Want to learn how to start a travel blog? Want to learn how to make money off a travel blog? We have you covered! In this guide, we’re going to cover how to start your very own travel blog so you too can document your travels. I’ll also cover many strategies to get you set up and ready to go in the right direction.
In this guide, I’m not going to sell you on anything or push you into some terrible service provider because they pay me a high commission check (more on that later).
We’re about to reach our third year of travel blogging. Since we started in 2015 we now make a full-time income and can use the power of the blog to travel wherever we want to in the world. It’s been a long road up until this point, but with enough hard work and time, we believe others can succeed too.
Are You Ready to Start a Travel Blog?
This is not a simple how to set up a blog guide. In this post, I detail everything to set up your first travel blog. At points, it gets technical covering topics like web hosting, software, SEO, and building an audience.
I also need to warn you it took hours upon hours of work just to set up our travel blog. At first, it was a great resource to detail our musings, but then to make it a profitable venture has taken a countless amount of time working on this website. In fact, most successful blogger, ourselves included, will admit they work more on their blog then they did at their old “real” job.
That being said, our lives are and travels are flexible and we’re quite literally at a point where we can go and do whatever it is we want. 40+ day safari? Yup. Snowboard season in Switzerland? Yup. Two weeks in the Caribbean? Why not! Move to Japan? Sure! We love the freedom that working online has brought us and I can’t imagine going back to working at a traditional office from 9-6 every day.
The Reality of a Travel Blog
You’re going to get a lot of disingenuous information out there about travel blogging. Some bloggers (not just travel) like to paint the perfect picture in order to sell you a product, like their latest course, e-book, or Lightroom preset. Many of them are full of shit, but not all! We had the idea that every day would be like the photo above blogging from some luxurious tent in the great wilderness, but in reality, the true work days are when you’re inside banging away at your keyboard.
We all have the dream of jet-setting around the world, blogging, and making lots of money. Just be warned it is nowhere near that easy. Travel blogging can be exhausting and I guarantee you that any successful blogger has put in a countless amount of hours behind the computer. To top it all off you have to travel to a foreign country while shooting photos and videos, researching the next destination, and managing an inbox full of emails.
The vast majority of bloggers make little to nothing on their blog and for every 10 that start out maybe one will generate an income. To top it all off, the travel blogging world is super crowded and oversaturated. Every single day dozens of people start a new travel blog. That being said, there is plenty of room left for more successful travel blogs and more information to share about our world.
You have the ability to write about your passion and share it with the world. It’s still pretty surreal that we’ve been featured in articles on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, New York Times, and Travel & Leisure. Our blog will see well over a million readers this year, that’s pretty freaking massive. Throughout our blogging career, we’ve made helped millions of people around the world travel and see the globe. Every message and email we get from someone detailing their upcoming travels makes us smile.
Here’s how to start a travel blog:
- Determine Your Name
- Buy Web Hosting and Domain
- Install WordPress
- Learn How to Work with WordPress
- Select a WordPress Theme
- Install WordPress Plugins
- First Blogging Steps
- What Should You Write About
Determine Your Name
This is a dreaded task for many and can take a lot of time and effort. When we started we spent several days just thinking about the name we wanted. We both created a shortlist and narrowed it down until we agreed on The World Pursuit. The best advice I can give for determining a name is to:
- Make it Memorable -Your travel blog domain name should be easy to remember, easy to write down, and easy to share with others. Think about what you want your blog to focus on as a topic.
- Avoid These Pitfalls – When you’re selecting the name of your travel blog to avoid these problems:
- Don’t pigeonhole yourself: Unless you plan on sticking to the same niche be careful. That destination are weary to work with the words “broke,” “dirtbag,” or “backpacker” in the name.
- No hyphens or numbers: If you can’t tell someone the name of your blog without explaining the spelling of the URL you’ve messed up.
- No misspellings: Same as above, plus it comes across unprofessional.
