How To Start A Travel Blog: A Step By Step Guide
Travel blogging has given me the freedom to travel the world for the past 7 years. Want to start your own? This detailed guide will show you exactly how to start a travel blog.
I’ve been working as a professional travel blogger for the past 7 years, and earn six figures annually from blogging. So I regularly receive tons of email asking for tips about how to start a travel blog.
I know, I get it. Seeing constant photos from my adventures in your Facebookor Instagram feeds makes it look like a dream job.
After all, I get paid to travel the world! I admit it’s a pretty sweet gig.
But travel blogging isn’t as easy as it looks. Far from it. I rarely share the huge amount of behind-the-scenes work that goes into making this lifestyle possible.
It’s taken me years to learn how to become a professional blogger. So today I wanted to share a useful guide for how to get started travel blogging.
How To Start A Travel Blog
Starting your very first travel blog is actually pretty easy. If you follow my guide, you can have your own blog up and run today. Now keep in mind the following advice is for those who are prepared to take travel blogging seriously, as some of these steps require spending money.
If you just want to blog as a hobby, you can always start a simple travel blog for family & friends on WordPress.com. It’s totally free! However if you’re interested in making a living with travel blogging like I do, keep reading.
1: Pick A Good Travel Blog Name
My first travel blog was called YearAroundTheWorld.com. Do you see the obvious problem with that domain name? Well, I didn’t, not until 3 months later. I was backpacking through Central America, blogging about my experiences and having a great time — when I suddenly decided I wanted to travel for longer than a year. Shit! What do I do now?
Make It Short & Memorable
Your travel blog domain name should be relatively short, easy to type, easy to spell, easy to remember, and easy to share. I recommend brainstorming by writing down a bunch of words you think will best describe your blog.
Adventure? Food? Culture? South America? What do you want to write about? Who are you? What is your passion? Write everything down and start playing with different combinations of words. Try using a thesaurus. Ask your friends for advice & suggestions.
Avoid Hyphens & Numbers
This can be difficult to do these days, but it helps to avoid using hyphens or numbers in your domain name because otherwise you’ll be forced to explain it to someone. For example:
POTENTIAL READER: “You have a blog? Cool! Where do I find it?”
YOU: “Oh, it’s called expert hyphen vagabond the number 100 dot com.”
As you can see, this type of domain isn’t the greatest for word-of-mouth marketing, which happens to be the best kind of promotion.
Avoid Overused Words
Avoid trademarked company names or words that may be overused in the industry. Sure, you can pick something like Nomadic Bob, Adventurous Wendy, or Wandering Clarence. But domain names like that won’t stand out very much in the travel blogging niche because those ideas have already been taken by others who are more established than you.
You’ll have better luck in the long-run with something more original.
Think good & hard about choosing your travel blog’s domain name, because changing it later on isn’t easy (or fun). Be careful not to pigeonhole yourself either.
If you call your blog Twenty-Something Travel like my friend Steph (sorry Steph!), what happens when you turn 30? Branding yourself correctly is pretty important in the business of travel blogging.
I was thinking long-term when I eventually changed my travel blog’s name to ExpertVagabond.com because at 3 months in I was hardly an expert.
Yet I was passionate about becoming a professional travel blogger, and knew eventually this would be perfect. I’d just have to grow into my new name!
2: Choose Hosting For Your Blog
What the heck is hosting? It’s not as confusing as it sounds. Most websites need to “rent” space on the internet. A place to store all your blog’s data, files, and photos so that people around the world can easily access it when they type in your domain name.
Hosting can be pretty cheap. I recommend new travel blogs get hosting with BlueHost. They offer quality hosting for a low price ($6.95 per month for 12 months) and customer service is good too.
Plus they give you a free domain name!
Personally, I use WP Engine these days. But it’s not cheap. I pay over $200 per month for my hosting plan. When you reach a certain level of website traffic, it’s totally worth it.
However if you are just starting out, BlueHost is a better value.
Part 1 – Click on the green button that says “get started now.”
Part 2 – Pick a plan.
Part 3 – Check to see if your blog name (domain name) is available.
