To start a travel blog is to open up a world of endless possibilities.
I made my travel blog after I had already started traveling, and it has since changed the trajectory of my life, far more than the actual travel ever did. Six years ago I never would have guessed that I’d be getting paid to travel the world, working with some of the biggest names in the travel industry, and actually making a living from my blog.
If you want to create a successful travel blog, I’ll be honest with you—it’s going to take some hard work. But if you’re ready to put in the hours, and you want to make money anywhere, travel for free, and partner with big brands around the world, well, you’re in the right place. That’s my specialty.
I started travel blogging in 2011; since then the travel blogging landscape has changed dramatically. With more and more travel blogs popping up every month, it now takes some real creativity and some marketing skills to stand out. If you’ve already got those, you’re ahead of the curve.
But even if that’s not your strong suit, that’s okay, too. There are books, courses, and articles that will teach you everything you need to know (I’ll recommend my favorites in section six). If you can devote yourself to learning new skills and putting them into practice, and if you follow this step-by-step blueprint to making a travel blog, I promise you can pull it off. Trust me—if I did it, you can too.
If you’re just learning how to start a travel blog, keep reading. If you’ve already started, skip ahead using the table of contents below.
Start a Travel Blog in 7 Simple Steps
- Pick a Creative Niche & Name
- Register Your Domain & Sign Up for Hosting
- Install WordPress
- Make Your Blog Beautiful
- Install These 8 Important Plugins
- Start Writing & Marketing Your Content
- Grow Your Audience & Monetize Your Travel Blog
Before picking the name for your new travel blog, pick your niche. Your niche is going to define what your whole blog is about.
Let me clarify something—travel is not a niche. Travel is a subject, but it’s not very focused. Unless you’re planning on starting the next Travel & Leisure (good luck), you’re going to want to hone in on a narrower topic and make it the whole purpose of your site.
Picking a Niche for Your Travel Blog
So how do you pick a niche? Think small. Pick a certain aspect of travel that you love, and focus your entire blog on that. Solo travel? It’s been done. Budget travel? It’s been way overdone. Adventure travel? Done a lot. Female solo travel? It’s popular, but the market is filled.
Get creative. Some of the most successful travel blogs are actually about one specific place or idea. (Yes, you heard me—travel blogs can be about a single location.)
Are you going to be an expat in Korea? Start a travel blog just for expats traveling to Korea. Do you love scuba diving? Write only about scuba diving.
Not convinced? Here’s why:
Would you rather be a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a small pond? Travel blogging is a very big pond, and it’s only getting bigger. Instead of flailing for the first couple years (like many do), start on the right foot. Pick your corner now and dominate it.
A targeted audience of 1,000 people who care deeply about your niche and brand is much more valuable than a general audience of 10,000 who only care a little bit. When it comes time to sell a product or partner with a travel brand (aka make money from your travel blog), your niche and your targeted audience is the selling point. That’s what is going to give your blog value, and that value is what ultimately translates into dollars.
Picking a Name for Your Travel Blog
Once you have a niche, pick a name. If you’re not sure what to call it, try this exercise: Write two columns on a piece of paper. In one column, write 20 synonyms for your niche. In the other, write 20 synonyms for travel. Now, sit back with a glass of wine and play mix-and-match. You’ll be surprised at how many good ideas you end up with.
Write two columns on a piece of paper. In one column, write 20 synonyms for your niche. In the other, write 20 synonyms for travel. Now, sit back with a glass of wine and play mix-and-match. You’ll be surprised at how many good ideas you end up with.
With a few ideas in mind (and that’s the hardest part), it’s time to narrow it down. The name of your travel blog should be unique, memorable, and easy to spell. You want a name that you can use as a brand without having to explain.
Imagine you’re on a talk show and you have 5 seconds to plug your blog—could you do it? Avoid hyphens or strange spellings—this makes your name more confusing to people when you tell them how to find you.
I picked travelFREAK because its short, brandable, and it’s memorable. It should mean something to you and it should bring depth to your style and your niche.
Once you’ve got a few ideas for names, let’s make sure they’re available. Use this handy tool to check if your blog name is already taken. If not, make sure you register it quickly!
SIDE NOTE: It’s also a good idea to make sure the social media handles are available. I skipped this step when I started my blog, which is why my social media handles all have an underscore at the end. I kind of like that it adds some character to my brand, but it’s just plain easier, and better for branding, to have the real social media handles from the get-go.
