Do you want to start a travel blog? You, my friend, is in the right place! Starting a travel blog can seem like a daunting task, where do you begin? How is a travel blog different from a regular blog? What is the cost? Those are just a few of the many questions we will be answering in this complete guide to starting a travel blog.
In this guide, we will be covering everything you need to know to get your blog set up, from the idea-generation to long-term success.
Although this is a guide written with how to start a travel blog in mind, many of these tips and strategies can be applied to any blog of any niche.
Please note the strategies outlined in the following sections focus extensively on running a successful, thriving travel blog with an active audience base. These strategies may not be relevant if your sole intent and purpose are to blog for yourself or for the sake of keeping an online journal. That said, if you already have a blog and are looking to develop it further, many of these strategies may be helpful for you as well.
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1. Your mission statement
So you have decided that you want to start a travel blog, perhaps you want to share your photos with friends or family, or talk about your travel experiences and adventures, or maybe you want to help others with travel tips and guides, whatever the purpose you have decided for your blog, there is an important question I want you to answer:
Why do you want to start a travel blog?
First of all, it is important to realize that travel blogging is a very competitive niche. Simply searching for “travel blog” on Google comes out to more than 300 million results. You may be writing out of pure passion for yourself, but the truth is unless you are writing for yourself and only you, you will want to have an audience for your blog.
In this section, I want you to really consider some of the questions below as you start out on this journey. These questions are the exact questions I had asked myself when I started Wander Station and they have helped me significantly in defining my goals, purpose, and strategy.
Question 1. What type of travel blog do you have in mind?
A travel blog is essentially a blog on travel. There are different types of travel blogs out there, depending on what you want to write about, your blog content would vary, and so would your blog audience.
Here are some ideas of the different types of travel blogs:
- Photoblogs: blogs where photography are the primary focus. You want to show your adventures through pictures instead of through content and too much writing.
- Travel guides/reviews: you want to write comprehensive guides and articles that feature different places of interest.
- Lifestyle travel: you mainly talk about your adventures with photographs, in addition to interesting stories that happened along the way.
- Trip recaps: similar to lifestyle travel but with more details on places of interst that might be useful for someone who is just doing research.
- Travel tips/tutorials: Not particularly focused on specific destinations but more informational posts on travel tips, tutorials, packing tips, how to travel plan, etc.
Of course, you can also have combinations of these or perhaps include content outside of travel. For instance, Wander Station is a travel plus personal development blog.
Keep in mind the more specific you focus on a topic, such as “luxury travel in Europe” or “restaurant guide in Bangkok”, the more focused your audiences would be, but also the more specific details you will need to provide based on your knowledge and experience.
Question 2. Who are you writing for?
Most of us write for others, as I am sure you would agree. We want people to read our posts and look at the photos from our amazing adventures (and don’t you deny it! ;) But, one of the hardest things to do when it comes to having a travel blog is also just that, building an engaging audience. And it will be difficult, and I am not just saying it either. Chances are after you have released your blog into the wild, you will be hearing crickets for a long while, months, possibly, or even years.
But, there are a couple things you can do to get a better headstart on day one, and that starts with defining your audience.
You may be writing for “the average leisure traveler”, or you may be writing for someone as specific as a “mid-30 to mid-50s solo, vegan, female, world traveler residing in Australia who also has a full-time job”. Depending on how specific and broad your audience profile is, it could greatly vary your writing style, and in turn, vary the audiences that are attracted to your blog.
Think of it this way, if you are someone who matches the profile of the latter example and you land on 2 blogs that both has an article on solo hiking trails in Tasmania. Upon weighing the credibility behind these 2 blogs, you eventually finds out the first blog also writes a whole bunch of different travel articles on things outside of travel while the second blog focuses extensively on solo travel and hiking trails, which one are you more likely to trust, not to mention come back to the next time you hit the road solo?
Question 3. What value are you providing?
