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10 top tips from 10 years of travel blogging

Today marks 10 years to the day that I started A Luxury Travel Blog. Back then, it was something I did on my lunch breaks out of personal interest and as a bit of a hobby – little did I realise then that it would take off to the extent that it did, and become my full time job. During that time, I’ve been fortunate to have quite a lot of success and am frequently listed among the top few on all those top travel blogger lists that seem do the rounds. These tips are based on my experiences from those 10 years and are for those who are looking to make a career from travel blogging, not necessarily for those who are just doing it to keep a personal diary with no intention of making it a profession. I hope they will be helpful not only to those just starting out but also to some of you who are already established, even it just re-enforces what you already know or are already doing. 1. Do your own thing As a travel blogger, you’ll read lots of advice on how you should be doing things. These are not hard and fast rules and really you should be doing what you feel works best for you. Take your own path, not one you feel you should be taking because that’s what others do. Choose your path For example, we often read that your blog must be personal and all about you. This is not a ‘rule’ I especially follow; sure, you’ll see occasional photos of me, but I prefer to have the emphasis on the destinations rather than forever presenting pictures of myself or my family (which personally I feel is rather narcissistic sometimes). I am not saying one way is right or wrong – there are pros and cons to each – just that you don’t necessarily have to do what everyone else does. Similarly, you’ll read that you should reply to each and every comment posted on your blog. Whilst I reply to some, I don’t feel this same obligation to reply to everything – instead, I’ll reply to comments as and when I wish or feel the need or have the time. Again, there are pros and cons to each – replying to people can foster stronger relationships between you and your readers (and encourage them to comment more often), but equally sometimes the comments can be so banal if you’ve little to add that they add little to the blog and become something of a turn-off. The internet is rife with what you should or should not be doing to ‘make it’ as a travel blogger (invariably from people who haven’t made it themselves!). You must also shoot lots of video… you must use Snapchat… you must comment on other blogs… you must use Wordpress… you must keep track of your Klout score… you must visit at least one new country each year… no, no, NO! You don’t have to do any of these things!! You could be successful without doing any of the above. In short, just because you see most travel bloggers doing something in one particular way doesn’t mean to say that you should, too. On the contrary, it could even be good reason for you to do things differently. With this in mind, take the remaining tips I present here with a pinch of salt. Although I believe they will help, they are not set in stone. You should not feel obligated to follow them – develop your own style and go with what suits you and your blog best. 2. Find a niche My previous point aside, I would recommend you find your own niche. Travel is such a broad subject area that you really need to focus on what interests you most and what you think you can cover best. When I started out, this was relatively simple – most of the travel blogs out there were backpackers travelling on a budget. Hardly anyone focussed on luxury so I was doing something different to everyone else. Now there is a glut of luxury travel blogs and of travel blogs in general so finding a unique angle is less easy than it once was. Travel Bear in mind, though, that your niche doesn’t have to boil down to luxury versus budget (and probably shouldn’t given how saturated these two areas have become). There are many different angles you could consider: solo travel, city breaks, travel health, the outdoors, family travel, RV travel, theme parks, couples travel, sports travel, LBGT travel, cruises, food and travel, travelling with a baby, travelling with pets, adventure travel, honeymoons, group travel, camping, responsible travel, skiing, educational travel, safaris, disabled travel, travel in specific locations etc. The list is endless. Having a niche is important it prevents you from spreading yourself too thinly and makes you more appealing to your target market. By having a focus you can market more effectively to a narrower group of people and, contrary to what you might at first think, this can actually lead to you being more profitable. Readers and potential clients will know exactly what you are about, and you have more chance of becoming an expert in your field as well as a greater chance of online visibility in your chosen area. It will be much easier to establish relationships with strategic partners and you will be more likely to receive referrals if you have clear area of specialism. 3. Be prepared for a long, hard slog Being a professional travel blogger isn’t the big, long holiday that some might have you believe. Don’t be fooled by the photographs of bloggers on beaches with laptop at the ready. Not only is this not really practical (sand and computers don’t tend to go well together) but it’s also not the reality for most of the top travel bloggers, even if it’s an image you sometimes see portrayed. Travel blogger on island_192820466 The reality is very different. Sure, there are great perks associated with being a travel blogger and it is a truly amazing job but if you’re going to ‘make it’, you’re going to need to put in a lot of hard work and be prepared to persevere. Starting a travel blog ten years ago wasn’t easy – I had to put in a serious amount of work before I started to see any significanct returns. Starting one now is going to be even tougher given the huge number of established travel blogs that are already out there. 