The two things that you need in order to “go live” are a domain name and web hosting. If your domain name is the address, your web host is the actual apartment that you rent.
Especially when you’re starting out, you don’t need to spend a lot on web hosting. I spend about $100/mo on hosting, but that’s because I get a lot of traffic (plus I’m kind of a computer nerd and I like fancy things). To start a travel blog, it only costs $3.95/mo!
Bluehost will register your domain name and set up your web hosting for you. If you’re not a computer nerd like me, this is the easiest way to get your travel blog up and running. They’re also very reliable (your website will never go down) and they have 24/7 support in case you run into any problems.
If you’re ready to get started, click here to sign up with Bluehost, and pick a plan. The Basic Plan is only $3.95/mo and it has everything you need to get started.
Next, pick your term. You’ll have to pay for at least one year up front, but the longer you sign up for, the cheaper the monthly price. If you’re ever not happy, Bluehost will send you a refund for your unused time, no questions asked. They’re pretty good like that.
Finally, choose your add-ons. The only one I’d recommend is Domain Privacy Protection which will keep your data safe and hidden from public record. Otherwise, marketers can find your information and send you unsolicited emails, which you obviously don’t want.
After you’ve registered with Bluehost, you should get an email with details on logging into your control panel. Now it’s time to set up WordPress!
WordPress is the software that your website will run on. It’s what actually displays the content of your travel blog, and it has a private backend where you write and publish your blog posts, upload photos, adjust the look, and change different settings. WordPress is the most versatile and easy-to-use blogging solution on the web.
Luckily, Bluehost has a fully functional control panel which makes it a cinch to set up and install WordPress on your travel blog. Click the button that says Install WordPress from their control panel and install everything in just one click!
For more detailed instructions, follow their tutorial here.
When the install is complete, you should receive an email with all of your site login information. They’ll tell you where to go to login so you can start designing your site and publishing blog posts!
Spend some time now getting acquainted with WordPress. Watch some YouTube videos and read support documentation. Browse around the backend and see what’s what. The more you learn about WordPress, the better off you’ll be.
Once you’ve had a chance to look around WordPress, it’s time to design your travel blog. WordPress comes with a default theme which, especially without any blog posts, probably doesn’t look very good. You might be looking at the very-empty front page of your new blog thinking, “Oh, no. What have I done? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO NOW!?”
Don’t stress. I’m going to run you through it. If you’re on a tight budget, WordPress has a huge database of free themes, which you can look through here. They make a great starting point.
But in my very humble opinion, and as a former IT technician (and someone who’s been building websites for 15 years), StudioPress Genesis is the best theme framework that exists today. Yes, there’s a slight learning curve, but again, it’s nothing a couple YouTube videos can’t resolve for you. Plus, Genesis has great documentation, and they show you how to set everything up.
It’s better to start off on the right foot and buy a premium theme that you can scale with, so you don’t have to redo your site design in six months. You should buy a theme that you can grow with, instead of a using theme that’s going to limit your capabilities as you grow.
Every theme from StudioPress is not only beautiful, but it’s highly optimized, search engine friendly, and actually quite easy to customize. My personal favorite for a travel blog is the Altitude Pro Theme, but there is a pretty wide selection for you to choose from. If you’re serious about making a travel blog, StudioPress Genesis is where you should start.
Once you have your theme, log into WordPress, go to Appearance > Themes and upload the new theme files. Depending on the theme you chose, the documentation should lead you through the steps on how to go about customizing your travel blog further.
When you’re in the process of making a travel blog, plugins are one of the most important parts. In laymen’s terms, plugins add functionality to your travel blog. WordPress has a repository of hundreds of thousands of them that let you further customize your blog and make it work and look just the way you want it to.
Despite having easy access to so many plugins for free, try not to go overboard. Only use the ones you need. It’s easy to add a lot of plugins for the sake of adding extra features, but each plugin you add makes your site load a little bit slower.
These are the ones you definitely want to install.
Akismet – Akismet usually comes preinstalled with WordPress. Don’t delete it—this works like a spam inbox for your blog by putting spam comments out of sight and out of mind.
Jetpack – Jetpack is a single plugin with a TON of functionality. Jetpack has smaller “sub-plugins” that add various different functionalities to your travel blog. Traffic stats, beautiful photo galleries, extra sidebar widgets, and more, make this a plugin that everybody with a WordPress truly needs.
