted a name that gives a sense of adventure and describes the type of travel that I do. By searching ‘travel’ on thesaurus.com, I found the word ‘junket’ and decided to combine it with ‘wild’ to create something unique and memorable.
I’m really proud of my brand name, as it’s really catchy and hard to forget. However, it can be misinterpreted as the word ‘junket’ means ‘free trip’ in some parts of the world (which I knew beforehand but decided to still go for it). Make sure that the name you’ve chosen doesn’t have a double meaning which can misrepresent your blog.
Keep it Short and Simple
Make sure your domain name is short, straightforward and easy to spell and remember. Use words that most people know and can spell and pronounce. Don’t overcomplicate things and use words that are long and pretentious. Avoid hyphens or underscores as they’ll just make it more difficult for people to remember.
Try not to use names with an order: for instance, my friend Laurel Robbins writes the blog Monkeys and Mountains which I love, but I always have difficulties remembering if it’s “Mountains and Monkeys” or “Monkeys and Mountains”. (Sorry Laurel!)
Do your Research
Find out what names are already taken in the travel blogging world and what names are commonly used. A quick Google search will give you a hint of what’s out there. You’ll find that there are WAY too many blogs that use the words ‘nomadic’, ‘adventurous’ and ‘vagabond’. Avoid using these common names and try to come up with something that will make you stand out.
It’s also important to make sure you’re not using a trademarked company name — as you can face getting sued.
Don’t limit yourself by using a name that indicates age or a time period. For example, my friend Liz Carlson who blogs at Young Adventuress chose a great name that is unique and that indicates her spirit of adventure. BUT how long can she use it for? She can’t be young forever, what will she do when she turns 40?
Try to think about the long run and not just the present as a blog name is something that is (more or less) permanent if you plan to be in business for long.
A web host is a company that stores all the files and photos for your blog and delivers them to the user when they type in your domain name. It’s basically a landlord that’s renting out space on the web to you.
If you want to create a blog, it’s mandatory to have a web host.
There are many hosting companies, but the most popular and most reliable is BlueHost.
I personally use BlueHost for both of my sites and highly recommend them for the following reasons:
- They offer very affordable prices (starting at $5.95 per month) and give you your domain name for free too.
- They offer a free, simple installation of all the popular blogging tools, including WordPress (the most commonly used platform).
- They have been recommended by WordPress since 2005 and currently host over 2 million websites.
- They offer industry leading 24/7 customer service via phone, email, or web chat. Of all the host companies I’ve used, their customer service is the best. Trust me, this is very important especially when your site is down and you need urgent help.
- They offer a money-back guarantee if you are unsatisfied for any reason.
How to Sign Up:
II. Check to see if your blog domain name is available in the left box.
If you already own a domain name and want to use it for your blog, type your existing domain name in the right box and then click “next”. Use the right box only if you already registered a domain.
If the domain is unavailable, you’ll be given a list of similar domain names that are available. Choose one of the suggested domains or type in another name to try.
You will also need to choose a domain extension. I recommend using the standard .com, but .net and .org work just as well. I would steer clear from other extensions like .us or .biz, as they are not as familiar to most people.
Once you have found an available domain name, you will be taken to the registration page where you’ll have to make payment.
III. Choose a plan that suits you.
There are three basic hosting plans to choose from: starter, plus and business pro.
I recommend going with the PLUS plan, which starts at $6.95 per month for 36 months. It’s the most popular plan for good reasons: the low fee includes unlimited websites, website space, email accounts and email storage. Even if you’re a newbie blogger, think long-term and consider what you may need in future.
The 36 month package gets you the lowest monthly rate, while the 12 month package has a lower up-front cost. Either is a good choice.
At the moment, Bluehost is offering a special sign-up offer: 45% discount on hosting price + a security bundle.
- With the PLUS plan starting from $5.95/month
- FREE Domain Privacy Protection worth $11.88
- FREE Site Backup Pro worth $35.88
IV. Get extra add-ons.
You’ll be asked to choose from a list of add-ons. I don’t think it’s necessary to opt for any — except for the Site Backup Pro ($2.99/month) which is useful for backing up your site in case of malware, hacks and viruses.
Don’t stress too much about these extra add-ons though, you can always add these at a later time if you need them.
Once your account is setup, try logging in to your account by going to the BlueHost homepage and clicking the login tab at the top. Enter your domain name and the password you chose when registering.
WordPress is the world’s largest publishing platforms. Almost every blogger uses WordPress, even major publishers like CNN and BBC also publish their content using this platform. You definitely won’t go wrong using WordPress on your travel blog.
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s best to get a self-hosted WordPress account as you’ll get full control of your site and you can customise it or sell advertising if you want. I started out on Blogspot and eventually migrated to WordPress — it was a painful process but luckily I did that almost right at the beginning of my career. I’d advise new bloggers to start out with WordPress and save yourself all the trouble of migration later on.