4. Focus on quality content We hear it all the time that ‘content is king’. Whether you choose to believe it is the ‘be all and end all’ or not, there’s no getting away from its importance. Good quality content is the foundation that you need for a successful travel blog. Without it, you’ll never get as far as you could if you just put that extra little bit of effort and planning into your posts. Travel planning_293482196 Write about things that are not only interesting, but also useful. Present your post in an aesthetically-pleasing and easy-to-follow format. Try to use good spelling, grammar and punctuation, as well as quality imagery. Your readers will be far more likely to return if they feel they gleaned something worthwhile the first time around. 5. Promote like crazy I cannot underestimate the importance of promoting the content that you publish. However good your content is, it’ll never realise its full potential if you don’t give it a little nudge in the right direction. Better still, give each and every post as much exposure as you possibly can. Travel marketing Whether sharing on social media, engaging in discussions on travel boards, utilising your mailing list, trying to get the word out offline or running a paid advertising campaign, you can never do too much marketing and there is always more you can be doing. The secret is to make the most of the time and resources you have available to promote your blog and blog posts to their full potential. 6. Attend industry events I was a little slow on the uptake with this one – but out of choice rather than it being an oversight. With a young family, I didn’t want to be going to events here, there and everywhere. I wanted to spend time with my kids. As they got to school age, that gradually changed and I’ve attended more and more over the years, particularly events specific to my niche. Travel industry event_252302236 Understand that meeting people in person puts an entirely different complexion on a relationship. Whether you like it or not, there are many people out there who are only likely to do business with you if they have met you in person. And in some cases, they might want to have met you several times. At the same time, I wouldn’t advise you go to all industry events – there are so many and at some point you have to do some work, rather than simply continuously networking. Some events will work better for you than others – be selective and use your time wisely. 7. Be professional at all times Maybe I’m old school but I sometimes see travel bloggers using expletives in their posts. If I was looking to hire a travel blogger, would I choose someone like that? Perhaps others might, but I certainly wouldn’t. It’s really not necessarily to swear in your posts – some would even say it demonstrates a lack of vocabulary and an inability to properly express yourself. Travel professional In the same vein, don’t be late, be presentable, don’t abuse the generosity of your hosts, don’t be over-familiar, and don’t get drunk at parties at industry events or on assignments. Be courteous and professional at all times. You are working afterall and not on a Club 18-30 holiday. On a recent trip, there was a blogger who was late to just about everything we did on the trip and called one of our hosts ‘babe’ when talking to her. It was embarrassingly inappropriate and unprofessional. If I was the client, would I hire that person again? No! 8. Take notes and write up trips promptly Make sure you take detailed notes when you travel. This way you will record details that you are otherwise likely to forget. Travel notes The sooner you can write up your travels afterwards, the easier it will be to do since it will be fresher in the memory banks. It’s not always possible but increasingly I try to write things up as I go along – even if just in note form – and use the flight home to get the bulk of the work done. 9. Use the expertise of others Running a successful blog is more than a full time job. If it’s a big success, one person can’t easily do it alone so consider hiring others to help out, whether it be writers, marketeers or whatever area it is that you need help the most. Working with others I can’t be in two places at once so, when hired for assignments that would overlap, I have in the past sent people I can trust to represent me. Of course, you need to choose carefully but if you’ve been around for a while, you should have a good idea of who knows what you and your blog are about. 10. Appreciate your blog’s worth For me, too many travel bloggers undersell themselves. They are desperate to go on whatever trips they are offered but fail to recognise that they are offering a service of value, not just enjoying a life of free travel. Travel blogging is a business – for me, at least, even if it’s not how I set out in the first instance. For a travel blog to be sustainable over the longer term, you need to have a revenue stream. Free stays in hotels do not pay the bills, nor do free gadgets and products sent to you in return for a review. Without an income, you’re unable to re-invest in your site and take it to the next level, let alone cover your day-to-day expenses. Don't undersell Work out how you are going to make money, be it through sponsored posts, charging a day rate, selling banners or whatever. Maybe your blog will actually just be a vehicle for getting other related work – eg. travel photography, social media consultancy, etc. Whatever your methods, have a plan in place, charge accordingly and stand your ground on price. Providing some huge discount the first time you work on a small project with someone will only mean the same is expected the second and third time, so start as you mean to go on. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ and turn work down if clients are not prepared to recognise the value you offer. There will be others who will. Images: Shutterstock