Part 4 – Add Extra Features
Most of these you don’t need. However I do recommend Domain Privacy Protection. Otherwise, anyone can look up who owns your site, giving them access to your mailing address, email, and phone number. It’s worth the extra few bucks to block that from happening.
3: Install Free WordPress Software
You’ll want to set up a self-hosted WordPress account. This means the WordPress software resides on your hosting company’s servers, not on a free WordPress.com account. What’s the difference?
- Your website is “MyTravelBlog.com” rather than “MyTravelBlog.WordPress.com”
- You own your data and have full control
- You can sell advertising on your site
- You can install plugins & custom themes
- You can use Google Analytics tracking (important)
Yes, you want to use WordPress too. Not Blogspot, not Blogger, not anything else. WordPress is the king of blogging, and probably always will be. Most professionals use WordPress, even major brands like the BBC & Katy Perry. Installing WordPress with your BlueHost Account is super easy.
Click through the simple installation process on your BlueHost cPanel. When it asks you where you’d like to install it, choose your new domain (ex: http://MyTravelBlog.com).
Once installed, you’ll be able to log into the WordPress dashboard with your new username and password. Welcome to the club! You now have a travel blog. That wasn’t too hard, was it? But wait, there’s more!
4: Learn How To Use WordPress
Feeling intimidated about WordPress? Don’t worry. Because WordPress is the industry standard when it comes to blogging platforms, and has been for years, there are TONS of useful tutorials online that will teach you anything you need to know.
Here are a few of my favorite WordPress training resources:
- WordPress Lessons (free guide)
- WordPress Starter Kit (video tutorials)
Basically, spend a weekend learning how to use your dashboard, how to tweak your site’s settings, how to post an article, etc. You’ll get the hang of everything with practice.
If you have any questions about setting up your WordPress blog that isn’t covered in the tutorials, simply type your question into Google and you’re sure to find an answer because WordPress is such a popular platform for blogging!
5: Get A Professional Blog Theme
Your new WordPress blog comes with a couple standard “themes”, or designs for your site. While this is ok for playing around in the beginning, if you want to take this seriously and eventually make money with your travel blog, you should buy a premium design.
Professional blog themes cost between $25-$80, and they’ll greatly improve the look and functionality of your site.
I’ve changed themes a few times over the years, but the current one I’m using is called WP Prosperity. I’ve also tweaked the design a lot using my background in web-design, customizing how it looks & acts. Another great place to buy blog theme designs is a marketplace called ThemeTrust.
Many professional themes provide a support forum where you can ask questions about customization, and someone will help you get the look you’re after using CSS/HTML coding. Or, you can hire a designer through Upwork to do custom design work on your site.
You may also want to have a cool logo created. I used a site called 99 Designsfor mine. A professional logo really makes your site and brand stand out from the thousands of other travel blogs online.
6: Download Some Useful Plugins
You can think of WordPress plugins as third-party apps for your website. They give your blog additional features. Most plugins are free, some you have to pay for. You can download new plugins in the “plugin” section of your WordPress Dashboard.
Here’s my recommended list of plugins to install with your travel blog.
- Akismet – Protects your blog from spammers leaving comments on your posts. Not perfect, but probably the best one out there.
- Yoast SEO – Very important plugin for optimizing your articles for Google search, plus integrating Google Sitemaps and Analytics.
- Easy Social Share Buttons – Nice social media sharing buttons for your articles.
- WPtouch – Makes your travel blog mobile friendly.
- WP-Optimize – Helps you to keep your WordPress database clean and healthy.
There are others of course, but these will get you started.
7: Important First Steps
Create An About Page
One of the first things you should do on your blog is to create an about page. This is one of the most highly trafficked pages on any travel blog, because it tells people who you are, gives your background, and explains why someone should follow you. Keep it fun and personable. Let your readers know who you are!
Embrace Social Media
If you want to build a successful travel blog, posting regularly to social media is important. Learning how to master social media is huge topic, one that I cover more here: Secrets Of Professional Travel Blogging
To begin, sign up for all the most popular platforms, and keep your social media username the same if possible. Otherwise, people will get confused.
