Can you start a travel blog without traveling?

Travel blog on laptop

Is travel a good niche for a blog?

Travel blogs are fun.  It’s a popular niche. IMO, it’s a pretty good niche.  The ad revenue is decent. There are seemingly unlimited long tail keywords.  It’s relatively commercial as in people spend money in it (as opposed to niches such as history and politics to mention a couple).  All-in-all, you can do a lot worse than jump into a travel blog.

One thing to keep in mind is that depending on the locations you cover, it can be seasonal. I’m not big on seasonal blogs, especially when starting out in this business. I prefer steady revenue coming in every single month.  That’s more of a testament to my inability to budge than anything else. I don’t trust myself to not spend the money during the good months.   I currently do have several seasonal niche sites but combined they all offset one another so I’m okay with that. Some are summer-oriented and some are winter-oriented.

That said, it’s pretty easy to offset by publishing on multiple areas, some of which are summer-centric and others winter-centric.

For example, if I did a travel blog about Vancouver where I live, that would be highly seasonal to summer.  If I added on Whistler (popular ski resort) which is 2 hours outside of Vancouver, it would be balanced between summer and winter.  The Spring and Fall months wouldn’t be great though and I can tell you from experience that Spring isn’t the best time of year in Vancouver.  Spring skiing in Whistler can be good though.

But, can you launch a travel blog if you aren’t traveling or don’t travel much?  If so, how?

Yes, you can. You have two ways to grow a successful travel blog without traveling.  Below are the two best ways to publish a travel blog without traveling.

Option 1: Focus on where you live and your region

This is a no-brainer.  It does assume you live somewhere that people travel to some extent.  Even if you’re an hour or two or three away from a tourist area, it can totally work if you’re willing to head out there for a road trip or short stays.

For example, I live in North Vancouver.  Vancouver, North Vancouver and Whistler are massive tourist destinations. I could easily publish a successful niche site all about Vancouver and Whistler.  I don’t but I could.

Suppose I lived in some small town three hours away from Vancouver that nobody visits. In that case, I’d just have to do a series of short trips to Vancouver and the area.  That’s not such a big deal.  In a few days, you can get hundreds of photos, eat at several restaurants, stay in a few hotels and learn a ton about a place.  No flying needed.  It’s easily done on a weekend.  Voila, you have a travel blog.

Option 2: Hire writers in the areas you wish to write about

Do you think CNN’s CEO travels to all the locations that CNN profiles in its travel section?  Maybe he goes there but he’s not doing so for the website content.  Instead, CNN hires travel writers who live there or visit and write about it along with getting all the eye-candy photos.

I’ve done this many times; not so much for travel articles but instead hiring writers to visit specific stores or locations to write about.  It works really well.  The content is amazing. I pay a bit more per word to include photos.  Fortunately, getting photos is cheap, easy and possible for everyone with smartphones.  Yes, I just have the writers use their smartphones. If they have a better camera, that’s great but I don’t require it.

Where can you hire writers to write about specific locations and regions?

IMO, the best and easiest place is WriterAccess.  With WriterAccess you can do what’s called a “casting call”.  A casting call is essentially a writer-wanted ad within the WriterAccess platform.  You can set out your requirements, one of them being that they are able to go to whatever location you wish to write about.  You can set out photo requirements, pay rate, etc.  You can set it out as an extensive project so that the writer will do an entire series on the location with topics provided by you.  Basically, you can set up the project for any location exactly as you wish.

One drawback with WA is that writers are located in only a handful of countries?

WA writers are only located in the USA, Canada, Australia, UK, New Zealand and South Africa.  It’s possible you can hire a writer who is traveling in a place you wish to write about but keep in mind those are the countries from which WriterAccess accepts writers.

If you’re writing about Italy from the comfort of your own home in Boise, Idaho, for instance, you’ll need to likely seek out writers on broader platforms such as Upwork or Freelancer.  There are writers from all over the world on those platforms.  It might take some vetting to find good writers in your target area but it’s doable.  Keep in mind that when you do find a writer for a specific location, you can get a lot of great content about one location. There’s so much to write about.  Like I said, I could easily build up a lucrative travel website restricted to Vancouver, North Vancouver and Whistler.

Don’t forget the photos

If you’re publishing about a location, town, region etc. photos are critical.  Whoever you hire to write will also need to agree to take photos.  Yes, you can hire a separate photographer but that’s going to increase the cost considerably.  My practice is to require that the hired writer also take plenty of photos.  Using a smartphone camera is totally fine.  The photo quality of most smartphones these days is excellent.

The blogging technical requirements for a travel blog are the same as any other type of blog

Travel blogs don’t require any special blogging technology.  WordPress with a theme and hosting will do the job.  My preferred themes are Astra, Kadence and Trellis.  I host with Rocket.net.  That’s all you need.  Keep it simple. Focus on going after long tail, low competition keywords and publishing good content.  Remember, lots of photos.

How much can a travel blogger make?

We need to distinguish freelance travel writers and blog owners.  The remuneration is very different.  A freelance travel blogger/writer will earn immediately.  Rates vary from $.05 to $.10 per word.  Depending on the publication they work for, travel expenses may be covered.  I don’t pay for travel expenses; I prefer to hire writers in the area.

A travel blogger, aka travel blog owner and publisher will earn very differently.  It takes at least a year for a new blog to start making money (in most cases). Don’t expect a fortune in year one either.  If you can get to $500 to $4K per month in year one that is outstanding.  Year two is when the money starts coming in better.  $2K to $8K is possible.  In year three, if you publish a ton of content, can see you get to $4K to $10K+.  At that point you’re self-employed living the good life.  It’s not inconceivable that you hit $20K+ per month in years three and four if you’re piling on good content.

From there the sky is the limit. The beauty about publishing blogs is there is no revenue limit.  Sure, you can max out a particular niche which means if you want to earn more, fire up another blog. At that point you can hire writers for all the content; you become a publisher instead of a blogger.

FYI, the above revenue progressions are based on my 10+ years blogging and currently owning a 20 niche site portfolio.

What if you can’t write well? Can you still become a travel blogger?

Yes, but you’ll have to hire writers.  You’ll be a travel niche publisher instead of blogger or writer.  You’ll need to invest a lot of money upfront in content to get it going; I’m talking $25,000 which should get you 250 to 350 articles or so published.  Could be less depending on how much you pay writers.

How do travel bloggers afford to travel?

That varies considerably.  It all depends on what type of travel blogger you are.  Here are options:

Freelance writer/blogger:  If with a top-tier publication your travel expenses may be covered.  If with a lower tier publication, you’ll have to cover the expenses yourself.  The only way to make it work is living being in the location you’re writing about.  Freelance writing fees aren’t enough to cover you flying to and paying for accommodations unless it’s a massive project.

If you want some publication to pay for you travel around the world, you’ll need to be an amazing writer and be fortunate to land such a gig.  Those are one in a million positions. You’ll probably have better odds launching and growing a success travel blog yourself than landing some writing gig that pays for flights and hotels.

Blogger/publisher:  You’ll be out of pocket until your blog starts making sufficient money to cover your travel.  The low-cost way to get started is to blog about where you are.

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