- Overused words: The world does not need another “nomadic,” “backpacker,” “adventurous,” or “wandering.” It worked for the first bloggers, but you’ll just be in their shadow with a similar name. Be original!
- Long-Term – You need to think about your name in the long run. You don’t want to name yourself something relevant to a certain time or one particular trip. What happens when Krissy from Travels Before Your 30 turns 31?
- Keep it Professional – If your goal is to make an income from your blog you should think about how it will sound in a business meeting. Think about situations where you may meet with community leaders, tourism board representatives, marketing executives, and a lot more.
- Word Cloud – We’ve had a number of peers ask how we came up with our name. In fact, we’re really happy with, “The World Pursuit.” We knew that we wanted to avoid all of the traditional trappings of a travel blog. It was also mighty hard coming up with something original. Our solution was to make a word cloud. We wrote down a list of our favorite words related to what we envisioned as a brand. From there we mixed and matched until we landed no something original and personal.
- Your Name – In all honesty, your name may be a really safe bet. Your blog is your brand and you are your brand. I haven’t seen many bloggers sticking to their name, but it’s entirely your own and it’s most definitely memorable.
- Check Social Channels – This is super important in the modern blogging world, but the handle related to your name should be available on social media. You want to check Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest, and Twitter before purchasing a domain name.
- .Com – This may not seem important, but you’ll have a tough time with the new domain extensions. “.Com” is still the leading domain extension so make sure that the domain name you want is available.
Buy Web Hosting and Domain Name
There are many ways to set up a website and blog, but if you plan on monetizing your site you need a self-hosted WordPress blog. You may have seen platforms like Squarespace, Blogger, Wix, and WordPress.com; however, they come with restrictions and you do not own your space.
WordPress is open source software that is free to use and is utilized by over 30% of the internet. Hosting refers to having a dedicated space on a server. Here are the two key concepts you need to understand here:
- Web Hosting: This is the service where all of the information on your website is stored. When someone goes to your URL they are accessing the information stored on your web host. For example, our primary server is based in Chicago and when we work on our website we access the files, articles, and photos stored on a hard drive in Chicago connected to the internet.
- A Domain Name: This is what we people type in to access your site. For example, ours is TheWorldPursuit.com
Choose Your Web Host
Your web host is where your blog or website lives on the internet. All of your photos, videos, text, and files will be stored on their servers.
Most web hosts offer tiered levels of hosting. When you’re starting out, you will be fine with the lowest level of web hosting. On average this level of hosting costs $3 – $10 a month. Don’t worry you can upgrade your website at a later date when it becomes popular. Many hosting providers also include the registration of a new domain name for free if you’re just opening an account. I will detail three different options for web hosts later below.
Here is what you need to look for in a web host.
Things to look for in a web host:
- Types of Hosting:
- Shared Hosting – This is your best option when starting a new blog as it is the entry-level service. This means that you share a server with multiple websites.
- Virtual Private Server – This is the most robust form of hosting, but it is totally overkilled for a new travel blog.
- Bandwidth — Most host plans come with unlimited bandwidth, but it’s unlikely you’ll need it starting out anyways.
- Free Domain Name — A few web hosts give you a free domain with the opening of an account. I opt to purchase ours from a third party.
- Storage Space — This refers to the size of your site on the server. A few gigabytes should be more than enough.
- WordPress Optimization — Keep an eye out for this because it’s the best software to run your blog
- Reliability — Everyone claims to be over 99.9% uptime, but I would do some of your own research.
- Quality Tech Support — I’ve gotten pretty technical over the years, but I still turn to my host from time to time.
- 24/7 Tech Support — Any time your site is down is a bad time.
- Automatic Backups — I store backups from our site on an external hard drive every week, but having an automatic backup could save me a lot of stress.
Web Host Options
This is our hosting provider. We’ve had a tremendous experience with them and they’re a medium sized company so customer assistance has a more personal feel. I’ve compared our website speeds to many of our peers who have more expensive dedicated server plans and found their specialized Enterprise plan to keep up the pace. They are the most expensive of the starter options and they do not include domain names for free. I’ve talked to their support and they’ve told me their basic plan should be able to handle around 120,000 monthly visitors. If your blog grows above that number, like ours, their Enterprise plan is unique to the hosting industry. The Enterprise plan offers clustered hosting (delivers 99.9% uptime) and they limit each server to only 50 websites. It’s a great value.
