How to Start A Travel Blog with WordPress and Make Money

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Do you want to become a travel entrepreneur and support yourself and your family with your blog’s income?

Great!

But don’t jump to setting up your WordPress travel blog just yet.

First, you need to develop a business mindset toward your travel blog.

Before you log a single travel experience, you should be able to explain what’s different about your travel blog. You should also be able to identify the people you’re trying to connect with.

Another way to say this is:

You need to CHOOSE a niche.

Selecting a niche will help you stand out from thousands of other travel blogs. It will make it possible to attract a laser targeted audience who share the same interests as you. The importance of choosing a travel blog niche

Most travel blogs fail to make money because they don’t stick to a niche. Often such blogs end up being side projects … or just some random online travel journals.

These blogs don’t have a unique value proposition or a target audience.

If you’re only looking to create an online travel journal, there’s no problem if you don’t have these. But if you want to make a full-time income from your blog, you need to choose a niche.

Real life examples

Monica from The Travel Hack explains:

Unfortunately, ‘travel blogging’ is a saturated niche so if you want to make it, you need to target your niche even further to a more specific area of travel.Monica / The Travel Hack

Think about combining two niches such as:

  • Travel + fashion
  • Travel + cooking
  • Travel + children
  • Travel + reviewing boutique hotels
  • Travel + fitness
  • Travel + spas
  • Travel + festivals

Basically, Monica is suggesting to club your passion for travel with another one of your passions to create an ultra-specific niche.

Monica’s blog’s niche is obviously travel. However, she targets people who have full-time jobs and are looking to plan weekend travels. So her niche is weekend+travel.

Her about me page says - The Travel Hack is all about weekend breaks and affordable adventures.

Monica’s about me page says: “The Travel Hack is all about weekend breaks and affordable adventures.”

I know the idea of combining two niches will look a bit weird at first, but there are many successful travel blogs that have done so.

Take for instance, The Travel Bite’ blog.

At The Travel Blog, blogger Rachelle Lucas combines food with travel.

the-travel-bite

Rachelle’s blog says: “Welcome to The Travel Bite, a food and travel blog for inspiring active culinary vacations!”

Just like Monica and Rachelle, you too, need to transition from being a traveler to a particular kind of a traveler (blogger).

So, think out of the box.

travels-of-adam-berlin

Think about combining two niches.

For example, you can specialize in covering travel+festivals.

Even better, you can specialize in covering food festivals. Or maybe gay festivals.

A super-successful example of such specializing in a niche is that of travel blogger Adam from Travels of Adam (right image).

If the above brainstorming doesn’t help, use some suggestions from Jessica from Global Girl Travels:

  • Budget travel
  • Solo travel
  • Female travel
  • Travel photography
  • Adventure travel
  • Luxury travel
  • Around-the-world travel
  • Traveling for work
  • Food destinations
  • Music destinations
  • Off-the-beaten path travel
  • City or country guides

Maybe you’re wondering:

“Will I not limit my audience reach by sticking to niche? After all, I love all types and forms of traveling?”

Well, the answer is: NO.

You won’t.

While choosing a niche does force you to cater to a narrow segment in the broad travel-loving audience, it’s also the only way to connect strongly with this segment and to become their go-to resource when they plan their travels.

Once you connect with a niche of travel lovers, they’ll buy stuff based on your recommendation. They trust you when you recommend:

  • Travel gears
  • Tour packages
  • Hotels
  • Restaurants
  • Flights

The more these users trust your recommendations, the higher your income potential will be.

So before you move on to the blog setup phase, take a minute and fill out the following template:

I’m a travel blogger who covers ___________ travelling. I want to connect with people who _____________.

With that, you’re ready to start working on your WordPress travel blog. Let’s now see a simple 3-step process to build a travel blog with WordPress.

Step #1: Get the site up and running with a domain name and hosting

You can name your blog whatever you like, but it’s best to avoid terms like vagabond, traveler, adventurous, trip and more because the market is full of blogs with names containing these terms.

An easy solution is to use your own name as your site’s domain name.

Where to register your domain name?

Once you’ve zeroed in on a name, go to Namecheap and register it. Namecheap is one of the best domain name registrars that offers a competitive pricing and some great customer support.

Which hosting service to use?

