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How To Start a Travel Blog


This post was inevitable really. I’ve put it off for a while for a few reasons. The main one is that I love writing about hostels and destinations, and I have so much content backed up and ready to share with you on those topics! But as this blog grows and more of you join our communitya lot more of you are asking me how to start a travel blog of your own.

And, because I love you guys even more than I love writing about hostels and destinations, it’s time to step up.

But before we get started, there are two things I want to highlight…

1. Travel Blogging Changed My Life

I usually say that it was hostels that changed my life, and it was in a way, because it was hostelling that led to this travel blog! But writing about hostels online has led to so many opportunities since I launched this blog in 2014. I got a job in the youth travel industry in Amsterdam; and moved there. I’ve spoken at more than a few hostel conferences. I’ve made fantastic friends all over the world. I get invited to incredible hostel launches. My work has been published in Elle Magazine, and featured online in Forbes and Elite Daily.

But most importantly, I’ve been able to build a business around a topic that I’m passionate about.

2. Travel Blogging Is Hard Work

However, if you want to blog professionally and make money from a travel blog, then you have to treat it as a business. Treating it as a side hustle or a hobby that earns you some free travel is fine if you’ve got another income source. But if you want to know how to start a travel blog in order to live off it full time, then be ready to work flat out to get it up and running.

All that being said, I love this blog! And I love all you guys who read it. So for those of you who have emailed me asking how to start a travel blog. Or for those of you that got here via Google… here we go!

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Note that I have used affiliate links in this post. I always promise to recommend only those products or services that I use personally and love. If you purchase any products recommended, I’ll receive a small commission from the company at no extra cost to you. Those small commissions help me reduce the cost of keeping this site up and running. So thank you in advance!

How to Start a Travel Blog

Contents:

1. Brainstorm topics that you are passionate about
2. Decide on a name for your travel blog
3. Buy your domain name and hosting
4. Install WordPress
5. Choose an awesome theme & install plugins
6. Design a logo & header for your blog
7. Set up social media channels
8. Start creating content
9. Set up Google Analytics
10. Make Some Industry Buddies

1. Brainstorm topics that you are passionate about

So step one: you already know you want to write about travel. But what aspects of travel are you most passionate about?

I’m going to throw a word out here now that a lot of people swear by and just as many people hate: Niche. Your niche is the sub-topic within travel that you want to write about. It could be a large niche, like budget travel. Or a small one, like hostels in Europe.

Now, having a niche isn’t essential to having a successful blog. It helps, but it’s not essential. So why am I including it at the very start of this guide on how to start a travel blog?

Why choosing a niche topic can help kickstart your travel blog:

1. Brainstorming travel topics and identifying a few niches that you think you can create a lot of content around saves time later. Write down as many article ideas as you can from that first brainstorm session. Then, when you come to writing your posts, you’ll be able to offer consistency in your articles.

2. Finding topics you are passionate about at the very start can help you decide on a name for you travel blog (more on that in the next section).

3. Writing consistently about a niche in the travel industry positions you as an expert in that area, which can lead to further opportunities. Most of the opportunities I’ve been offered outside of this blog have come from people who think I’m an expert in the hostel industry. In fact, I’m far from it! But every hostel I visit or work with brings me one step closer to getting there.

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2. Decide on a name for your travel blog

Deciding on a name for your travel blog is one of the hardest things to do on this list! And it’s so personal that there’s very little help I can give you for the creative process that comes with it.

But as a few guidelines:

  • Don’t make it too long. Short and snappy works best in my opinion.
  • Include your niche if you have one.
  • Head to GoDaddy for inspiration.

Check out these articles for more inspiration:

Check that it’s not already taken (or too similar to another brand)

One thing that will really trip you up is if you set your heart on a name for your travel blog and then find out that it’s already taken. The easiest way to check this is to enter the url straight into your browser. However, you can also search for it on GoDaddy. That site will tell you if the domain has already been bought, but also suggests other options which could help your brainstorming session!

Check for available social media handles

This is really important if you want to make it easy for your readers to find you online. Unfortunately, I didn’t even think about it when I began blogging, which is why my social media handle has an underscore in it!

Brainstorm slogans or taglines

Having a slogan isn’t essential, but it’s a nice extra. Quite a lot of you have commented on my mission of ‘finding homes on the road’, as well as brands that I’ve worked with. It helps readers get to know you just that little bit quicker.

3. Buy your domain name and hosting

Okay, now some of the creative stuff has been taken care of, it’s time to get techie! But don’t worry you don’t need to be a tech genius to set up your own self-hosted blog. You just need to follow the next steps carefully. If you get stuck, just drop me a comment and I’ll reply as soon as I can!

