Looking to start a travel blog?
Believe me: you want to make sure you learn how to set it up correctly from the start. And then you want to figure out a business plan for how to grow your audience and a revenue stream.
The decisions you make when you are just starting a travel blog have cascading effects later in the life of your blog. That’s why it’s important to get it right from the beginning.
To help you out, I’ve put together this quick but detailed step-by-step guide to everything you need to do to set up a travel blog in just 6 easy steps.
A bit about me and Travel Lemming so you know I’m legit: I am a recovering lawyer who started the Travel Lemming travel blog in 2017 while on an extended backpacking trip around the world. It’s now my full-time gig, and Travel Lemming even has a great team of freelance writers who helps me publish a new travel guide almost every day!
I haven’t always been successful. I made some technical and strategic errors when I started this blog that really cost me. Silly things that I didn’t understand ended up holding me back. I got over it all obviously, but it could have been avoided had I known then what I know now.
To help you avoid my mistakes, I wrote this guide to how to start a travel blog from scratch:
You can also bookmark all my travel blogging guides for more free helpful tips. Ok, let’s dive in:
Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support my work by purchasing through the affiliate links on this page, which may earn a commission for this site. Thank you!
How to Start a Travel Blog
Step 1 – Pick a Niche
First things, first, you need to have a specific idea about what you will be writing about. Travel is a massive subject and a $3 Trillion industry. There is a lot of competition, but a small slice of a massive pie is still great. So you need to plan to focus on a niche to have any chance of gaining an actual audience.
Go for a niche that is narrow enough you might not have as much competition, but so narrow you won’t find an audience. Focus on a particular category of the travel industry. This could mean honing in on a type of travel, like backpacking travel, scuba diving travel, ski travel, etc. Or it could mean focusing on a destination, like a city, state, or country.
Go as narrow as you can, while remembering to still keep it broad enough to have enough people actually interested in the subject. Also, remember that right now the global tourism sector is in a sustained depression due to the global health crisis.
That means it’s hard to find an audience as a travel blogger in 2021, but there is good news: these days anyone with even a small online audience in the travel sector should be able to find decent monetization opportunities. We’ll get into how to make money later in this post, but you need the audience first..
After you have your niche, it’s time to pick a name:
Step 2 – Pick a Domain Name
You can’t start a travel blog until you have decided on a travel blog domain name. It’s important, so don’t rush through this step. Your domain name is possibly the most lasting decision you’ll be making at this stage. Nearly everything else can be easily changed down the line, but not your travel blog name.
A lot of obvious blog names are already taken, so use the tool below to see if your name is available:
Here are a few important rules of the road for picking a travel blog name:
- You should only use a .com extension (or possibly a country level like “.co.uk”) – anything else is an unnecesary gamble.
- Make sure your blog name describes your target niche accurately – don’t get too cute with the name, keep it descriptive.
- Keep it short (3 words max!)
- NO dashes or special characters
- Try to be original but still descriptive
- Keep your domain name broad – leave yourself space to grow your niche. Don’t box yourself into just writing about budget travel with a name like “cheaptraveldudes.com.”
If you get stuck trying to think of domain names and need some help brainstorming, check out my detailed step-by-step guide to how to choose a travel blog name.
Step 3 – Sign Up for a Hosting Company
After you’ve decided on a name, your next steps are:
- Buy your domain, and
- Sign up for a host (the company that serves your content).
Here’s the good news: you can easily do these two parts simultaneously through your host – all in a matter of minutes online. And hosting nowadays is ridiculously cheap. Typical hosting costs for a small to medium sized website are only $10-20 a month.
The cheapest reputable option is BlueHost.
Here’s all you have to do to get up and running with them in 5 minutes:
- Go to the BlueHost offer page.
- Hit the big green “Get Started Now” button (you can’t miss it).
- Select your plan: the cheap “basic” one will be just fine for your first year or two.
- Claim your free domain you decided on in Step One.
- Enter your name and the usual details, your credit card info, and check out.
Note: when you check out, you’ll see some “extras” in the checkout screen. You probably don’t need any of those except maybe the cheap domain privacy protection (I don’t personally pay for it, but doing so will help keep your personal details from being publicly accessible).