After the domain name, you’ll need to buy a hosting. I’ve reviewed more than 50 hosting companies at WHSR. Based on that, for your needs, I’d recommend going with either InMotion Hosting, SiteGround (premium hosting), or eHost (budget choice).

These web hosts offer managed WordPress hosting and take care of issues like site updates and maintenance and backups.

This will free up all your time to work on your content.

Besides, their beginner plans (at eHost) are extremely cost-effective starting at as little as $2.75/mo.

Step #2: Choose a great travel blog WordPress theme

Once you’ve chosen a domain name and hosting, your next step is to choose a WordPress theme for your travel blog.

Free WordPress Themes

Here are two great free themes you can start with:

The Minimal

I’d easily call The Minimal one of the most thought-out and balanced free WordPress travel themes.

It has a clean typography and features a beautiful homepage slider. It’s responsive too, which means it looks great on tablet and mobile devices too.

The Minimalist comes packed with some very helpful widgets like the recent posts widget, the popular posts widget, the author bio widget, as well as the social media links widget.

If you had to do the work of installing and placing these widgets in a way that makes sense, you’d easily take many hours. This theme uses these widgets beautifully and has each of these at the perfect places.

Also, there are two menus, so you have more control over your site’s navigation.

It’s very likely that when you install the free version of this theme, you’ll like it so much that you might want to upgrade to the pro version.

The pro version costs $59.00 and comes with 6 beautiful page layouts in addition to some other pro features.

the-minimal

Demo & Details

Nomad

The Nomad WordPress theme is another beautiful option to consider.

It’s responsive and features a slick slider on the homepage. It also has up to 4 featured articles right under the slider.

I like the provision of the ad slot in the theme’s header. You can use it to promote offers from your partners.

Also, it has a widgetized area that you can use to offer additional information to your reader.

nomad

Demo & Details

Paid WordPress themes

In addition the above free themes, here are 3 paid themes for your consideration:

I had a difficult time finding the following themes, and that’s not because there are not many good WordPress travel blog themes, but because there are way too many. And choosing one that strikes the right balance between design and usability is quite a task.

I hope you like the following picks:

The Trip

The Trip is a gorgeous travel blog theme that comes packed with a powerful page builder.

The Trip’s page builder lets you choose one of the inbuilt page layouts and add design elements from the builder’s library to design beautiful website pages within hours.

This theme supports WooCommerce and has an elegant store page. You can use this to sell your products or affiliate products.

Another interesting feature of this theme is that it lets you schedule backups. So, the theme will automatically take a backup of your content on the days you days or dates you decide.

The backup feature saves you the need to install or buy a separate plugin for taking backups.

around-the-world

Demo & Details / Cost: $59.

Themefurnace also lets you test drive the theme before buying. Just visit the TestLabs area, sign up, and you can use the theme on the provider’s test environment.

Travelop

The Travelop theme is a beautiful WordPress travel blog that uses a plenty of white space.

Its design is easy on the eyes and helps the reader focus just on the content.

Travelop comes with 3 blog layouts: masonry, list, grid. You also get 3 header styles. I checked out the demo and all the blog layouts look great.

If you don’t like full-width themes, you can choose the boxed layout option. You can also position the sidebar as you like.

When I think from a blogger’s perspective, I wouldn’t ask for more than what this theme offers.

Of course, it doesn’t come with the bells and jingles of themes that have page builders and all, but you don’t always need all that hassle.

travelop

Demo & Details / Cost: $45.

If you like minimalism, another theme that you should check out is EightyDays from Greta Themes.

It’s lot like Travelop but has a very zen feel to it, thanks to all the white space. You can snag EightyDays for $40.

Hermes

This WordPress travel theme will stun you! When you check out the theme, you’ll see more than 39 layouts. These demos alone show how flexible Hermes can be.

You can use Hermes to create any kind of a travel blog and make it look as busy or as minimalist as you like.

You also get a page builder, so you can design customized layouts from scratch.

hermes

Demo & Details / Cost: $49.

3 features that make this theme a great option for a travel blog.

Feature #1. Provision to accept paid listings via Wiloke Submission

Wiloke Submission makes it possible for a user to signup for an account on your site and submit content about their services or products.

So, you can use this plugin to allow advertisers like travel gear vendors, inn-keepers, travel agencies, transport services to write content featuring their services, and charge them for publishing.

