Have you ever dreamed about packing up a suitcase and backpacking across the country while still earning a decent living? Well, thanks to travel blogging, you can! Read on to find out how to monetize a travel blog so you can live out of a suitcase while making a living.
Running a travel blog might merely be a way for frequent travelers to document their travels. They go on vacation, explore new places, and then go back to their day jobs once the traveling is done.
But if you want to travel fulltime and earn a decent income, you can certainly do that too!
In today’s blog post, I’ll discuss some of the best ways on how to monetize a travel blog so you can travel around the country and even around the world and make money doing it.
I mean, it’s the dream, isn’t it?
Go around the world and get paid to do it.
But there are thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of travel bloggers out there.
This is a high-competition niche, and it seems like everything’s been done to death.
Gave up your big-city life and moved to Southeast Asia? It’s been done. Couple trying to jumpstart your marriage by backpacking all over the world? It’s been done. Traveling alone to eat all the food? It’s been done.
Don’t be discouraged, though. We each have our own stories to tell. Find your writer’s voice and use it to speak of your own unique travel experience.
When you’re in a certain place, it’s important to be able to write about your own anecdotes and experiences. Our perception of a place changes depending on our own personal histories, and that unique perspective will set you apart from all the other travel bloggers.
Don’t pretend to know all about a place when you clearly don’t. Spending a few days in a city doesn’t make you qualified to write articles like “The Ultimate Guide to [City].” Stick to telling your own story: what you ate, where you slept, who you met, where you went, what you saw and felt, and everything you experienced in a certain place.
Once you find your writer’s voice and your niche and what stories you want to tell, stick to it. Don’t abruptly blog about nightclubs in a city when your readers have been reading about street food, for example. Or write about luxury hotels when your readers have been reading about low-cost accommodations and how to stretch a meager budget.
When you’re blogging in an already crowded field, consistency is key to building and keeping your audience, no matter how large or how small your audience may seem to you.
Let’s look at some ways to monetize a travel blog in the next section.
Now that you know what it takes to be unique and get people to pay attention to you, we can talk about how to monetize a travel blog. Note that these are the ones that work for plenty of other travel bloggers, but you don’t have to do them all if they aren’t a good fit for you or your audience.
Affiliate marketing involves promoting a merchant or company’s product or service in exchange for a commission. You can get commissions for every click your affiliate link gets, or for completed sales that started from clicking your affiliate link on your site.
Read more about the basics of affiliate marketing in this article.
Travel blogs can have success with affiliate marketing, provided you choose the right products and services to promote, and you continue providing value to your audience.
A downside is that there is no telling how much you can earn with affiliate programs. It could be as little as $5 to as huge as $1,000 or even $5,000 depending on the product and the traffic you’re getting. You’ll have to take the time to explore and find out which are the best ones and apply to them.
First, list down products and services you like using, especially those you’ve already written about in your blog. Then, find out if they offer affiliate programs. You can do a Google search for “affiliate program” + [product/service name].
You can also look at other travel blogs that target the same audience as you do and see what products or services they’re promoting as affiliates. There may be products you’ve missed and may be a good fit for your blog and your target audience as well.
You can also look at affiliate networks and check what products they have to offer. Affiliate networks act as a bridge between merchants who create products and services and the publishers and bloggers who sell these products and services on their websites.
Here are some examples of affiliate networks that work with a lot of travel-related brands that you might be interested in:
Make sure that your blog is ready to be assessed and approved by affiliate networks and merchants. Post consistently (that is, consistent in both quality and frequency) in your blog and social media accounts.
Having a mailing list that has 500 subscribers would work in your favor when you apply for affiliate programs. The more people you can show links to, the greater chances of your success, which ultimately translates into the products’ success.
Full disclosure is always important for your credibility, your audience’s trust, and most importantly for your compliance to the law. Whether or not your affiliate program requires it, it’s still good practice to include a disclosure.
You can find these by doing a Google search, of course, but these are just some examples to give you some ideas. Please remember that actually using and liking the product or service makes you a more effective affiliate.
Hey, fun fact: The travel and tourism industry is one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the world, according to a report by the Deloitte Center for Industry Insights.
Maybe it’s because of all the travel bloggers?
Unsurprisingly, local and national government efforts to promote each place has stepped up within the last few years, and are spending more to attract visitors and get a piece of that growth.
Normally, the responsibility of marketing and promoting a location falls on the shoulders of entities called Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs). These are organizations that advertise their respective towns, cities, regions, provinces, states, or whole countries to attract more tourists.
DMOs are also called travel boards, tourism boards, tourism authorities, visitor bureaus, and other similar-sounding labels. They are funded out of the local, regional, or national government budgets.
Oh-kayyyy, but why should you care?