Value is important because it is the one ingredient that attracts and retains readers to your blog. According to dictionary.com:
If you are constantly popping out blog posts that readers find useful, interesting, and helps them in some way, that’s what keeps them coming back and that’s how you build a following. On the other hand, imagine if you are reading a blog where the author just writes content with no real, tangible meaning or purpose, they may have shared photos and review of an interesting landmark, but if all they do is talk about their own adventures without going into detail what else there is to do or be aware of, you may find yourself only understanding one side of the story and at a loss of what to believe. In the latter case, there were little to no value provided and you might not return to that blog in the future.
Question 4. What is your goal behind this blog?
What is in it for you? When I am asking this question, I don’t mean it in a selfish, I-better-get-something-out-of-this-or-else, kind of way. I want you to really ask yourself what it is you want out of building this blog. What is your goal? Is it the joy of being able to share and help others in their travel endeavors, or is it about self-fulfilment or a way to practice your writing or photography?
Your goal should be something that will mean just as much to you today than 2 or 5 years from now. It should also be the stepping stone to come up with your blog’s mission statement. Keep in mind your goal should be easily explained in one or two sentences and not more.
Question 5. Is your blog sustainable?
Is your blog sustainable in the long run? A couple months from now, are you still going to have content to share? What about a year from now, 5 years from now? I have seen many blogs come and go simply because the owners behind them had “gotten tired” of the topic. And that’s not the only reason, sometimes owners leave because they are not seeing the rewards for their efforts, ie. in the form of visitors, followers, traffic, pageviews, income… you get the gist.
Which is why I cannot stress enough just how important it is to have real, tangible goals and purposes in the event that even though you don’t have any of those “validations”, you still enjoy every minute of the creation process. Being passionate in the topic definitely helps, but it is also the perseverance and that undying spirit to continuously create.
Now that you have thought about those questions and you are still good with starting your blog, in the next section, I am guiding you through the step-by-step process of setting up your blog in the real world (ie. on the World Wide Web).
2. The technical setups
This is the part many people get stuck on, what is a web host? What is a domain name server? What the what is a blogging framework? I won’t bore you with the technical definition of all those things here. In this section, you will learn the exact step-by-step of getting your blog up and running, no technical knowledge needed. Let’s begin!
3 Simple steps to go from zero to blog:
Step 1. Registering your domain name
Your domain name is your virtual web address that others can access to get to your blog. Registering a domain name takes 2 minutes, but the hard part is coming up with a name. A general rule of thumb is to keep your domain name short and easy to remember. Avoid dashes and underscores no matter how much you are tempted to include them, and try to stick to .com or .co extensions.
Travel-related words: Since you are starting a travel blog, here are some travel-related words to get you thinking:
If you are stuck on a name, I highly recommend Bust-A-Name to help with coming up with a list of domain name ideas based on the keywords and phrases you enter.
Naming your blog after yourself: 9 times out of 10, the domain name you want is probably taken. If you have got a unique name, why not name your blog after yourself? Naming your blog after yourself is a great way to brand yourself and stand out as an expert in your field.
Once you have settled on a good domain name, there are 2 ways to register:
- Register through a domain registrar. Simply enter the name you’d like, confirm it’s available, add to cart, and check-out. The cost for a single domain is usually around $10-15/year, renewable on an annual basis. Pro tip: always stick to one domain registrar for all of your domains. It’s much easier to keep track of this way and you won’t have to waste money down the line transferring your domains between registrars.
- Register through signing up with a web hosting plan. Bluehost, one of the most affordable and beginner-friendly web hosts out there, offers a free domain name with any of their shared web hosting packages. In the next step, I will show you exactly how you can get one.
Step 2. Sign up for web hosting
Your web hosting provider is the company that provides you the virtual storage you need to house your blog platform, content, images, databases… in other words all of your website data and files. Think of these as your virtual filing system that is accessible to you anytime and anywhere in the world. Perfect for when you are on the road or away from your computer.
