Part 1 - How to Start a Travel Blog

How to Start a Travel Blog is the first segment in our How to Build a Successful Travel Blog workshop. Find the other segments here.

This section lays out exactly what you need to do to build a successful travel blog that resonates with readers. Though this information is intended for newer travel bloggers still getting things off the ground, it’s always worth revisiting the basics. But  if you’ve already got your site up and running and want to get to the more strategic advice, head on over to the next segment.

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Hello travel bloggers! One of the most common questions I receive from readers is how to start a travel blog. When we set out to launch Departful in 2012, starting a blog was daunting. I thought I was wholly unqualified as someone with zero technical abilities. And even if we did manage to launch the blog, who would even care about what I had to say? To be completely honest, my lack of confidence almost kept me from taking the plunge, but I silenced my inner critic and forged ahead. Bottom line: don’t let your doubts inhibit your action. Creating a travel blog is something you can definitely do.

It can feel overwhelming but let’s put it into perspective. There are over 150 million blogs on the internet, the vast majority of which were built by people who learned on the fly. If they can figure out how to start a blog, so can you.

Although there is a learning curve in launching a blog, it’s much easier than I expected. But physically building a website isn’t the only important consideration of starting a travel blog, though it’s often the quickest. Understanding your motives, defining your goals, and thinking through your brand are also critical steps that can be an afterthought for many new travel bloggers.

How to Start a Travel Blog

Step 1: Choose a name

Thinking up a name for your travel blog is no easy feat and may take several rounds of brainstorming. Be creative and choose a name that represents you, though simplicity is key in my opinion. Overly long or pun-based names often fall short. Be sure you don’t rip off other travel bloggers and you’re best to avoid the same words that come up again and again like nomad, wander, adventurous – they’re overdone. Before committing, think of your blog five years later. Will the name still be relevant?

Step 2: Select your hosting & register your domain

While free domains and hosting exist, take your blog seriously from the start and secure your own URL and independent hosting. If you opt for a free version, your URL will end with, which is an instant credibility destroyer. To seem professional and legitimate, register your own URL and go with a self-hosted option.

We started Departful using Bluehost, which is an excellent option for both new and established blogs. It’s integrated with WordPress so it’s easy to get started. Signing up for Bluehost’s shared hosting service includes a domain, so it’s essentially a one-stop-shop. It also won’t break the bank at $7.99 per month (or use our code to get over 50% off).

We upgraded to WP Engine last year and love it. It’s great for hosting multiple platforms, has excellent technical support, includes SSL security, and features a content delivery network (CDN) that stores all of our images off our sites so that they don’t impact our load times. WP Engine has three plans to choose from (we use the growth plan) and you can get 20% off your first payment by using our code.

Step 3: Set up WordPress & get going

When thinking of how to start a travel blog, your content platform matters a lot. If you want to have a robust and customizable travel blog, WordPress is the only legit player for content management. The versatility of WordPress is far superior to everything else, and you’ll have access to hundreds of free templates and an enormous selection of plug-ins to help get you on your way.

Learning the full ins and outs can take some time, though if I can do it you can too. Practice by playing around with your theme options, appearance settings, pages and posts until you get the hang of it.

There are thousands of Youtube tutorials to help you get started with WordPress. Here’s a step by step video tutorial (it’s over an hour long!) on how to get your Wordpress blog set up. There are a number of free courses that dive deep into starting a blog. ProBlogger’s seven step course for starting a blog is a great place to start.

Step 4: Choose a theme & think through your design

Although WordPress comes with many free theme options, you can also find themes elsewhere. For a more customizable, high-design quality, many travel bloggers opt to purchase a theme kit. Theme Forest is one of the more popular vendors.

As you’re deciding on your theme, think about what you want your brand to be and envision how your ideal website would look. Visit other blogs that you like and those that are popular in your niche, taking note of what you would want to incorporate into your own site. Having a visual of your blog in mind (or actually sketched out) will make it easier to decide on a theme that will align with your vision.

Clean design and easy to navigate makes for a more appealing blog, and helps build legitimacy. We took this seriously when starting Departful and benefited from our significant investment in design as a new blog. I rarely stick around when I visit a poorly designed site, and neither do many potential readers. Visitors to your blog make up their mind on whether to read your content in a fraction of a second, making design decisions critical for success. Don’t let design be an afterthought.

Once you’ve settled on a theme, spend time exploring it to understand its capabilities. Most are highly customizable, allowing you to go above and beyond with your website’s design.

Step 5: Download Plug ins

If you’re going the Wordpress route, you’ll find hundreds of plug-ins (many of which are free) to support you in creating your travel blog. But be careful. You don’t want to clutter your website with plug-ins. They’re built by independent developers for the most part, can slow down your site and cause integration issues when you update your theme.

