A 5-step guide to starting your own travel blog
As a travel blogger one question I often get asked is how do you become a travel blogger?
Being a travel blogger is just a matter of setting up a blog and writing about travel. It can be a hobby or something that becomes a business.
Starting a travel blog has been one of the best business decisions I’ve made. I started my own travel blog in 2009 which has brought me all kinds of benefits and business opportunities. It’s given me a platform as a travel writer and helped me become a leader in the digital nomad space. I’ve been offered paid writing jobs in international press, invited to countries from tourism offices, and received leads for my web business.
From a non-business perspective I’ve made countless friends with people who found me via the blog, and I love having an online archive where I can look back at all the stories and photos from my travels.
Whether you’re looking to become a professional travel blogger or just want online travel journal to share your travel stories with the world, I’ve put together a quick-start guide on how to start a travel blog.
Following these steps will get you online in less than half an hour. From there it’s up to you how much time you put into your blog; from a once-a-week hobby to a full-time business.
How to start a travel blog in 5 steps:
- Choose a name for your travel blog
- Register your domain and buy hosting
- Install WordPress
- Choose a theme
- Install plugins
Step 1: Choose a name for your travel blog
If you already know what you’re going to call your blog then you can progress to the next step of buying your domain and hosting.
If you’re still thinking about what to call your site I have written a guide to choosing a domain name for your travel blog. This is an important step as you don’t wan’t to be stuck with a name you don’t like or one that limits your future blogging.
Once you have picked a name you’re ready to register your blog name and get a domain and hosting package.
Step 2: Register your domain and buy hosting
To get a website online you need to register a domain (like travelbloggersguide.com) and rent hosting space (the company that keeps your site online). These are two separate items, though many hosts will sell both domain and hosting.
For domain and hosting I personally recommend Bluehost, which I use for many of my sites – including travelbloggersguide.com. Bluehost is one of the biggest hosting providers in the world, and I’ve been using them here since 2009.
With Bluehost you also get a free domain with your hosting (otherwise a domain name normally costs about $10-15 a year to register).
You can buy the cheapest package available (starter) which is enough for a new blog.
Start setting up your site by ordering your domain and hosting here and follow these instructions.
On the Bluehost page go to the top nav bar and select products > shared web hosting.
From there click get started now and select starter. If you will be hosting more than one site select plus (you can upgrade later if you start a another site).
Next you will be asked to register your domain name.
Assuming your chosen domain is available you will then be taken to the account information page. Fill in your account details as required.
For the package information I opt out of the extras, but if you want to keep your domain ownership private you can opt in here. Domain registrants are required to publish the name and address of the owner of a domain. If you are not comfortable with your address being made public then select Domain Privacy Protection.
You now have domain and hosting for your travel blog. The next step is to set up WordPress.
Step 3: Install WordPress
WordPress is the world’s most popular blogging platform and I use it for this site. I have used other blogging platforms for other sites and WP is by far the most user friendly. WordPress is free to download and can be done within your hosting account.
It is estimated that WordPress is operated by 25 to 33% of all websites on the internet, so that gives you an idea of how popular it is.
WordPress is so popular because you can create a website without having to know anything about code. You can make a website with a ready-made website template (called a theme) without worrying about how it works. All you need to do is type in your content into a box (similar to an email composition box) and hit “Publish”. It’s non-technical nature has let anyone to be able to become a publisher online.
WordPress also have thousands of plugins available which can be downloaded to enhance your site. You won’t need any to get started but you will soon learn about plugins once you start designing your site.
To install WordPress onto your blog, login to your Bluehost account which will take you to your cPanel.
Click on the hosting menu, find the section called Website and select “Install WordPress”.
Next you will be taken to an installation page. Select Install at the Do it yourself (FREE) option.
From here select which domain you would like to install to. You can choose to select your domain with a www or without. I’ve written about which one to use, but I say just pick which one you prefer.
At the next step select Show advanced options. Here you will set your username and password for your site.
Enter your details and select Install Now.
Congratulations, you have now installed WordPress on your blog. You will get an email with your login details, or you can go straight to your login page at yoursitename.com/wp-login.php.
Once you are logged in you should select a good permalink structure. This is what the blog post link looks like after the .com.