Because DMOs run destination marketing campaigns, and one of the ways they do it is by sponsoring a fam (short for familiarization) trip or a press trip. The difference is that a fam trip is intended to let participants see everything a destination has to offer, so these are typically short trips with packed schedules and many participants at a time.
By contrast, a press trip is intended to let participants experience a place but still have plenty of time to explore and the destination on their own, and capture their own impressions of the place. Press trips are typically done with smaller groups or even individually. For this reason, press trips are more preferable than fam trips.
In case it’s still unclear, fam trips and press trips are sponsored. Sponsored. Travel.
The thing is, sponsored travel isn’t exactly the same as making money off it. In the beginning, when you’re still trying to build up your blog and establish yourself as an authority travel blogger in your niche, your trip may be merely sponsored, meaning your flight, accommodation, food, and activities would be covered, but nothing else.
You’ll still get to travel for free, though, and possibly network with other travel bloggers from whom you might learn a thing or two, so it’s not really a waste of your time. Think of it as a way to prove yourself and hone your craft as a blogger.
Eventually, when you do become a more prominent blogger, you’ll be able to ask for compensation aside from the sponsored trip, either on a per-day basis or per-trip depending on how large your audience is.
Like I discussed in a previous section, do your best to stand out so that you’ll be noticed not only by your target audience but also by DMOs looking for bloggers whom they can work with.
Having a strong social media presence can also help you be noticed by the right people. Grow your social media following organically so you’ll have genuine engagement with your audience.
You can also find press trips through a simple Google search. Type in “press trips” + [city/region/country you’re interested in] as a search query and you should be able to find DMOs or PR firms arranging these trips. Go to their websites, gather a few email addresses, and send them emails introducing yourself and inviting them to read your blog.
Start with local or nearby places so you can have a better chance of being offered to join sponsored trips. Don’t shun them just because they’re nearby; think of it as a small opportunity that can open doors to bigger ones.
Social media is also a good place to look, specifically Facebook groups. Search for groups that have “press trips” or “fam trips” in the name and join them. They might require some proof that you’re a legit travel blogger and not a freeloader.
If you have the means and the time, attend travel conferences. These give you the chance to mingle with PR people and DMO representatives who can provide press trip opportunities for you.
When you get lucky and are invited to a press trip or fam trip, always be professional. Never be late to a meeting time, and always read up on the destination’s culture, religion, and acceptable dress code to avoid offending anyone. If they speak a different language, learn the basic pleasantries in their language. At the end of a trip, always thank your hosts and the people who were responsible for you or your group.
Complaining, acting entitled, and like you’re there purely on vacation or worse, as a favor, is the quickest way to getting blacklisted. Being professional, especially on your first sponsored trip, will help ensure that you’ll be asked by other DMOs to join other press trips in the future, or even asked back by the same DMO.
Do the most you can with that first press trip. Write multiple articles about different aspects of the trip, take and post plenty of photos, and interview a local if you have time. Your hosts will appreciate the effort, and you now have sample posts to show other potential DMOs that you’re hardworking and whatever they spend on you will be worth it.
However, you don’t want to dwell on empty flattery. Always give your honest opinions. Even though your trip was sponsored, you still have a responsibility to your audience to be truthful. Being truthful doesn’t mean you can’t do it kindly, so learn to balance it.
A good example of a blog post sponsored by a DMO is this blog post by Amanda Thurlow. Notice the abundance of photos, details of each place she visited, as well as the disclosure at the beginning and at the end of the post about who sponsored her trip.
DMOs aren’t the only sponsors you can get for your posts.
You can also have your content sponsored by travel-related brands and companies.
Sponsored content is a form of native advertising; that is, it is a blog post that looks like a usual blog post, except that it’s actually sponsored by the company you’re writing about.
As you can imagine, this has been abused by people in the industry to the point that when readers encounter articles that are about a product or a brand, they are now wary of being sold to and marketed to, as well as being lied to about being sold to and marketed to.
So if you want to create sponsored content, make sure that you’re explicit in stating that your article or social media post, while still filled with your honest insights, is sponsored. Plus, make sure it’s an informative, insightful, high-quality post that’s useful to your audience.
Some companies may also just provide you with their products for free in exchange for a writeup about them or a product review. State this as plainly and clearly as you can so your audience is aware.
This goes both ways. Express to the company you’re working with that you’re only going to write real, genuine opinions on their products and won’t push products that won’t be of value to your readers. Companies that are absolutely confident about their products would usually agree to this condition.
In case you didn’t get it, the key to creating sponsored content without being called a sellout is to always be truthful; to companies, to your audience, to yourself. Only accept sponsorships from companies whose products and services you yourself like using or would use.
