How to Start a Travel Blog: The Ultimate Guide
Do you love to travel? Want to share your experiences with the world? Or have another passion you want to share? Join the world of blogging!
In this blogging tutorial, I’m going to show you how to start a travel blog easily in about 15-30 minutes
A longtime travel writer, I started my Go to Travel Gal blog, because I discovered the world of traveling free using points and miles and figured out a way to do it simply. I saw a niche in market that was not being filled: a blog focused on the simplest ways to travel free. All the blogs I followed on the topic were too complicated and overwhelming for the average traveler. I decided to focus my blog only around the simplest and most efficient programs to help people travel free, like Southwest Rapid Rewards.
Note: This post contains affiliate links for which I may earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking through. I appreciate your support by using these links, as they enable me to pay the blogging bills and continue to bring you great detailed information like this FREE!
Whether you simply want to share your journeys with a broader audience or you have tips and information that you think will help other travelers, welcome to the world of blogging. Just like traveling with miles and points, blogging DOES NOT have to be complicated and in fact, can be very simple.
Follow along to learn how.
Here is the Table of Contents if you want to skip to a topic below:
- How to Make Money Blogging
- Picking Your Blog Topic
- Choosing a Host and Domain Name
- Blogger or WordPress?
- Choosing Your Domain Name
- Purchasing Your Domain Name and Host Step-by-Step
- Working With WordPress in Bluehost
- How to Install WordPress
- Selecting Your WordPress Theme
- Creating Content in WordPress
- My Favorite WordPress Plug-ins
How to Start a Travel Blog
In this post, I’m going to share with you the most basic steps to get your blog from an idea in your head to a full-fledged website ready for you to start sharing your thoughts with the world!
Can I Make Money Blogging?
This is usually everyone’s first quesion. The answer is yes, absolutely, but don’t expect it overnight. You should start blogging because you want to, because you have a passion for the topic. If not, you’ll never make money, because your love won’t shine through and you won’t be motivated to keep going through the challenging days.
How can you make money blogging? Here are the most common routes:
Affiliate Linking – There are many affiliate programs for products and services you love that allow you to earn a commission for any sales you send their way. Affiliate companies serve as the middle man between you and the retailer. Take a look at affiliate programs through CJ, FlexOffers and ImpactRadius to get started where you can earn through sales of hotel bookings, airline bookings, travel products, credit card sign-ups, attraction tickets and more. Amazon also has an awesome affilate program.
Selling Products – You can also sell products via your blog, but you’ll first need an audience. They are going to come either by traffic to your site from some source like Google, Pinterest, Facebook or other sites linking to you — or a mix of all those — or through your growing email list. You’ll need a loyal following before people will be willing to pay you money for your product.
Consulting – Do you know a lot about a topic that others don’t? Consider consulting by the hour or project, using your readers as your target customer.
Ad Neworks – When you reach a certain level of viewership, you can participate in ad networks that pay you for each person who clicks through on the ad. These networks include Google AdSense, Mediavine, Monumetric and others. But ads can be a turnoff to viewers, so be careful you don’t oversaturate your blog with ads right away. Focus on content first.
Advertising – Companies may be willing to pay you for sponsored posts (posts you write but they pay to sponsor in order to have their name included or mentioned within the post) or visual ads that you place on your blog. They may also be willing to pay you to send an advertising email to your email list (again, be careful here not to run off your loyal readers).
Teaching a Course – There are some amazing platforms that allow you to easily set up an online course to teach a topic on anything you can imagine. They also provide guidance on what to teach, how to price the course and how to promote the course to your audience for maximum sales. I love Teachable and have a paid course on How to Fly Free Around the U.S. (a topic I have spend loads of time researching). Before you spend time creating an entire course, you may want to check in with your readers to see what they are and are not interested in. Also, consider your topic and if it’s something readers will be willing to pay a premium to learn.
Top Tip: My advice is to first spend your time building a loyal following without focusing on income generation. Once you have a large following, you can begin to dip your toes in the above to find what works for you. Some readers just won’t click on affiliate links, while others won’t pay out of pocket for a product or course. It’s a process of trial and error to find out what works for you and your readership. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! The winners at blogging are the ones who persist.