Here’s what to do:
1. Visit Bluehost and select a plan. The basic plan is more than enough for you at this stage, there are always opportunities to upgrade later on.
2. Enter the domain name you have determined in the previous step.
3. In the next screen, you will be prompted to create your account by filling out your personal information, payment details, and selecting your package. You have the option of paying for a 12-month price, 24-month price, or a 36-month price. For good reasons, the longer the duration of your package the more your savings.
Pro tip: Be sure to opt-in for Domain Privacy Protection as it hides your personal information when people look up your domain.
4. Click on Submit. Once your payment has been processed, you will be prompted to create a password for your account.
Once you have set a password, you are set to move to the next step!
Step 3. Installing WordPress
1. Login to your Bluehost control panel. Once you are inside, you should see a screen with a whole bunch of icons. This might be overwhelming at first, but I promise you most of these will probably be rarely used by you, if ever.
2. Look for the icon to install WordPress.
3. The Bluehost Marketplace will open up, click on the link at the bottom to start the installation wizard.
4. In the screen that follows, you will be prompted to select the domain you want to install WordPress on. Choose the domain you have just registered. The page will take a moment to verify the domain is valid, once it’s verified, click Next.
5. Enter your installation settings. The Admin credentials would be your WordPress user and login information. Make sure to also checkmark the 2 checkboxes at the bottom, then click Install.
6. WordPress will start installing on your domain, wait until you get the Installation Complete checkmark. Ignore the progress bar and click on the view credentials here link once prompted.
Ignore the next step on the screen and click on the link under “Installed to”, we are going to set up your WordPress!
3. Setting up your WordPress
The 5 Essentials steps to set up your WordPress blog:
- Familiarize yourself with WordPress
- Installing a theme
- Installing plugins
- Updating your permalink structure
- Connecting with Google Analytics
Step 1. Familiarize yourself with WordPress
1. First, log in to WordPress with your administrator credentials.
2. Follow the onscreen prompts to set up your new blog!
3. Once your blog is up and running, familiarize yourself with your new WordPress dashboard and the different menu options. WordPress is an extremely easy to use platform so don’t worry if you don’t get it right away. There are tons of information and tutorials on the web available so if you are ever in doubt, remember your answers are only a search away.
Step 2. Installing a theme
1. To set a theme, navigate to Appearances > Themes and then Activate a theme of your choice.
2. If you’d like to install new themes, you have a few options:
- Free themes: Head on over to Appearances > Themes > Add New Theme for a directory of themes you can directly download and install within WordPress.
- Paid themes:
- ThemeForest has one of the best paid WordPress theme collections on the web. High-quality, professional themes are plenty for a low investment of $40-60 each.
- StudioPress is my personal go-to for their highly customizable framework, Genesis (which I currently use). They also have gorgeous premium themes available priced at around $99 a piece.
- Plus, Elegant Themes, Template Monster, and Themify.
- Customized themes: If you prefer a more customized route, you can hire freelancers on UpWork.com who may be up for the challenge!
If you are not sure which theme would work for you, there are some of my personal favorites and some that I have seen used by other travel blogs:
Step 3. Installing plugins
Plugins are like upgrades, they provide extra functionalities and features to your blog. To install a plugin, head over to Plugins > Add New, once you have installed your plugin, click on Activate and that’s it!
Listed below are some of my favorite plugins that I highly recommend you to install:
- Yoast SEO: An excellent plugin that forces you to write better content, not only does it evaluate your writing, it is also the ultimate SEO cheat machine for people who don’t know SEO to learn what it’s all about.
- Contact Form 7: Emails made simple. How many times have you skipped contacting someone because they only had their email address listed on their site? Build your own form on your WordPress blog and remove the headache from your visitors.
- AccessPress Social Share: Easily share your posts on social media with these simple share icons.
- Simple Social Icons: Link to your social networks on your blog wherever widgets are accepted.
- WP to Twitter: Automatically post a tweet to Twitter every time you have published a new blog post.