Bluehost offers easy one-click WordPress installation, just follow these steps and you’ll get it installed in no time.
I. On the BlueHost’s home screen (which is your control panel), click on the icon for ‘Install WordPress’.
II. You will be redirected to the WordPress install page. Click on the “Install” button to get started.
III. Select your domain and click “Check Domain”.
Check the “Show advanced options” box. Here, you can enter your site title, username, and password. All of them except the username can be changed later. When you are done, check the box to agree to the terms and then click “Install Now”.
IV. WordPress will then start installing — it should take a few minutes and you’re all set!
You will also receive an email with your login information as soon as the installation finishes.
V. Login to your site at https://www.yoursite.com/wp-admin (replace “yoursite.com” with your domain name).
Once you’re logged in, you’l be redirected to your WordPress dashboard. This is where you’ll do all your blogging!
Step 4: Configure Your Blog Settings
Now it’s time to play around with WordPress and get yourself familiar with the platform. You’ll find every feature and plugin on the left menu. Clicking on ‘Dashboard’ will always bring you back to the home screen.
I. Set your blog title
To do this, click “Settings” on the left menu. On the Settings screen, you can change your “Site Title” and also the subtitle “Tagline”. For the Site Title, I would advise entering your blog name followed by the words ‘travel blog’ for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) purpose. I won’t go into that as it is pretty complicated, but trust me on this, it will make it much easier for people to find your travel blog.
Scroll to the bottom and click the “Save Changes” button. Once you save these changes they will immediately be live on your site.
Permalinks are the permanent URLs of your individual weblog posts, as well as categories and other pages. To change it, click “Permalinks” under “Settings” on the left menu.
The most recommended permalink structure for a WordPress blog is Post Name. Post name permalinks are short, sweet and are search engine friendly. I’ve always used the day and name structure which is not optimised for SEO — it’s a pain to change it now as I’ll have to redirect some links but hopefully my developer will help me fix this. Again, it’s good for you to get it right from the start.
III. User details
I recommend changing the user details so readers can know the person behind this blog. To do this, click on “Users” tab on the left menu, then click on “Edit” under your username.
Your nickname is the public name that will appear on all the posts you make, so keep this in mind when selecting it. I also advise adding your biographical info with a summary of who you are, where you’ve traveled to etc. This appears at the bottom of each blog post. Once you have made all the necessary changes be sure to click the “Update Profile” button at the bottom of the screen to save the changes.
A WordPress theme is a site layout and design. It gives your travel blog its design and look — but you can easily customise it to make it look unique.
To change your theme, click on the “Appearance” tab on the left menu and you’ll see that several themes are already installed on your blog. These are usually simple and basic themes that can work for just about any type of blog (unless you’re thinking of setting up an online shop or something special). In order to activate a theme, hover over the theme and click the “Activate” button. That’s it!
If you don’t like any of these pre-installed themes, there are thousands of WordPress themes out there. To install a new theme, go to your “Appearance’ screen and click on the “Add New” button at the top. There are lots of different ways to find a theme you like. You can search by color, layout, and more by clicking “Feature Filter”. When you find one that you like, hover over it with your mouse and click the blue “Install” button.
Plugins are additional tools that you can add to your WordPress blog to make it more efficient. There are hundreds of free plugins available that can do just about anything on your blog.
There are plugins for creating contact forms, backing up your site, adding social media buttons, or enhancing your site’s visibility to search engines. But you don’t want to have too many plugins as they can slow down your site.
Plugins are easy to add from your WordPress dashboard. Click “Plugins” from the left menu and choose “Add New”. In the “Search Plugin” field, type in the name of the plugin you’re looking for and then install and activate.
Here are a couple of plugins I recommend:
- Yoast SEO – Essential to optimise your posts and pages to make them search engine friendly.
- Akismet – Controls the spam comments you’ll get. Overtime, you can get a lot of them and you don’t want to be manually deleting these.
- W3 total cache – Helps to keep your site running fast.
- Easy Social Share Buttons – Allows people share your content more easily on social media platforms.
- Jetpack — Adds a ton of easy to use features to WordPress like the ability to add images in your sidebar menus, publish your posts to Facebook, and see how many people have visited your blog.
- WPTouch Mobile Plugin – Makes your travel blog mobile friendly.
- FD Feedburner Plugin — Manages your feed (new content).
- Google XML Sitemaps — Makes it easy for search engines to find your content.
- Ultimate Google Analytics — Installs Google Analytics, the industry standard of measuring your site’s visitors and traffic.
Right now, your travel blog is probably still showing a “Coming Soon” sign as you haven’t written anything.