Picking Your Blog Topic
I’m not going to spend much time here, because if you’ve arrived at this post, you’ve probably already got an idea. But I will say that you should be sure to choose a topic you love, that you’re passionate about, that you would talk about for free — all day long. These are the topics that will keep your blog going when you’re tired, overworked and even burnt out.
And it’s your passion that will build your readership. They will be able to see that you love the topic, that you’ve lived it firsthand and that you can relate to their experiences. THAT is what will make your blog ultimately successful. If you don’t have passion, stop now and brainstorm what you ARE passionate about and what the world could learn from you.
This is the Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) 🙂 method of setting up a blog. I’m going to tell you the most basic and efficient ways to get things up and running as fast as possible.
Step 1: Choosing a Host and Domain Name
To start your blog, you’re going to need a “host.” A host is literally the physical spot where the data for your blog will be stored. This includes all text and photos you will upload to the blog, as well as the photos and graphics that will make up the design of your blog.
I like Bluehost. They are cheap, easy to use, ideal for beginners, and provide 24-7 customer service for all your blogging questions. You’re also welcome to give me a shout :). You’re less likely to get confused and they provide everything you need for a beginner.
If your blog gets really big, you might want to upgrade to a more sophisticated and expensive host that can handle tons of traffic, but for quite a while Bluehost is going to work just fine.
- FREE domain name with 12-month sign-up
- 30-day moneyback guarantee if you change your mind
- Intuitive to use
- 24/7 support for beginners via phone, email or live chat (my preferred)
- WordPress is free through Bluehost
- One-step WordPress install (I will explain below, but it’s very simple) and known for its excellent WordPress support
- Per PC Magazine, it has excellent uptime (which means your website is rarely “down” or “not live,” which can be an issue I’ve experienced with other hosts)
- You also get 5 email accounts (you will WANT an email account with your blog domain name, so readers can email you)
- And $200 in offers from companies like Facebook and Google when you sign up
Bluehost is a well-established company, hosting more than 2 million WordPress websites, and is considered to be one of the top web hosts. It is the hosting company partner of Google Domains. If Google thinks it’s good, then it probably is :).
Step 2: Blogger or WordPress?
You may have read that you can set up a blogger blog for free without any hosting and that’s true. But a Blogger blog, which sits at BLOGNAME.blogspot.com, is not built to appear well in Google — and that’s key for any blog — and has several other major drawbacks.
If you want your blog to grow beyond your friends and family, you will want it to begin showing up when people type in keywords related to your blog topic in their search engine. For example, I write a lot about Southwest Airlines, so I want to appear when people search for “Southwest check in” or “Southwest Companion Pass.” Blogger is not built for this; WordPress is.
I have had many websites in my day and currently operate two blogs. I love WordPress. It offers sophisticated options with a simple user interface and it is already built to appear well in Google. WordPress powers more than a-quarter of websites! There’s a reason why!
Here are some other downsides to Blogger:
- Google owns it so can delete it at any time
- Can’t tailor your home page; your only option is to show your latest blog post
- Limit of only 10 pages (if your blog grows, you’ll need more than 10 pages!)
- Generic design; you only have a handful of templates to choose from, which you cannot alter like you can in WordPress
- You can’t moderate comments (moderating means allowing some comments, while trashing others); it’s either all or nothing
- Limit of 1GB of photo storage. If this will be a travel blog, photos will be very important, as they are for any blog today. You don’t want to be limited on photos.
Anyway, you get the idea…
You’ll want to choose a “self-hosted” WordPress blog, which means you purchase the domain name and then load WordPress onto your server (more about that below).
Step 3: Choose Your Domain
A domain is the actual URL — www.NAME.com — you will give your blog. My domain is GotoTravelGal.com.
Here are some tips when choosing a domain name:
- Use keywords — If you want to do better in Google search results, include some keywords in your domain name that you think people might search for in relation to your blog.
- Keep it short — You don’t want to have some super long domain name that no one can remember or that is tough to fit on a business card or other promotional materials.
- Make it memorable — Make it something people will more easily remember. www.T3Travel77.com is NOT memorable :).