This is an excellent way to monetize a travel blog (we’ll discuss more in the next section).

Feature #2. A beautiful ratings widget

When you pursue a niche, your followers believe your reviews and recommendations. And a beautiful ratings widget is all you need to spice up your reviews. Hermes has you covered here.

You can even let your readers contribute their ratings to the products you discuss on your site. This can add a lot of social proof to your reviews.

Feature #3. An elegant poll widget

Even top publishers use polls to engage readers. Hermes comes with a simple poll widget that you can use to add polls to any part of your site.

Step #3: Choose the right WordPress travel blog plugins

There aren’t any special plugins that add travel blog-specific functionality to a WordPress site. But here are a few recommendations that will help improve your blog’s SEO and its overall user experience.

SEO by Yoast

This WordPress plugin helps you optimize your content for target keywords.

In addition to this core feature, SEO by Yoast lets you create your blog’s sitemap (and submit it to Google). You and also use SEO by Yoast to submit your blog to the various search engines — this feature will help in getting your blog indexed super-fast.

Demo & Details

WC Total Cache

WC Total Cache helps optimize a site’s performance. Primarily, it’s a cache plugin that serves a visitor cached copies of your website.

A cached copy is one where all the static elements (like the header and sidebar) are pre-loaded and only the contents that change are loaded dynamically.

Further, WC Total Cache improves a site’s loading time by file minification and compression.

Demo & Details

Thirsty Affiliates

Thirsty Affiliates helps you beautify your affiliate links.

So you can take an ugly link like http://mywebsite.com?refid=1235374374, and convert it to http://mywebsite.com/go/product -name/.

Demo & Details

Make money with your travel blog

Once your functional blog is ready and you’re ready with some content on it, you should begin with some of the following monetization tactics.

A lot of bloggers make the mistake of thinking, “Oh, let me reach the X visitors/month mark and then I’ll start monetizing the blog.”

There’s no real use of waiting. You can begin from DAY 1.

Let’s now see the various ways a travel blog makes money.

First comes the income that’s not in cash but:

Travel sponsorships or press tips.

When companies sponsor your travel, they cover your major travel expenses. And in return of this, you’re expected to feature the sponsor’s product or service on your blog.

Such travel sponsorships generally cover lodging, transportation, and sightseeing.

Try looking for travel sponsorships as early as possible.

The first step here is to identify businesses that ‘support’ bloggers.

Travel blogger Julie Smith from Drive On The Left gives this excellent tip to find sponsors for your travels.

She tells that the search phrase that travel bloggers use to find such businesses is:

“all opinions are my own ’[Niche]’ blog”

As you can understand, this is a disclaimer that’s usually written at the end of a review.

So, by looking for this keyphrase, you’re looking for the blogs in your niche that have posted reviews. There’s a very great chance that this review could be from a sponsored trip.

For example, if I were writing a travel blog covering Kuala Lumpur, my version of the search phrase would be:

"all opinions are my own’ Kuala Lumpur’ blog"

“all opinions are my own’ Kuala Lumpur’ blog”

The search results are travel blogs who’ve covered Kuala Lumpur.

Next, Jules suggests reading these blogs and looking for sentences like ‘Thanks to Hotel xx for supporting me on my visit…’

The following screenshot shows one of the search results. I searched for the word “support” and found the hotel that supported travel bloggers.

malaysia-food-blog

There you have it, a hotel that supports travel bloggers for accommodation.

Likewise, you need to find such businesses and reach out to them. Read Julie’s full post (it’s the best I could find for this purpose).

Also, some travel blogs have a past sponsors page where you can find the businesses who supported those blogs. Journey Wonders shares its list very graciously.

So that brings us to the other monetization methods.

Monetization #1: Freelance writing

I was surprised to find that a lot of travel bloggers offer freelance writing services.

But then I realized that travel bloggers are the best content creators for thousands of travel businesses and agencies.

Travel blogger Bryan Richards makes a substantial amount from his income from freelance writing.

travel-blog-income

And if you think that only newbie bloggers offer freelance writing, you’re wrong. Even established travel blogs offer this service.

Thrifty Nomads, a popular blog for travelers on a budget, gives not just freelance writing but even freelance photography services.

