Aside from travel planning advice, one of the most frequently asked questions in my inbox is about how to start a travel blog.
If I’m being honest, that’s the question I most dread because it’s not a short answer! I always respond by telling people that if they’re getting into blogging as a hobby Blogspot and WordPress.com are good places to start, but that if they’re more serious, they should consider WordPress.org. And then I leave it at that…
Talk about giving you the short version.
Well today I’m finally going beneath the tip of the iceberg and giving you the step by step guide on how to start a travel blog (and I mean hold-your-hand-like-a-teacher because I’m not the most tech-savvy person and I know that I would be completely lost if someone left out the tiniest detail).
So what do I know about blogging?
Well, I’ve been doing it for about 7+ years during which time I experimented with Blogspot, created a new blog on WordPress.com, and then finally joined the ranks on WordPress.org shortly after meeting Sam. (I still remember him turning to me and saying, “What? You’re not self-hosted?! We need to fix that next weekend.” I think he was trying to get a second date.)
But back to you. You’re wondering how to start a travel blog from scratch? Let me help answer that question.
HOW TO START A TRAVEL BLOG
This is going to be a bit of lengthy post, but here’s a look at what you can expect to find here:
- Choosing your blog name
- How to host your blog
- Installing WordPress
- Choosing a blog theme
- Adding plugins
- Writing your about page
- Getting a Gravatar
- Having a social media presence
- Writing content
- Experimenting with your style
1. Choose a name and make it a good one
Choosing a blog name is hard! That’s like naming your child, or at least I imagine it is since I don’t have children…it’s at least as hard as naming your pet. You need a name that’s going to stick, something that’s catchy and memorable, but also something that you can grow with and that won’t box you in.
Try not to make it destination specific (what happens to Sally in Spain when you move?), or age specific (what happens to Teenage Traveller when you turn 20?), or budget specific (what happens to the Penniless Wanderer once you start earning the big bucks and your travel style changes?)
This is one step that you don’t want to rush, so take some time when choosing your name. When I was brainstorming potential blog names, I made a list of words I liked and things that I associated with travel. I played with these words, mulled them around while I was doodling or watching TV, and then I gave myself a few weeks to see if I liked the name.
I came up with “That Backpacker”. I thought it was playful, I thought it was catchy, and it’s what stuck.
2. Go self-hosted from the start
I know hosting sounds a little bit intimidating for non-techie people like me, but it’s basically like paying rent for your own little place in the internet. As a heads up, Bluehost has great rates and they give you your domain name for free if you decide to host with them. Not a bad deal, right?
Now for a step by step look at how to go self-hosted:
- Go to Bluehost and click ‘Get Started Now’.
- This will take you to a page where you are presented with 3 different plan options: Basic, Plus, and Pro. I would go with the basic option and then as your traffic begins to grow and your blog expands, you can always consider upgrading to Plus or Pro. Once you’ve decided on a plan you can hit ‘Select’.
- Next, it’s time to see if your domain name is available. After having come up with the perfect name, this is the part where you keep your fingers crossed to see if it’s actually free! If it isn’t, it’s back to the drawing board, but if it is, you can do a little victory dance and move on to the next step.
- Here you fill out your details under account information and tick off the boxes under package information. Keep in mind, the longer you host, the cheaper the account plan will be.
Something you should also consider getting is Domain Privacy Protection. This shields your private information like your personal address, email address, and phone number from being displayed to the public.
Now you’re done with that part! Going self-hosted wasn’t so hard, now was it?
3. Install WordPress without having an emotional breakdown
Once you’ve completed the registration process with Bluehost, it’s time to dive into WordPress.
WordPress is the blogging software of choice and it’s used by the likes of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Reuters just to name a few. If it’s good enough for them, then it’s certainly good enough for your blog!
Thanks to Bluehost, once your account has been created, WordPress will automatically install, and then the fun part begins: making your website look the way you want it to!