Step 4 – Install WordPress
Unless you are a hard-core coder capable of building your own site (yeah, I didn’t think so 🙂 ), you’ll need to use a website building tool to actually create your blog. By far the best and most popular platform for managing your travel blog is WordPress.org.
Important note: it is crucial not to confuse it with the very different WordPress.com. The latter is really for casual personal blogs that don’t seek an audience or making money. I would guess that 97% of travel bloggers use WordPress.org, and I wouldn’t dare recommend anything else.
The WordPress platform is 100% free and open source, and there are tons of free “plugins” that can help you customize your site without writing a single string of code.
Ok, so here is how you install WordPress. Assuming you signed up through BlueHost, this is a super simple process:
- Log in to your Bluehost cPanel account (you’ll receive this in an email).
- Find the Website section and select Install WordPress.
- Click the Install button.
- Choose the domain name to install it to. In the field next to the domain, you can enter a subfolder such as ‘blog’ or leave it blank if you want the site’s main page to be the blog.
- If necessary, you can edit the email address, username and password for the new WordPress installation. Click “advanced options” and you can change those settings.
- Read through the license and service agreements and check the boxes.
- Select the Install Now button.
Ok, on to the fun parts:
Step 5 – Choose a Theme
The next thing you need to do is pick and install a WordPress theme, which is basically a pre-made design for your site.
There are a ton of themes out there. If you’re on a tight budget, WordPress comes pre-installed with a few free ones. But since those are fairly basic and over-used, most travel bloggers choose to purchase a premium theme.
The options for premium themes are overwhelming. I’ve tried out several different themes, and my advice is to stick to a WordPress theme that is simple, fast, and has a free and premium version. Most of all, it should be a popular theme. Popular themes tend to have better-funded development teams, and are thus much more likely to last (many free themes crash or become buggy over time).
Don’t overthink design when it comes to picking your theme. The way things are going with WordPress’s future direction, Gutenberg is slowly growing its role. It will soon be, or argually already is, the more important software for controlling how your site looks, anyway. You’ll be able to style your site just fine with any of the themes I mentioned.
Step 5 – Customize Your Travel Blog’s Theme
Whatever WordPress theme you install, you’ll need to customize the theme to build your own travel blog. Most importantly, you’ll want to set up a homepage that looks professional and slick, using your own travel photos and your custom logo (to get one of those, you can hire a designer on Upwork or you can just create your own on Canva).
My advice when customizing your homepage is to pick a simple theme – again Astra, Generate, and Kadence are all great – and try not to mess with it too much. Insert your own original photos, change the colors to match your brand, upload your logo, and pretty much leave it at that. Until you are comfortable with WordPress, the less you touch, the less you can break.
Step 6 – Install Plugins (But Only a Few!)
Plugins are little pieces of code you have insert into your WordPress thing to make it do just about anything. They are one of the greatest things about WordPress, but they are also a trap. Do not install too many plugins. They will come into conflict with each other and crash your site. Stick to the essentials, and again only go for plugins that are updated regularly and supported by development teams.
These are the only plugins I would suggest for new bloggers:
- Rank Math – and SEO plugin, which in my view is better than the more popular Yoast SEO Plugin
- Akismet Anti-Spam – this helps blog spam commenters (I get dozens a day)
- Imagify – this helps compress your images so your site loads faster
- WP Rocket – a little more complicated, and optional in my book. But if you want to take it to the next level, this is the best site speed optimization plugin.
All of these are free or have free plans with limits that should be fine for new bloggers. All are very popular and backed by good development teams. Beyond the above, I would be very judicious about installing any more plugins.
Step 7 – Set Up Social Media Handles
Starting a travel blog requires more than just setting up your site! You also have to start social media accounts to help build your following and analytics tools to track your progress. Let’s start with social media.
At a minimum you should definitely at least claim your brand handles for:
- Instagram – I have a love/hate relationship with Instagram. But, like it or not, most every travel blogger needs an Instagram account nowadays.
- Facebook – Start a business page on Facebook under your blog’s name, and then use it to promote your content and build a following. You can also try starting a group once you get enough of a following.
- Pinterest – I knew nothing about Pinterest when I started travel blogging, but now it’s my #2 source of traffic (behind Google). It’s a great platform for driving traffic to your blog!