Freelance writing is an easy way to make money if you need support initially. You can send pitches to travel businesses and offer to write for them. This income could help you until your other passive income channels grow.

But:

When you go for this monetization method, balance between client work and your personal blog, or you might end up writing just for your clients, and your blog will be ignored.

To start getting freelance writing gigs, add a ‘Hire Me’ page to your WordPress travel blog.

Sign up for Elna Cain’s free freelance writing course: Write Your Way to 1k. If you have the means, get the pro version too. I know quite a few freelance writers who’ve benefited from it.

Monetization #2: Sponsored Content

Travel blogs are one of the very few niches where the readers accept sponsored content easily. In most other niches, readers get suspicious when a blogger posts sponsored content.

In sponsored content, you charge travel business to write about their products and services on your blog. Most travel blogs charge a flat fee upfront for such content.

When you’re just starting out, you’ll have to find such businesses and send cold pitches to them. When you email them, make sure a link to your advertising toolkit.

Some travel bloggers make their advertising kits available on their site freely while others require the potential sponsors to request.

Depending on your preference, either publish this information directly on a page called, ‘Work with us’ or mention on it that a sponsor can email you to access the kit.

Travel Blogger Vicky from VickyFlipFlop has uploaded her advertising kit directly to her WordPress site.

While she doesn’t give the rates of the various sponsorships or sponsored content, she gives a lot of information about her blog.

Her Vicky’s advertising kit is as vibrant as her blog and in it, she beautifully highlights:

  • The blog’s niche
  • Pageview stats
  • Stats about her social following

(Oh and BTW, you can see from Vicky’s services page that she too offers freelance writing, copywriting, and editing services.)

Monetization #3: Endorse products you use via affiliate marketing

The third important source of revenue for a travel blog is revenue from affiliate sale commissions.

You can review any product your blog followers will find useful. It could even be a travel mosquito repellent spray!

Pro Travel Blogs recommends checking out the following portals for finding products/services to endorse:

  • Amazon
  • Bookit.com
  • Booking.com
  • eBay
  • Expedia
  • Hotels.com
  • iTunes
  • STA Travel
  • TripAdvisor
  • Wotif

Before you apply to be an affiliate on these sites, add a lot of content to your site. Applying for these affiliate programs without a busy looking site might result in your application getting rejected.

There are many more online monetization methods (we’ve discussed another 20 here) But remember that most of your revenue will come from 3-4 of your monetization channels. So focus on developing these first.

Digging deeper: Travel blogging courses

There are a few very thorough premium travel blog courses that are created by successful travel bloggers. These are bloggers who make a six-figure income from their blogs.

If you follow the roadmaps these courses show, you’ll recover your course fee pretty soon. Here are two great courses for your consideration:

1. Travel Blog Success

Travel Blog Success is the most popular and detailed course on travel blogging. Right from monetization methods and setting up your blog to offering freelance writing services, this course has you covered.

 

Course Details / Costs: $447

2. The Business of Travel Blogging

nomadic-blog-course

Matthew Kepnes — founder of the award winning travel blog Nomadic Matt — has created this course. He promises to mentor and partner with you on every step of your blogging journey.

You can see the course modules below:

  • Design Tutorials – Learn what makes a website beautiful
  • Getting Media Attention – How to get featured online and in print
  • SEO Tutorials – Learn how to master Google
  • Tips for Social Media Success – Grow your following from day 1
  • Tech Support – Get your blog setup right
  • Branding Tutorials – How to choose a memorable name
  • Product Creation – Make things that people will want to buy
  • Guest Blogging – Get featured on other, bigger blogs
  • Recommended Books – Biographies and marketing and strategy books that changed my business
  • Expert Interviews – 10+ hours of exclusive interviews with the brightest online minds
  • Newsletter Tutorials – How to engage your readers
  • Marketing Strategies – How to launch and profit from your blog
  • Interactive Webinars – High-impact monthly webinars
  • Private Facebook Group – A community of hundreds of like-minded people
  • Case Studies – Four other successful travel bloggers

Course Details / Costs: $297 (3 monthly payment of $99)

Wrapping it up…

So that’s all the help you need to set up a great WordPress travel blog and monetize it.

The best way to learn about the travel blogging business model is to read income reports from other travel blogs (like this, this, this, this, and this).

With that, I wish you a lot of luck with your travel blog.