A complete guide to becoming a travel blogger and getting paid to see the world!
Here where I live in Colombia, 90% of the bloggers I meet are travel bloggers. That means I’ve seen how successful and how much money they can make…
I’ve also seen how the majority of travel blogs barely make enough to pay for a backpacker’s lifestyle in a cheap hostel sharing a room with 12 people!
A travel blog can be one of the most interesting and fun types of blogs you can start. No other blog gives you the chance to see the world and make money while you do. That kind of opportunity attracts a lot of competition though and you’ll need to rise above the millions of other travel bloggers if you’re going to be successful.
I’m sharing this guide to starting a travel blog from everything I’ve learned on my own blogs as well as my conversations with travel bloggers. I’ll reveal the strategies to grow any blog as well as ideas unique to travel blogs and as a bonus, three lessons learned from one of the most successful travel bloggers on the net!
How to Become a Travel Blogger
Getting started as a travel blogger is deceptively easy. It takes less than 10 minutes to get your blog online and ready for the world.
But it takes a lot more than that to create a successful travel blog.
Becoming more than just someone that ‘says they have a blog’ means making a plan for why you want to be a travel blogger. It means having a plan for that first year and for growing your blog.
Questions to ask before becoming a travel blogger include:
- Why do you want to be a travel blogger? To make money, to pay for travel or just to have fun? This is going to decide how much time you spend learning the business of blogging and how bloggers make money versus just having fun with your blog.
- How will you grow your blog? There are a few growth strategies unique to travel blogs and will help you increase traffic fast.
- What does that first year as a travel blogger look like for you? The first year for any blogger is extremely important. You’ll need a detailed plan and the motivation to see it through even if you aren’t making much money yet. Make it through this first year and you’ll be well on your way to a successful blog.
The first thing you’ll need to officially become a travel blogger is web hosting. This is the service that stores and delivers your blog to readers over the internet. With Blue Host, you’ll also get a free domain name and extras like advertising credits on Google.
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How Much Money Can You Make from a Travel Blog?
I won’t lie to you. It can be tough making money as a travel blogger. It’s so easy to start a blog and the idea of getting paid to travel, that’s pretty persuasive and there’s no lack of people with the same idea.
A survey I did of 130 bloggers found that four-in-ten made less than $500 a month. That’s all types of blogs but I’d argue that it’s about right for travel bloggers given the conversations I’ve had with people in the niche.
But you CAN make money with a travel blog! More than one-in-ten bloggers make between $1,500 to $3,000 a month which is enough for a frugal travel lifestyle. Another two-in-ten bloggers make over $5,000 a month from their blog which is a nice paycheck no matter where you travel.
Your first goal as a travel blogger should be to get your expenses covered wherever you go. This might not mean making enough to cover plane or train fare just yet but making enough to cover hotel and food costs.
That’s entirely doable within the first six months of blogging. In fact, within the first year of starting my blogs, I was making over $1,000 a month consistently and had reached over two grand a month within 18 months.
Even before you start making money from the blog, make sure you keep receipts and records for everything. Travel is your business and that means anything you spend while traveling can be used as a business expense on your taxes. Keeping track of all your expenses on your taxes will mean you can lower your income taxes with those prior losses when you do start making money.
How to Set Up a Travel Blog
Setting up a travel blog is easy and will take a few minutes. I’ll list out the steps here but keep reading for the planning you need to do to get started right.
- Sign up for web hosting and register your blog name. This is all done through one step on Blue Host which offers a free domain name and other extras for less than $3 a month [special negotiated offer only through this blog].
- Pick a theme from the free themes available or buy a premium theme. Themes are the layout of your blog and the free ones are fine to start.
- Download some basic plugins. Plugins are software that let’s you do things like remove spam comments and protect your blog from hackers.
- Set up an account with an email service provider to start growing your list. I use ConvertKit because it makes sending out regular newsletters and emails automatic. Get a 14-day FREE trial and start building your list with this offer.
Once you’re set up and online, it’s really just a matter of sharing your stories and travels with people on the web. Google will pick up on your blog articles and will show them when people search for a topic related to your post. This is how the majority of people find your blog, through Google search, though we’ll talk about a few other ways later.