- Twitter – Twitter doesn’t drive much traffic, but a lot of destinations and brands use it, so it’s helpful to have a presence there.
Additionally, if you plan on create travel videos, you should make a YouTube account for your brand. Note that you’ll need 100 followers before YouTube will let you claim a custom URL. The above are the main social media platforms, but others you might consider using include: Flipboard, Snapchat, Reddit, Tik Tok, and Quora.
Step 8 – Set Up Google Analytics and Search Console
I can overstate how important data analytics is to becoming a successful travel blogger.
There are two tools you absolutely need to track your progress on your site: Google Analytics and Google Search Console. These progrmas will give you great data on how many people are coming to your website, what they are reading, how long they are staying, and some basic information about who they are. This is invaluable, and you want to start collecting it right away even if your traffic is low.
It is not nearly as hard as you think! Here are instructions for Google Analytics and for Google Search Console. The hardest part is adding the verification tag to your theme. It depends on the theme you chose, but most should have instructions included in their support section. There are also plugins you can use to insert the tracking code if that doesn’t work.
Step 9 – Write Your First Blog Post
After you have your home page, about page, and theme set up, it’s time to create your first blog post!
To write blog posts in Word Press, simply go to Posts > Add New in the left hand column of your WordPress dashboard. That will open up the WordPress post editor, where you can start to craft your first post using the handy Gutenberg editor. It’s fairly intuitive to use, but here are some good training videos if you need help.
For your first post, I suggest writing a post that will help your readers. Learn the basics of SEO in particular, and try to use keyword research to find topics readers are likely to be searching for. Then try to write a better blog post than the content that is already out there on the web.
👉 Pro tip: it’s worth learning how to use Gutenberg now, even if haven’t gotten to this point yet. WordPress offers this super cool free Gutenberg emulator you can use to practice right now.
Step 10 – Learn the Basics of Travel Blogging for Begginers
Ok, after you’ve published your first post, your final step to travel blogging is to read my guide to travel blogging for begginers.
Done reading it?
(ok, at least bookmarked it hopefully?) …
Well, congratulations, you have now started a travel blog! Sure, the blog is just one post, but from here on out the process of creating content is really just one of iteration. Rinse and repeat. Make it a little better each time. Learn as you go.
Publishing content is only one part of what it takes to start a successful travel blog, however. You now need to learn how to turn that blog into a business.
How to Make Your Travel Blog Successful
Making a travel blog into a successful travel blog boils down to two things: find an audience, find a monetization method. I’ll break down each part:
How to Find an Audience
To create a travel blog that is successful, the first thing you need to do is find an audience. You can opt for an audience on someone else’s platform, like YouTube or Instagram or Tik Tok. But it’s often hard to push that audience to your own website, so you need to decide where you will focus your efforts.
This is the simple approach I think is most likely to lead to success for most newbie travel bloggers:
- Take the time to learn SEO early – Search-engine-optimization (“SEO”) is super important to being successful as a travel blogger, as it’s the most consistent way to drive traffic to your blog.
- Realize that blogging takes a lot of time – Don’t count on any real income or meaningful traffic for a year, possibly more.
- Make sure to write informative and useful content – “Diary” type posts probably aren’t useful to your reader. Informative articles, or inspirational ones, are much more likely to get read by people not named your mom. Make a genuinely good and useful guide!
That’s it – for me, focusing on search engine optimization from the get go just makes the most sense – if you are patient with it.
With time, your audinece will grow. And then, you’ll get to the next step – and the one you’ve probably been waiting to talk about:
How to Make Money With a Travel Blog
Ok, so now that you know the setup mechanics down, let’s talk about the question that’s top of everyone’s mind:
How do you make your travel blog generate revenue?
The short answer is that there are a lot of different ways to earn with travel blogging. Lets quickly cover some of the most common revenue sources for travel bloggers:
Probably the most common method for monetizing a travel blog, affiliate marketing basically involves partnering with an online retailer who gives you a commission anytime on of your blog posts sends traffic their way that makes a purchase.
You implement this through special tracking links (like those on this article for the products I mention).
Most major travel brands have an affiliate program you can sign up for. Common ones include Amazon Associates, World Nomads (for travel insurance), and Booking.com for hotels. But there are literally tens of thousands of programs out there for just about any product.