Should I use .com or can I use another extension?
What a domain ends with — .com, .org, .gov, .edu — is called its “extension.” When you are buying your domain name, you will be able to choose between .com and some others, including:
In general, it’s best to use .com if you can find the domain name you want available as a .com. It could be that someone already owns that domain name. .Com names are becoming fewer and farther between. I like .com because it’s what most people will assume is the end of your domain because it’s the most common.
However, if you just can’t find what you need in .com, I’d try .travel for a travel blog or another related extension for a different type of blog.
Step 4: Purchasing Your Domain and Host
With Bluehost, you get a FREE domain when you sign up for a year of hosting at $5.45/month (or you can choose 36 months for $3.95/month), which is extremely cheap. So if you don’t already own your domain, you might as well get it FREE when you sign up for hosting.
While Bluehost does not offer month-to-month payment plans, I think that’s a good thing. When starting a blog, you tend to procrastinate, as it’s not the item at the top of your to-do list shouting at you to get done. If you know you’ve paid for a year, you’ll be more motivated to get this sucker up and running and start posting to it!
Want more accountability? Email me and I’ll bug you every month to get going 🙂
Step-by-Step How to Sign up for Bluehost Hosting and a Domain
1. Click through my Bluehost link
2. Select the BASIC PLAN option
You won’t need anything more than this to start.
3. Enter your choice of domain name.
If you can’t figure out a domain name yet, wait until a pop-up box appears that will let you skip this part and give you a credit to get your free domain later.
If you do want to try to find a domain name, enter it in the New Domain box. If the domain is not available, it will give you some similar options to choose from. If you don’t like them, just click the Back button on your browser and start again with a different option.
4. If you already have a domain name, enter that in the I Have a Domain Name box.
5. Create Your Account
Next, you will fill in the information for your account, including name, address, business name, phone and email.
6. Choose Your Package
Scroll down to Package Information and select the least expensive Basic 12 month price – $5.45/month or another option if you prefer. You do not need to check any of the other boxes.
7. Complete Your Payment
Enter your credit card information to complete the transaction.
Working With WordPress in Bluehost
So once you have your domain name and your hosting purchased, you’re ready to create your blog.
With Bluehost (and any host), you will have a Control Panel, which is where you will control certain aspects of your blog. The first thing you will want to do is install WordPress.
How to Install WordPress
1. Log into your Bluehost cPanel (control panel) account by typing in your domain and password and then click Submit.
2. Scroll to the Website area and then select Install WordPress.
3. Select the green Install button.
4. Choose your domain name for your blog from the drop down and then select Check Domain. It should be the only one listed if you’ve only purchased one domain name.
5. Click on the Advanced settings to give your blog a name and then choose your username and password (make it secure so that it won’t be hacked; if you don’t fill this in, WordPress will assign these for you) that you will use to access WordPress.
6. Read through and check the boxes for the license and service agreements.
7. Select Install Now.
Here is a video walk-through of the above from Bluehost:
Setting Up Your WordPress Blog’s Design
After you install WordPress, you will be presented with some options to give your blog a “theme.” You can stick with the basic theme for now or purchase an upgraded theme. I’d advise staying with the basic theme during the install stage.
Logging into WordPress
To make any changes to your WordPress blog, you will work within WordPress’ very intuitive admin area.
To access your admin portion of WordPress, type in your blog’s domain name followed by “wp-admin”. So my blog’s admin access is: GotoTravelGal.com/wp-admin.
You will then be prompted to enter your username and password for WordPress that you set up during install.
Once you are logged in, select Appearance on the left. There you can view free themes that have been loaded onto your site as options. To see what each theme will look like, click on the theme and then Live Preview or Preview.
To see more free themes from the WordPress library, click on WordPress.org Themes at the top.
When you find one you like, select Save and Activate if it’s already loaded to your site, or if you’re viewing the WordPress catalog, select Install. You can install as many as you want to your site and they will not be live until they are activated. To move on to the next theme, click the X in the corner to close the current theme.
When choosing a theme, consider something that is simple to navigate but that also highlights visuals and photography, especially if you are developing a travel blog. Photography is extremely important on the web and social media today with platforms like Instagram leading in popularity. But don’t put too much visual at the expense of content.
