Looking to start a travel blog?
Believe me: you want to make sure you set it up correctly from the start.
The decisions you make when you are just starting a travel blog have cascading effects later in the life of your blog. That’s why it’s important to get it right from the beginning.
To help you out, I’ve put together this quick but detailed step-by-step guide to everything you need to do to set up a successful travel blog in just 6 easy steps.
Can’t wait to get started?
Otherwise, let’s dive right into how to start a travel blog – starting with my story of how I started up this travel site.
Last Updated: May 2019
How I Started My Travel Blog And Grew It to 50,000+ Visitors Per Month
But first, a small bit about me:
I am an American from Denver Colorado who started this travel blog in 2017 while on an extended trip around the world. In just two years have grown it to over 65,000 followers and more than 50,000 visitors per month.
This travel blog has been featured in Lonely Planet, Mic, US News & World Report, and Reader’s Digest among dozens of other publications.
The blog has also helped me to find some pretty unique travel experiences.
And I’ve learned plenty of travel blogging lessons so I’m here to help you avoid common mistakes while you quickly and easily start your travel blog.
If you have any questions not covered in this post, just shoot me an email at [email protected] (really – do it – people do all the time!).
Advanced Tips for Starting a Blog
This article assumes you are a total newbie to travel blogging, so spends a lot of time on the basics of getting a site up and running properly.
For more advanced tips on how to build an audience, work with brands, monetize your traffic, and the hundreds of other advanced topics you’re going to need to learn (it’s a lot, trust me!), there are two things you should do:
- First, if you can afford it, consider investing in Nomadic Matt’s uber-detailed Superstar Blogging Course.
- Second, if you aren’t ready for that or can’t afford it, join my blogging mentorship program by signing up below. I’ll send you FREE advanced tips in easy-to-digest emails, plus you’ll get the chance for a free 30 minute session to pick my brain about … any topic you want to learn more about. Do it now in the box below … 🙂
How to Start a Travel Blog: Step-by-Step Guide
[disclosure: one of the main ways travel bloggers earn money is through affiliate links. If you use a link on this page to make a purchase, I might receive a commission. You don’t have to use my links, but it’s a nice gesture if I helped you!]
Step 1: Decide on a Name for Your Travel Blog
You can’t start a travel blog until you have a decided on a name. But that doesn’t mean you should rush through this step, as it’s a decision that you can’t easily change down the line.
A lot of names are already taken, so use the tool below to see if your name is available:
Here’s a few tips for picking a travel blog name:
- You should only use a .com extension (or possibly a country level like “.co.uk”)
- Make sure your blog name describes your target niche accurately
- Keep it short (3 words max!)
- Avoid dashes or special characters
- Try to be original but still descriptive
For more tips, check out my detailed step-by-step guide to choosing a travel blog name.
Step 2: Sign Up for a Hosting Company
After you’ve decided on a name, the next step to starting a travel blog is to:
- Buy your domain, and
- Sign up for a host (the company that serves your content).
Here’s the good news: you can easily do these two parts simultaneously through your host.
And here’s more good news:
Hosting nowadays is ridiculously cheap. Typical hosting costs for a small to medium sized website are only $10-20 a month.
But I have EVEN MORE good news!
I’ve partnered with one of the most popular hosts on the web, BlueHost, to offer a special deal just for TravelLemming readers, allowing you to start your site for a mere $2.95/month! That’s less than I paid for my coffee this morning! Oh, and they even through in the domain registration (usually $12) for free.
Here’s all you have to do to access the special promo and get up and running in 5 minutes:
- >> Click here to go to the BlueHost offer page<<
- Hit the big green “Get Started Now” button (you can’t miss it).
- Select your plan: the cheap “basic” one will be just fine for your first year or two.
- Claim your free domain you decided on in Step One.
- Enter your name and the usual details, your credit card info, and check out.
Note: when you check out, you’ll see some “extras” in the checkout screen. You probably don’t need any of those except maybe the cheap domain privacy protection (I don’t personally pay for it, but doing so will help keep your personal details from being publicly accessible).
Ready to move on? Click here to skip to Step Three.
Now what if you don’t want to use BlueHost?