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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  1. Thank you, Charles… and since you’re not expecting a reply, you may have one! ;-) Hopefully, you got the gist of my point. There is ‘advice’ out there that you must reply to everything. Whilst I can see that there is merit in replying to people who take the trouble to comment on what you’ve written, sometimes there is little to say or add, or sometimes you are simply too busy to reply to everything. What I’m merely trying to say is that if you don’t follow this ‘advice’ – and many other examples like it – it is not the be-all and end-all to being a successful travel blogger.

  2. Hi Paul and congratulations on making the 10 year hurdle. All great tips and one of my 2016 goals is to take the advice of #8. Even if I only go so far as to make an outline, I think it will help immensely to write down thoughts and ideas while they are fresh in my mind. Cheers to another decade ahead.

  3. All great tips Paul. It is a long and slow slog in creating a blog but worthwhile if you love traveling and sharing your experiences in a fun and unique way which brings out your own personality, style and story.

  4. There is a lot of wisdom in this post. I have only been travel blogging for about 6 months. You’re right. It gets tough to keep on turning out something of value. I hope I can attend an industry event soon, and I especially appreciated your advice about leaving out expletives and promoting your work. Thank you!

  5. What a great post. Thanks for sharing all you have learned, I really appreciate it. I have been blogging for 2 1/2 years now. Things have been slow and steady but I struggle with the ‘appreciate your blogs worth’ portion so those words are especially appreciated! I have had the benefit of freebies but like you say…they don’t pay the bills. Now looking into sponsored posts. Thanks again!

  6. Congratulations Paul! You must have seen some changes in your time!

    Wonderful tips and all the best for 2016!

    I also don’t expect a reply to my comment, but seriously now – will not get it as was not the first to point that out! ;)

  7. Hello,
    thanx for your experiences – I write a blog about Finland since two years and for me it is just a gift to the world. I like to share my passion for this wonderful country. My reward are the feedbacks and comments from my followers and the offer from a publishing company to write a book now about Finland. So there are always many ways … :)

  8. Wonderful Post Paul! Thank You!
    I also don’t expect a reply to my comment, but seriously now – will not get it as was not the first to point that out! ;)

  9. Thanks so much Paul. I appreciate your “old school” approach which encourages professionalism. I couldn’t agree more. I appreciate the familiarity that casual language can bring but I do believe that much of the time this is a false connection. Truly, understanding your audience and respecting their intelligence is key. Thanks for the great suggestions and congratulations on your success.

  10. #7: So true! Many times I want to share a post with good information but the amount of expletives is so unprofessional.

  11. I am glad that I read this post! Thank you for sharing your hard earned wisdom with those of us that hope to follow in your footsteps. I think folks get into travel blogging for many different reasons (and most leave it because it turns out to be too much work). Thanks for pointing out that engaging writing does not need to be so informal that it becomes being rude.

  12. Congratulations Paul on achieving 10 years in business. Your article was very timely as my New Year resolution was to get serious about starting my own travel blog. Your tips are very useful (true to your advice). Wishing you continued success.

  13. Very useful, practical tips and it’s nice to see a sensible approach for travel blogging. I totally agree that it’s not a walk in the park, and it will continue to take more effort to stand out of the pack. Making friends with other bloggers is key to opening new doors. All the same business rules in the offline world are just as relevant online.

