The decision to start a travel blog is one of the best we’ve ever made. It’s opened up so many opportunities for us both and totally changed the way we experience the world.
From free accommodation and travel gear to collaborating with bloggers who first inspired us to pack our bags, the decision to start a travel blog was a certainly great one.
We’ve worked hard to build our blog and continue to do so as we push towards our travel goals and explore even further. We’d like to share with you all we have learnt from the basics of starting a travel blog to engaging readers and brands.
How to Start a Travel Blog
- Hobby or Career?
- Choosing a Name and Style
- Get Travel Blog Hosting
- Installing WordPress
- Choosing a Theme
- Get to Know the WP Dashboard
- Essential Plugins
- What to Focus on First
- Get Some Pro Help
- Grow and Make Money
But just before you jump in, we have one quick question…
Step 1. Why Do You Want to Start a Travel Blog?
Just before we dive into all the geeky details of how to set up your shiny new travel blog, take a moment to think about why you are actually starting one.
Is it simply to keep in touch with friends and family as you travel? Will it be more of a personal diary? If the answer is yes you can start a free wordpress.com blog right now with ease and skip the remaining steps.
If however your aim is to build an audience, share travel resources and create an online income stream then you’ll need a ‘hosted’ website using wordpress.org.
The difference between wordpress.com vs wordpress.org confuses nearly everyone who is looking to start a travel blog.
WordPress.com – the best free blogging platform out there. They host the site, you just sign up and create some content. Options to customise or monetise it are very limited.
WordPress.org – host your own site and have way more freedom to customise and monetise it. This is the option if you want to start travel blogging for profit and the one we will be talking about in the rest of this guide.
Now we’ve cleared that up, let’s get you a funky new brand name…
Step 2. Choosing Your Travel Blog Name and Style
Next you’ll need to think about your brand. I’ve mentioned this right at the start because it’s way harder (but not impossible) to change things like your blog name, structure and style after a few months or years.
We have made plenty of tweaks to MapTrotting.com as we’ve progressed and learnt but are always thankful that we had the basics in place from the start.
Our Quick Brand Defining Brainstorm…
Take a couple of minutes to write down as many travel blogs, websites, brands, bloggers, vloggers and resources that you are attracted to. By looking at the existing travel stuff that you already like it helps you to get an idea of what travel styles and brands influence you.
Also, have a think about your personal travel style. If you are backpacking on a shoestring and prefer hot climates there’s no point in starting a travel blog about luxury Baltic cruises. It sounds obvious, but it’s always best to write directly from your real-world experiences, tastes and passions!
We did this exercise when we were first setting things up and found that we preferred a more factual approach to mid-range couples travel. So, we set up MapTrotting.com to reflect this and it has helped to produce a more genuine travel website (we hope!).
Choose Your Name and Brand
So now you have a clear idea of your travel influences, use this to think of a name and approach that matches it.
We found it useful to write down lots of separate travel-related words we liked and then messed around with them. Trotting and Map got picked out as favourites and the rest is history.
There are now thousands, if not millions, of travel blogs in existence today so it can be tricky to find something truly original. Don’t stress about it too much, here are some useful pointers in choosing a name:
- Avoid the now cliche travel blog words such as nomadic and blonde. These have been way overused in the past few years.
- Think about the future. It’s best to avoid time or age limits in your name like ‘Travel In My Twenties’ or ‘One Year to Rock the Globe’.
- How does it sound when you say the domain out loud? Avoid complex numbers, hyphens or spellings like 2-can-goto-travel.ninja. It’s less memorable and tricky to say quickly, especially after a few beers!
- Keep it as short and punchy as possible.
- Stupid-simple always wins!
Once you have some possible names use a site like namecheck to see if they are available as a domain and username on social media channels.
The most important one is the domain name. We will purchase that in the next step but you just need to ensure that it is available for now, preferably .com, but it’s less important than it used to be.
If your chosen name is not available as a domain, check other word combinations or use your backup names from the above exercise.
However, if your chosen name isn’t available on all the social platforms it’s no big deal. Most, like twitter, display the brand name you type in rather than a handle or username.
Once you’ve decided on your new name, it’s time to set up your travel blog…
Step 3. Set up Your Travel Blog Hosting
Next, we need to purchase your domain name (website address i.e. maptrotting.com) and some website hosting (i.e. some rented space for your website to live).
Honest Advice: A large number of ‘how to start a travel blog’ articles recommend Bluehost.com as a great place to host your blog. Why? Bluehost pays the highest affiliate commissions going – therefore websites make the best affiliate money by recommending Bluehost.
We have used Bluehost in the past and found that our site was slow to load and their support was slow. After switching our sites hosting to SiteGround our site loading speed is way, way better and they are super helpful too.
Whilst writing this guide we were having some issues with our site slowing down. We started up a live chat box and got an answer and a fix within a few short minutes. Therefore we totally recommend SiteGround for hosting based on our experience and not just affiliate dollars!
To get started visit siteground.com and you’ll see the below screen.