Online ads don’t make a ton of money per visitor, but they can add up to significant income if you have a ton of eyeballs. And running ads is the easiest and most straightforward way to make money from starting a travel blog.
There are many different ad programs you can join, but most of the premium ones require a certain number of monthly sessions before you can qualify (I’m currently on the AdThrive network, which is popular with travel bloggers but requires 100,000+ monthly page views to apply).
If you’re just starting out and want to try your hand at ads, you can use Ezoic to get some basic ads running on your site. Just realize you’ll need lots of traffic – and the right traffic – to really start making money from ads.
Selling Your Own Products
In a lot of ways, this is the most profitable option if you can make it work for you.
If you own your own products, you’ll be making the entire profit margin off their sale, rather than just a small cut from your affiliate. Here are some common products that travel bloggers sell:
- T-shirts, tote bags, or other physical products
- Online courses
- Photography presets or filters
Info products like ebooks are a particularly attractive option for making money from a blog because the marginal cost of good is so low, meaning that each sale is 90%+ profit.
Start a Tour
A trending income source for travel bloggers to sell tours to their audience.
Basically, you package up a tour, working with hotel and tour operators to arrange for an awesome group itinerary. Then you select some dates, create a page to sell the tour and take deposits, and then try to get your audience to sign up.
Though I’ve yet to do it, I understand tours can be relatively lucrative.
And the best part is that, unlike the other methods mentioned above, you don’t really need a huge audience – all you need are six to ten people willing to pay to travel with you.
I’ve seen some relatively new travel bloggers create and sell out tours, so it’s definitely feasible.
This is a broad category, but there are many different ways to make money through partnership or sponsorship with brands.
At the most basic level, many travel bloggers pitch hotels or tour companies for comped trips in exchange for a review or inclusion in a blog post, Instagram post, or YouTube video.
Honestly, I don’t love this method for making money, since unless you’re also paid it’s not super sustainable in the long run.
As you grow your travel blog, you may also have the opportunity to get longer term sponsorships from bigger travel brands. These can be far more lucrative.
Similar to a partnership, but a bit different, press trips are usually organized by a tourism board.
They usually involve a group of bloggers, influencers, and journalists traveling through a destination on a pre-arranged tour and then generating content to promote the destination.
When you are starting out, most press trips will probably only cover your travel costs. But travel bloggers with larger audiences can get paid (sometimes thousands of dollars) for taking press trips. It’s a decent way to get paid for travel blogging, though it’s not my personal favorite because I don’t like to mix travel and work.
Freelance Travel Writing
Freelance writing just involves writing articles for other websites and make money for it. Many online travel sites and magazines pay writers (I’ve even done it!), as do many brands for their own blogs.
While this isn’t exactly a way to make money from a travel blog, since you can technically do it without a blog, I do think that starting a travel blog is very helpful if you want to get freelance travel writing projects.
Check out our guide on how to become a freelance travel writer to get started.
FAQs for Begginer Travel Bloggers
How do travel bloggers get paid?
There are different monetization methods available to travel bloggers. The most popular are display advertising revenue and affiliate marketing. Other ways that travel bloggers get paid include sponsorships or selling their own products or tours.
How much does it cost to start a travel blog?
The minimum cost required to start a travel blog is around $10 for domain registration per year, and $5 to $50 per month for a good WordPress web host. Most other tools involved are either optional or free. The real cost is your time and effort.
How do I create a travel blog?
The first step to creating a travel blog is deciding on a niche. Next, you must choose and register a domain name, install your CMS system, and then begin creating your content.
Is travel blogging profitable?
Travel blogging can be profitable but, like any start up or small business, carries a great deal of risk with it. You will need to invest a lot of your time into creating the travel blog, likely years, before you see signficant profit.
Do travel bloggers travel for free?
It is a common misconception that travel bloggers travel for free. In fact, even travel bloggers who take sponsored trips are paying for their travel with their labor and content. With that said, successful travel bloggers can enjoy nice perks.
That’s it for this quick guide to how to create a travel blog. Remember that creating a successful travel blog takes time, patience, and the willingness to learn. Travel blogging takes time, so just remember to plan for that.
If you have any questions about starting your blog, or if you just want to connect, please scroll down and leave me a comment! I’d love to read your blog once it’s up and running!