You can also view Premium themes, which are easier to customize to fit your needs, by searching Bluehost.com’s Mojo Marketplace. These often have added functionality that can save time and frustration :).
After you click Activate, you’ll be able to visit your site to see what the theme looks like. You may want to add some content to give you a better idea of how things are arranged.
Customize Your WordPress Theme
Once you settle on a theme that you like, you’ll need to customize it to fit your needs. Under Appearance on the left, click on Customize. Here you can change your site’s name and tagline, switch colors, upload a header image (the header is the top section of your blog), background image and more. There are also options for Widgets, which gets a bit more advanced. See this video for tips on using Widgets.
You can also click on Theme Options on the left for additional customizations. You’ll be able to upload a logo, alter the site layout and more. Be sure click on Save and Update to save any changes.
Tip: Each theme is a little different, so if something isn’t working quite right, keep playing around with it until you get it the way you want. This is the nature of blogging :): trial and error! Keep experimenting; you’ll get there!
If you find that your theme is just not working for you, try a different one until you find one that works.
Here is the full video from Bluehost on selecting and working with themes:
Creating Content in WordPress
Before you create content, you’ll need to understand the two different types: Pages and Posts. Pages are static and display content that does not change. This could be your About Us or Contact Us pages or you may even want your Home page to remain the same, rather than change whenever there is a new post.
Posts are the new content you will be blogging about. I’d advise posting at least once weekly to develop a good following and to help show up well in the search engines.
To create a new Page, hover over Pages on the lefthand side and then Add New. It works the same for Posts.
Depending on how you have customized your theme, a set number of the most recent posts may show up on your home page. That is my recommendation. Anywhere from three to five.
In the widget video you can learn how to have certain sections of your home page and post pages display some static content while also displaying the dynamic post content.
When you add a new blog post, you’ll want to add tags and categories (you will see these on the righthand side). These help group the posts by topic so your readers can see all posts about Europe or all posts about Family Travel. Tags and categories can be displayed on the home page through the use of Widgets.
To make your WordPress blog even easier to use, you can add what are called “plug-ins.” These are tools created by others to fill a need like help your page show better in the search engines or easily add a button.
One note on plug-ins: You don’t want to add TOO many, because they can slow down your site speed. Try to keep it to less than 20 if possible.
Here are my favorite WordPress Plug-ins, most of which are free:
Jetpack – This is a very handy plug-in that takes care of many parts of running a blog, including letting you know if your site goes down. If this happens, immediately contact Bluehost to see what the issue may be.
Pretty Link – This allows you to create your own custom link to something outside your website. For example, if you are reviewing a book and want to link it on Amazon with an affiliate code, you can set up a Pretty Link titled, YourDomain.com/BookTitle. The benefit is that if that link changes at some point in the future, all you have to do is update your Pretty Link and everything linking to that book will be updated. It also allows you to track how many people click on the link.
AddThis – This allows you to add social media share options to your blog posts.
Yoast SEO – If you are not super knowledgeable about search engine optimization (SEO or the art of showing well in the search engines), Yoast makes it super simple. At the bottom of each blog post are options to fill out to help you do better in search results.
Blog2Social – Click a button on the top right of your post to have it automatically post to your social media outlets with an accompanying image.
HelloBar – A bar that appears at the top of your blog with a featured message or a call to subscribe to your email list.
Redirection – Need to change the URL of a blog post? Use redirection to send anyone who lands on the old page’s URL to the new URL.
Askimet Anti-Spam – Gets rid of many spammy comments. Trust me, you get A LOT of spam!
WordPress Editorial Calendar – This one allows you to view your posts in calendar format and schedule posts in the future. Very handy!
Well, that gives you a good, user-friendly overview of how to start a travel blog. If you encounter bumps along the way, give me a shout! From one blogger to another, I wish you nothing but success with your new travel — or other — blog.
If you decide to use Bluehost, thanks for using my affiliate link!
- How I Work While Traveling
- The Rare Book I’ve Read Twice That You Should Read, Too: “The ONE Thing”
- How the Southwest Companion Pass Changed My Life
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