Share Your Story: How to Start a Travel Blog

how to start a travel blog

*This post contains Bluehost affiliate links. Read our disclosure here.

From packing lists to women’s travel tips, HPL is all about getting you ready for upcoming adventures. And for many of you out there, that preparation might involve mapping out how you share your story with your friends and family, and even the world!

That’s why we’ve prepared this handy guide on how to start a travel blog.

Why Start a Travel Blog?

1. Easily Update Friends and Family
Travel blogs make the task of keeping loved ones up-to-date on your travels (whether a gap year, working holiday, or RTW trip) a whole heck of a lot easier. Instead of working through your email address book again and again, you only need to update the blog with a new post, once.

2. Record Travel Memories
Not only that, but a travel blog acts as a digital scrapbook that you can revisit from anywhere you have an Internet connection.

If you’re worried that starting a travel blog of your own is a scary, technical process- stop. We’re here to put those worries to bed with this insanely simple guide!

And that’s it! You can have a basic travel blog set up today, in less than 20 minutes! So, let’s jump on in.

How to Start a Travel Blog: Creating a Blog from Scratch

how to start a travel blog simple guide

For this tutorial, we are creating a blog from scratch. Ok, so a much simpler version of creating a blog from scratch! We’re showing you how to start your own self-hosted WordPress blog.

While there is a small monthly fee involved with this method, you get full control over your website from the beginning and save yourself from stress down the road when you would otherwise decide to make the switch. I’ve seen it happen time and time again. So, you might as well start as your own self-hosted site and have fun with all the possibilities.

Step 1: Pre-Plan

I know you’re excited to get up and blogging, but wait just a minute. A little bit of pre-planning will save you time and stress down the road- I promise! Here are a couple of things to think about in this step:

1. Identify Your Blogging Purpose

  • Are you wanting to use the site to blog about a singular trip, or will you be blogging about your next trip and any trip for the rest of your life?
  • Are you blogging purely for the ability to keep a digital travel journal, to update friends and family, or are you looking to take it to the blogging as a business realm?

2. Travel Blog Name Ideas

The process of signing up for hosting and setting up your blog will be a much quicker process if you gather some travel blog name ideas in advance. Some things to keep in mind include the following:

If you’re moving to China, then a blog called “Emily in China” will work just fine. But, if you’re going to China and then plan to continue blogging on future travels, “Emily in China” will someday become obsolete and confusing for future readers (if that’s what you’re going for).

Once you have a name in mind, you’ll want to make sure the domain that matches (as best possible) is available. Check for emilyinchina.com, and if that’s not available, find a suitable alternative such as eminchina.com or inchina.com or anything else you feel comfortable with. Hyphens are also a possibility (emily-in-china.com), but keep in mind that most people tend to remember domain names without them. Not a deal breaker though.

You can search for available domain names, and even get ideas for alternative combinations, using Bust a Name.

BEFORE YOU PURCHASE A DOMAIN: If you plan to go forward with Bluehost hosting, as walked through in this post, then you are eligible for a free domain name with a yearly account.

Or, you can snatch that domain name up right this second using any service, such as namecheap. The choice is yours.

For those looking to get the blog in front of as many eyes possible, another step in this process is to look that social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) are available as well.

Step 2: Get Hosting {and Free Domain}

Hosting is where your blog actually lives on the Internet- where all your site’s files and images are stored. Choosing the right hosting is important so you can be sure your blog is accessible without issue and loads quickly. As your site grows, your needs will probably increase, but for beginners, Bluehost is a great place to start.

Just a little disclosure: Her Packing List is not hosted on Bluehost, but I do use Bluehost for another project. HPL’s needs and high traffic took us to WP Engine, where we invest a lot more for its advanced WordPress hosting features. (If you are interested in a more advanced hosting service, please email me about WP Engine, which is a minimum of $29/month spend.) You don’t need to worry about all that at this point, so keep it simple.

With Bluehost, you can get your blog rolling for as little as $3.95 per month. That’s less than a coffee!