Click ‘Get Started’ on the StartUp package, circled here:
This basic plan is more than enough to get started and SiteGround will help you scale up your hosting as your site grows in time.
Next, you’ll see the below screen. Click on the ‘Register a New Domain’ button and enter your new travel blog name in the box before clicking proceed.
The final step in the purchasing process is simply entering the account and payment information. At the bottom of this screen, you’ll see the below boxes.
You might want to change the ‘Data Center’ option if you are targeting a specific region i.e. Europe or the USA but it’s not vital to edit this right now.
We would recommend selecting ‘Data Privacy’ as well to ensure that your private details are not available to the whole world.
The total cost will be displayed at the bottom of the page. Just click the T&Cs and hit Pay Now.
Let’s set up your WordPress…
Step 4. Installing WordPress With Ease
It’s now time to install WordPress onto your hosting space so you can start customising your travel blog.
The good news is because you are with SiteGround, they will do this for you… for FREE!
Once you’ve logged into your new account, click on the support tab and scroll down to the ‘Request Assistance From Our Team’ section.
Then click on WordPress Assistance under the Technical Assistance section.
The below box will appear and you just click on Proceed to Chat to get started.
You should be up and running within just a few minutes. Easy peasy!
If you really want to install WordPress yourself, use this guide.
During the installation, you’ll be asked to create a username (default: admin) and password for logging into your dashboard. Write these down, you’ll need them in the next step!
Now you have WordPress installed, it’s time to set the look and feel of your blog…
Step 5. Choosing a Sweet Looking Theme
Next, you want to get your travel blog looking all nice. In fact, you want your site to look amazing, right?
To achieve this you’ll need to add a ‘theme’ to your new WordPress install.
Login using the credentials you got in step 4 and click on ‘Appearance’ in the menu on the left of the screen. You should see a screen similar to this…
At this stage, you can click ‘add new theme’ or go with the basic WordPress theme just to get started.
But who wants to be basic? Not you, no way!
Honest Advice: This tends to be the point where things go wrong #sadface. Themes can look pretty in the screenshots but hardly ever look the same on a live site. Don’t waste entire weekends trying to make the best of a crappy free theme. Do this…
Bonus Step 5.1: Installing the Genesis Framework
Most guides on how to start a travel blog won’t mention anything about the Genesis Framework from StudioPress. This one thing has saved us countless hours of tinkering and hassle so, we would totally recommend using it from the start.
But what is it exactly?
The Genesis Framework sits on top of your nuts and bolts WordPress installation to give it extra SEO power, flexibility, security and stability. It is essentially a very well built ‘theme platform’ which helps to shape the look and layout of your website by doing lots of clever stuff behind the scenes.
Genesis Framework has a one-off cost of $59.95 as a standalone platform. That’s a great value because it comes with unlimited support, updates and helpful tutorials covering the entire setup.
We purchased it bundled with a custom ‘child’ theme called Altitude Pro + Altitude Pro for $99 all in. It’s the same theme that the food blogger Mark Wiens uses to create the stunning migrationology.com site as well, which demonstrates what’s truly possible.
We realise this is a big upfront investment when you are just starting in the world of travel blogging. Just think of it like buying good quality concrete for the foundations of a house you’ll live in for many years!
Now you have WordPress setup and your theme installed, let’s see what else is possible…
Step 6. Get to Know the WordPress Dashboard
When you first log in to WordPress it can all be a bit confusing. People are often afraid that with one wrong click they will bring their site down and we can tell you from experience that it can happen. Yikes!
So, before you get too ‘click-happy’ spend a day or two getting to know how stuff works in the WordPress dashboard. A little learning here now will pay off big time as soon as you start blogging regularly.
Here’s a great video walkthrough of the dashboard. It’s an hour well spent, trust us:
Because WordPress is the industry standard when it comes to blogs of all kinds, you are never more than a Google search away from getting some help.
Step 7. Essential WordPress Plugins for Travel Bloggers
Plugins are, as the name suggests, bits of extra software that you can add into WordPress to help with stuff.
Most are quick to install and setup, just click on Plugins -> Add New in your dashboard to search and add them.
Here are some essential ones we recommend for travel blogging newbies:
Akismet Anti-Spam – This comes pre-installed in WordPress, just create a free account to activate it. It will help to filter out most of the spam comments left by bots. Very handy.
Yoast SEO – Great for helping you to optimise your site to rank better in Google. Spend some time reading the setup instructions and fill in the ‘meta’ details below every post you create.
Shareaholic – This makes it easy for people to share your content on social media with 1 click.
SG Optimiser – If you’re using Siteground hosting this ensures your site runs smoothly and quickly.
These are just a few to get you started but the options are endless. Just try not to go too crazy with the plugins, the more stuff that needs to load up each time, the slower your site will be.
With your basic plugins installed, it’s finally time to get writing…
Step 8. What to Focus on First
This is where the fun begins! It’s time to start cracking on some content and reaching out to others.
