Okay, it’s probably not surprising, but I 100% love being a travel blogger. What for me once started merely as a part-time content creator for Trekkerpedia has become a full-time job. For me being a blogger is like having my own magazine and being the editor, photographer, writer, and stylist—all in one.
Many people dream about traveling the world for a living; and there are people that are actually able to do so that aren’t pilots, flight attendants, or businessmen. These people are known as travel bloggers and they get paid to visit and write about their major passion in life: travel. I know that must sound like a dream (and it is), but if you’re thinking of becoming a travel blogger too, I do have a few words of caution. Gaining an audience, let alone earning money with a travel blog, is not easy. And I think it’s important to say this upfront.
Travel blogging isn’t easy or any kind of blogging isn’t easy. The fact that you’re traveling and getting paid to do so while staying in top accommodations is what most people see. They don’t realize that there are a lot of struggles that go hand-in-hand with figuring out how to start a travel blog.
Some bloggers seem to pitch travel blogging as some kind of easy cure for all of life’s problems. “Just quit your boring life, start a travel blog, and follow your dreams! Soon you’ll be riding a unicorn!”
Well, I think it’s better to have realistic expectations. Because of how search engines and social media work nowadays, the reality is you just won’t capture an audience right away. It definitely takes some hard work and patience.
It took almost two years for trekkerpedia.com to hit 50,000 pageviews monthly. On top of that, when we had a higher blog publishing rate compared to as of now.
That’s why I always say you should start any kind of blogging because, above all else, it seems like a fun thing to do (which it is). And certainly, if you keep doing it for a while (at least a year), you can see where else it can take you.
In this guide, I’ll share everything I’ve learned over the past years about starting a travel blog and setting yourself up for success — whether you just want to do it for fun, as a hobby-with-benefits, or if you’re hoping to make a living from it.
The 5 things you’ll need to create an awesome travel blog on WordPress
Beyond your awesome writing and pictures, these are the 5 things you’ll need to build your travel blog.
- Web hosting – this is the engine that will power your travel blog and make it available to visitors around the world.
- Domain name – your blog’s permanent address. For example, ours is Trekkerpedia.com.
- The free WordPress software – I will highly recommend you use self-hosted WordPress, located at wordpress.org. This is different from WordPress.com.
- A WordPress theme – once you install WordPress, your theme controls how your travel blog looks.
- WordPress plugins – plugins help you add functionality to your site without requiring any technical knowledge. You’ll use them to add maps of where you’ve traveled, travel galleries, and more.
How to set up a blog
Whatever your goals are, I highly recommend setting up your blog in a way that will keep working for you later. This will simply save you a lot of headaches as your blog grows and evolves.
Step 1: Pick a travel niche
One of the most important things when setting up a blog is deciding on a travel niche. By deciding early on what you want to focus and blog about, you’re essentially coming up with ideas that you want your blog to be about.
For me, I was interested in Adventure Travel and wanted to find a way to incorporate that in my name. So before you begin thinking of travel blog names, I suggest making a list of five things you’re interested in blogging about and what you want to focus on.
Like food blogs, travel blogs are a dime a dozen, so it’s best to start by choosing a niche (especially when you eventually want to earn from travel blogging) that will help differentiate you from the pack, since general travel blogs will usually not fare well when it comes to SEO efforts.
Step 2: Coming up with your Blog Name
Your blog name is important because it’s also what your blog is known as (your brand). While you’ll be able to change many things about your blog over time, your name is something you should stick with. Give it a fair amount of thought before deciding on it.
I’m not a fan of using jargon or slang in your domain name, as I think that makes things confusing for people who don’t know it. The last thing you want is someone saying, “What does that mean?” or being confused. If someone has to think hard about the meaning, then you’ve already lost them. So don’t try to be clever!
A few general rules for settling on a blog name (which will also be your domain name):
- It must easy to recall and easy to spell
- It should also be not too long
- It must not contain hyphens or numbers
Step 3. Sign up for a hosting plan
A hosting company takes care of serving your pages to users. And having your own hosted space lets you do with it whatever you want. A paid host doesn’t care if you put ads on your blog, or customize it with plugins, or anything like that.
It’s kind of like having your own plot of land on the internet. You can build your own house on it. And then you can add more rooms later, or even tear it down and even build a more awesome house on top of the original foundation. You can’t do that with just a rental space (like some of those free blogging platforms out there).
Personally I would recommend you to go for a self hosted platform. WordPress.Org is generally the best self-hosted platform out there and it’s totally free. All you need to do is to purchase hosting (which is essentially where your blog will live.)
Word of Caution:
For the first few months, there won’t be much traffic on your blog. So, no need to go for a costlier hosting plan. Wait till you hit a certain visitor number on your blog before upgrading your hosting plan to a premium.