Why do we recommend Bluehost for your first travel blog?

It’s reliable, affordable, and packed full of features. Plus, you get a free domain name and free email addresses, so you can also look professional when emailing from your blog’s official email account.

How do you sign up for Bluehost?

1. Get Started Now. Head over to Bluehost and click the green “Get Started Now” button.

how to start a travel blog with Bluehost

2. Select the Starter Plan.

Select the starter plan with Bluehost. How to Start a Travel Blog

3. Enter in the domain name you chose in Step 1. Or enter a domain you already own in the right box.

Register your travel blog domain name with Bluehost.

4. Fill out your account information.

Fill out your account information.

5. Choose your hosting package. In order to get the cheapest plan possible, choose the Starter Plan for 36 months. Yes, you will pay for the whole shebang up-front, but, there is a refund policy. Cancel within 30 days and get a full refund! If the investment is too much at this time, consider the 24 month or 12 month packages instead, which are both still a great value. They simply add another dollar or two per month as the plan steps down in length.

Select your hosting package at Bluehost so you can start a travel blog.

In regards to all the other options on this screen, you don’t need to select anything. We highly recommend having some sort of backup service to protect your data should something go wrong, but you can also set that up outside of Bluehost, through plugins (which we’ll discuss later).

Enter your billing details and continue to the next screen.

6. Here you will see upgrade options. As a new blogger, you don’t necessarily need to select any of these. Continue on to complete your purchase.

You don't need to select any upgrades or addons at this time.

You now have hosting!

Step 3: Install WordPress

Once the hosting is set up, it’s time to get the blogging framework installed: WordPress. WordPress makes blogging super easy, and I’ve been using it religiously since 2007 on a number of sites, even this one you’re on right now.

1. Log in to your hosting. So, after you get your hosting, you will immediately create your hosting password and log in to your hosting account for the first time. Here, you will be prompted to either do the setup yourself, or to have Bluehost help you. You can do this setup yourself, using this guide.

Create your Bluehost hosting password

Login to your hosting.
Login to your hosting with your domain name and your new password.
continue the setup yourself.
You can continue the setup yourself, so close out of this popup.

2. Click on WordPress. This is your hosting dashboard, and while it may look overwhelming at first, there’s a lot here you don’t need to concern yourself with just yet. We are only interested in the icon that says “WordPress”. Click it now.

This is your hosting dashboard. Install WordPress by selecting the icon under Website Builders.
This is your hosting dashboard. Install WordPress by selecting the icon under Website Builders.

3. Select the green “Start” button.

install wordpress

4. Select the domain name you want WordPress to install to.

Choose the domain you'd like to install to.

5. Click “Show Advanced Options”.

The show advanced options screen.

This screen lets you choose the name (don’t stress – this can be changed later) and login details for you blog. Make sure to check the box for automatically creating a database and that you read the terms and conditions. Click “Install Now”.

The install is complete

6. Log in to WordPress. Once the install is complete, you will receive an email from Mojo Marketplace with your blog login details. Click the Admin URL. This is where you will enter your username and password (that you created in #5 above) so you can log into the backend of your WordPress blog.

The email from Mojo with your WordPress install information.

Your WordPress login page - the Admin URL.
Your WordPress login page – the Admin URL from your email above.

Now you’re in your WordPress dashboard. This is where the magic happens!

Wordpress Dashboard

Step 4: Choose a Theme

WordPress already comes installed with a basic theme, so you don’t have to do anything beyond this point if you don’t want to. But, if you want to have a more customized, personalized, and pretty travel blog, you’ll probably want to get a new theme.

A theme basically tells the blog how to look when people visit your domain. Think of it like the clothes, hair and makeup of your digital identity.

There are plenty of free WordPress themes on the web for you to choose. However, I’ve learned over the years that free just often doesn’t cut it in terms of updates, features, and support. Instead, you can get a beautiful, feature-rich travel blog with an investment of anywhere from $25-$100.