A new WordPress installation will set your URL to the default “Plain”:
If a visitor sees this link outside your site they will have no idea what it is for. I prefer “Post Name”, which makes posts look like this:
To fix this, go to your left hand column and select Settings > Permalinks. From there select the “Post Name” option.
There are other options of course, and if you want to read more about that, here is my post about WordPress permalinks. The main thing is to get this right the first time, so you don’t find yourself wanting to change your link structure once you have an established blog.
Step 4: Choose a theme
After WordPress is installed on your domain you can technically start publishing immediately using the pre-installed theme. A theme is separate to the WordPress installation which controls the look and functionality of the website. This system allows you to pick a pre-made design without having to know anything about PHP, HTML, CSS, or any other scary coding acronym’s.
While the pre-installed themes are practical to get started, you are better off finding another theme to differentiate yourself from the thousands of blogs that didn’t bother to change the default theme.
To change your theme, go to the menu on the left hand side and select Appearance > Themes. In that section you will see preloaded themes from WordPress.
For free themes you can start looking in the official WordPress Theme Directory. This is a good place to begin if you are starting out and haven’t settled on a look for your site. These themes are connected to your Themes contol panel, so you can also browse and upload directly from your site.
I personally use and recommend StudioPress, which I use on this site. This is a premium theme, which you can buy for a fraction of what a custom-made site would cost.
There are thousands of themes to choose from though, so here is a more detailed guide for choosing a WordPress theme.
Step 5: Install plugins
In addition to themes, the other feature that allows you to change the look of your site are plugins. A plugin is additional software that can be installed on your blog to enhance its features and functionality. At the time of writing there were over 40,000 available plugins, but you should use as few as possible (I use 9 here) because too many may slow your site speed.
To get started here are the plugins I always install on new sites:
Akismet – Filters out the avalanche of spam comments that WordPress blogs attract.
Wordfence – WordPress security plugin provides free protection from hacks and malware.
Jetpack by WordPress.com – Provides a range of features within one plugin, including adding site stats to your dashboard.
Plugins are something you can play with as you get used to how WordPress works. For example there are dozens of social sharing plugins, which allows readers to easily share your blog on social media. They all have different styles so browse for the one that best suits your site.
You might find that you need a specific functionality added to your theme, so just Google it and see if someone has already made it.
Reserve your Gmail and social media names
Once you have picked your domain name you should also reserve your Google email alias, preferably the same name as your domain.
Also reserve you social media names using the same name as your domain. Even if you don’t think you’ll use them it is better to get before someone else takes them. At the very least register:
If you really want to go crazy and lock down your name everywhere, Knowem lists over 500 sites where you can create a public username.
Set up Google Analytics
One of the reasons you need a Gmail account is to be able to access wide variety of services that Google offers. When it comes to finding out how many visitors your blog is getting, Google Analytics is one of the best traffic counters for websites. It is also the industry standard, so if in the future an advertiser wants to know your website stats, they will want to know stats provided by Google.
Analytics provides details like daily visitors and page views, what country your visitors come from, and which websites sent you the traffic, among many other stats.
When you open your account you will be given a unique code to place on your blog. You will need to check with your Theme to see where to place the code. If you get stuck and don’t know where to place the code, use the Google Analytics For WordPress plugin. Try and use as few plugins as possible though, so just this until you figure out your theme settings.
Start an email list
Ask most established bloggers and they will say that that they wish they started a mailing list earlier. Email subscriptions are not handled by hosting providers so you need to do this independently. An email list is a great way to keep your readers up to date on your site. Even if you don’t know how you will yet use your mailing list you should start collection email lists. There are many email services out there, and they do get quite expensive once you start growing a serious list. A good option for beginners is Mailerlite, which is free for the first 1000 subscribers, or Mailchimp, which has offers 2000 free subscribers. If your mailing list needs get more complex you can always move your list – the important thing is to get that list started.
Travel blogging FAQ’s
In addition to the technical questions of setting up a blog, here are some of the most frequently asked questions about starting a travel blog.
How much does it cost to start a travel blog?