- Interactive World Map: This is a premium interactive map plugin that’s highly customizable and feature maps of different continents, countries, as well as the world.
If you are using the Genesis framework for your themes, here are some additional plugins I would also recommend (note these are Genesis-only):
- Blox Lite – Content Blocks for Genesis: Add a content block anywhere in your Genesis theme – great for customizing your blog’s look and feel without knowing how to code.
- Genesis Custom Headers: Similar to Blox Lite except it is just for adding a content block in the header area above your post/pages.
- Genesis Simple Share: Similiar to AccessPress Social Share above but a much more lightweight version for easy social media sharing of your posts.
Step 4. Updating your permalink structure
A simple but impactful step, permalinks are the custom URL structure for your webpages.
By default in WordPress, your permalinks are usually in the
/year/month/post-name/ format. What we want is instead of having those extra numbers in your URL, which are typically irrelevant from a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) perspective, we want to select an alternative format, in our will go with just
To configure your permalink format, navigate to Settings > Permalinks:
Select the “Post name” option and click Save Changes. You are good to go!
Step 5. Connecting with Google Analytics
An advanced but essential step and one that I would recommend to ANY website. If you are unfamiliar with Google Analytics, it is a useful, free tool for capturing web traffic and referral data. Metrics like which of your blog post is getting the highest number of visitors? Where are your visitors coming from? Who is linking to your site? Which days of the week do you have the highest traffic to your site? Etc.
To set up Google Analytics on your new WordPress blog, follow these simple steps:
1. Head on over to Google Analytics. Click on the Sign In link at the top. A dropdown will appear, select Analytics.
2. Login with your Google email or create a Google account if you don’t already have one.
3. Once you have signed in, click on Sign up in the following screen:
4. Under New Account, select Website and fill out the rest of the form with your information:
Once you are done, click on the blue button to continue. A popup will appear asking you to read and accept the Terms & Condition, select I agree once you are done.
5. In the following screen, you will be prompted with your unique Google Analytics Tracking ID and tracking script. Go ahead and copy the script highlighted in the big box at the top:
There are a few ways to add these scripts to your WordPress, but to keep things simple, we are going to go with the plugin option. Following the same plugin installation from step 6 above, download the Insert Headers and Footers plugin.
Once the plugin had been installed and activated, navigate to your plugin configurations (found under Settings > Insert Headers and Footers):
Paste in the tracking script you have copied from Google Analytics into the Scripts in Header box:
It will take between 12-24 hours for any traffic data to be captured, once it’s been 24 hours, you will be able to access those metrics under All Web Site Data > Reporting in your Google Analytics account.
Congratulations, your blog is ready to go!
4. Travel blog essentials
Now that your blog is good to go, it’s time to get serious. As I am sure you’d have noticed by now, running a blog is no easy feat; it is not as simple as just sharing content, but rather sharing with strategy and purpose. In this section, I am laying out the top 3 essential ingredients to running a thriving travel blog.
Ingredient 1: Write yourself a fancy about page
Who is the person behind that blog? Don’t we all wonder that the first time we land on a blog? Especially a travel blog.
Personally, my reason had always been to understand what kind of traveler the blogger is, is he or she similar to me? If they are similar, that means their content might be more relevant for me. I am also interested in information such as where the person had been, how did they get started with traveling. The more of my questions that are answered, the higher credibility and trustworthiness I have for the blogger and their content in return.
As you lay out your about page, here are some things I’d recommend to include:
- Your story
- Some travel facts
- Type of traveler you are
- Favorite travel destinations
- Where you are heading next
And don’t forget to add a photo of yourself as well!
Ingredient 2: Include lots of real-life pictures
Regardless of what type of travel blog you have, pictures are a must. These can be pictures from your travels, pictures of maps, pictures of what’s in your suitcase, anything. Not only are pictures worth 1000 words, they are also visually engaging for the readers. Remember, your readers are always looking for ways to connect what you are describing to how it looks in reality.