This means that at some point, you’ll probably turn down an offer to sponsor your content if you believe the brand doesn’t reflect your values or your audience’s, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re a terrible blogger; it just means you have the integrity to only promote products you truly believe in.
The key here, again, is to stand out among all the other travel bloggers. Having a unique style will make it easier for companies to notice you and determine if you’re a good fit for their brand.
Focus on creating high-quality content, getting targeted traffic to your blog, and building a social media presence so that companies that are targeting the same audience as you are will take notice and contact you.
When they do contact you, make it easy for them by setting up a page specifically for potential sponsors. Indicate your traffic statistics (monthly pageviews, where your visitors come from, social media engagement, etc.), your target audience, and what benefits potential sponsors can get.
Also consider including a dedicated contact form and email address to make it easier for them to contact you if they have questions and to make sure you don’t miss an opportunity.
This article by Wandering Earl is a bit old and made at a time when selfie sticks were just starting to be a thing, but notice how high-quality the content is, with plenty of photos and examples. Plus, the disclaimer is clear, in big text, even though it’s at the end of the post.
This article by Y Travel Blog, by contrast, is more recent and probably more applicable to business travelers of today. Notice the contest that was hosted and that the prize that was offered is totally relevant to the target audience of both the blog and the sponsor.
Once you’ve travelled enough and have plenty of high-quality content in your travel blog, you can go into creating your own products, offering your services, or even both.
You can consider affiliate marketing and sponsored posts as your training ground for offering your own products. Selling other people’s products can be profitable, of course, but having control over the quality, branding, and marketing of the product is more preferable.
You might think you don’t have the time to create anything, but if you’re creative and can manage your time wisely, you can absolutely do it. Plus, the increase in profit margins should make the effort worthwhile; the fact that you get to keep all the profit and not share it with another party is motivating.
It’s advisable to begin with digital products because while these require some time, the monetary cost isn’t too high, and there are plenty of free resources and software you can use to create them.
Start the process by doing customer research to know what type of digital product/s you should create. Answer the question “what do your customers want?” What questions do you usually get asked on your comments section or social media? What topics do your audience want to see more of? What problems do they need solutions to?
Here are some ideas for digital products that you can start considering:
For a complete, detailed guide on how to get started with digital products, read this article.
If you plan to offer your services instead, set up a separate page to advertise the service(s) you offer. Include basic information that a potential client would want to know: who you are, what you offer, relevant experience, packages, pricing, your contact details or a specialized contact form for inquiries, and an option to easily book or order one of your packages.
Similar to requests for sponsored content, having a separate contact form and contact details, especially email, ensures that you receive inquiries regarding your services separately. This helps you keep track and reply to these inquiries as soon as you can without them being lost in the jumble of blog comments, social media updates, and all other inquiries that you receive.
Here are some ideas of services that you may want to offer your readers:
Making money while travelling may seem like a pipe dream, but as you’ve seen in my examples, plenty of travel bloggers are able to do just that.
Here are the best ways on how to monetize a travel blog:
I just have a couple more reminders about travel blogging before you get started.
Blogging while travelling might seem easy, but it’s really not. It’s still work, even with a gorgeous view.
Ask yourself first if you’re willing to set aside time on your travels to edit photos, write articles, answer emails and comments, post on social media, and do all the other duties that running a blog entails?
It’s one thing to do blogging duties in the comfort of your home, your office, or your favorite coffee shop, but having to do all these while on the road might dampen your enthusiasm for traveling. And if you’re not enthusiastic, it’s going to show in your writing.
If you’re the type of person who wants to travel for fun and nothing else, then earning money from your travel blog might not be a good fit for you.
On the other hand, if you’re determined to do this, plan ahead. Organize your trip such that you have enough time to blog while fully enjoying the travel experience.
Once you get the ball rolling, it’s going to be hard to turn down opportunities to travel for free, and even to travel for free plus a salary.
Yes, you do need to pay the bills so you can provide information to your readers, so I’m not saying don’t pay the bills; I’m saying don’t sell your soul.
If there’s nothing but sponsored content on your blog, your readers can’t help but wonder how much of this content they can really trust, and they’d be right to question it.
A good content mix for a travel blog is around 70–30; that is, 70% unsponsored content and 30% sponsored content. This should be just enough to keep your blog running while allowing you to write about places and topics you really like and spent money for.
Keeping your readers’ trust should be your top priority, because without your readers, you won’t have a successful blog.
Have you started blogging your way across the world? Which method would work really well for you? Tell me in the comments!
JoAnne is your average, everyday, sane stay-at-home mom who believes in the power of the internet to make dreams come true. She has an insatiable appetite for chocolate, as well as all things internet marketing. She keeps up with the latest trends in blogging, affiliate marketing, e-commerce, and more.