Step 1: Sign up for hosting with Bluehost

Head over to Bluehost. There are countless hosting platforms out there, but I’ve used Bluehost ever since I set up this website and I’ve never had a problem. The two times my site has gone down (from me playing with things I shouldn’t have been playing with), the support staff from their 24/7 chat got it back up and running again in no time – and at no extra cost!

There are a few other added benefits of signing up today with Bluehost:

  • Their introductory hosting offer begins at just $3.95 a month.
  • You get domain name registration for FREE.
  • You’ll also get 24/7 online support for FREE.
  • You’ll be able to set up WordPress with just one click (trust me, you want to use WordPress).

Convinced? Click here to head to Bluehost and get your domain name and hosting for just $3.95.

How to Start a Travel Blog Bluehost Sign Up Page

Once you’ve clicked ‘get started now’ you’ll be offered one of three price plans. When you’re just starting out you really only need the Basic plan. However, the Plus plan is currently reduced from $10.99 to $5.95 and offers great unlimited website and email storage space.

How to Start a Travel Blog Bluehost Plans Page

Step 2: Register your domain name

Once you’ve selected your plan, it’s time to officially register your travel blog domain name!

At this step, Bluehost will give you three options. The first is to register your domain with them. This is the option I recommend, as it comes FREE with the hosting plan and it’s much easier to have all your website billing in one place!

The second option is to enter a domain name you may have already registered elsewhere. And the third option will pop up later, offering you the opportunity to continue with your hosting set-up and choose a domain name later. If you still haven’t decided on a name for your travel blog, this is the option I recommend you go for.

How to Start a Travel Blog Bluehost Domain Name Registration

Step 3: Choose your payment plan and get started!

The final step is to choose your payment plan and enter your billing details.

To get to the $3.95 per month option, you’ll need to sign up for the Basic 36 Month Price. This will make your total set up cost (including hosting and domain name registration) on the Basic plan come to $142.20. At first sight, this can seem like a huge start-up cost. And wait, aren’t there loads of bloggers out there telling you can do it for free?

Yes, you can start a travel blog for free. But a free blog doesn’t allow for you to host ads on your site, or have total control over how it runs. So if you’re looking to run a professional travel blog, it’s best to be self-hosted from the very start.

If you want more information, this is a great post: Should I choose a free or a self-hosted blogging platform?

If signing up for 36 months seems like too much of a commitment, you can also choose a 12 month or 24 month package to start with. This cuts the initial cost of setting up your blog hosting, but increases the cost per month. Here are the options you’ll receive when you first sign up:

  • Basic 12 Month Price: $5.95 per month / $71.40 for 12 months
  • Basic 24 Month Price: $4.95 per month / $118.80 for 24 months
  • Basic 36 Month Price: $3.95 per month / $142.20 for 36 months

It’s worth noting that if you choose the cheaper 12 month plan, you won’t be eligible to renew your site for the $3.95 per month price at the end of the year. So if you want to take advantage of the offer today, just click here to sign up now!

How to Start a Travel Blog Bluehost Package Information 2

4. Install WordPress

I haven’t got into too many details as to why you should start a travel blog with WordPress as your blogging platform. But the short answer is that WordPress gives you the most flexibility, the ability to include Plugins and Themes of your choice (more on these later) and works seamlessly with Bluehost.

It’s also ridiculously easy to install and set up, so here’s a quick breakdown of the steps.

Step 1: Access your Bluehost cPanel

Once you have completed your payment for Bluehost, you’ll be able to access a page on the site known as the cPanel. It will look a little something like this:

How to Start a Travel Blog Bluehost cPanel

Scrolling down the page you will see a section of the dashboard titled ‘website’. In that section there is a teal coloured button titled ‘Instal WordPress’. All you have to do to get started is click it!

Step 3: Select domain

On the next page, you will be asked to select your domain. This is the name you’ve given your travel blog.

You’ll also be given the option to download ‘recommended plugins’. However, I suggest you skip this part and scroll down to see which ones I recommend. Plugins can take up valuable space on your website and a lot of them aren’t necessary.

How to Start a Travel Blog Bluehost Install WordPress

Then, just click ‘Next’ and you will be asked to confirm a few details before pressing the button ‘Install Now’. And you officially have installed a WordPress blog on your very own self-hosted website!

To access your blog and start uploading content, you will need to go to > http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin < and enter your username and password.

5. Choose an awesome theme & install plugins

So in the previous section I mentioned that self-hosting your blog would give you more freedom and flexibility to install themes and plugins. Here’s a breakdown of what they are, why you need them, and which ones I recommend.

What is a WordPress Theme?

A WordPress theme is basically a template for how you want your blog to look. There are thousands out there, some are free and some of the more developed ones come at a small cost. Finding the one that works best for you just comes down to trial and error.

Where to find WordPress Themes?