Our favourite WordPress plug-ins for travel blogs include Yoast SEO (which we’ll talk about in more detail in section 5), Contact Form, Easy Social Shares, Akismet Anti Spam, and WooCommerce. A lot of purchased themes come with recommended plug-ins to help you get started, though you can add more if needed as you go.

Step 6: Content Strategy

Content ready at launch

You’ll want to launch your travel blog with some relevant content published to hit the ground running. When we launched Departful, we had six articles that spanned various travel topics and destinations that were published when the site went live. I also highly recommend that you have a few weeks of draft articles that can be pushed out consistently. You’ll inevitably spend the first bit working out kinks on your site, developing your social media presence, and engaging your audience so having content ready to go will be a huge help.

Launch strategy

There are various strategies that you can deploy when launching your travel blog. Prior to launching Departful, we reached out to a a couple of large travel blogs providing information about us and our imminent launch. As a result, we were written up by a few, which helped boost traffic during our first few weeks – and whose backlinks helped our site from an SEO perspective, which I’ll get to in the 5th segment of this course.

Landing page

This is a strategy that we’ve used for launches of our other blogs with great success. Before you’re ready to launch, set up a landing page where visitors can sign up via email to be notified when your site goes live. To get people excited for your travel blog, start talking about it via social media, guest post on prominent travel blogs, and spread the word amongst other travel bloggers in your network. Once you launch, you’ll already have a group of folks interested in what you have to say, and it also gives you a leg up on your email marketing strategy (more on that in part 3).

Editorial calendar

Create a plan of the content you’ll publish for the first few months. That way when you sit down to write an article, you won’t have to waste time brainstorming a topic. As for frequency of posting, it doesn’t have to be aggressive (like posting every single day) but ensure it’s realistic. Consistency is key to establishing your readers’ expectations and keeping them engaged. I use a Google Calendar for planning out our content over a three month window, which allows us easily move things around if something doesn’t pan out. I also enter in holidays and events that might be relevant to our content strategy as I’m unlikely to remember them in the moment. This way we can take advantage of what people are focused on at that time.

Other Tips for starting a Travel Blog:

Define your goals

If you’re wondering how to start a travel blog, clearly you want to make something of it. Decide on realistic milestones for your first 3/6/12 months and mark your progress. But be realistic about what you can accomplish as you’re just starting out. It’s all too easy to compare yourself with more established travel blogs and travel writers, which can seriously get you down. At Departful we set targets and goals quarterly for traffic, launches and income, and review them on an ongoing basis.

Be prepared to be patient

Starting a blog is like starting a garden. You have to do a lot of upfront work to set the scene for future growth. When you’re first starting out it can feel like a lot of work for little pay off. It can be depressing to spend hours crafting a great article only to be read by a dozen people within the next month. It’s why many bloggers taper off after the first year. They’re bummed that they’re not receiving results and feel that the balance between effort and outcome is way off. But travel content has a long tail. While I’m giving you proven strategies to drive traffic to your travel blog in the following sections, don’t expect a flood of readers to arrive overnight.

Bring yourself into it

Think through your blog’s about page and how it represents you and your business. Ensure it’s welcoming and genuine, and have a photo of yourself and any of your collaborators to establish a personal connection with visitors to your travel blog. Make it easy for your readers to get in touch by including your contact information on your blog.

Business incorporation

Time to get serious for a minute. Determine whether you need to register your travel blog as a business in your home country or trademark your blog name and/or logo. If you’re investing a lot into your travel blog and earning a profit in return, setting yourself up as a sole-proprietorship, partnership, or corporation could be useful. Additionally, trademarking your blog name is worth considering too, not only to ensure that someone doesn’t try to knock it off, but that you’re not accidentally infringing on an existing trademark, which could be a nightmare to rectify down the road.

Ensure you’re doing it for the right reasons

If you’re starting a travel blog solely to travel for free or make tons of money from advertisers, it will be blatantly obvious to your readers and travel companies that you’re trying to work with. I recommend starting a travel blog only if you’re genuinely interested in sharing your experiences and helping others make the most of their own travels. Any other motivation will come off as disingenuous, making it unlikely that you’ll build a true following.

Don’t wait for perfection

Wanting things to be perfect trips up a lot of new bloggers, myself included. Waiting for the stars to align and everything to be in place will either mean that you delay going live for too long or worse yet you never make it at all. The biggest lesson I’ve learned as a blogger and an entrepreneur in general is to get moving and work with the circumstances you’re dealt. Nothing will ever be perfect but often big moves in life are made up of many small steps.