Table of content
- The right niche in travel bloging
- Domain name & web hosting
- Blog design: Which theme to use?
- Essential plugins
- Make money strategy #1: Freelance writing
- Make money strategy #2: Sponsored content
- Make money strategy #3: Affiliate marketing
- More resources & wrap up
- Platform – WordPress.org
- Web host – eHost, SiteGround, InMotion Hosting
- WP themes (free) – The Minimal, Nomad
- WP themes (paid) – The Trip, Travelop
- WP plugin – SEO by Yoast, WC Total Cache, Thirsty Affiliates
Do you want to become a travel entrepreneur and support yourself and your family with your blog’s income?
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.
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.
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.
Here's another instance, ‘The Travel Bite’ blog.
At The Travel Blog, blogger Rachelle Lucas combines food with travel.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 offer competitive pricing and some great customer support.
Which hosting service to use?
After the domain name, you’ll need to buy a web host. Jerry has reviewed more than 60 hosting companies at WHSR and written this helpful WordPress hosting guide.
Based on that, for your needs, I’d recommend going with either InMotion Hosting or Hostinger.
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:
Free theme #1: 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.
[icon file-text-alt] Demo & Details
Free theme #2: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.
[icon file-text-alt] 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:
Paid theme #1: 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.
[icon file-text-alt] 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.
Paid theme #2: 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.
[icon file-text-alt] Demo & Details / Cost: $45.
Also, 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.
Paid theme #3: 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.
[icon file-text-alt] 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: Essential plugins for your travel blog
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. For more recommendations, check out Christopher's post on 2016 most downloaded WP plugins.
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.
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.
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/.
Make money with your travel blog: HOW?
How it feels to get paid for travelling?
It took me a few years to figure out how I could earn money from travel blogging, while staying true to my travel style and my readers. But now that I’ve more or less managed to strike that balance, it feels a bit surreal that I can make nearly 80% of my living through my blog – which only began as a passion.
— Shivya Nath (in Cash Overflow interview)
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 sponsorship 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:
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.
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.
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 can be 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.
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.
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.
While she doesn’t give the rates of the various sponsorships or sponsored content, she gives a lot of information about her blog.
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:
- STA Travel
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's one for your consideration:
The Business of Travel Blogging
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)
(Note: Link to Nomadic Matt's site is an affiliate link. WHSR gets paid if you sign up via this link.)
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.