No worries: there are a bunch of hosts to choose from. I personally run this site off of SiteGround. I like SiteGround as it’s one of the fastest, most efficient hosting company on the more affordable side of the spectrum.
Again, their “StartUp” plan, which is their cheapest, should be more than enough for a new travel blog. If your blog takes off, you can upgrade for a few dollars more to their fancier plans.
There are other hosts out there but many of them just plain stink, and others are too expensive, so I can’t really recommend them.
But what about free hosting sites, you ask?
Well, yes, it’s technically possible to host your blog for free on WordPress.com. But I very strongly recommend at least paying the $2/month it will cost to get your own domain through WordPress.com. Otherwise you won’t actually own your own travel blog domain (it will be something like “www.mytravelsite.wordpress.com” instead of “www.mytravelsite.com”). For a bunch of reasons I won’t go into, that makes it really really hard to start a successful travel blog.
And at that point, you might as well just pay the extra 95 cent it costs to go with a self-hosted company like BlueHost. And let’s just say this: I can’t think of even a single successful travel blogger who isn’t self-hosted.
So even if you’re just trying to figure out how to start a travel blog to keep your friends informed about your travels, at a minimum it’s probably worth shelling out the couple dollars a month for a cheap BlueHost plan. That way if it later turns out to be more serious than you imagined, you won’t have put your travel blog into a box you can’t get out of.
Pro tip: opt for an SSL certificate when you register your site (meaning your site will be “https”). You’re gonna need it eventually and, as of 2018, Google strongly suggests it, and doing it later is a bit of a pain. Plus, it’s included free with BlueHost anyway.
Step 3: Install WordPress and Pick a Theme
Unless you are a hard-core coder capable of building your own site (yeah, I didn’t think so 🙂 ), you’ll need to use a website building tool to actually create your blog.
By far the best and most popular platform for managing your travel blog is WordPress.org (not to be confused with the very different WordPress.com). I would guess that 97% of travel bloggers use WordPress.org.
The WordPress platform is 100% free to download and use, and there are tons of free “plugins” that can help you customize your site without writing a single string of code.
The first thing you need to do is install WordPress. Assuming you signed up through BlueHost, this is a super simple process:
- Log in to your Bluehost cPanel account (you’ll receive this in an email).
- Find the Website section and select Install WordPress.
- Click the Install button.
- Choose the domain name to install it to. In the field next to the domain, you can enter a subfolder such as ‘blog’ or leave it blank if you want the site’s main page to be the blog.
- If necessary, you can edit the email address, username and password for the new WordPress installation. Click “advanced options” and you can change those settings.
- Read through the license and service agreements and check the boxes.
- Select the Install Now button.
The next thing you need to do is pick and install a WordPress theme, which is basically a pre-made design for your site.
There are a ton of themes out there. If you’re on a tight budget, WordPress comes pre-installed with a few free ones. But since those are fairly basic and over-used, most travel bloggers choose to purchase a premium theme.
The options for premium themes are overwhelming. I’ve tried out several different themes, but I currently use Thrive Themes and love them.
Thrive works a bit differently than other theme companies: you can either purchase an individual theme for a one-time fee, or you can purchase a monthly “subscription” that gives you access to all their themes, plus a ton of premium plugins. Click here to check out all the themes offered by Thrive Themes.
I personally opted for a subscription, because I love using the Thrive Architect plugin, which lets you easily and intuitively modify your site’s look without having to known a bit of code (even after two years, coding stills scares me!).
Step 4: Customize Your Travel Blog’s Theme
Whatever WordPress theme you install, you’ll need to customize the theme to build your own travel blog. Most importantly, you’ll want to set up a homepage that looks professional and slick, using your own travel photos and your custom logo (to get one of those, you can hire a designer on Upwork or you can just create your own on Canva).
I’m not going to lie: if you are not a coder, customizing your theme can be a bit painful. I crashed my site several times when I was trying to figure out how to get it set up!
That’s another reason I love using Thrive Themes: you’ll get access to Thrive University, which has dozens of step-by-step instructional videos that walk you through exactly how to set up your blog in WordPress. No need for special coding knowledge!