Mojo Marketplace WordPress Themes
Mojo Marketplace WordPress Themes

Bluehost hosting puts you immediately in touch with the Mojo Marketplace where you can find numerous blog themes selections for under $50. And they look awesome! Hiring a designer to do what is already done for you here would cost 10x that, if not more. I’ve used Mojo Marketplace to purchase the theme I use for my Aroamas shop.

One thing you’ll absolutely want to look for in a theme is that it’s RESPONSIVE. That means it will look and function properly on mobile devices as well as desktop. This is very important!

Themeforest WordPress Themes
Themeforest WordPress Themes

If Mojo Marketplace isn’t for you, I recommend checking out themeforest or even StudioPress for themes.

When you do decide on a theme, the file you will download is a .zip. Take this .zip file and upload it in your WordPress dashboard to Appearance > Themes and then click Add New.

Don’t forget to activate it!

Note: Don’t get too caught up in finding the perfect theme. Once you start adding your own images, stories and plugins, you will find that the theme instantly becomes personalized.

Step 5: Install Plugins

Plugins make blogging fun. Think of them like add-ons, or extra bling, for your blog. WordPress is simply the framework, but plugins help you customize it to your own personal tastes. It’s kind of like when you buy a budget airline ticket and then pick and choose extra features, like in-flight entertainment or the ability to check a bag.

The WordPress Plugin Directory has thousands of plugins that you could potentially install on your blog, but only do so if you really need it. Too many plugins can affect site speed and page load times.

For the most part, you’ll discover what you want to install after blogging for a while.

You can search for, and instantly install, plugins in your WordPress dashboard. Go to Plugins > Add New.

Plugins Worth Checking Out:

  • WordPress SEO by Yoast – The ultimate in SEO plugins. If you want major eyes to your site, focusing on SEO is key.
  • WordPress Backup to Dropbox – An easy plugin that dump a backup of your database to dropbox for you. Good if you already use Dropbox in your normal life.

Step 6: Share

Now that you have a blog, you can share it with your friends and family, or even the world! If the latter is your goal, then you will want to, if you haven’t done so yet, secure all the social media accounts that will be associated with your travel blog – even if you don’t think you’ll use them all. Better safe than sorry later on!

And from that point, you can start writing about your adventures, even months in advance. Share your planning, your itinerary, your packing list and so much more. And don’t forget to share, share, and interact with your readers and other bloggers. It’s fun, and you never know what friends you might make in the process!

Happy blogging!

Further Reading:

Start a Travel Blog

What Comes Next…

Here is a quick list of extra things you could be looking at with your new travel blog, but don’t get overwhelmed. This all can wait until you get more familiar with your blog and blogging platform.

  • Set Your Permalinks – By default, the URL’s for your blog posts and pages will look a little something like this: http://example.com/?p=N

    Those are considered ugly permalinks and they don’t tell you what the page or post is about. Instead you might want something like: http://example.com/my-best-travel-day

    To make the change, navigate to Settings > Permalinks in your WordPress dashboard. From here, you have many options. You can choose the post name option, or you can go with something like here on HPL where we use the month and name.

    permalinks structure

    Choose your option and click “Save Changes”.

  • How to Set Up Your Email Address – This Bluehost tutorial will walk you through the steps of getting your very own, personalized email address for your domain! Think something like brooke@herpackinglist.com.
  • Create a Mailing List – We used Mailchimp for years here at HPL before moving to ConvertKit. Creating a mailing list that people can sign up to gives you the ability to send out messages to your followers, directing them to new blog posts or sharing any other special news along the way. Mailchimp plans start off free!
  • Canva – Get creative with your theme and blog posts using Canva. I use Canva for HPL nearly every single day- no joke! It’s so easy to use and many of the images and graphics are available free of charge. Use Canva to design your own logo, add text to images, or combine images into collages.

Advanced Travel Blogging Tips

If you want to know how to start a travel blog and make money, or get sponsorships and free travel, or just to use your blog to leverage a business, then this section is for you.