Note: If for some reason you still don’t have a clue what you’re doing, I would suggest getting in touch with fellow travel blogger and tech guru Chris from RTW Labs.
4. Choose a blog theme and customize it
Now that the hard part is over, it’s time to get your blog all dolled up!
WordPress offers numerous free themes (which are great to start out with), however, if you want to be able to customize your blog and set it apart from the rest, you’ll want to invest in a professional theme.
A few different options include:
When it comes to choosing a blog theme, it’s a very personal choice, so browse through the various options until you find something you like.
If you come across a blog you really like but you can’t figure out the theme because the details have been removed from the footer, (or you’re too shy to ask!), you can type in their blog URL into the WP Theme Detector and it’ll tell you what theme they have installed.
I’m using SimpleMag by Themes Indep, just in case you were wondering. No need to look up that on the WP Theme Detector!
5. Add some handy plugins
A plugin is a little bit of software that adds a specific feature to the functionality of your WordPress site. You don’t want to go overboard with these since too many plugins can create some wonky overlaps, but here are a few that I like to use:
Akismet – Helps protect your blog from spam.
CommentLuv – Automatically places a link to a reader’s last blog post when they leave a comment. This helps build a sense of community and it helps people discover new posts.
Contact Form – Simple contact form that allows people to contact you. Messages go straight to your inbox.
Digg Digg – Allows you to place a floating sidebar with social media buttons so people can share your article via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, and other platforms.
EWWW Image Optimizer – Reduce file sizes for images within WordPress.
Google Analytics by Yoast – Makes it easy to add Google Analytics to your WordPress site so that you can have a better idea of your traffic and demographics.
Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin – This adds a little checkbox to the comment form requesting that the user clicks it to prove they are not a spammer.
Limit Login Attempts – This limits the rate of login attempts, including by way of cookies, for each IP address. I wish there weren’t a need for this, but there are hackers out there who have nothing better to do than to try and hack your site.
WP Super Cache – Caching helps your website run faster.
WP-Optimize – This plugin helps you keep your database clean by removing post revisions and spam.
Adding plugins to your blog is easy. You just have to go to your ‘Dashboard’, click ‘Plugins’, and ‘Add New’.
6. Set up an about page
Your about page is where readers go to learn a little bit about the person behind the blog. Aside from your homepage, this is going to be one of the most read pages on your travel blog from first time visitors, so you’ll want to spend some time on it.
Add a photo of yourself, tell us what got you started blogging, and be as personable as possible. People like to read about other people!
7. Get a Gravatar (not an avatar)
You know those pictures that appear next to your name whenever you leave a comment on someone’s blog? Well those are called Gravatars.
If you want a photo of your face to show whenever you leave a comment, you need to upload a picture. Otherwise it’ll show a default image of a little monster with frizzy hair. No, really, just try leaving a comment on one of my blog posts and see what happens .
It’s nice being able to put a face to a name, so don’t skip this step.
8. Hop on social media and network
So you started a travel blog, but now what? People need to be able to find you, and that’s where social media comes in.
When I first started blogging some 7+ odd years ago, I didn’t know ‘travel blogging’ was a thing. I thought I’d had this novel idea, “I’m going to write about travel in an online format because it has never been done before!” Ha!
While there were less of us doing so back then, I certainly wasn’t the first one, but it would take me a few years and one failed blog to realize that there was a whole community out there that I could connect with.
I’m not saying you should join every single social media platform out there, but being active on a few sure helps. I’m mostly active on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest (maybe that is one too many!), and I’ve made sure that all of these are connected on my homepage so that people can find me on whichever platform they prefer using.
Also, it’s best if you can use the same handle on all your social media profiles (in my case @thatbackpacker), as that makes it a lot easier for people to find you.
9. Begin writing content
“The best advice is not to write what you know, it’s to write what you like. Write the kind of story you like best—write the story you want to read.” ― Austin Kleon
Now comes the fun part!
You started a blog because you have stories to share, right? Well, you are ready to get started.