  14. Thank you for the valuable tips and congratulations on 10 years and also the Travel Influencer award.

    I understand your point about too many photos of the blogger seeming narcissistic and I agree. However, I find I get better engagement on social media when I’m in a photo rather than just a photo of a view or hotel etc. That said, I lag behind my dog whose photos are much more popular!

  15. Thank you for all the lovely comments, everyone.

    I agree with you, Candice, about showing your more of your personality leading to greater engagement. I think this is very true and this is why I said that there are pros and cons to each method. I’m sure if I revealed much more about my personal life, people would feel they ‘know’ me more and could be more likely to comment/subscribe/whatever. Most of the blogging advice out there that I see is telling me that that’s something I should be doing – all I’m trying to say is there are no hard and fast rules, and no right or wrong answer, and that you should really run your blog in a way that suits you, rather than necessarily in a way that others say is best.

    Hopefully, ALTB is a case in point on this issue. You’ll see me feature sometimes, but not nearly as much as those behind many other travel blogs, and yet hopefully you’ll agree that the blog is still a success despite this! :)

  16. Sigh, I just hate doing number 6. But I agree that it’s important. Finding a niche is starting to become tough too – I originally thought my style was my differentiating factor. I still think so considering that I have diverse travel; interests and my blog reflects that. Thanks for this consolidated article.

  17. I think you make some really good points here Paul.
    Especially about promotion, niche and doing your own thing. I’ve read so much, that you would think there is a miracle formula to blogging but I totally agree with your point of view – know your nuts and bolts, write quality content, find a niche and take the time to market yourself properly.
    Thank you for this thoughtful post!

  18. Thank you for sharing this, I’ve just started my blog this month, and coming across this post makes me be realistic about my niche. True, there are a lot of travel blogs out there, famous ones, but still pushed thru with my project. As Neil Gaiman said, there is always room for one more writer.

  19. I absolutely agree with #10, and I appreciate the reminder in #1. It’s tricky balancing self-confidence in what I’m creating vs. what I see others creating (and succeeding with). My “word for 2016” is simplicity, which will align well with doing only that which is truly me. Thank you for this post!

  20. Congratulations to 10 years successful blogging!
    I really like your article, your points hit the nail on the head. For me you are not old school at all. I think professionalism is the key, otherwise it will always stay a hobby. And it is work which is sometimes underestimated.

  21. Good advice Paul. I enjoy your blog, particularly articles on New Zealand. I will take your advice. Thank you!

  22. Congratulations Paul,

    Thanks for sharing your hard-earned insights about what blogging takes to be successful. Ten years is a true indication of your devotion and professionalism.

    I do love photography and writing, therefore as a Travel Agent, it was a natural progression within my career to pursue a passion to blog.

    I agree with you whole heartedly, it’s very time consuming and once you start, blogging needs to ‘keep on keeping on’ ! How many times have we looked at blogs only to see their last post was way back when?

    And yes, I quickly fade out too when punctuation is not observed and used appropriately, regardless if it’s a blog or a written article.

    Look forward to reading more about your journeys and blogs.
    Grace Lech

  23. Thanks Paul for your tips! Just beginning my project this year and I will surely need all this advice. It is a small project, only in my country, Chile, South America, and the niche, sustainable special interest tourism. Hope all goes well. Greetings from this small corner of the world,

    Patricia Palacios

  24. Hi Paul,

    Congratulations for completing 10 years.

    Thank you for giving us the tips for travel blogging. The industry has been changed so much over last decade that it becomes difficult for any new travel blogger to come out of the clutter. You have highlighted the right point and shed some light on travel blogging. What look great from outside often turns out to be lot harder inside!

  25. At the end of 2015 there were 3.2 billion people worldwide online, so where are the other 4 billion? They’re going to be connecting to the internet this year and the next few years. I’m going to be thinking in terms of abundance.

    I don’t think it’s easy to be recognized whether you start a brick and mortar business or a blog 10 years ago, 179 years ago like Tiffany’s did, or one year ago. Getting going is tough in the beginning for everyone.