Let’s start by adding some basic pages to let readers know more about you and what your travel blog is about. In order to create a new page go to “Pages” on the left menu of your blog administrator area and click “Add New”.
I. Start with an “About Me” Page
This is usually the first page that readers go to when they land on your site, so take your time to share your story and make a connection with your readers. Talk about where your travels have brought you and why you decided to start this travel blog. Think about what sets you apart from other people and let your personality shine.
II. Write your first blog post
Before your travel blog goes live, you should try to write at least 2-5 blog posts to populate the site.
To write your first post, click on “Posts” on the left menu. You will see there is already a post there titled “Hello world!” This is a default post on every new WordPress blog and it doesn’t serve any purpose. To delete it click “Trash” just under the post title.
For your new post, click on “Add New” and you’ll be directed to a post screen. Enter the title of your post in the top box and then start writing your post in the lower box. It’s pretty straightforward and works like a Microsoft Word document except that you can add photos, buttons, lines and links.
If you would like to add a picture to your post, click on the “Add Media” button and click “Select Files” to upload a picture from your computer. To hotline a photo, click on “Insert from URL” and enter the url of the image. You can make adjustments to the picture size and alignment on the next screen. When you are all set click “Insert into post” to add the picture.
Once you have finished your post just click the “Publish” button on the right side of the screen to publish it.
III. Publish Your Blog
At the moment, you’ll see a pop-up message right under the top bar of your dashboard that says: Your site is currently displaying a “Coming Soon” Page. Once you are ready to launch your site, click here.
When you are ready to go live, click on the link indicated and your blog will be up and running. Now it’s official: you have a travel blog!
Now that you’ve learned how to start a travel blog, your next step is to master all the skills involved in becoming a travel blogger. There’s writing, photography, SEO, html, digital marketing, social media management, graphic design and SO much to learn if you want to succeed. It took me years to pick up all that on my own, but you can sign up for a blogging course to speed up the process.
The biggest blogging academy in the travel world is currently Superstar Blogging, created by Nomadic Matt and a few other travel bloggers and tech experts. Their in-depth course covers everything you need to know about the business of blogging: from writing to the technical aspects, what to charge for advertising and how to pitch companies for partnerships. I joined Super Star Blogging about 5 years ago and really regretted not joining earlier — I would have saved years and started my career earlier.
I have also written my own Facebook marketing course, which is available online for only US$97. I will show you EXACTLY how to build an active and engaged audience using Facebook, reach out to your target audience, and to convert these followers to blog readers. The course will show you how to curate the best content to share on Facebook, decode Facebook analytics, understand your audience demographics and use Facebook advertising effectively.
For travel bloggers, social media can be an immensely powerful tool to help you reach an even bigger audience and build a community that is engaged. There are many social media platforms and each of them has a different purpose, so spend some time on each one to see which fits you best.
For me, my primary channel is Facebook, followed by Twitter and then Instagram. Again, you need to experiment and observe to see which platform works best for you. Each channel requires a different type of posting and content curation. Avoid sharing the same photo/update across all channels. Be sure to check the analytics for each platform to find out the best time to post and when to post.
Here’s my personal approach to each channel:
2-3 posts a day following the rule of thirds. In general, I always try to share a variety of updates – one-third of them would be personal updates that give readers a peek into my life on the road; one-third are questions directed to my followers to create some engagement; and one-third are some interesting and viral content from others. Check out my Facebook page.
4-5 posts a day with links to my blog posts. Images create more engagement, so I always try to include photos in my posts. I also tag relevant profiles and include hashtags whenever possible. I am the organizer of the Adventure Travel Twitter Chat #AdvTravelChat which gets me a steady influx of followers every week. Click to see my Twitter profile.
1 post a day, usually more when I’m on the road. I tag the location for people who are nearby to find my photos and I also include up to 10 hashtags again for my photo to pop up in searches. I recommend taking the time to research which hashtags are most popular for a particular destination or activity. Also take your time to craft a detailed description so followers are more likely to comment and interact with you. Find me on Instagram!
In today’s era, there is always a new social media platform popping up everyday. As a blogger you need to evolve along with the changes in trends and dabble with new platforms. The latest social media channels that are taking the world by storm are SnapChat and Periscope. I’m just learning how to work them but please do pop by and say hi on SnapChat!
In the world of internet marketing, an email list is the most important thing for every business (and blog). An email list is basically a list of email addresses from people who have subscribed to your newsletter. Getting an email address is the first critical step to figuring out who your reader is, and hopefully in the future, your customer of some sort.
Few travel bloggers actually make building an email list their priority (including myself), which is such a shame. If your goal is to build a community, you should spend some time setting up a monthly newsletter and inviting people to subscribe to it.