Some people will tell you that you need to blog prolifically when you’re first starting out, but I’m going to suggest you just do your own thing. Blogging prolifically helps if you want to see fast growth and turn your blog into a business (that’s a whole different can of worms), however, for the majority of people blogging is just a fun hobby.
Don’t take the fun out of blogging by forcing yourself to post 3 times a week. WRITE AS OFTEN AS YOU FEEL LIKE IT! For some that may mean posting once a month, for others once a week, and some people may enjoy posting every single day. Do whatever works best for you.
This is your blog and you get to make the rules.
10. Find your groove
It can take a while to find your voice when you first start blogging, so don’t be afraid to experiment and try out new things. Play around with different writing styles (narrative, journal, listicles, poetry – I’d love to see some travel poetry blogs!) and images (photos, sketches, watercolours, collages).
Get creative and try something new!
It’s great to look at other blogs for inspiration, but don’t get stuck in the mindset that your blog needs to look or read a certain way. We don’t want to see a carbon copy of someone else’s blog, we want to see what YOU can bring to the table.
And I believe, that’s a wrap! Hopefully, this guide will help you get your blog off the ground in no time, but if you have any additional questions or comments feel free to leave those in the comment section below. I’ll do my best to get back to you!
Do you have any other questions about how to start a travel blog?
This post does contain a few affiliate links that come at no extra cost to you.
Thank you for the detailed information darling. This would help a lot of budding bloggers in different fields and not just travel bloggers.
Glad it was helpful! And you’re right, this step-by-step guide is applicable for setting up any kind of blog – not just travel blogs.
What a great resource for those starting out! Nice one Audrey! There is a few plug-ins suggestions that you made that I’m keen to check out now! Thanks!
You’re welcome! I’m glad you liked the plugin suggestions.
That Kleon quote is dead on for #9 Audrey. I write what I love first. I follow my fun. I intend for my fun energy to bleed through my blog to attract readers who dig me having fun. And to connect with them. So far so good. All blog struggles root themselves in not having fun. All success is based on loving your gig, and living your blogging love. Excellent post Audrey!
Exactly! When the writer is having fun that comes across in their writing. Keep doing your thing – it sounds like you’re right on track! 🙂
Thank you for writing this. I wish I found it sooner. It would have saved me some hair pulling out behavior. I look forward to reading more of your blog.
Ahhh, I think we’ve all gone through the hair pulling at some point or another when trying to set up a blog. It looks like you’ve got yours up and running now. 🙂
Hi! Thanks for sharing very useful information. Do you really think that if we want to work on our blog more professionaly, we need wordpress? I’m asking because I have a blog on Blogspot, and I wouldn’t like to transfer all of my post into wordpress, but I’m worried that one day I will have to.. because I’m starting to write more often and one day I’d like to do this full-time. Do you think that there is a hope for a Blogspot, I mean to stay there?
If you eventually decide to do this professionally, you’ll want to go the self-hosted route. Some of the benefits include: you can enable ads and monetize your blog, you can customize the site, you can add plugins, you can install custom analytics, etc. It may not be something you want to do right away, but it’s fairly easy to do. There are tutorials out there or you can also hire a professional to help you with the migration.
Audrey thaks for posting the way they are helped me a lot
Glad to hear that Harun!
Thank you so much for sharing this. I am new at blogging and this post really helped me out.
I just love your blog.
I’m glad it was helpful, Matilda. I just had a look at your blog and it looks like it’s coming along quite nicely. 🙂
This is an awesome post not just for travelers, but professionals across various industries. What most people underestimate about a managing a blog is the dedication to time and quality of content it takes to become a worthy blogger. In the world of PR, I think companies should take full advantage of blogging and blogger relations. Stronger connections with bloggers means brand enhancement and/or honest opinions about your brand and products. Another benefit of blogging is it’s ultimately free. For organizations looking to review a product, send over a product in trade for a before and after feature article reviewing the product. This gives clients an accurate form of data to show how consumers are perceiving the brand and/or product.
We have just recently started a travel blog and it takes a lot of work, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! Thanks for sharing these tips. We are still trying to find our grove and trying to figure out what is going to work best for us, but they are really going to help us out since we are just starting out!
Great outline for how to get started. The one “plugin” i would add is something like SumoMe or Shareaholic – it has a lot of the features that are in the other plugins you have listed AND has a great carousel of related articles to keep your readers on the site.
11. Invest in a good camera and take good pictures to illustrate your articles ! Don’t need to be a big dlsr camera, there’s good hybrid or compact camera easy to carry when travelling.
Great post, thanks for the tips!! :0)
If we knew then what we know now! 😉
Great advice, my advice would be to keep your focus narrow at first and don’t get caught up trying to take on too much at first. You might even find that you don’t like documenting your travel, it sounds cool at first but it can also become a hindrance to enjoying yourself. Try it out but don’t worry about making it all pretty until your sure it’s for you
Thanks for this Audrey! This is an absolute lifesaver, I can’t imagine doing it without your guide. I came to your site for this post but stayed because there’s so much great content!
I’m glad you found this guide helpful, Lyon! Welcome to the travel blogosphere. 😉
Nice post I am definitely considering starting a blog. So I was wondering if it matters if you choose a .com or perhaps a .net for a blog site?
From a user perspective, I would suggest going with .com since most people type that in by default. You might find this discussion on domain extensions interesting.
I have been hearing about sqaurespace a lot from the podcasts that i listen to.. I really love the way they have presented their templates.. I might go along with them when i so decide to get a ‘real’ website…
Thank you for this helpful post!! I am working on getting my blog up and running. I hadn’t know what a Gravatar was before I read your great article. I signed up for once and am testing it out. Thanks again!! Fingers crossed that it worked 🙂
I believe it is a great stroke of luck that I stumbled upon your blog.
Love from a fellow traveler,
Thanks for this super helpful post! I am looking into setting up my own travel website and this is really insightful. I have a question in regards to photography, what are the rules for using photos that you have not taken? Obviously I intend to include all the travel photos I have taken on the road but in regards to a book recommendation list or a what to pack list? Is there somewhere you can get high quality photos without breaching copyright?
Love the blog 🙂
Thanks for sharing this. I recently created my own travel blog after writing for a lot of other clients through my freelance writing “hobby”. I actually love writing but got to the travel blogging scene a bit late. In fact, I am doing less traveling these days but I still remember those memories fondly.
Just bought a new Sony! Super excited to start using it.
LOL – I totally lost my mind at times when starting mine. Great tips!
Awesome advice! We really don’t know what we’re doing so far. LOL
I agree with your wanderlust, I have been back in the UK for 3 years now after living abroad for 8 and have nearly gone out of my mind wanting to be travelling again. Fortunately I am planning to be off again in a few months. Great work on this post by the way. No matter how many bloggers are out there we always need more. One persons musings can be so different to another’s, even about the same topic.
I too started out with free versions of things when I began blogging but found out the hard way after a few failures that going cheap does not really do you any favours in the long run.
Thanks for the write up. I am just getting started. Hopefully one day I will be able to make a full time income from blogging.
thanks for the tips and having an easy reference point on a blog I can actually enjoy frequenting. also any clue what happened to departures on Netflix? started watching and can’t find it now.
Thank you for these information! You saved a new travel blogger from a mental breakdown 🙂
Thanks for the info! I had a blog a few years back that I never continued with. But this time I am using Bluehost and I am determined to make it work!
I don’t know if you’ve been asked this before, but I always wonder how to include links to my social media pages into my blog. I have these standard buttons that say ‘share on FB’ or some other channels I think, but it would be really useful to have buttons that send people to my social media pages. Like the ones you have on the top right side of your page.
So my question is, do you use plugin to show these buttons, or have you had to change the coding of your webiste/is it included in a theme?
Thanks for your help! I’m still in the process of figuring out WordPress 🙂
Hi Rianne, the buttons I have came as part of my theme so all I had to do was put in the links to my various channels. On my end, I go to Appearance > Themes > Header > Social Profiles, but that could vary depending on the theme you’re using.
Nice sharing, and helpful!
I’m personally not sold on WordPress for what I want which is just a wee hobby blog but I found good ideas here. I did look at Posthaven a while back but was not persuaded enough to move.
PS – I found you while planning a tango trip to Madrid 🙂 More useful ideas on that Youtube video as well and ones I hadn’t seen in other guides. Thank you!
Thank you so much for this! I’m just getting started with my blog, and this is so helpful! I don’t have my own hosting yet.. guess I should probably pony up and do that now.
thanks so much for this post with such practical tips! I’ve just started my blog in March and have been struggling with more technical things like plug ins. I’m excited to check out the ones you’ve mentioned and to give them a shot. Thanks again!
Thanks for sharing your tips Audrey! testing out my new gravatar!
Love the tips, especially on plugins! I have always kept a travel journal but I’m taking a leap to publish my writings and photos on a blog. Will eventually get self-hosted though. Thank you (:
I love this post !I just tried to create a Gravatar, let’s see if my face shows up in the comment! 🙂
Anyway, I’ve been following you and Sam for few years now, and I have to thank you! I got the motivation from you to finally open a travel blog myself! So, thanks for all the tips, and keep it up!
Just so you know up front…I don’t really want to start a travel blog. However, I have watched MANY of the videos you have made with Sam and have enjoyed them immensely. Your pacing, information, on-camera presence (both of you) choice of shots, etc. all lead to very compelling stuff!
I’m writing because I want to have better record of my own travels. I love taking photos, and while a practiced videographer, haven’t done much video while traveling. I use a Nikon D800 for photos (it is kind of a monster and clunky for taking video) and I own a GoPro Hero 4, but I’ve always left that at home, not sure why. What equipment do you use to get such outstanding footage? I’m a Final Cut Pro user so won’t have a problem with editing what I bring home. Oh, and I would also like good audio. People think the image in a video is so important (and it is), but if the audio sucks I probably won’t watch.
Any suggestions? If you’ve shared this info and I’ve missed it, my apologies for asking again. If this info is a trade secret then I understand. Happy travels and I look forward to watching your new adventures! Thanks again for sharing your work/art!
P.S. No gravatar for me at this time, so I’ll look for the frizzy-haired monster.
Hi Robert, thanks for your message! Documenting your travels sounds like a great idea – it’s such a fun way to relive your trip. We currently film with a Canon G7Xii and a Panasonic GH5. As for audio, we use a RODE VideoMic Pro mounted on the Panasonic. I like the size of the Canon because it’s easy to bring anywhere, but the Panasonic gives you that cinematic slow-mo footage.
This is a lot of helpful advice. Thank you for this! 🙂 I find it quite difficult to find the perfect name though.
Amazing Article! I am new to blogging and was looking for some tips from a travel blogger. Thanks, much for sharing this helpful article, really appreciate your work. 🙂
Thanks for sharing valuable information with us.
The main reason for CommentLuv for me is to be able to get some good relevant comments but also give back to those valuable readers in the form of a link. It’s also a great way to learn about other blogs and network with other bloggers.
Great post, Actually I am a beginner in blogging. Definitely it may very helpful for me. Thanks for sharing.
These are some of essential everyone needs to learn and tackle thanks for sharing with us 🙂
I like traveling a lot and I’m thinking of starting a travel blog. Thanks a lot for this. Very helpful!
Thanks for this blog post! Really helpful, especially to new travel bloggers
Hey Audrey, Thanks for sharing this beautiful information with us, it is much more helpful to anyone new to blogging.
Starting a travel blog can seem overwhelming, but this article breaks down the process into manageable steps. Choosing a blog name is important and the author offers good advice on how to do so. Going self-hosted from the start is also recommended, and Bluehost is a reliable choice.