Especially for people who are researching about their travel destination, preparation is key. They want to know what they are getting themselves into, and ofttimes seeing it as a photograph is much more definite than imagining what it might look like. As we all know, expectations are not always the reality, we definitely don’t want our readers to be disappointed if they do end up taking your advice, only to end up with something completely different.
Ingredient 3: Link to relevant external resources
If you are blogging about a particular destination or place of interest, it’s always a good idea to provide additional links and resources in your post for readers who might want to find out more. Maybe link to the official website, or perhaps directions on how to get to said place via the public transit line, or maybe even a link to a suggested itinerary. The possibilities are endless and your readers will thank you for it.
5. Blogging for longterm success
Tip 1: Coming up with an editorial calendar
Editorial calendars are excellent ways to add accountability. In short, it is a plan of all your blog tasks laid out in a calendar or journal format.
I like to rotate my editorial calendar on a 2-week cycle. You may want to have yours stay the same within a given cycle too or you may want it to vary over time. I find it’s much easier to keep track of what my tasks when they always happening on the same day every other week, but of course, yours would depend on your needs and availability as well.
Here are some ideas of what you tasks you can include as you build your calendar out:
- New blog posts
- Social media updates
- Writing days
- Blog maintenance
- Post graphic creation
- Social engagements
- Research days
Pro tip: Try focusing on one task per day in your calendar. Don’t bombard yourself with multiple tasks per day, and definitely stay away from multitasking if you can help it! Trust me, it will be much easier to stay consistent and make progress if you focus on one thing at a time.
Tip 2: Optimizing for search engines
When it comes to traffic generation, search engines are going to be one of your main sources of traffic. This is why it is so important you know what you are doing to get your blog posts at the forefront of what your target audience is searching for. Without going into the nitty-gritty details of SEO, here are some key points to help you optimize your blog posts:
Keywords and/or phrases: Which keywords or phrases does your audience have to search for to land on your blog? Use tools like Google Keyword Planner to plan out what keywords to focus on throughout each post and highlight them throughout your content:
- Page title: Your page titles should always be between 50-65 characters. Google search results typically display up to 65 characters including spaces and symbols. Be sure to have your keyword in your post title as well.
- Page URL: In WordPress, you can set a permalink with every blog post. Try keeping your links short, sweet, and only contain your keywords or phrase. For instance, if your blog post is titled “The 10 reasons you should start a blog today”, your permalink could be condensed to something like “reasons-to-start-blog”.
- Page description: Useful for increasing clickthroughs through search engine results. This is a roughly 150-160 character description of what your post is about.
Links: Links can be external or internal. External links are links to your blog from a source outside of your own site, while internal links are links from within your site targeting each other.
- External links are deemed as far more trustworthy and reliable than internal links according to search engines, the more third party websites that link to your site is usually an indicator the higher you will rank in search engine results. The general rule of thumb is to link between your posts but also connect with external influencers to get your website linked from their sites, usually this can be done via commenting on other people’s sites with a link to your own blog (of course, not as a mean of self-promotion but rather to leave a relevant comment), guest posting, or getting featured.
- Internal links, on the other hand, are great ways to retain readers on your blog as they click within your site. Aim to include at least 2-3 internal links with every blog post to keep the readers engaged and stay on your site longer!
Page content: Is your content valuable and relevant to your keywords? As a rule of thumb, aim to write posts between 1500 to 2000 words.
Images: Often overlooked but frequently picked up by search engines. Include your keywords in your image file names and image titles (or ALT tags). These are great ways to boost your ranking in search engines and get your images to show up in Google image search results.
Page speed: Fast loading web pages is not only a great user experience but yet another way to boost your search engine rankings. Optimize any large images on your web pages by saving them for the web, and deactivate unnecessary plugins that are not used to reduce load time.