Also, when you start blogging, the chances are meagre that you would know what you are going to do in the coming months. Some bloggers make an adventure travel store on their blog, some start a booking engine and let others book travel events on their blog on a separate sub-domain. In those cases, look for hosting plans which would allow you to have some wiggle room. Because any idea can hit you hard overnight and out of the blue.
Being famous comes at a cost. As you and your blog grows stronger, there will be more attacks crawling on their way to your blog/ website. Be prepared. Learn & explore more or have someone who has your back all the time. Though it is a part of the later gameplan.
Step 4. Install WordPress
After you’ve registered your domain name and chosen your hosting package, the next thing you’ll want to do is install WordPress. (WordPress is what will actually run the website. The host is simply the computer your site sits on.) WordPress is an open-source and free Web publishing application, content management system (CMS) and blogging tool built by a community of developers and contributors to make it easy for people to blog!
Step 5: Install your theme
One of the most important things a blog needs besides good content is good design. People decide in seconds whether or not they trust your website and choose to stay. A visually unappealing website will turn off readers and reduce the number of return visits you get.
Luckily, there are lots of out-of-the-box options for you where you can download a predesigned theme, upload it to your website, switch it on, change some settings, and presto! A new look for your website!
You can get:
Free themes – Free themes are plentiful and for budding new bloggers looking to make their mark online. They seem like a great option, as they allow you to keep costs low. There are many great free themes online, but most of them are not amazing. If you plan on blogging for a long time, this might become a problem as your website grows. However, if you just need a simple design to blog for your friends and family, then go the free route. You can find some good free themes at wordpress.org.
You can decide to wait till you upgrade to premium before you hit a mark of a certain number of visitors on your blog. Not everything is super important at the beginning though.
Premium themes – The next step up from a free theme is a premium theme. Premium themes are paid themes that offer a bit more uniqueness, flexibility, and functionality. These cost $25 USD and up, depending on the developer and features.
I suggest getting a premium theme. Yes, it’s another cost — but here is why you should do it:
- With a premium theme, you almost always get customer support from the developers. If you get in trouble, they are there for you. You don’t get that with a free theme.
- With a premium theme, there are more controls and instructions so they are easier to change. Free themes don’t have that.
- Premium themes tend to be a lot prettier.
- Premium themes are faster and more SEO friendly.
Step 6: Create your main pages
After you’ve uploaded your theme, you’re going to want to make a few basic pages on your website in addition to the blog posts. The difference between a page and a post is that a page is a static piece of content that lives separate from the blog. A post is a blog post that gets “buried” as you write more and more. For example, this post is a blog post. When I update again, another blog post will get put on top of it, and it will be pushed down in the archives, making it harder to find. But a page, like my About page, lives on the top of the website, right near the main URL, and does NOT get buried. It’s a lot easier to find.
I recommend creating four basic pages to start:
About page – This where you tell people about yourself and your history, what your blog is about, and why it will help them. This is one of the most important pages on your website, so make it personable!
Contact page – People need a way to reach you! Be sure to be very clear on what emails you will and won’t respond to, so people don’t send you spam.
Copyright page – This is a standard page letting people know you own this work and not to steal it. You can find out-of-the-box examples of these, too, throughout the internet.
This little travel blog will not be less than a dream project for you. There will be a lot of room to play around. One only word for you – HAVE PATIENCE
I have changed my permalink structure multiple times on my blog from the user readability point of view. A little change can cost you a lot in terms of permalink change from an SEO point of view. How to safely do it? Here is the link for you on changing WordPress permalink without affecting SEO.
Permalink was just one of the troubles for me. I will confess that I have made many more mistakes than just permalinks and later regretted many sleepless nights. If I start remembering all the mistakes some of the key players were title, headers, image, anchors, tags, categories and a lot more. So, at this point in time, I would want you to know what these little things are which can also sometimes become nuggets of nightmares for you. Here is the link for you.
Step 8: Install helpful plugins for your blogs
WordPress plugins help you add new functionality to your blog without requiring any technical knowledge on your part. They’re one of the things that makes WordPress so awesome. And pretty much every WordPress site makes good use of plugins.
There are some must-have plugins for all sites, including travel blogs:
- SEO plugins
- Caching plugins
- Social share button plugins
- Security plugins
- Contact form plugins
- Gutenberg block plugins
Beyond those must-haves, Travel bloggers should also consider these plugins. While this can vary depending on your focus area, here are some good ideas:
- A good photo gallery plugin such as NextGEN Gallery to share your travel pictures in a gallery
- Plugins to help integrate with Instagram and Facebook
- Slider plugins such as Nivo Slider to display amazing full-width photos
- A lightbox plugin such as Simple Lightbox to allow readers to view your photos in a customizable lightbox
- A map plugin to plot places and routes is a must-have when you want to start a travel blog. It helps to keep your readers engaged with you as you move from one place to another. Intergeo Maps plugin is available for free (and as a premium plugin). Interactive World Maps plugin is another fine option
- Plugins like TravelPayouts help you add a travel booking capability to your blog. It helps your visitors find deals on flights and hotels to different locations while you earn a commission.