Since becoming a travel blogger, I have been able to:

  • Earn extra spending money selling ads
  • Earn free travel experiences to destinations and activities around the world (I no longer take part in these offerings)
  • Make a living by using my knowledge and experience to freelance write for other sites (I no longer freelance write)
  • Leverage my audience to promote and grow my physical product business
  • Learn and implement affiliate marketing techniques that result in a predictable monthly income
  • Turn Her Packing List into a successful business with a team
  • Speak at both Travel Bloggers Unite and Problogger blogging conferences

Honestly, I’m amazed that I can write this list of accomplishments here in 2015, and I do so to let you know that you can, too, do the same. But…

Don’t for a second think it will be easy.

What you don’t see in this list is all the years I’ve been blogging (since 2007 on WordPress!), all the years I had a measly income, all the hours on the computer, and all the stress and worry of just not knowing if what I’m doing makes sense! I’ve trialled and tested and scrapped more ideas than most people do in their entire lives (OK I’m being dramatic, but you get the point).

Becoming a professional travel blogger, or turning any blog into a business, takes real work. With real planning and goals. And will probably include your fair-share of self-doubt and guesswork along the way. Trust me.

If you’ve made it past the last couple of paragraphs and still think you’d like to look at a blog in a more professional manner, then read on.

Here are my top tips:

  • Know what you want to get out of it. Are you looking for comped travel experiences, or are you looking for paid sponsorships? Are you blogging with the hopes of getting a book deal or to create digital products like travel guides? What prospect excites you? Mold your blogging plan around this goal, from the beginning.
  • Know what you can provide that solves a problem for your audience. This is key! It’s the main reason HPL has seen success that my personal blog never could have. There, I was really only sharing my story and not helping others as much in the process. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and some people are very successful (define success for yourself) with that path as well. That blog did, however, help me land freelance writing gigs, which is definitely a level of success- just not the right one for me.
  • Treat it professionally from the beginning. Write well. Share nice photos. Make connections with companies and blogs with a focus. Invest in yourself and your business. That last one is hard at first, but later on you will look back and know that it was money well spent!
  • Look at the big picture. Becoming successful at blogging is a marathon, not a race. Avoid small temptations and focus on the big wins of the future. Easier said than done, I know!

And most of all, prepare for some good old hard work.

Growing a blog is definitely a challenge, and regardless of my comments above, it can actually be a super rewarding one at that. Best of luck in your blogging journey ahead!

Please let me know if you have any questions!

If you found this post useful, please consider sharing this with your friends on social media, or by linking us up on your brand new blog! We appreciate it!

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using them, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. It helps to keep this site running – thank you!

Written by Brooke

Brooke Schoenman runs the show at Her Packing List. Inspired from years of travel experience, Brooke decided there needed to be a travel gear site focused on the needs of a wandering female.

Add your voice & leave a comment!

Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Kyrsten says

    Brooke,
    Great informational post! Do you have any helpful tips on converting an existing free WordPress blog (example.wordpress.com) to one without the “WordPress” part in the URL? Can you just pay for the upgrade on WordPress and is that even recommended? I don’t want to lose all of my content!

  2. Olusegun says

    Eye opening. I have always wanted to start a travel blog. But please can you give advice on content ideas for the blog. Thanks

  3. Diane Bland says

    Great formation, I am wanting to star a blog for my trip that is planned for December 2017. I am taking a world cruise that will last 141 days, embarking n Miami and disembarking in London England. I need some packing tips as well

  4. Nicole says

    My question is similar to Kyrsten. I’ve just started out travel blogging with the free wordpress.com. How can get more traffic to my website and improve it? Is it worth buying the domain?
    Thanks Nicole!

    • Brooke says

      I always think it’s worth buying the domain. It looks more professional, and it’s really only a small yearly fee (~$10). Guest posting can help get you more eyes, as well as being active on social media (Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook, etc.). It takes time to grow so take it one step at a time! 🙂

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