Subscribe to Comments Reloaded – When someone leaves a comment on your blog post, you receive a notification. Though it’s a bit silly, they don’t actually receive a notification when you (or anybody) replies. This plugin enables that functionality.
Sucuri – Sucuri is like antivirus software for your website. It scans and secures your website and lets you know if your site gets hacked.
SumoMe – SumoMe is another plugin that has lots of other “sub-plugins.” Most famous is their social sharing plugin, which makes it easy to add customized share buttons to your blog posts. They also have some really great marketing tools, like opt-in forms for your newsletter, and heatmaps, which show you exactly where people are clicking on your website.
TinyMCE Advanced – The standard post editing screen is good, but it’s not good enough. TinyMCE Advanced makes WordPress look a little bit more like Microsoft Word, which means you have more control over the formatting and style of your blog posts.
WP Smush – Images take up a lot of space, and especially on a travel blog, they’re going to be the number one thing that slows down you website. This plugin makes the file sizes of your images smaller without affecting the quality of the photo.
Yoast SEO – SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a very important part of travel blogging and makes sure your articles show up in Google searches. Yoast SEO is the gold standard plugin.
Advanced WordPress Plugins I Love and Recommend
- AMP – Make your website compatible with Google’s new “fast-loading” AMP technology.
- Black Studio TinyMCE Widget – Create and edit sidebar widgets using the standard WordPress visual editor.
- Cloudflare – Speed up and secure your website with fancy technology.
- Easy Social Share Buttons – The most advanced social sharing plugin on the market.
- Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP – Makes Yoast SEO play nicely with the AMP plugin above.
- Google Analytics for MonsterInsights – Use Google Analytics for advanced insights into your blog traffic.
- Interactive World Maps – Create interactive maps on your travel blog.
- Pretty Link Lite – Clean up affiliate links and track clicks on your blog.
- Q2W3 Fixed Widget – Make a widget in your sidebar appear fixed, even when you scroll.
- Relevanssi – Get more relevant search results from the WordPress search function.
- Page Builder by SiteOrigin – A drag-and-drop page builder for your blog.
- WP Retina 2x – Make your travel blog display sharp as a tack on retina displays.
- W3 Total Cache – Optimize and speed up the loading time of your site with W3 Total Cache.
Your blog isn’t perfect, I know. Think of it as a work in progress. This site has been through countless iterations, and I cringe when I think of how it used to look.
Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, is famous for saying, “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” This is sage advice to remember at all stages of making a travel blog—it’s never going to be perfect. And besides, perfection is the enemy of done.
What to Write About on Your Travel Blog
Just start writing. This is the most important part. Your blog is nothing without words, so write. Write a lot. Write like a maniac, even when you’re not traveling. In fact, write about travel especially when you’re not traveling.
Travel is a broad topic. That’s why starting from scratch can feel daunting. With such a big canvas, it’s hard to know where to start painting.
So decrease the size of your canvas a little bit. You picked a niche, didn’t you? Good. This is where it starts to pay off.
When you’re writing a blog post, since you already have a niche, you know exactly the type of person that you’re writing for. Using the examples from before, you could be writing for expats traveling to Korea or for travelers who love to scuba dive.
Whenever you’re writing a blog post, try to answer one simple question: what value does this article provide? A three-day account of what you did is not valuable to someone else. A three day recommended itinerary, however, is very valuable! See how it’s basically the same article, but framed a little differently?
Building Your Audience
Let’s look at another example: packing lists. They’re a must for any travel blog, but depending on where you’re going, packing lists could have almost anything on them! With a niche, however, you already know exactly what type of packing lists you need to create.
The fact is, even though your travel blog is all about you, in reality, your travel blog is all about the reader.
Again, what value does your blog bring? It’s an important question to ask yourself. In order to become a successful blogger, you have to show your readers that you care about them. So give them advice. Teach them everything you know. Once they see that you care about them, they’ll start to care about you.
That’s how you build an audience.
Promoting Your Content
But you have to get your content out there first. Unfortunately, if you build it, they will not come. You have to make people come.
This is where social media channels and SEO come in handy. And since there’s a lot to learn on the topics, I recommend the following articles to help you get started. Don’t read them all in one day, though—it will make you dizzy. Come back, read them one-by-one and digest them slowly.