For a more detailed article on setting up a blog, including the free plugins you should use, click through to this five-video series.
How to Write a Travel Article
Pictures are the life-blood of a travel blog. People want to live those experiences with you and the best way to do that is to show them.
That means your camera, or a phone with a really good camera needs to go with you EVERYWHERE!
I’ve seen great travel blogs that were more photo scrapbooks than blog. Of course, you’ll still need to write out your experience to detail it in your readers’ minds and help get your blog found on Google but always be thinking about getting that next great picture.
Even before you start traveling, you can start talking about your travel plans. This is a great idea because it takes readers on the journey with you. They start just as they would if they were making the trip, with the planning. They get to see how you planned your trip and then all the things that happen along the way.
Growing a Travel Blog
Starting a travel blog is easy. As soon as you get started…and that takes literally less than ten minutes, the big question is going to shift to, ‘How do I grow a travel blog?’
This is the big question for any type of blog but there are a few answers that work uniquely well for travel bloggers. Before we get to those though, I don’t want you to think you need a huge blog with lots of traffic before you can start making money. You can make money on any size blog so don’t miss the ways to do that in the next section.
But the truth is that you’ll make MORE money as your blog grows. Many of the best income sources like affiliate advertising and sponsorships get more lucrative as visitor traffic increases. Doing that means following a few tips.
You absolutely must be on Pinterest and Instagram! There are a lot of people that will say you need to be on every social media platform, promoting your blog everywhere to see what works. You’ll hear others say you absolutely HAVE to be on Facebook or LinkedIn…or whatever the hot new network happens to be. That might be true for some blogs but not for travel bloggers.
Pinterest and Instagram are the two visual social networks that make them perfect for travel blogging. Those beautiful sunset pics are your best marketing for your blog and these two social platforms were made for it.
- Share at least one of your own pins and several curated pins on Pinterest each day. You can use pinning services like Tailwind to easily schedule in advance.
- Share at least one new image to Instagram each day.
- Join the Instagram profiles of other travel bloggers and engage with their posts.
- Try doing a live story or IGTV on Instagram at least two or three times a week.
Above all the other advice you hear about growing a blog, consistent content will always win out for results. I know, it sucks that there is no secret key to success. The truth is that building a successful blog is simply putting in the time to provide insightful and entertaining articles that keep people coming back…and doing it for years.
Plan on publishing a new article at least once a week but try for two if you can manage. These posts should be detailed, over a thousand words, and written with visual language to take your reader on the journey with you.
You CANNOT be a travel blogger without also being a travel YouTuber! Travel blogging is an experiential niche. Not everyone is reading your blog to learn the best places for souffle in Paris…many of them just want to enjoy the experience with you.
There’s no better way to take people on that journey than through video.
As easy as it is to create videos of your trips…and as much money and growth as there is through those videos, there is no excuse for avoiding this part of your business. Through a YouTube channel, you’ll be able to send people to your blog to sign up for an email newsletter. You’ll be able to embed your videos on your blog for extra views. You’ll be able to send people from your blog to your YouTube channel to get to know you on a personal-level.
After five years of blogging, I reach about 200,000 people a month through four websites. In just two years on YouTube, I reach over 350,000 people a month through videos (and that’s for boring old videos on investing…imagine how many people you can reach with beautiful videos of the sunset over Naples)!
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Ways to Make Money on a Travel Blog
Some of the ways to make money blogging we talk about on the site lend themselves really well to making money on a travel blog. Like any type of blog, I always recommend you start with a plan to use at least three or four income sources. Any one of these income streams can pay the bills but put a few of them together and you’ll have the makings of a legit online business.
Travel Guides are the most obvious income stream for travel bloggers and probably the easiest to start. These won’t need to be as long as traditional self-published books but usually include more images.
The best part is that you’re already creating the content. You’re writing dozens of articles on each place you visit, why not take some of that content and turn it into a product to sell? You can write a guide on each country you visit as well as one on themes that include a multi-country trip.
You can sell your guides directly through your blog but I’ve seen the most success selling books directly on Amazon. This was my first real income source and the 12 self-published books I have now bring in just over $2,400 a month.