    I believe if people are going to be blogging the best time to start is *now* and to not give up. 99% of bloggers give up, they want it today, and well that’s not really how it works. Any blog or business is going to be a longer end-game.

    I really do think people must enjoy blogging and the subject they’re blogging about in order to be “successful.” =)

  26. I agree with some of what you say, Jaime, but not the bit about the best time to start being now. I think the best time has actually passed, but then again starting now would be better than starting in a few years’ time, I suspect. It’s certainly not too late to start – just tougher, I think, than it would have been if you’d started a few years ago.

  27. First of all, congratulations on achieving this milestone! 10 years is quite a big number nowadays, with the short-life spam on the Internet.

    This is truly one of the best and most honest post I’ve seen on travel blogging. I really liked how you advised to avoid all those “do this to be successful”tips that are widely promoted, sometimes it feels more of a checklist than following your passion. I heartly agree on developing good content, there have been many times where I stop scrolling what seemed to be an interesting webpage/blog due to the poor writing/pictures of a combination of them both.

    The appreciating our blog’s worth is a very interesting point, I think that more than often we fall onto the underselling ourselves.

    Thank you for sharing! I’ve learned quite a lot by reading your suggestions.

  28. Thank you for the detailed feedback, Isabel (and thank you everyone else for your comments also!). I’m really pleased to hear the article is proving useful to some of you.

  29. Hi Paul
    I’m in the early stages of becoming a blogger and although i’ve been an online editor for many years, the move over into the blogger world has been a real eye opener! Your suggestions above have been incredibly helpful and I completely agree that there are no hard or fast rules…
    Looking forward to launching my blog very soon and will continue following you on your adventure, here’s to another 10 years!


  30. Hi Paul,

    Congratulations on completing 10years! A great milestone.

    This is the most comprehensive and direct tips i have ever come across. Thank you very much for that. I agree with all these. I also add that you need to write with lot of passion so that your reader can feel it. Also one need to keep the reader in mind while writing. A question we always ask ourselves when i or my wife write in our blog is “Why should a reader read what we are writing?” If we get that answer, we are done.

    Lastly, i would like to say that we love your blog and share them.

    Keep it going!

    Best regards,

  31. Something we all forget 10. Appreciate your blog’s worth, great article. All 10 points are so useful thank you for sharing!

    Congratulations Paul, you are an ispiration showing that hard work and focus can create amazing opening and experience, I look forward to enjoying A Luxury Travel Blog over the next 10 years!


  32. It’s been a slow start for me, and while I love writing and traveling and writing about traveling – it does seem that “most” bloggers have instant success. Thanks for the inspiration and wisdom on what it really takes to become successful.

  33. Hi Mary

    If you’re getting that sense, I would put the emphasis on the word “seem” rather than “most”! People are often good at appearing to seem successful and giving that impression may well do them no harm. I would liken this to restaurants putting their first guests of the evening in the window and other would-be customers who subsequently pass by outside get the impression that the restaurant is busy (often a sign of a good restaurant) and so go inside themselves… the same is true with blogging. Give readers an impression that you are successful and it might well bring about new opportunities. Just a thought that maybe helps to keep you inspired to persevere! :)


  34. I’m a little late to the party but congratulations on passing the 10 year mark Paul. That’s certainly an achievement and as echoed in the post it’s all about persistence and being in it for the long term.
    I see plenty of posts from bloggers that like to make it all look like a walk in the park when travel blogging is more like a climb up Mt Everest.
    It’s a relief to know that I don’t need to be on Snapchat, I don’t understand it and it looks like a 5 year old designed it. Not always a great idea to go with the latest trend, if it’s still important in 2 years I might have another look!

  35. Thank you, Charlie.

    For the record, I’m not saying that Snapchat won’t ‘make it’ (some would say it already has), but that just because it works for someone else, doesn’t necessarily mean you must use it (or anything else for that matter – doesn’t have to be Snapchat). I’d say go with what’s right for you, and focus on doing a small handful of channels well, rather than trying to do them all as there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do them all true justice. :)

  36. Thank you for sharing your experience, Paul. I think the most important tip you gave (and the hardest to follow) is the last one. As newbies, our temptation to accept every offer is huge. I’ll try and keep what you wrote in mind! Congrats on the 10th year mark (a bit late) and thanks again for the post!