- How to Be Smart in a World of Dumb Bloggers (SmartBlogger)
- 50+ Professional Bloggers Weigh In With Their Top Advice For New Bloggers (ConvertKit)
- Here’s How To Turn Traveling The World Into Your Job (BuzzFeed)
- Make Money Blogging: How This Blog Makes $100K per Month (SmartBlogger)
Content Creation/Content Marketing
- 7 Steps to Reverse Engineer Enormously Popular Content (SumoMe)
- 17 Trigger Words That Work Like Cheat Codes for Getting Your Content Read (SmartBlogger)
- 101 Proven Headlines for Travel Blogs (Travel Blogger Academy)
- A Complete Guide to Visual Content: The Science, Tools and Strategy of Creating Killer Images (Buffer)
- The Advanced Guide to Content Marketing (Quick Sprout)
Social Media Marketing
- Drive Massive Traffic From Facebook (For Free) (SumoMe)
- Drive Massive Traffic with Instagram Marketing (SumoMe)
- How to Easily Double Your Traffic from Social Media (KISSmetrics)
- Pinterest for Bloggers: How to Get 100,000’s of Views (SJ Begonja)
Search Engine Optimization
- The Beginner’s Guide to SEO (Moz)
- How To Do Keyword Research For SEO (SEO Nick)
- Link Building: The Definitive Guide (Backlinko)
- An SEO Driven Approach To Content Marketing (CoSchedule)
- 19 Actionable SEO Tips to Increase Organic Traffic (Matthew Barby)
Your audience won’t grow overnight. Unless you’re a wunderkind, it’s going to take time, and you’re going to have to learn new ways to promote your content and reach new audiences.
But before growing your audience, stop and think for a minute. Ask yourself why? Why does your audience need to grow? What direct benefit does that have to you and your blog? Are larger numbers going to make you money somehow?
Big numbers are pretty and a lot more fun to look at. And it’s (mostly) true that the more readers you have, the more brands will want to work with you. But making money from your travel blog isn’t just about working with brands. That’s one way, but it requires a lot of traffic, and it’s not really sustainable.
So what good is an extra thousand visitors if it’s not directly making you money? This is where so many travel bloggers fail. They get stuck, sizzle out and die, disappearing into the oblivion, never to be seen again.
The problem is that they’re working tirelessly towards an intangible goal—bigger numbers—and they burn out, exhausted and broke, unsure of why their travel blog failed.
Try to think of it this way instead: If you only had 100 people coming to your website every month, how could you still make money from them?
Could you sell a product? A service? Ultimately, you need to sell something. Because that’s what a blog is—a marketing tool to help you sell. Your blog is not, in actuality, the product itself.
Taking Your Travel Blog to the Next Level
If you want to go deeper down the rabbit hole, there’s only one logical step forward, and it’s going to cost you about $350 bucks. If you’re serious about creating a travel blog, it will be the best $350 you ever spent.
Superstar Blogging is the premier course for learning how to start a travel blog, run by the largest travel blogger on the internet, Nomadic Matt. His website sees more than 1.5 million visitors every month and he makes a six-figure salary from blogging.
And yes, he writes about traveling on a budget 😉
This article on how to start a travel blog has only scratched the very surface—there is a lot more to learn on each of the topics I covered above, and believe me, Matt is the person you want to learn it from. I took The Business of Travel Blogging Course this year and, even as an established, “successful” blogger, he helped me come to some serious realizations about my business.
This is the course that taught me how to make real money from my travel blog.
Superstar Blogging has 10+ hours of expert interviews with huge names in the online marketing industry like Rand Fishkin, Derek Halpern, and Pat Flynn. It also has four blogger case studies from a selection of the largest and most successful travel blogs in existence.
If you want to get serious about creating a travel blog, this is how you do it.
If you don’t want to get serious about your blog, that’s okay, too. But if you want to just figure it out on your own, take my advice—don’t. It will take you years to figure it all out. This course is a direct shortcut to everything you need to know. I didn’t have this course when I started blogging, but boy, I wish I did.
Just remember, your travel blog is a direct result of the work you put into it. It’s going to take some hustle, and it’s going to take some knowledge, but you’re taking some big steps towards a very exciting future. I can promise you that.
Disclaimer: Some of the links above are affiliate links. I may earn a small commission if you sign up, at absolutely no extra cost to you. I have used all of the products above and I never recommend a company or product I don’t trust.