Siteground is the most commonly referred to hosting provider we find in travel blog forums. I know a lot of travel blogs that run on their web hosting service. It has great reviews and most people report good customer service. They’re responsive and have free transfer service if you’re coming from another host. However, when comparing their basic plan to Stablehost they offer much less until you reach their higher levels of service that cost $10-$15 a month. Beyond the entry-level shared hosting plans they have a large variety of options to upgrade your hosting service. Their plans are also specifically built for WordPress and after registration, they will have the software preinstalled for you. That means you can have your website up and running in less than 15 minutes.
Bluehost is the most preferred web host on the internet, and for good reason. They have the cheapest service that includes a domain name and they pay their affiliates the highest commission. If I’m being honest with you here, the vast majority of bloggers you see recommending them probably would never use the service themselves. On average they offer up $100 per new customer a blogger sends them so you see all sorts of “how to start a travel blog” posts and ads touting this hosting service.
However, they are cheap and the inclusion of a domain name can save you $10-$15. Granted with high marketing costs, affiliates, and a low price point their service is very subpar. We’ve seen dozens of bloggers complain about their service due to crashing websites. There was a point long ago Bluehost was decent, but they along with hundreds of others have been bought by a company called EIG. I would advise looking at this post here that covers EIG and why you should avoid them.
My Two Cents
If you were to ask me I’d still pick Stablehost. It was the decision I made nearly three years ago after tons of research. I initially fell for one of those how to start a travel blog posts. It influenced me to set up a plan with Arivxe, an EIG company who also owns Bluehost, and I had a terrible experience. After canceling the plan I turned away from bloggers and went to forums of web developers, that’s when I landed on Stablehost. I’ve been happy ever since! As an added bonus I’ve been with them so long I can give you a coupon code – “theworldpursuit” will save you 40% at checkout.
WordPress is a website content management system. The software is totally free, and just about every blogger uses it to run their blog. Even massive websites like Techcrunch, The New Yorker, Apple, BBC America, and The New York Times utilize WordPress to run their website.
What’s great about its popularity is all of the support on the internet. Most hosts, including all the above, make installation of WordPress super easy with the click of a button upon signing up. Almost every blogger runs on WordPress so you can often reach out to others for help or thoughts. There are countless blogs and tutorials dedicated to building a website on WordPress so you can learn a lot.
And one of its greatest strengths is the ability to customize themes, plugins, and custom coding. That way you can make your blog personal. The installation should be pretty simple from the dashboard of your host after you’ve selected a plan. If you’re having a tough time just contact support and they’ll help you out. Most likely you’ll be fine!
As a last tip, when you install WordPress you are asked to create a username and password. Make sure to use a login other than the default “admin.” This is good security as you will have brute force login attempts on the non-existent user “admin,” we receive hundreds a day.
Learn How to Operate WordPress
Now that you have WordPress installed head to – www.(inset blog URL).com/wp-admin
This is your login page for your blog and where you enter your username and password.
Once you’ve logged in, your WordPress Dashboard will come up. Get used to it! This is the central area for your blog and you’ll spend a lot of time working here. From your Dashboard, you can control everything about your site. I suggest getting familiar with your dashboard.
When you first login, spend some time learning how to use your dashboard, how to change your site’s settings, how to write a post, how to install a plugin, and more. None of it is rocket science. If you ever get stuck just use a simple Google search, there are dozens of tutorials on the internet and Youtube.
Select a Theme
Once you have the nuts and bolts of your blog figured out it’s time for the fun part. Upon installation, WordPress comes with a couple of standard “themes.” A theme is essentially the design for your site. The standard themes work well when you’re just starting out, but if you want your blog to stand out and build a brand, you should purchase a premium theme.