The first place to look is your WordPress dashboard. To access this, go to http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin and log in. Then from the left hand side menu you will need to go to ‘Appearance’ > ‘Themes’.

This marketplace contains hundreds of FREE WordPress themes to suit your look and feel…

Alternatively, you might find that these free themes don’t give you the control over your site and features that you want. This is why a lot of travel bloggers use paid themes.

You can find these all over the internet, but my favourite theme marketplace is ThemeForest. The average theme can cost between $13 and $69, and almost all of them on ThemeForest show a live demo so you can get an idea of how your blog will look before you buy anything.

In case you’re wondering, I currently use the Hickory Theme from Solo Pine. I adore all of Solo Pine’s themes, and their customer service is always extremely fast. I’ll be changing my theme very soon, but guess what? I’ll be updating to one of the newer Solo Pine themes because they’re just awesome!

What are WordPress Plugins?

WordPress plugins are additional features that you can install within your blog to improve the user experience or safety. Just like themes, there are free and paid plugins that can enhance your blog in whatever way you want to!

However while a lot of plugins are down to personal preference, there are a few that I recommend as essentials. I’ll explain why:

  • UpdraftPlus – Imagine pouring hours of work into your blog, only for everything to be lost. 😭 UpdraftPlus backs up your website and files so they can be easily restored if a hacker, server crash or dodgy update shuts down your site.
  • WP Fastest Cache – Without getting into techie details, you need this site to help maintain a fast load speed. Slower page load speeds can put readers off coming back – and you want them to stay!
  • Yoast SEO – Search engine optimisation is essential to running a site that will increase your chances of showing up in Google search results. And Yoast offers the best plugin out there. You’ll find that any blogger giving you advice on how to start a travel blog will recommend this plugin!
  • MailMunch – One thing I wish I’d been told when learning how to start a travel blog was to develop a list of email subscribers. I eventually got the hang of it, and now run a successful weekly newsletter. But to help grow my list, the MailMunch website and plugin has been invaluable!

Where to find WordPress Plugins?

Almost all WordPress Plugins can be found and download directly from your WordPress dashboard. To access this, go to http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin and log in. Then from the left hand side menu you will need to go to ‘Plugins’ > ‘Add New’.

How To Start a Travel Blog - How To Install Free WordPress Plugins

6. Design a logo & header for your blog

Not all travel bloggers have logos, but I think it’s a great way to brand each image you create, your social media profiles and perhaps any products that you plan on creating in the future!

I went through some terrible designs before settling on my current logo, all of which I create free on PicMonkey.

These days however, I create almost all my graphics for free with Canva. There are thousands of templates, fonts and images to use for free on Canva; I can’t recommend it more!

If trying your hand at graphic design yourself isn’t something you want to consider, then the following websites are great for finding freelance designers for individual projects like logos:

  • Fiverr – I use Fiverr regularly for small projects to do with the upkeep of this blog and the value is always great!
  • 99designs – pricing starts from £229 which is pretty steep(!) but very professional.
  • Creative Market – if you sign up for this website then you get freebies every Monday!

7. Set up social media channels

A lot of new bloggers forget to include this in their checklist of things to do when starting a new blog. Instead, they focus on just creating the blog and the content.

But if you don’t set up your social media channels straight away, then you’re missing out on key ways to get other people reading your new blog!

At the very least, I would set up an account for your blog on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. There are other social media platforms that can also help you increase your reach (such as Bloglovin, Google+ and Youtube) but if you try and focus on too many straight away then you’ll just get overwhelmed!

A few tips on setting up your social media channels:

Be consistent across all channels. By that I mean use the same profile image and bios, so that if a reader finds you on a platform they’ll know straight away that it’s your feed and not someone else’s.

Create profiles on each platform using the same handles. Remember back in tip #2 I mentioned that I had to put an underscore in my handle. That was because a user on Twitter already had @thehostelgirl. So I changed all my other handles to @the_hostelgirl to match the account I had on Twitter, and make it easier for you guys to find me everywhere!

Schedule your messages to save time. There are platforms out there that make it incredibly easy to schedule your social media messages across various platforms. For a long time I used Hootsuite, before switching to Buffer. But now I’m back to using Hootsuite because while Buffer has a more user-friendly interface, I find it lacks in services. Both also have free plans, but I’ve chosen to pay £16/month for the Professional Hootsuite Plan, as I find the time it saves me is well worth the money.

Here’s a sneak peak at my own Hootsuite dashboard. This is where I keep track of who’s writing what about hostels, so I can find articles to retweet or share in my weekly newsletter.

How to Start a Travel Blog Hootsuite Dashboard

8. Start creating content

It may have taken seven steps to get here, but you can finally start publishing! From your humble beginnings of not knowing how to start a travel blog you’ve ended up here… with a real live travel blog of your own!