If you’re not using Thrive and find yourself banging your head against the wall, one option for setting up your site is to hire a WordPress designer to do it for you. You can find some decent freelance designers for hire on Upwork.com.
Step 5: Set Up Your Social Media Handles
Starting a travel blog requires more than just setting up your site! You also have to start social media accounts to help build your following (sign up for my mentorship program for insider tips on how to build a following across each platform).
At a minimum, you should definitely sign up for the following (links are to my handles as examples):
- Instagram – I have a love/hate relationship with Instagram. But, like it or not, most every travel blogger needs an Instagram account nowadays.
- Facebook – Start a business page on Facebook under your blog’s name, and then use it to promote your content and build a following. You can also try starting a group once you get enough of a following.
- Pinterest – I knew nothing about Pinterest when I started travel blogging, but now it’s my #2 source of traffic (behind Google). It’s a great platform for driving traffic to your blog!
- Twitter – Twitter doesn’t drive much traffic, but a lot of destinations and brands use it, so it’s helpful to have a presence there.
Additionally, if you plan on create travel videos, you should make a YouTube account for your brand. Note that you’ll need 100 followers before YouTube will let you claim a custom URL.
The above are the main social media platforms, but others you might consider using include: Flipboard, Snapchat, Reddit, and Quora.
Step 6: Sign Up for a Travel Blogging Course
Ok, so now you have figured out how to start a travel blog! But you still need to make your travel blog successful.
What’s the best way to do that?
Sign up for a travel blogging course!
Travel blogging is like anything else: it takes a lot of skills, and there are a lot of aspects to it that don’t seem intuitive. You’ll save yourself a ton of time, and give yourself a much better chance of success, if you take the time to learn from someone who has been through it.
Personally, the first thing I did after starting this travel blog was to >>sign up for Nomadic Matt’s SuperStar Blogging Course<<.
Nomadic Matt is by far the most successful travel blogger out there, so I figured it made sense to learn from the best. His Business of Blogging course runs through everything you need to know to grow your travel blog, from building a social media following, to figuring out how to get your posts to rank in Google, to working with brands. It also gives you access to technical help from his team, as well as an exclusive Facebook group where you can network with other new bloggers.
To see my full thoughts on the course, check out my detailed review of SuperStar Blogging.
Sign Up for Free Advanced Blogging Tips from Me!
Want more tips for making your travel blog successful?
Sign up for my free newsletter by entering your email below, and I’ll send you some advanced secret insider tips for how to build your audience and how to make money.
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How To Make Money With a Travel Blog (9 Ways)
Ok, so now that you know the mechanics of how to start a travel blog, let’s talk about the question that’s on everyone’d mind:
How do you make money with a travel blog?
The short answer is that there are a lot of different ways to make money from a travel blog but lets quickly cover some of the most important ones:
#1 Affiliate Marketing
Probably the most common method for monetizing a travel blog, affiliate marketing basically involves partnering with an online retailer who gives you a commission anytime you send traffic their way that makes a purchase.
You implement this through special tracking links (like those on this article for the products I mention).
Most major travel brands have an affiliate program you can sign up for. Common ones include Amazon Associates, World Nomads (for travel insurance), and Booking.com for hotels. But there are literally tens of thousands of programs out there for just about any product.
#2 Display Ads
Online ads don’t make a ton of money per visitor, but they can add up to significant income if you have a ton of eyeballs.
And running ads is the easiest and most straightforward way to make money from starting a travel blog.
There are many different ad programs you can join, but most of the premium ones require a certain number of monthly sessions before you can qualify (I’m currently on the Mediavine network, which is popular with travel bloggers but requires 25,000+ monthly sessions).
If you’re just starting out and want to try your hand at ads, you can use Google AdSense to get some basic ads running on your site. Just realize you’ll need lots of traffic – and the right traffic – to really start making money from ads.
#3 Selling Your Own Products
The best way to make money from a travel blog, in my opinion, is to create and sell your own products.