At a bare minimum it will cost just under $50 for the first year for your hosting and domain. Most hosts provide a half price first year rate, so expect to pay about $100 per year after that. From this domain and hosting base other optional expenses will accumulate as you craft a blog to your own taste and needs.
How can I start a blog for free?
If you’ve read this and just want to start a free travel blog you can do so at wordpress.com. You will get a domain with WordPress in the domain, like travelbloggersguide.wordpress.com. There are other blogging platforms as well, such as Blogger, which gives you a blogspot.com domain, though I recommend WordPress. The free site is fine if you just want to write on the cheap and have to desire to turn your blog into something larger.
Do I have to quit my job to start a travel blog?
It’s become a popular theme in the travel blogging space to declare that you “quit your job to travel the world!” While that is great if you are in the position to do so, most people are happy to keep their job and travel part time. Indeed, with such a low barrier to entry, travel blogging in your spare time is a low-risk way of discovering if full time travel blogging is for you.
Can I make money by blogging?
Absolutely! Before I began my travel blog in 2009 I had been making money online since 2003 by making travel websites.
How can I make money travel blogging?
Thee are numerous ways to make money from a travel blog, so it will depend on what type of site you have created. Some ways you can make monetize a travel blog include:
– Affiliate marketing.
– Banner advertising.
– Membership sites.
– Writing physical books (from memoirs to traditional guide books).
– Sponsored posts.
– Paid press trips.
Is it true that travel bloggers get paid to travel the world?
In addition to being paid cash for your writing services or advertising on your blog, some travel bloggers are also offered free tours, hotel stays, flights, and travel gear for reviewing. In addition to free travel, some promotional campaigns also pay a daily rate and expenses on top of that. So yes, some bloggers are getting paid to travel the world. Of course you have to ask yourself if this is what you want to do on your blog, and if your readers trust your judgement when being paid to write about a place. That is a topic for a separate blog post..
So can I travel the world for free as a travel blogger?
Sigh. I’m hearing this one more often than I would like, often from travel blogs that are selling the dream, so to speak. I always think back to my high school economics class, which is where I first heard the phrase “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. If it was free travel then that would mean you are getting something for nothing. Some of the most prominent bloggers I know who have most of their travels paid for are also among the hardest working bloggers I know. They are the ones holed up in their hotel room putting together a weekly newsletter or editing the days video, or expanding on their notes for a 5000 word in-depth article on a destination they just visited.
How much money can I make from a travel blog?
There are so many variables that go into a successful travel blog so there is no simple answer. Some part-time blogs might make ten dollars a month, while others are making ten of thousands of dollars a month.
There are a number of bloggers who are on record saying they earn six figures a year, and one of the biggest blogs nets around $750,000 annually. I also know bloggers that are making a comfortable income that aren’t blogging about it.
Should I set my site up on a premium host?
If you read some of the more established travel blogs you may notice that they promote web hosting that costs anywhere from $25 to $150 a MONTH! On my main travel blog I have now graduated to a premium host which costs $25 a month. Don’t worry though, you don’t need this level of hosting for a new blog.
Premium hosting is useful for when your blog is getting over 100,000 visitors per month. At that point having a dedicated server and optimising your site for that fastest possible load times can make a difference in your rankings. For a brand new site though these small improvements isn’t worth the extra cost.
I want to be a travel writer for magazines and newspapers. Should I still start a blog?
You should especially start a blog if you want to write for traditional media outlets. I’m still amazed when I meet traditional writers who don’t have a home on the web. Consider a blog as an online business card. You can promote your writing services here and list your work catalog. You can also use the blog for article that don’t have a place for publication.
Personally I have not actively pursued writing for magazines as my time is more productive spent on other sites I run. Even so, I still been approached by publications out of the blue asking me to contribute. Having a blog is another avenue for someone to find you.
More travel blogging questions
The instructions up to this point will get you online but what you spend on improving your WordPress site and promoting your blog is up to you.
Now that you have a site up and running the most important task at hand is to start writing. After all, no one is going to visit an empty site, no matter how cool your site looks.
If you have any more questions regarding travel blogging, leave a comment or send me a message and I will continue to expand the FAQ section. For longer answers I will write a blog post.
If you have found this guide useful for starting a your own blog let me know the name of your site in the comments!