Are you an aspiring travel blogger? Make your life easier by knowing the things you need to prepare before travel blogging!
We are writers, we collect photos, and we like to tell stories. Does this mean travel blogging is an easy task?
Reality check: it takes a shitload of discipline to keep a travel blog up and running. You have to think about topics you’re going to write on a regular basis and present your experiences in a readable way.
Still, all those travel experiences accumulated over the years can be forgotten… but you will immortalize and possibly earn with your travel blog when you start travel blogging. That’s why I encourage everyone to start their own travel blogs.
So for aspiring travel bloggers, this “Make Your Own Travel Blog” series is for you. Let’s start!
What stops you from blogging?
Wrong grammar. Imperfect grammar is a reality, and even the best writers get it wrong. Don’t overthink this part, as there are many tools out there to help you out. Try installing the free Google Chrome extension of Grammarly. Once you install it, it will automatically check everything you write — from comments to blog posts! Now you have an automatic proof-reader.
No time. This is a reality for us with full-time jobs and limited vacation leaves. I myself am a working student! I find time to write about blogs after a trip. During less demanding times at school and work, I try to write as many as I can. It helps to set a realistic calendar of when you’re going to publish. Accept your limitations, but work hard to keep that schedule (mine is once a week). Most of all, make a good use of all your VLs!
No camera. One of the best thing about technology is that good photos are not limited to DSLR cameras anymore. Smartphones with good cameras are becoming a popular alternative to bulky cameras. Action cameras are also becoming cheaper thanks to the development of Chinese brands. So, you don’t have to buy an expensive camera immediately. You can blog by just sharing your itinerary first, and rely on few but very good shots.
No budget. Traveling entails spending on trips, such as for transportation, food, and stays. It really takes some good financial discipline to be able to go out regularly. You don’t have to keep traveling every weekend. You can instead write about many topics about one destination. Explore the food, create a travel guide, and your personal stories can become three separate blog posts in one topic. Another alternative is budget traveling. It means using the cheapest way to travel so that you have more money for your next trips!
Things to prepare before travel blogging
Creating your own travel blog from scratch feels like a daunting experience. But we can approach it step-by-step, starting with what you need to prepare before travel blogging. Here are your basic needs:
#1 Photos. Travel blogs are all about inspiring wanderlust. In the age of digital media, photos are the best way to describe how “amazing” or “breathtaking” the natural wonders of the Philippines are.
You may have good quality photos over the years that you traveled. Start doing an inventory of your photos before travel blogging, enhancing them, and organizing them per destination. This will give you an idea of your existing portfolio and how you can play with them.
Don’t worry if your photos are not taken by a DSLR, GoPro, or a drone. Sometimes you only need an eye for beauty and a smartphone with a good camera. You can decide later on if you want to invest in other gadgets.
For photo enhancing, you can try Photoshop, Snapseed, and VSCO. Personally, I use my own filters via Photoscape and do batch edits. I don’t watermark photos for aesthetic purposes, but that’s up to you. It also pays to have a uniform “look” for your photos. For me, that means using landscape format consistently, and using my own filters!
#2 Itineraries. One of the best ways to provide value to your readers is by sharing your itineraries. This actually is optional and depends on your goals. But creating travel guides are useful and will drive readers to your blog.
After doing a photo inventory of the places you’ve been, organize them by destination. Then, set a time to create drafts of each blog post’s content. Travel itineraries are simply a record of your day trips, taking note of the time, pit stops, and activities.
#3 Stories. Maybe you’d rather write about unique anecdotes and stories about your travel. Reminisce about your travel experiences in your drafts.
Who are the people you’ve met? What interesting detours did you take? What are the new life lessons you learned? There’s no right or wrong about your experiences, so just keep your ideas flowing. Stories add color to an otherwise Wikipedia-sounding blog.
#4 Blog Pegs. Now might be the best time to look for your #blogpegs. Simply go to a travel blogger you like (ehem!) and start studying their websites. What tabs do they have that you also want? What are their sidebar options? How did they introduce themselves on the “About page”? How do they begin and end each article?
Save these “must-haves” for future reference. They can help you decide on your blog elements, themes, and plug-ins before travel blogging!
#5 Payment method. Not everything about setting up a travel blog is free. If you’re serious enough to buy a domain, get a host, and purchase a theme, you’re going to need money and a platform to transfer it. Common payment methods are credit cards or a Paypal account. I highly recommend you start setting up accounts or find friends who can help you out.
That’s it! Photos, itineraries, stories, blog pegs, and a payment method are your basic foundations before travel blogging. Once you organized them into your arsenal, you now have a better idea of how to start.