Tip 3: Creating shareable social media graphics
Are you a visual person? One of the things I find myself often doing as I scroll through my social feeds is how frequently I’d skip over text updates but stop when I see a visual update. In fact, when I learned that our brains actually process visual information 60,000 times faster when text, I wasn’t all that surprised.
As you blog more and more, you will want to create shareable social media graphics for each and every one of your posts. Not only because they are great visual representations of your content, they also make all your social media updates pop right in front of your audiences. Some ideas of what you can have in your graphics:
- Blog post title
- A quote pulled from your post
- Certain highlights pulled from your post
- Facts and figures
- An action your audience can take based on your post
You can also use combinations of these in a single graphic, the key is to be creative and keep the text at a minimum. It is a visual graphic after all! Keep in mind that depending on which network you want to promote on, the sizes for your graphics can also vary. Here are the most recent social graphic sizes for your reference (as of December 2016):
- Twitter: 440px x 220px in preview, 1024px x 512px expanded view
- Facebook: 1200px x height varies
- Instagram: 1080px x 1080px
- Pinterest: scaled to 236px in preview, general rule of thumb is to create them as a vertical rectangle, the longer the more real estate your pin is taking up on your audience’s screen (the better)! Infographics are great for Pinterest
- LinkedIn: minimum 646px x 220px
- Tumblr: 500px x 750px in feed, 1280px x 1920px expanded view
- Google Plus: 497px x height varies
Tip 4: Building a mailing list
When a visitor goes to your blog, reads a post or two, and then leaves, none of their information is captured (other than the basic demographic/technology data that’s captured within your Google Analytics). If you want to notify that same visitor that you have just published a new blog post or that you are releasing a product, there’s no way you can find and target that visitor again.
This is precisely why having a mailing list on your blog from day one is so important. Your mailing list is essentially a list of your visitors’ email addresses. You might be asking but how do you get their email addresses? The solution is simpler than you think, and it starts with directing the same question back at you: what would prompt YOU to offer up your email address?
The answer is simple, there’s gotta be something in it for you.
That’s why this strategy is really a 2-step process. Step 1 is providing that incentive to your visitors to propel them to opt-in, and step 2 is to provide the opt-in form for them to actually type their email address into.
- An incentive: Provide something of value that your audience would get in exchange for their email address. This incentive could be a free download (kind of like what I am doing at the bottom of this blog!), a free checklist, an ebook, an e-course, some bonus tips and strategies, etc. Again, be creative. What is your post about? What can you provide in addition to the post itself that the reader might find helpful?
- The opt-in form: There are a few ways you can have this opt-in form on your blog. Using a free WordPress form plugin like Contact Form 7 to manually keep track, or use an automated third-party tool like ConvertKit (what I use) or MailChimp (more beginner-friendly) that will manage and host your list for you.
Tip 5: Maintaining an active social media presence
In today’s digital-centric world, connections are hugely important in positioning yourself as an expert amongst all the competition out there. If you are an introvert like me, you will find this strategy extremely difficult to carry out. Don’t be disheartened, though, with practice you will get better at it, the important thing is to take a deep breath and start. One tweet, 2 follows, 3 replies… every step counts.
Not sure how to begin? Here are some ways to start:
- Following other travel bloggers and influencers
- Sharing and retweeting their content
- Comment on their blogs and social statuses
- Engage with your own followers by replying to every tweet
- Share your own posts and tweets regularly
When people see that you are active, they are more likely to trust you and follow you. Not only that, when you engage with other travel bloggers and influencers regularly, those bloggers and influencers might follow you back one day and be more open to collaborating with you down the line. You never know where your connections might lead, so keep at it and keep reaching out!
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And there you have it, how to start a travel blog in a nutshell. I hope you have found this post helpful, many of these sub-topics I have brought up can be an entire lesson in itself. I have only scratched the surface of what maintaining a blog is all about, the rest is up to you!
Wishing you all the best in your blogging journey, and I would love to check out your new blog if you found this post helpful.