For those starting a travel blog, I recommend using Convert Kit which is what I personally use. It’s free until you get 2,000 people on your list (that will take time to do!) The best thing about it is that you can design specific emails to different groups of readers based on their behavior.
In all honesty, I owe much of my success as an adventure travel blogger to my friends in the blogging community. I made close friends in our travel blogging community right from the start and we often helped each other out, offering support and advice whenever needed. I still talk to these friends once in a while to keep updated on what we’re doing and discuss exciting things happening in our circle.
Facebook Groups for Travel Bloggers
These days, the travel blogging community is a rather sizable one, and it can be quite overwhelming to make genuine connections in the crowd. Thankfully, there are plenty of Facebook groups created to discuss specific aspects of travel blogging.
- Travel Bloggers — general topics
- The Business of Blogging — more technical and business aspects
- Travel Press Trips — for press trip alerts
- Professional Travel Bloggers Association — only for members
- Travel Photography Community – photographers will find this useful
Before joining each group, I’ll advise you to read the rules or guidelines first. Feel free to ask questions and respond when someone offers you advise. Always take the advise with a pinch of salt, as something that has worked for others might not work for you. Try to get a variety of opinions and test them out to see which works best for you. Lastly remember to give back and help others out when it’s a topic you’re familiar with.
Travel Blogging Conferences
Conferences can also be an extremely useful way to connect with other travel bloggers, potential clients and partners as well as attend workshops and training. These educational workshops usually aim at educating new travel bloggers, so you’ll be sure to meet plenty of others who are just starting out like you are.
While it’s easy to make contact with people online, nothing beats meeting in person. These conferences provide the opportunity for you to network with brands and companies, creating the first bridge to future partnerships.
I’ve personally attended several conferences and even spoken at a few (TBEX and WTM) and definitely recommend attending especially if you are a new travel blogger. Here are some of them:
- Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX) – the largest and most popular travel blogging conference
- Social Travel Market at WTM – a small section of the massive World Travel Market dedicated to social travel
- Social Travel Summit (STS) – for a small, elite group of travel bloggers that are a part of iAmbassador
- Travel Bloggers Conference (TBC) – organized by the PTBA (Professional Travel Bloggers Association)
As a new blogger, it’s important to write as much as you can to develop your voice and build up your content base. When I first started blogging, I would write at least 3 blog posts a week, whilst working full-time!
I’m not asking you to publish as often as I did — choose a publishing schedule that works for you and be consistent with it. If you only have time for 1 or 2 posts a day, it’s ok! It’s better to spend time crafting well-written and well-researched articles rather than sloppy short ones. Just make sure you consistently publish the same number of blog posts each week (or better still, on the same day of each week). Consistency will get you loyal readers.
To get ideas for blog posts, read as many travel blogs as you can and see what’s popular and what’s not. Get a feel for the type of articles that particularly resonate with readers and see what kind of topics get the most attention. Don’t forget to leave some comments on blog posts you like and link to these posts in your own blog post.
Be Patient — It Won’t Happen Overnight!
Remember that it takes time to build an audience. Don’t expect to see your readership spike right after publishing a few posts. It took me two years to gain a reasonable level of traffic and for advertisers to come knocking on your doors. The key is to be patient and keep for it. I’ve heard other bloggers earning just after six months of blogging, but it really depends on your luck!
When I first started blogging, I was so obsessed with this new passion project of mine that I would stay home every evening and on weekends to work on this blog. But all those hard work paid off and now I live a dream lifestyle thanks to this travel blog — if you work hard enough and are determined to make it work, you’ll be on your way to making your dream come true too.
How to Make Money from a Travel Blog
There are many ways to make money from travel blogging. To see how exactly I get paid to travel, check out this post where I detail all the different ways I earn a living in this post.
Here’s a summary of various ways I make money from a blog:
- Advertising — I make the majority of my money through Mediavine ads. The ad network is a dream to work with!
- Affiliate income — I get a commission when readers click on a link to buy a product (at NO extra cost to readers). This is a great way to make passive income.
- Sponsored content — I also work with travel companies and brands to offer sponsored articles, videos and social media posts, but I would only recommend products or services I believe in and would use myself.
- Adventure tours — I also run tours to remote, unusual destinations, like Tibet, Bhutan and Tajikistan. Many of these places are difficult and expensive to travel solo. Check out WildJunket Tours.
- Selling merchandise — On my online shop, I sell unique print maps that are custom designed for specific cities.
- Online courses — I also offer an online course on Facebook Marketing, which gives step-by-step guidance on how to optimize your Facebook efforts to gain maximum traction.
- Book writing — I have written several books and book sales are another great source of passive income. Here’s a look at my books.
Good luck! I hope my guide on how to start a travel blog has helped you take a step towards your dream. Any questions for me on how to start a travel blog of your own? Feel free to leave a comment below.
Inspired? Pin it!