Write Your First Post
This can be about anything really. For example, tell people why you are starting a travel blog. Maybe share what you’re packing for an upcoming trip. Or if you just returned from a vacation, share some of your best highlights from the journey!
Whatever the topic is, writing a post will help you understand how to publish images, headers, and all the other formatting that comes with publishing on WordPress.
8: Enroll In A Travel Blogging Course
No, this isn’t a requirement to building a travel blog. But like anything in life, if you want to get good at something, investing time & money to be trained by professionals works wonders.
When people ask me for travel blogging tips, my first recommendation is to join a specialized blogging course like one of these:
- Nomadic Matt’s Superstar Blogging
- Travel Blog Success
Why? Because becoming a professional travel blogger, as in someone who makes money with this, is far more difficult than it looks.
You need to learn how to build an audience. You need to learn how to use social media. You need to learn how to market yourself. You need to learn how to work with brands. You need to learn how to implement SEO.
Learn From The Best
Can you learn everything on your own? Sure. But let me tell you from personal experience, it takes a long, long time. As in years. With plenty of frustrations & wasted effort along the way.
Learning exactly what works, and what doesn’t, from professional travel bloggers who are making it work, is HUGELY helpful.
I can’t explain SEO or affiliate marketing to you in an email. Fortunately there are lessons dedicated to mastering these topics (and more) on Travel Blog Success and Superstar Blogging.
Each course also has a very helpful community where top travel bloggers chime in with answers to your questions every week. Investing in professional education up-front will save you so much time & money in the long-term.
9: What Should You Write About?
Now it’s time to begin creating content for your travel blog. When you first start out, I recommend publishing new articles at least 1-2 times per week. But remember, quality is more important than quantity!
Take your time to craft excellent, useful blog posts that have impact. You want your articles to inspire wanderlust, but they should include plenty of actionable tips too.
Share your favorite (or not so favorite) parts of a country. Give tips for fun things to do, share your crazy travel stories, show-off your beautiful images in photo essays, create a short video tour, or give food recommendations.
Try writing about different topics to find your voice, and see what kinds of posts actually resonate with readers. For example, road trip guides do really well on my site, but I didn’t discover that until later. You need to experiment!
Need some ideas? Here are some of my most popular blog posts.
What If You’re Not Traveling Now?
Are you still planning your travels? Well, you can write about that too. Share different ways you are saving money for travel or maybe a bucket list of activities you want to try.
However my favorite strategy is to write about what you know.
As an example, let’s say you live in Richmond, Virginia. Maybe you don’t think it’s an interesting city to write about, yet there are thousands of people looking for travel tips about Richmond every day.
Share what you know with them! Help these people have a great trip, and they will become regular readers.
TripAdvisor recommends 225 things to do in Richmond. That’s easily a year’s worth of blog posts right there.
Network With Other Bloggers
Remember to read other travel blogs for inspiration and ideas, and leave thoughtful comments on their articles. Link to other people’s blog posts from your site when appropriate. Become an active member of the travel blogging community.
10: Making Money With Your Blog
At first, your only readers will be family and friends. But that’s ok! We all started like that. To begin making money with your travel blog, you need to have a larger audience than just family and friends.
The more traffic your blog receives, the more money you can make with it. It takes time to build an audience and grow traffic. Don’t focus on making money right away, focus on building your audience.
However, you can start earning income early with Affiliate Programs like Amazon.com and Booking.com. Another option is showing display ads with Google Adsense.
Remember, all of these income streams grow only when your audience grows. So that should be your first priority moving forward!
Travel blogging isn’t as easy as it looks, and you shouldn’t expect to see any large benefits from it for at least a year, probably longer.
That’s one full year of blogging on a regular basis, paying for everything yourself, and putting in at least 10 hours a week (most professional bloggers work 30+).
Yes, it’s a dream job, but travel blogging is still a job that requires hard work. Creating a successful travel blog won’t happen overnight either.
But no risk, no reward! Good luck, and happy travel blogging. ★
READ NEXT: Professional Travel Blogger Secrets
Have any questions about how to start a travel blog? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.