  37. Hi Rafaela

    I’ll give you an example. Last year I was invited to go on an all expenses paid trip for a large brand. Everything was going to be paid for and we were going to be well looked after, but there was to be no budget beyond being hosted. All I had to do in return was attend, write about the experience, and promote it on social media.

    I quoted my rate for that work (it wasn’t a small fee because it required about 4 days of my time, plus time to write it all up afterwards, and promote that content), and was quickly told that there wasn’t a budget beyond being hosted in full. I therefore declined.

    Move the clock on, and I was contacted again by the same PR company once more, two weeks before the trip was due to commence. Only this time they were happy to pay my fees afterall. Luckily I still had the availability in my calendar and I went on the trip, had a great time, and delivered great results for the brand.

    Whilst on the trip, I also learned that – out of the thirty or so people on the trip (most were Instagrammers rather bloggers) – I was the only one being paid.

    Just goes to show it’s sometimes worth standing your ground. :)


  38. Great post! Thanks so much for sharing your tips and knowledge. :) I will definitely be using this advice when working on my niche and blog site.

  39. Definitely time for an update on this one – 3 years on.

    Just look at the responses it got! Perhaps you should run this and ask for bloggers to give their opinions on an update.

    I’ll put in my views to kick things off:
    I feel that the quality of writing of travel blogs is going downhill. Too many of them are too long without having much to say. Bloggers need to buy themselves a book of great travel writing for Christmas.

    1. Thanks, Andy… I suppose the ‘barriers to entry’ to run a travel blog are low. Once upon a time, you would probably need a degree in journalism to make it as a travel writer. Nowadays you can start out with little more than a computer and an internet connection – you don’t even necessarily need to have a good grasp of English (or your native language), it often seems! That said, I’m a firm believe in that – in the longer term – quality is what usually tends to win through and stand the test of time.

  40. Looks like you’ve gone from strength to strength and you’ll soon be celebrating 14 years! I’m a fellow blogger but in a very different area than travel, and I think you make excellent points so these are tips most of us can appreciate. Getting the niche part nailed down can be difficult because it can feel very claustrophobic and restrictive, so thinking outside the box a little and opening it up is definitely helpful. Your blog has also shown me another side to the word ‘luxury’ and it’s expanded my horizons when it comes to all things travel, so I think you’re doing amazingly well!

    1. Thank you, Caz. Yes, finding your own niche isn’t as it easy as perhaps it once was. Or at least finding a unique niche. It’s perhaps hard to believe, but when I started there were really no other blogs focussing just on luxury travel. There were very few travel blogs, in fact, so it was much easier back then to set your stall out and do something different. Nowadays, of course, there are thousands of luxury travel blogs, let alone just travel blogs. I would just go with what interests you most and what you enjoy, and focus on that. The chances are that you won’t be the only one covering it now that the marketplace is so saturated but, if it’s a niche you believe in, and one that you have a lot of passion for, you should be able to shine. Good luck! :-)

  41. Thank you so much for sharing you unusual experience and knowledge. 10 years! WOW! And now it’s 15 years!
    Sounds amazing. Thank you for motivating and inspiring people for so long. I hope that you will continue doing this type of content.

  42. WOW! What a bunch of great information. Thanks for taking your time to sharing this.I only start blogging now, actually I thought I would be much easier, I am currently working in tourist for 10 years and have so much information to tell, but when trying to express my thoughts it looks silly, unfortunately. I guess the problem is that English is not my first language, but I will do my best.

  43. All of your suggestions are excellent, Paul. Creating a blog is a long and tedious process, but it’s rewarding if you enjoy traveling and sharing your adventures in a fun and unique way that reflects your own personality, style, and story.

    1. Thanks, Karen… soon I’ll be at 20 years of travel blogging. Maybe then I need to do a new version of this post – I think a lot of what I said still stands but I’m sure I could elaborate on a few points and maybe provide some additional tips.

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