Travel writing and travel blogging look pretty glamorous from the outside: travel the world, take photos on beaches and from the tops of mountains, stay in fancy hotels and sip frozen beverages poolside. Okay, maybe that’s just my fantasy!
But, whatever your travel fantasy is, travel writing or travel blogging can get you there. And the best news is that it’s easier than you think to not only make money travel writing or travel blogging but to partner with brands, hotels and more to get comped trips!
What’s the difference between a travel writer and a travel blogger?
Let’s start with the difference between travel writing and travel blogging, or at least how I’m using those terms. In my opinion, a travel writer is someone who writes for an outlet they don’t own themselves, whereas a travel blogger is someone who writes for their own blog.
I am both. I do travel blogging here on this site, and I’ve done it in the past on other blogs I’ve managed. I’ve also written for outlets such as POPSUGAR, Golf Digest, CraftBeer.com (under my legal name) and more as a travel writer.
So, the good news is that you don’t have to choose. Some people start with one and then move to the other, and some people prefer one over the other.
How do I get started as a travel writer or travel blogger?
I learned about travel writing when I was on a press trip to St. Simons Island five years ago. I was there covering a golf story in my capacity as a sportswriter, but everyone else on the trip was a travel writer or travel blogger. They started telling me about all the fabulous trips they were taking to destinations all over the country — and even all across the globe — for free!
How?? That’s what I asked too!
Several of the ladies on the trip had all taken the same course. I raced back to my room during our next break and bought the course immediately and then stayed up half the night diving into it. It taught me how to write a good pitch to outlets if I wanted to write for others and even went into how to write a good travel article/blog. Everything I needed to get started was inside this course, and I was already pitching story ideas to outlets and applying to more press trips before I left St. Simons.
So, I asked my friends over at Great Escape Publishing if I could share a discount with you all for the course, and they graciously agreed! You can take
Flash forward five years, and now I teach social media for the same company I took that first course from five years ago. They found out about my social media experience and asked me to start teaching at their annual conference, and now I even have a social media course of my own for travel writers!
Where to Write About Travel
One of the coolest things about travel writing is that you can write about a variety of topics, from destination guides and hotel reviews to food and beverage to activities and attractions. Some writers specialize in one area, while others write on a little bit of everything.
So, should you aim to write for publications or should you start your own blog? I think there are a a few factors to consider. First, how important is it to you to make money ASAP? In my experience, you can make money as a travel writer for publications faster than you can start and grow a blog big enough to monetize it. So, if money is your top priority, I’d probably recommend you pursue pitching publications to write for them.
The second factor is whether you want to focus on one niche or write on a wider variety of topics. You can go either direction, but if you want to go deep in one niche then blogging might make more sense in the long-term. I’ve found it easier to start monetizing my blogs when they’ve been niche, like my business of college sports blog.
If you’ve decided to write for other publications and websites, you’ll need to learn to pitch. In some instances, you can pitch the idea for the piece you want to write, but some publications will require you to draft the piece first and send it for review. Most publications and websites have submission guidelines that will inform how you pitch them. How do you find those guidelines? Try a Google search for “[name of publication] submission guidelines.” You can learn all that and more in the course!
If you’re writing for your own blog, the first step is to start your website by using a hosting service like SiteGround. You can purchase your domain name through them and then install WordPress on the site. If you’ve never blogged previously, check out this course on travel blogging from my friends at Great Escape Publishing!
Travel Writing Tips for Beginners
The first and most important thing is simply to start writing. You don’t have to wait until your next trip, you can write about the last trip you took or even write about your own local area. Don’t let a lack of travel keep you from getting started.
If you’re writing for other publications and websites, you may find that you have to write for free until you build up a few pieces you can use to pitch yourself to bigger and better publications. If you’re already at that stage and struggling to up your game and write for publications that pay, check out the travel writing retreats I host with my travel writer friend Noreen Kompanik.
For those who decide to pursue their own blog, try writing at least once a week, more if you are able. I’ve found it’s incredibly difficult to grow a blog if you’re publishing less than once a week.
Next, you need to learn how to use social media as a travel writer or blogger so you can grow your audience and start connecting with others in the travel industry.
Social Media for Travel Writers
Almost as important as writing is being active on social media. Currently, I would say Instagram is the most important platform, as it’s a great way to connect with destinations, hotels, restaurants and more. As you begin to be hosted by these folks, you’ll also find they want—or even sometimes expect—that you share your experience on social media.
For bloggers, I also think Pinterest is important because it can drive more traffic than any other social network. Although many writers also use Facebook and Twitter, it can be overwhelming to try to start accounts and grow them on multiple channels, especially when you’re dedicating time to your writing.
If you’re not sure where to get started, I teach a social media course that helps you get your accounts set up and then leads you through best practices for each platform (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest) and how to use each as a travel writer or blogger. Even if you’ve been using these social networks in your personal life, you may find approaching it as a writer is different.
Social media will help you promote the pieces you write so you can attract readers, but it is also a great way to connect with others in the travel industry and with your audience. Once you establish your accounts and begin using hashtags and tagging destinations and brands in your posts, you’ll find you begin to get more invitations to visit and more comp travel.
In fact, I was teaching my course in person at a conference a few years ago, and I talked about how I often comment on the posts of hotels or restaurants before I visit (even if it’s not a comped experience). One of the ladies in my class commented on an Instagram post for the restaurant where she had a reservation that evening and mentioned it was her daughter’s birthday. When she arrived, they had champagne waiting and even gave her table free dessert—and that was before she even really had many followers!
Benefits of Travel Writing
I’ve been travel writing for five years now, and it’s taken me to dozens of destinations and earned me thousands of dollars. I haven’t pursued it as a full-time endeavor, so I certainly could have made more if I did. However, what I love is the chance to travel at least once a month—often on someone else’s dime!
One of the best press trips I’ve been on was a 10-day multi-city trip to Colorado. I was able to ski for free at three different resorts, stay in luxury accommodations and eat at some of the best restaurants in every city we visited. Not only were my hotel rooms and lift tickets free, but all my meals, my airfare and my transportation between cities was all covered. It was a completely free 10-day ski trip! On top of that, I got paid by outlets to write about various aspects of that trip.
If you want to start traveling for free and getting paid to write about your travels, all you have to do is commit to getting started. Who’s ready??