Writing Your First Blog Post
We’d suggest writing about why want to start a travel blog for your first post. Maybe mention your upcoming plans or your current situation. Add a few images, H2 and/or headings and just have fun with it.
It doesn’t need to be your finest ever creation but it’s a good way to ease yourself into using WordPress.
Create an About Page
One of the most frequently visited pages on any blog is the about page. Readers want to know who you are and what the site is about.
What problems do you solve? What value do you provide to them? Why they should keep reading? It’s the ideal place to answer those questions and draw them into your world.
Create a Contact Page
Another staple page to have when you start a travel blog. Letting your readers contact you directly is never a bad thing. We’d suggest using a form rather than publishing an email address to avoid spam.
Set up Your Social Media
Social media is a great way to reach and connect with your future audience. As mentioned in Step 2, use your blog name wherever possible and claim your spot on the main social media channels:
Just set the accounts up for now and use the channels to share your posts as you publish them. We would suggest that you focus on just 1 or 2 of the channels to begin with. Social media can quickly become a full time job, with zero pay, so take it easy to start with!
Add Some Basic Branding
Many people obsess about creating a logo before they’ve even got any content worth reading on their site… #guilty. For starter, just create a basic logo or colour scheme and go with it, you can easily change this stuff later.
There’s a ton of free tools online to create simple logos, graphics or edit images when you first start a travel blog. We suggest using canva.com with a free account to kick things off. You really don’t need more than this to begin with.
All that should get you off to a flying start but what about taking things further?
Step 9. Get Some Professional Help!
Of course you can only get so far on your own, sooner or later you’ll need a little help to take things to the next level.
There are countless pages and posts about how to become a successful (travel) blogger and turn it from a hobby into a full-time job. There’s a massive leap between writing your first post and having your blog fully fund your travels but it’s a leap worth making.
To help we recommend saving yourself thousands of hours of research by learning from those that have already set up and run successful travel sites.
Early on we signed up with Travel Blog Success who have some great step by step guides on how to start a travel blog and help it grow into a business.
Also, the king of travel blogging, Nomadic Matt has collaborated with other pros in the industry to create his Super Star Blogging course. We have used his quality content many times to hone our own site so would recommend any course he’s behind.
If you want industry-specific tips and advice on stuff like SEO, building an audience, writing top quality travel content and monetising your travel blog these courses are a great start.
No, they are not cheap when you are starting out but the money spent will help you save your most valuable asset – time!
Step 10. Build an Audience and Make Money
The final step in our guide on how to start a travel blog is the most important if you want it to help you travel the world. If the image of casually working from the beach whilst sipping on a cooling cocktail excites you, here’s how your travel blog could help to provide an income.
Find and Grow Your Following
You won’t get far without anyone visiting and interacting with your blog. Our key mantra here is to focus on quality over quantity.
You can publish hundreds of posts or articles but if they don’t add value to the reader then they won’t be coming back in a hurry. Always try to inform and entertain people by making sure they leave knowing something they didn’t when they started reading your travel blog.
Try your best to be consistent. We’ve been publishing a minimum of one well-written blog post a week since May 2016.
Okay, we lied. There were 2 weeks we missed along the way, through laziness more than anything, and we felt terrible about it. If you can keep on keeping on then you’re already way ahead of the maybe tomorrow brigade.
Listen to your audience, engage with them, and answer their questions. This is the simplest way to create great content people will actually want to read.
Start to be focused with the content you are writing and sharing, make sure it fits with your audience. It took us a long time to find our happy niche of independent couples travel but it now shapes everything we do on and offline.
Monetise Your Site
There are tons of ways to make money directly and indirectly when you start a travel blog.
The simplest form of travel blog monetisation is via affiliate links. This is when you add a link on your blog to product or service that you love and you get a percentage of the revenue when someone makes a purchase.
Popular accommodation sites like Agoda and Booking.com are a good place to start with affiliate links. It’s super easy to link up any places that you’ve stayed in your posts and it actually helps the reader out. People love suggestions from those who they trust.
Many products and services available online run their own affiliate scheme or are part of a bigger one. Lots of the items in our Travel Resources list are linked to the matching products on Amazon.com for example.
The next step up is accepting links or adverts on your site. Again there are schemes you can join to make this easier to manage. For example, we use awin.com to offer the Lonely Planet guidebooks.
Then there are differing levels of sponsorship. From posting a sponsored article to getting an entire trip sponsored by a brand. Obviously, the more views and followers you have on your travel blog and social media the more opportunities are open to you!
For some more ideas check out our post on 5 simple ways we make money whilst travelling the world.
Now Get Started!
We hope that you’ve found this guide on how to start a travel blog useful, we always try and pack in as many tips as we can to help you. If you have any questions or think we’ve missed something out then please drop us a comment below.
We know from experience that the hardest bit is starting but when you do, the rest will follow. Don’t sweat the small stuff, get the basics set up and show the world what you are all about.
You are the only one that can make this happen for yourself so our final bit of advice is simply to get started!
Good luck and see you on the road!