If you own your own products, you’ll be making the entire profit margin off their sale, rather than just a small cut from your affiliate. Here are some common products that travel bloggers sell:
- T-shirts, tote bags, or other physical products
- Online courses
- Photography presets or filters
Info products like ebooks are a particularly attractive option for making money from a blog because the marginal cost of good is so low, meaning that each sale is 90%+ profit.
#4 Start a Tour
A trending way for travel bloggers to make money is to sell tours to their audience.
Basically, you package together a tour, working with hotel and tour operators to arrange for an awesome group itinerary. Then you select some dates, create a page to sell the tour and take deposits, and then try to get your audience to sign up.
Though I’ve yet to do it, I understand tours can be a relatively lucrative way to make money from a travel blog.
And the best part is that, unlike the other methods mentioned above, you don’t really need a huge audience – all you need are six to ten people willing to pay to travel with you.
I’ve seen some relatively new travel bloggers create and sell out tours. So it’s definitely one of the most feasible paths for how to make money from a travel blog.
This is a broad category, but there are many different ways to make money through partnership or sponsorship with brands.
At the most basic level, many travel bloggers pitch hotels or tour companies for comped trips in exchange for a review or inclusion in a blog post, Instagram post, or YouTube video.
Honestly, I don’t love this method for making money, since unless you’re also paid it’s not super sustainable in the long run.
As you grow your travel blog, you may also have the opportunity to get longer term sponsorships from bigger travel brands. These can be far more lucrative.
#6 Sponsored Posts
You should also be aware of another method for making money from a travel blog that I don’t personally recommend: sponsored posts.
Basically sponsored posts involve a brand paying for you to write a post about their product. It’s almost always because they want a link to their site for search-engine-optimization purposes. That goes against Google’s terms of service and for that reason I don’t do it and don’t recommend it.
Nevertheless, many travel bloggers use this method to make money from their blogs and it obviously does work for many of them.
#8 Press Trips
Similar to a partnership, but a bit different, press trips are usually organized by a tourism board.
They usually involve a group of travel bloggers, influencers, and journalists traveling through a destination on a pre-arranged tour and then generating content to promote the destination.
When you are starting out, most press trips will probably only cover your travel costs. But travel bloggers with larger audiences can get paid (sometimes thousands of dollars) for taking press trips.
#9 Freelance Travel Writing
Freelance writing just involves writing articles for other websites and getting paid for it. Many online travel sites and magazines pay writers (I’ve even done it!), as do many brands for their own blogs.
While this isn’t exactly a way to make money from a travel blog, since you can technically do it without a blog, I do think that starting a travel blog is very helpful if you want to get freelance travel writing projects.
Want to learn how to make money as a freelance travel writer?
Check out this course on How to Become a Travel Writer.
Bonus Tips for How to Start a Travel Blog
As I mentioned at the start, figuring how how to start a travel blog is easy. Starting a successful travel blog, however, takes time. Here’s a few bonus tips I’ve picked up along the way that can help jump-start your travel blog:
- Take the time to learn SEO early – Search-engine-optimization (“SEO”) is super important to being successful as a travel blogger, as it’s the most consistent way to drive traffic to your blog. For more information, check out my starter Guide to Finding Travel Blog Topics People Will Actually Read.
- Realize that blogging takes a lot of time – People seem to think that starting a travel blog is easy. It’s really not, and it takes more time that you might think. For more on the subject, check out my post on 4 Things All New Travel Bloggers NEED to Know.
- Make sure to write informative and useful content – “Diary” type posts probably aren’t useful to your reader. Informative articles, or inspirational ones, are much more likely to get read. It’s always important to take the time to learn to improve your travel writing (check out my review of the Superstar travel writing course for more on that subject).
- Join Facebook groups for travel bloggers – This is a great way to meet and connect with other bloggers. Which ones should you join? Sign up for my email newsletter below and I’ll send you my 7 favorite groups (plus you’ll have a chance for a free 30 minute one-on-one coaching session):
That’s it for this quick guide to how to start a travel blog. If you have any questions about starting your blog, or if you just want to connect, please scroll down and leave me a comment! I’d love to read your blog once it’s up and running!
Oh, lastly, if you’re on Pinterest (and all travel bloggers really should be, as I mentioned above), you can pin this post on how to start a travel blog for later here: