Of course it sounds exciting… You hear about people receiving trips across the globe where they get to explore new cultures, try new food, experience exciting destinations. “I love to travel,” you think, “and I would write about it if someone else would pay for it!”
Ahhh, the lure of travel blogging. But what does it take to really be a travel blogger? More — much more — than many people realize.
What Makes You Different?
I stumbled into travel blogging waaayyyy back in 2004. As a new mom, who had no idea how to travel with an infant, I searched the world-wide-web for ideas. And found Disney Vacations and Family Resort Packages. But no tips. So I began sharing what I learned, as I learned it, on my personal blog. Response was huge. I responded by creating my first family travel site, Have Kid Will Travel (which is now Family Rambling). By 2008 there were only a handful of family travel blogs. Now, in 2012, there are hundreds. It’s a small niche, actually, when compared to no-niche travel blogs, which number in the high thousands.
The first question you have to ask is, What’s my niche? How will I stand out? What will make my travel blog different?
After you think you have that figured out, do a search. Use Google, Bing and Yahoo. Then ask yourself, “How much competition do I have? Is my idea original? Who am I writing for?”
Real life example: By 2010, the family travel blog numbers had nearly tripled from 2008. And while I loved my site Family Rambling, I felt that even the ‘family travel’ niche was growing too large. Thankfully I had a passion: family travel in Ireland. In 2011, I launched Ireland with Kids, which is the only site entirely devoted to family travel in Ireland. Of course it is a very narrow market, but one that I serve with great passion.
How Hard Are You Willing to Work?
The thing about travel blogging is that it involves travel. You need to experience your destination, share the smells, tastes and sounds with your words, your photos and your videos.
Travel blogging changes how you travel. No longer will you travel purely for enjoyment — and forget about relaxation. Your thoughts will be on the best photo angles, interviewing the guides or locals, shooting a fun video or two and wishing other tourists would just get out of your shot for a minute.
Then comes the hard part- editing photos and video, actually sharing your story with words and getting people to read what you’ve written. Hours upon hours of work go into one single post. Also- when will you write? Will you post from the road- which is harder than you may imagine- or wait until you return home? And what will be happening on your site while you’re traveling? Months of planning and work take place before each trip you take. It’s tiring, really.
Real life example: Of course one trip can yield dozens of posts. Our 10 day trip to Ireland this past summer will keep me writing until early next year.
How Much Are You Willing to Pay?
Beyond the start up costs for a website, travel blogging is a ‘cash-up-front’ business. I’ve not met one travel blogger who put up a blog and had offers for “free” travel appear before they had proven themselves. And, once you begin receiving trip offers, you’ll find out that not everything is free. You may have to provide your own transportation to the destination. Or, at the very least, to the airport, where you’ll probably have to pay to park. What about child care while you’re gone? Or pet care? And, the big questions lately, is the wifi free? If real-time social media is requested is your coverage sufficient? If you need extra coverage, who is paying for that?
And don’t forget about disclosure- who paid for your trip and what was expected of you? And taxes- how much would that trip have cost if you paid for it? That cost is now considered income and you are required to pay taxes on it.
Real life example: I, personally, accept very few press trips. I write about traveling with kids and, if the press trip doesn’t include kids, I have no story. Also, press trips are usually highly escorted and feel rather like you are being herded. Not really my favorite way to travel. I often contact destinations we are planning to travel to and arrange experiences. In my mind, this is more authentic for my readers and my stories are better for it. Of course, the cash outlay is much greater.
What Are You Going to Write About When You’re Not Traveling?
So many travel sites begin with the thought of easily sharing a trip with friends and family. But what happens when that trip ends? Will your site sit dormant- as most do? Will you seek out guest posts? Will you begin planning another adventure? What will you share with your readers when you have no trip information?
Real life example: Think about your niche. Since I can’t always be in Ireland (oh how I wish I could) I also share Irish culture to be found stateside, Ireland travel tips, and guest posts.
If You Still Want to Be a Travel Blogger
Travel is your passion, and you want to share it. Great! Travel blogging is a lot of fun and the community is a welcoming one. Here’s how to get noticed:
- Know your competition- and make friends with them. Have conversations, offer guest posts, join Facebook and LinkedIn groups and contribute.
- Know your keywords- and use them wisely.
- Alt tag your photos to rank higher in search engines (it’s amazing how many people still don’t do this!)
- Link, tag and @ destinations if you mention them.
If you’re not sure you want to be a ‘full on’ travel blogger, but still want to share your adventures, ask your favorite travel blog if you can guest post. They will probably be thankful you did! In fact, I invite you to send me a pitch about your family vacation!
Photo credit: Jody Halsted; © Family Rambling® Travel Media 2012