I know there are a lot of plugins to choose from, that’s why to make your work easy and learning from mistakes, I wrote a blog for 10 best & free WordPress plugins for travel bloggers. At the moment, this might be an old blog but it still worths a glance.
Step 9: Build your blog’s audience
There are a few channels you can use to grow your blog’s traffic.
With millions of active users, social media can help your content reach the right audience. Adding Social media share buttons makes it easy for readers to share your content. Instagram and Pinterest are suitable platforms to promote your blog and should form part of your social media strategy.
Beyond that, you should also learn about SEO and topics like keyword research. Building an email list is another great way to grow a long-term audience.
One thing you also have to keep in mind always is that not all social media are appropriate for travel bloggers. Talking of a general trend nowadays, being a vlogger is more promising compared to becoming a blogger these days because of recent enhancement in technology.
So, here is a list of things that you can utilize on various social media channels:
- Twitter – Travel announcements, Travel prizes, travel contests, etc.
- Instagram – Travel photographies
- Reddit – Niche travel announcements same as Twitter
- Pinterest – Use as visual search engines with your photos
- Quora – Answering travel queries and engaging audiences
- YouTube & Facebook – Travel videos & experiences
If you already have a YouTube channel as well as a blog for yourself, here is an easy way to increase traffic to your website from YouTube. Here is the link for you.
Step 10: Revisit
WARNING: Things are going to get more technical but they will surely help you in the long run. OR, if you are already a travel blogger, just keep on reading –
I think I am talking too much into the future but I cannot resist it either. Here are a few things that keep you on top of your blog strategy:
- Always update/ revive/ refresh old blogs, especially the top ones to be in the top position. Here is a link for that but it would more appropriate for you when you will have a lot of traffic on your blog and a lot of data to decide from.
- Be careful with AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). It’s very easy to rank with AMP pages (often referred to as mobile-first pages) but they come at a price.
- With its limited functionalities, AMP pages might not give you all the leisures of playing around with the UI of your blog post. I hope Google and other teams working on it make it more user & functionality-friendly sooner. Here is a link to my experience (data-driven) on why did I drop AMP pages from my blog.
Here are my blog statistics after I dropped AMP from my blog:
- There is a lot going on from the content marketing point of view. I was also a part of Fossbytes company which still relies heavily on its content to generate revenue from Google Adsense and affiliates. If your blog vehicle plans to hit that road in the future, I would suggest keeping yourself abreast of tools and technology before you get stacked under new tools.
- Some of the tools that you might want to know from the content marketing point of view are SEMRush, Buzzsumo, Google trends, etc. Though I wrote this blog a long ago it still makes sense to me if you are looking forward to making a larger impact through your blog.
- There is a lot more to learn and write about. But these experiences would surely give you enough to kick off your idea.
The Biggest Thing I learned as a travel blogger
- Back then, in my travel niche, there was so much information gap. People wanted to go for hikes and treks but there was not much information available on the internet. There were a few blogs but they did not have enough content or engaging to the audience.
- That’s why I decided to address these pain points and I wrote extensively about each place/trek/ point of attractions while always engaging with my audience. For example, this blog of mine got a lot of engagement because people wanted to know more about this hike until it became popular and finally got banned.
- You carry a virtual responsibility – In the same blog above, a lot of females reported of eve-teasing cases on the Nagalapuram trek by locals. A lot of readers either left comments complaining about the eve-teasing on my blog or they wrote to me personally. I took that as a duty to update my blog with recent news and people really appreciated it. The same goes for fire events on Kumara Parvatha trek twice and Kudremukha trek once.
- Your blog can become a central point of communication sometimes. On this blog, there was a guy named Giridhar and he shared updates about Dudhsagar falls trek when it was banned every week in the comment over multiple weeks.
There are multiple such stories. But I decided to take the route of user satisfaction. Yours depends on you!
That’s it! You’ve set up your basic website. Sure, there are blogs to write, images to upload, and things to tweak but all that comes later. Once you do the steps above, you have the framework needed to create and share your story with the world!
Don’t get too distracted. I think content creation should be your main focus in the beginning. Worrying too much about monetization or SEO or even promoting your work on social media is going to be counterproductive. Maybe don’t try to make money with it at all for the first year, even if that’s your goal, as it’s like putting the cart in front of the horse. Start by creating stuff and sharing things with the world.
My biggest tip when it comes to blogging is to be strategic. Don’t be afraid to show your personality and more importantly, don’t be afraid to niche down!
Have any other questions about how to start a blog? Leave a comment and we’ll try to help out.