I knew as I started my travel blog I wanted to create something more than just a travel journal. While I have already cut my teeth in digital marketing, I needed to understand the travel industry I was stepping into. I wondered how hard it would be to get free travel, how to make money and how much effort this would all take.
After a few different searches, I found the Break Into Travel Writing Podcast by Alexa Meisler. I was first drawn in by the promise of a podcast created to help anyone start a career in travel writing. What kept me listening was the variety of guest and the perspective they provided, as well as Alexa’s very approachable personality. It felt like an old friend had taken me by the arm and was guiding me around this new world of travel writing. Having listened to the majority of podcasts, here are some main takeaways and themes I have found essential to success breaking into travel writing.
I can’t remember a specific episode saying this, but with so many directions you can co in to promote your blog or your writing, you must stay focused. For example with social media, Alexa recommends claiming all the accounts for your blog, while only focusing on two or three social channels to build up a following. For me, I decided on Instagram, because it seems to be a necessity in travel writing, and Pinterest because I know it can drive traffic to the site.
I stay focused by having a prioritized to do list each week. I also remind myself of my main goal constantly and remove anything that does not contribute to that goal. I am to the point where I can get hosted at hotels and get other free travel, but have found it to sometimes be a distraction from my long term goals.
Find a niche
There are several episodes that speak to the importance of a having a specific niche. It really hit me that I needed to find the right niche in a podcast with someone who said a broad travel site might need 50,000 unique visits to be big enough to work with, while a more targeted blog might be able to get a PR professional’s attention with just 5,000 unique visits.
I started a very broad blog at first because I was excited to get started, knowing I would change it later. At first, the idea was a couples travel blog, but that seemed saturated. Now the site is focused on Honeymoons and other romantic trips. Once I settled on a name, the old blog was redirected to a new domain that I use today. We have set out to be the best destination to find inspiration for couples looking for a vacation to keep their love strong. Having a clear niche makes reaching out to PR professional that much easier.
Find ways to provide value
One of the main questions every new travel writer has is how big do I need to be to get free travel? The Podcast will teach you that it really depends on the writer and the site they write for, but there are several ways to short cut your way to free travel. Dave’s Travel Corner mentioned in his interview that some writers have been able to secure free travel by contributing to his website.
In my first effort to get free travel, I reached out to hotels and promised coverage on my blog, as well as coverage in a guest post on a top travel blog and sent a link to a guest blog post I written on that blog. This puts the focus on the other blog instead of my small numbers getting started. I have also offered to pay to boost social posts beyond my followers.
Think about other ways you can enhance your coverage of a location. I have seen some bloggers take drone footage of destinations or create a video review of a site. If you are a great photographer, offer your images to your potential host. I also have extensive experience with SEO and offer advice there as more of a bonus for the destination. Think about what you can add of value to the coverage you can provide with your writing.
In several episodes, Alexa asks her the person she is interviewing for an example of something a writer had done that impressed them and most of the time there is a writer they remember who went above what they expect. On episode 97, Alexa shares that she routinely under promises and publishes an extra article that feels like a bonus to the destination she is covering.
Provide a few extra social posts than what you promised or extend you social media coverage beyond the trip. Deliver your content sooner than expected. Send some stats a few months after coverage. Think of other things you can do that will make sure you are remembered in a good way.
Do not be afraid to ask
You wont get any free travel or get anywhere without asking for things. Do not be afraid to write an email or make a phone call to ask for something. You never know when someone will provide you what you are looking for.
In the episode with Miwa Ogletree, Miwa gave an excellent piece of advice for people getting started in travel blogging. She suggested that if you do not get something for free, go as a paid customer and ask if you can cover their tour, hotel, attraction etc. At that point you are not just a travel writer, you are a paying customer and they have to listen to you. I used this technique on a recent trip in Europe. I emailed the hotels before I arrived to let them know they would be covered on my blog. It resulted in an upgrade from a normal room to a suite on the top floor with a private balcony and view of the Eiffel Tower.
Also recently, I wanted to visit a theme park, I found the phone number of the employee responsible for media passes. It only took a quick phone call and I had tickets waiting for me at will call.
Alexa shares constant stories of her own networking without directly saying it. Often in her introductions she shares how she met the guest at a conference, on a media trip or in some other way.
Reach out to someone today on social media or email someone a personal note. If you are trying to be a blogger, do not be a lone ranger behind your computer screen. Find meet ups in your city, join Facebook groups and just reach out to people who have blogs you enjoy.
Going to a conference may be the fastest way to network. You might want to make it a goal to make it out to a travel conference to meet other travel professionals.
Have a great attitude
As you work with other professional as you travel, have a positive attitude. Being easy to work with will go a long way. There are so many other writers they can choose to work with so you want to always put your best foot forward.
I know there are so many other lessons learned from the podcast, but these were some of the themes that stayed with me. If you are interested in becoming a travel writer, listen to the Break Into Travel Writing Podcast!