And I know what you’re thinking. That you’ve still got three more steps to go in this guide. But those steps are to help you build on what you’ve now created. And maybe to one day be a professional blogger. So if I’m honest, go grab a glass of wine or a beer and just enjoy writing for the rest of the day. You are now a blogger!

Once you’ve got those first few posts drafted, you’ll need to start thinking about what images and photos to use. Here are my tips on that…

Take great photos

Ideally, you want to be taking as many of your own images as you can. The quality of smartphone cameras today are astounding, so don’t worry if you don’t have a proper camera to start with! You can always invest in one later if you think it will benefit your blog.

If you do think you need a bit of help with your photography, here are my recommendations:

  • iPhone Photography Pro (A Udemy course) – this course is only £35 but gives you full lifetime access to over 33 lectures and 2 hours of on-demand video! You’ll be able to pick up tips on composition, lighting, and editing to improve your photography and help grow your blog!
  • Sony a5000 Camera – this is the camera I use to take almost all of the photographs you see on this blog. It’s an investment, but is much cheaper than other options out there and I think it’s incredible value for money! If you want to know more, I’ve written a full review here.
  • Lightroom & Photoshop – I pay just over £10 a month for this bundle of photo editing software with the Creative Cloud Photography Package, and it is well worth the investment! It comes with a free trial if you want to test it out first. Or alternatively you can buy Lightroom outright (without the monthly subscription) from Amazon for £103.88.

Where to find great images for your blog

If you still need photos for your blog, then I’ve listed some great sites below that offer free images with no copyright. So you can use them however you like, as long as you don’t use them in a product that you’re going to sell (then you need to buy the rights to the images).

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9. Set up Google Analytics

Eventually, you’re going to want to know more about your blog audience. Where are they reading from? Does your blog attract more guys than girls? How old are your readers? What posts do they enjoy reading the most?

Knowing the answer to all these things helps you tailor your content towards what your audience wants to know. And one of the best ways to get the answers to these questions is by signing up for a Google Analytics account.

It’s free. It’s easy, once you get the hang of it. And the data is so valuable! Especially if you’re looking to attract blog sponsors and partnerships with brands. So make sure to sign up for a free Google Analytics account here. You will need a Google account to sign in with but don’t worry, if you haven’t got one then you can create a new one during the sign up process.

If you need a step-by-step rundown of how to create a Google Analytics account, then Moz has a great breakdown here: The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics.

How to Start a Travel Blog Google Analytics Sign Up Page

10. Make Some Industry Buddies

After all this techie stuff, let’s look at the fun side of blogging. Which is being able to work with hundreds of other people with who you share similar passions!

The travel blogging industry is massive, and grows every day. There are so many of you out there taking the leap into sharing your content and your experiences with the rest of us. And for that I couldn’t be more excited! Not only do you get to share your passion with new friends, but you can also be part of a supportive community where you can share ideas, ask questions, and troubleshoot blogging stuff that you might be having an issue with.

But how do you get to know all these other people?

Get to know other bloggers online

One of the easiest way to get to know other travel bloggers is online. I mean, most of us are online every day! You can find us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube – whenever you read a travel blog there is a blogger behind it who has been through all the same struggles as they learnt how to start a blog.

Joining Facebook groups is a great way to get started. Here’s a few of my favourites:

There are also regular travel chats that take place on Twitter almost every day of the week in a number of different niches! To find out which chats run when, check out this post: Twitter Chat – The Best Travel Chat Hashtags.

Attend events

There are various conferences that run throughout the year all over the world. Some are free to attend, while others can cost quite a lot. Not to mention that you will often need to travel and get accommodation in order to attend.

But if you’re willing to invest then attending events and conferences can be invaluable. Not only do you get to meet people face-to-face, you can also network with some of the best in the industry over a beer in the evenings. And what better way is there than that?

Important not: If you have chosen a niche (remember Step #1?) then I highly suggest looking for events in that industry, rather than just focusing on getting to know other bloggers. For the last few years I have focused on attending events about hostels and youth travel, rather than events solely for travel bloggers, and my opportunities as ‘The Hostel Girl’ have grown and grown!

If you’re planning to go to any events in the future, you might like the following article: Tips For Your First Travel Blogging Conference.

Like it? Pin it!

Well that’s all for now! As I mentioned in the introduction, if I haven’t made something clear or you need extra advice, just let me know in the comments below.

Additionally, if you want a more concise guide on how to start a travel blog, then I will soon be launching a free email course going into more details.It will break down each of the steps you see here into a manageable process that will have you running a successful travel blog in no time! To be one of the first to find out when the email course launches, make sure to sign up for my newsletter.

And finally, if you want me to start writing more posts about how to start a travel blog and blogging in general, then just let me know!

Lots of love,

Katie Dawes The Hostel Girl Signature

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