How To Start A Travel Blog: A Step By Step Guide
Travel blogging has taken me around the world over the past 4 years. Want to start your own? This detailed guide will show you exactly how to start a travel blog.
I receive more email asking me how to travel the world or how to start a travel blog than anything else. I know, I get it. Seeing constant photos from my adventures in your Facebook or Instagram feeds makes it look like a dream job. I can’t lie. It is.
After all, I get paid to travel the world! It’s pretty sweet.
But travel blogging isn’t easy. Far from it. I rarely share the huge amount of behind-the-scenes work that goes into making this lifestyle possible. Well, that’s about to change.
Ok. We’re gonna start with the basics. If you’ve already been blogging for a while, make sure to read my more advanced post about the secrets of professional 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 running today. Now keep in mind the following advice is for people who want to take travel blogging seriously, as some of these steps require spending money.
If you aren’t quite ready for that yet, you can always start a simple travel blog for family & friends on WordPress.com. It’s totally free!
1: Choose A Good Name
My first travel blog was called YearAroundTheWorld.com. Do you see the super obvious problem with that 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 much 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 toExpertVagabond.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: 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 withBlueHost. 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 $100 a month for my hosting. When you get to a certain level, it’s totally worth it.
But if you are just starting out, BlueHost is a better option.
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: Installing WordPress
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: Get A Professional 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’ll want to buy a professional design. Don’t worry, they don’t cost too much, and they’ll improve the look of your site big time.
I’ve changed themes a few times over the years, but the current one I’m using is called Hardy by ThemeTrust. I’ve tweaked it a lot using my background in web-design though, customizing how it looks & acts.
5: Add Some 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.
- WordPress 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.
There are others of course, but these will get you started.
6: Embrace Social Media
I hope you love social media. Because if you want to build a successful travel blog, social media addiction is a requirement! Learning how to master social media is a whole different topic, one that I cover a bit more in my post onhow to become a professional travel blogger.
Here are some good social media tips from my friend Jodi too. Try to keep your social media handles the same across all channels! Otherwise people will get confused.
Social Media Accounts
7: Join Travel Blog Success
Like anything in life, if you want to get good at something, investing time & money to be trained by professionals works wonders. The same is true for travel blogging. When people ask me for travel blogging tips, my first recommendation is to join Travel Blog Success.
You can read my full review here.
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. You need to know all kinds of stuff that you probably don’t know anything about.
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. Fortunately there is a shortcut…
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 to you in an email. Fortunately there is a whole lesson dedicated to mastering SEO (and many other topics) on Travel Blog Success. Plus a very active & helpful community FB page where all the top travel bloggers chime in with answers to your questions each and every week.
If you want to become a pro, this is the best investment ever.
8: Start Blogging!
Now it’s time to begin creating content for your travel blog. When you first start out, I recommend publishing new articles at least 3 times per week. But don’t be sloppy about it, take your time and craft excellent blog posts that have impact.
What should you write about? Stuff you (and others) are interested in!
Are you traveling right now? Share your favorite parts of the country, fun things to do there, crazy travel stories, beautiful photo essays, video tours, food recommendations, and more. Write about many different topics to find your personal blogging style & voice, to see what resonates with others.
Are you still planning your travels? You can write about that too. Share the different ways you are saving money for travel, a bucket list of activities you want to try, or write about places you’ve already visited. Share your favorite travel movies & books. Write about your packing list. Go exploring locally. Create useful & entertaining content. The possibilities are endless.
Read other travel blogs, leave thoughtful comments on their articles, and link to other blog posts from your site where appropriate. At first your only readers will be family and friends. But that’s ok! We all started like that.
It takes time to build an audience.
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 it’s still a job that requires hard work.