What travel blog topics to write about
Travel is a wide niche for blogging. So, what message do you want to send out to the world? Aside from becoming memorable to your readers, this will guide you in creating content in the future. Look back at your portfolio of photos, itineraries, and stories. Here are some ideas:
#1 Narratives. If you always find an interesting perspective on your travel, writing narratives may amuse your readers. Highlight interesting anecdotes from locals, seek out unique experiences, and apply some personal wisdom and experience to your travel article. [e.g. Catanduanes in Christmastime]
#2 Guides and Hacks. If you’re the ultimate travel organizer, create travel guides for your readers. Share your itineraries, recall fare prices, and record commute instructions. You can even share tips on how to save money on your travel, which is a primary concern of most DIY travelers. [e.g. How to Spend 5 days in Panay Island]
#3 Reviews. If you like specific activities such as camping or cross-country biking, you might want to recommend the gears you’ve tried and tested. If you’ve stayed in many hostels while backpacking, share info about their amenities or how your stay was. And if you tried a local restaurant, let your readers know how the food tastes and what you recommend! [e.g. Ahon Trail Socks Review]
#4 Feature articles. If you like to recommend your top 10 of everything, then consolidate all your experiences into listicles (list-form articles). But don’t just list items randomly, do research, inject your personality into them, and make sure you validate why they’re on your list. [e.g. Baguio City]
#5 Galleries. Maybe you’d rather do storytelling with photos and videos. With the popularity of vlogging (video blogging), that’s fine! Share your panoramic shots of landscape, post your underwater videos, and capture your adrenaline-filled adventures. Make sure to “wow”, but also add insightful captions or notes. [e.g. Lioness Rock]
How to choose your travel blog name
This is a legitimate concern for those hoping to start a travel blog. The first thing to know is that you should not be afraid of making mistakes. Personally, I tried various names before followyouroad. It took me years of blogging to find the perfect name, starting with the most embarrassing ones (hello, awesamness!). Here are some suggestions:
#1 Use your name. If you want to establish your name in the industry, then there’s no harm using your name, nickname, a term of endearment, or with a witty variation of it. This is the most common way bloggers name theirs!
Keep in mind, however, that it’s literally your name on the line. New acquaintances and possible employers might find your blog with a quick search, so perhaps you should think twice about publishing your drunken beach escapades. Unless of course, that’s how you brand your blog.
#2 Use travel keywords. In determining your blog name, it might be helpful to use keywords relevant to your blog. You can even add these to your personal name, or use an adjective that might fit:
- Persona words: traveler, backpacker, wanderer, explorer, adventurer, nomad
- Activity-specific words: biker, camper, surfer, mountaineer, foodie, photographer
- Other words: Pinoy/Pinay, Cebuano, Pinas/Pilipinas, travel, wanderlust
Make your name reflects who you are or what you write about. Like, if you name your blog Pinoy Surfer and you’ve actually only surfed once, it may be a source of your blog’s identity crisis in the future!
#3 Use call-to-actions. You name your blog by inviting readers to do something. An example is my own blog inspired by a 70s song by Pauline Wilson. You can take any of the words you live by, a phrase from a famous quote and modify it.
Last step: Check availability. Now that you have legit domain name ideas, it’s time to check if they are up for grabs or taken already! This is especially useful if you’re planning to buy your own domain (AKA your own .com) in the future. Simply do a free domain name search to confirm if it’s available.
Note that generally, it’s advisable that you use .com since it’s easier to remember. Plus, .ph is far more expensive!
Open social media accounts
Even before travel blogging, you may already have personal social media accounts. One of the best tips I can give is to stick to your blog name and use it as a username in other social media accounts.
For example, I’ve always used followyouroad as a username for my Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and more. However, I didn’t use it with my non-travel related accounts such as Skype, LinkedIn, or email address. This is to preserve privacy over things that I don’t want to readily be accessed publicly.
Your readers can find you easier by using a uniform username. But note that it pays to choose an original blog name and social media usernames. Generic usernames might already be taken on other social media accounts.
Check their availability of username ideas by typing the following:
Optional: Create a Logo or Header
If you’re aiming to treat your blog seriously, you might want to consider appearances before travel blogging. That includes branding – a magical word that simply means consistency with how your blog looks and feels. One of the best ways to brand your blog is creating a logo (in WordPress, it’s called favicon) or a header.
It’s best to create two versions. First is the logo/favicon with square-shaped dimensions. You can use these for profile photos for Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook page. The second is a rectanglular version which you can use as a header.
You can use this logo on your social media accounts and your blog’s icons and header. You can even stick them to your photo watermarks. Other people pay for logo creations, but you don’t have to! As you can see, I simply chose a rugged font for followyouroad. Don’t overthink, as you can still modify these later on.
There you go!
Finally, you’re armed with the basics of how to prepare before travel blogging. You now know what you need to do such as making an inventory of existing photos and stories, brainstorming blog names, and opening social media accounts. At least when you finally decide to take the plunge, you are better armed with the tools you need!
In the next post, I will discuss with the nitty-gritty of travel blogging: Should you buy your domain or stick to free platforms? How much do you expect to spend when you buy your own domain and host? These and more will be answered in Make Your Own Travel Blog. Subscribe to get notified!
Travel blogging takes a lot of work, but with a little preparation, you can make starting up easier.