The theme prices generally cost between $20-$80. With a premium theme, your site look and function will be greatly improved. I spent a lot of time researching the best themes on the market and decided to go with the X-Theme. What’s great about the theme is the ability to customize. I’ve been able to personalize every aspect of our site. Yes, the whole design of this site is done by me.
If you’d like to shop around check out the ThemeForest, they sell thousands of premium themes. If you need help setting up your theme most of the reputable themes come with support.
Install WordPress Plugins
WordPress plugins are additional bits of software or third party apps for your website. These can be used to expand the functionality and performance of your blog. Many plugins are free and you can install them from the “plugin” section of your WordPress Dashboard.
Please keep in mind that plugins are developed by third-party developers. The quality of these plugins can vary a lot and some plugins create conflicts with other plugins. This can cause your site to crash or move at the pace of a slug. All of the plugins I’m going to recommend are popular and should not create any problems on your site.
- Yoast SEO — This is a super important plugin that is made to optimize your articles for Google Search. It also integrates a sitemap and connects your Google Analytics.
- Wordfence Security — Best security plugin that comes with a slew of features.
- Disqus — We use Disqus for its ability to filter out spam comments, SEO, and its relevant post suggestions.
- W3 Total Cache — This is a caching plugin. It saves a “static” copy of your page to your server and serves this to your users this will help speed up load times. It’s pretty easy to set up, just follow their instructions.
- WP Smush — You should resize your image before uploading, but WP Smush will further optimize them when you upload.
- Interactive World Maps: You’ll find this plugin on a lot of travel blogs, including our own. It’s a plugin that creates an interactive world map, but it does require payment.
- WP Touch – Make sure that your theme is mobile responsive by minimizing your screen or checking on a phone. If it’s not responsive, install WP Touch to make it mobile friendly. It is super important to have a mobile-friendly site.
First Blogging Steps
Create an about page:
The first piece of copy you should write is your about page. I would recommend doing this before you publish your first post. When you start with your about page it will force you to gather your thoughts on your blog theme, style, and niche. Most importantly it puts a name to a face. Our most clicked page on our menu is our “about us” page.
Set up Social Media:
Setting up your social media is an important first step to a successful travel blog nowadays. In fact, it’s where the majority of your readers will follow you and where the interests of advertisers lie these days. I would advise against leaning too heavily on social media as a number of bloggers are these days. When you’re posting on Facebook remember that Facebook is a business and you’re playing on their platform. A change of an algorithm or policy can change your business model overnight. Your blog is yours.
Start by signing up to all of the platforms below, and make sure to use the same username throughout.
Write Your First Post
Before getting too serious this would be a great time to try writing your first post. It can be about whatever you want. Perhaps about your last trip, an upcoming trip, or why you’re starting a travel blog. It’s important here that you learn how to write a blog post with images, header, and a proper format. It takes a little bit of learning, but with time you’ll feel very comfortable on the platform. Even if you’re not traveling yet you still have value to offer to your readers. Write a topic about your local hometown or region, visitors will never know it better than you! Our very first blog post was information on the Schengen Agreement in Europe, and it still gets read today!
What should you write about?
You have everything set up to begin writing content for your blog. When we started our blog it was difficult to find new topics for blog posts. As a general rule of thumb, I would suggest you try to publish a new article 1-2 times per week.
The most important thing to keep in mind though is quality over quantity. If you look at the most successful blogs on the internet they’re all a powerful resource for their readers and provide lots of useful information. Make sure to keep your personality and opinion in your blog post, but the reader doesn’t want to hear about every part of your day and whats going on your head – create actionable, personal, and helpful tips.
Provide tips, fun things to do, a cool story, your favorite resources or products, and photos. It will take some time to find your voice, but once you do writing becomes a lot easier and you’ll develop an audience.
Give Yourself a High Five!
You’ve done it! At least to a point, because you’re really only starting a long journey down the rabbit hole that is travel blogging. Now it’s time to build an audience!
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