Printables are another quick and easy income stream for bloggers. Instead of the longer travel guide or book format that might average between 60 – 130 pages, printables are one- or two-page checklists readers can skim to get the basic ideas.
You might create a printable with the must-see sites in a city or things every traveler needs to pack. One strategy that works really well for creating and selling printables is to wait a few months from starting your blog. You’ll start to see some posts rise to the top for monthly visitors. These are perfect candidates for adding a printable!
Create a printable around a question or need travelers might have if their interested in that article. For example, people visiting a post about safety and solo travel would definitely be interested in a printable like, ‘How to Ask for Police in 10 Languages.” Write up the printable and add a few links in the article for immediate sales.
Affiliate commissions represent about a quarter of my total online income, that’s around $4,000 and is something no blogger should avoid.
There are two ways to find affiliate partners for a travel blog. The easiest is to join affiliate networks like ShareASale and CJ Affiliates. On these platforms, you’ll be able to search for travel-related products and services you can talk about to earn a commission.
The other way to find potential affiliates is just to see what other travel bloggers are talking about and promoting. Make a list of three or five travel blogs that you enjoy reading and regularly check out the articles. You’ll notice products and services linked in the articles. From there, it’s as easy as visiting the websites and searching for how they manage their affiliate program.
List posts and reviews generally work best for earning affiliate commissions. This is because the visitors you get to these posts, mostly from Google search, are ready to buy. Write up a detailed review of each affiliate as well as a longer list article comparing all the options in that affiliate’s product niche.
Sponsorships are similar to affiliates though you might need to wait a while to grow your travel blog before you get many offers. Companies will sponsor you to write about their products but they want to make sure at least a few thousand people are going to see the post.
Your best bet for sponsorships, especially as a new travel blogger, is going to be companies that don’t have affiliate programs. Make a list of all the products and services you use as a traveler and reach out to see if they have a marketing budget for a review.
Don’t forget to ask local businesses in the cities where you travel if they’ll sponsor an article. This can be as simple as getting a free meal or hotel room in exchange for a mention in a city review or travel guide.
YouTube ads is the only income source on the list that requires no extra work on your part and it’s one of the reasons I say EVERYONE needs to start a YouTube channel. Ads run automatically before your videos once your channel reaches a certain size and it can be a huge source of income.
In just two years, I’ve made over $58,000 on YouTube ads alone and have averaged $6,000 a month for the last several months.
YouTube is a natural fit for travel bloggers because it’s so visual and immersive. People don’t just want to read about the places you see, they want to live the experience. That means videos of your travels can do extremely well.
Three Lessons from a Famous Travel Blogger
I met Lisa while she was visiting Colombia, one of the 131 countries she’s traveled to including 100 as a solo traveler! Her blog, Girl about the Globe, has made her an international celebrity for female solo travelers and she’s been writing about her travels for more than seven years.
I reached out to Lisa for her three best tips for new travel bloggers.
“Starting a travel blog is easy. It’s maintaining it that is the challenge so pick a niche and become the expert. Make sure that you are going to have the enthusiasm to do it because you love it, not just for the money. Provide as much value as you can on the topic.
Think about your strategy. Do you want thousands of page views to make advertising income? Want to sell your own products or sell affiliate programs? Affiliate income is one of my biggest earners. Only pick companies that you truly believe in and want to promote.
Track what’s working and change if it’s not working. Sometimes what you think people actually want isn’t the reality and you may find that a different revenue stream works better. Find what works and do more of that.”
Lisa’s advice comes from years of experience and success as a travel blogger. There’s a simplicity in it that I think is easy to miss when you’re getting started. You’ll hear all kinds of advice about how you MUST be sharing on every social platform, do lots of research into how to run a blog and spend money you probably don’t have.
The reality is that blogging is as much about trial-and-error just like any new business. Spend your time creating quality posts that help and engage people. Try out a few new ideas in terms of posts and ways to make money each month or two and just learn what works. There’s no better teacher than experience!
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Starting a travel blog will not only make you a great income but it could lead you to places you never thought you’d see. It’s one of the most interesting types of blogs and can be great as a side project even if you don’t plan on making it a life-long business. From getting your travel paid to making money every month, becoming a travel blogger will change your life!