Travel blog salary, ah the most mysterious subject that you could Google. Or at least it seems that way, am-I-rite?
When I first started out in travel blogging, I had no idea how much people could make in this field. The answers that I found online ranged anywhere from $0 to 30,000+ a month. It was hard to get a real sense of how much travel bloggers ACTUALLY make and how much was made up or exaggerated in order to sell an online course or a “This Is How I Got Rich” book.
Talking about salary also feels like a taboo subject. But what I’ve realized over the years is that it only puts us all at a disadvantage by not opening up about this topic and making information available to each other.
In this guide, I shed some light on my current travel blog salary and how much I made this month as an example. If starting a travel blog is something that you are considering, or already have a blog and are interested in how to monetize it, I hope this post can guide you in the right direction. Let’s get started!
Some of the links used in this blog may be affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, I earn a small commission when you book through these links for which I am very thankful!
Is Travel Blogging For You?
Travel blogging is something that I have been doing for 6 years now (the first two years as a hobby and the last 4 years as a serious full-time job). It takes a good amount of effort to get a travel blog going and a bit of an investment since you’ll need to fund your travel expenses before you can start making money from your blog.
The first few months of starting a travel blog are always the most exciting. You come up with a concept, and blog name, buy the domain name, build the website, and publish your first post. You’re traveling, documenting, taking photos, and writing engaging posts that you think will be super helpful and everyone will love. Everything is so thrilling and new! Then as time goes on and you keep putting in more hours you start questioning yourself “Is this really worth it?” and “Will it ever pay off?”.
The next period is where your true willpower, focus, and drive will either take over or (what happens in most cases) your fire will burn out and you’ll start publishing fewer and fewer posts. Before you know it months will have passed from your last WordPress login.
According to research, about 95% of blogs are eventually abandoned. I get it, I almost gave up too. After two years of not making money from it, I either had to figure out how to make money and keep it going or move on to something else.
While you might think of it as a fun side gig, travel blogging can easily take up 40 hours a week just to publish a few posts so there needs to be a good incentive to keep you going. If you’re not actively researching ways to make money from a travel blog and putting in the time to try various methods, essentially it just becomes a very expensive and time-consuming hobby. This is why most people give up on it after a few years.
If you think about it before you can make money from a travel blog you will:
- Need to travel to locations – which can cost several thousand a month for gas, flights, car rentals, hotels, campsites, entrance fees, food, etc.
- Invest in camera gear to create photos for your travel blog and social media channels.
- Invest in travel gear. We can easily spend thousands a year on backpacking packs, tents, sleeping bags, jackets, boots, camping supplies etc.
- Pay for various software to manage your business.
- Pay for the domain name and website hosting which gets more expensive as your visitors increase.
- Hire help and virtual assistants as your blog grows.
- And have lots of other random expenses.
So is travel blogging easy or cheap? Heck no.
I’m not here to crush your dreams because I honestly love it and can’t imagine myself doing anything else at this point. But the sooner you figure out how to monetize your blog, the more of an incentive you will have to keep going.
This section covers how to start a travel blog. If you already have a website – awesome! Feel free to skip down to the next section.
How To Start A Travel Blog
Compared to other platforms, creating a website requires more effort than opening an Instagram or Tik Tok account. That’s why social media is often the go-to method for income generation for new travelers because it’s free and so easy to set up.
On the downside, most social media platforms peak after several years and are riskier with their constantly-changing algorithms while Google is more steady and will be around for a long, long time.
Before we cover details on how to make money from a travel blog, if you don’t have a website yet, creating a website should be your step #1. It doesn’t require a whole lot to get a website going except a willingness to learn and a small initial investment. I’ve started and now manage two travel blogs and the setup is one of the most exciting parts of it!
Here are the basic steps of starting a travel blog:
1. Come Up With a Travel Blog Name
Picking the right website name is an important step that you shouldn’t overlook as it will be representative of your blog, brand, and business for many years to come. While you can try to change the name later, I don’t suggest doing that as it can create a nightmare when it comes to website maintenance.
For my second blog, I took a couple of months to brainstorm and write down various blog names before I settled on CaliforniaWanderland.com.
Keep the name somewhat short, keep it catchy and descriptive of your niche or area of expertise. Avoid using words that are hard to spell, numbers and dashes.
2. See If The Domain Name Is Available
Once you have brainstormed blog name ideas, use websites like NameCheap to see if the domain name is available. Sometimes the hardest part of starting a website is finding a name that is not already taken. Only get a domain that has a “.com” at the end and avoid “.net”, “.org” or any other variations.
You can also use websites like DomainsBot to help you find similar domain names that are not yet taken. The DomainsBot name suggestion tool even lets you filter for “.com” names, various keywords, and skip dashes.
3. Choose a Website Hosting Company
Once you have a domain name picked out, find a hosting company to register the domain name and store all of your blog’s data. We personally use SiteGround for all of our websites and have been since the beginning.
The main reason why we picked SiteGround is that it’s made for WordPress, the #1 website builder that 99% of bloggers use. SiteGround has cheap prices, a great user interface, and the best customer service in the industry with 24-hour day service and quick response time. This is very helpful when you’re just starting out!
With virtually zero downtime SiteGround has built a setup that has led to extremely quick website loading times. And their customer service has always been there to help us with any questions.
It costs $17.99/year to register the domain name with SiteGround and around $3.99/month with their StartUp plan to host a small website with around 10,000 monthly visitors. As my websites have grown, I was able to switch from shared hosting to cloud-based hosting for ultra-fast website speed.
4. Install WordPress
WordPress is a platform that you will use to build your website and upload blog posts. Once you register a domain name and pick a website hosting plan, SiteGround customer service will help you automatically install and set up WordPress with one click.
SiteGround is an expert in WordPress so they will set everything up for you making it super easy. Once you have WordPress installed, you will be able to log into the admin panel and start creating your website content.
In WordPress, you’ll also want to get a few plugins installed that are essentially similar to phone apps and serve a very specific purpose. Keep in mind that every plugin can slow down your site so don’t go overboard. I have about 10 plugins installed for this website but here are a few of the main ones:
- Akismet Anti-Spam – to protect your blog from spam attacks (which happen quite a lot).
- All in One SEO – this is a great plugin that can help you better understand SEO. The more you know about SEO, the higher your chances will be of ranking on the first page on Google.
- WPForms Lite – a beginner-friendly plugin that I use for my Contact Us page which is an easy way for readers & companies to contact you. Honestly, most of the time I just get super spammy emails asking me for backlinks (to which I always say “no thanks“).
5. Pick a Blog Theme
A theme will help you create the design and look of your blog. When it comes to themes, you really have endless options. There are free WordPress themes, ones that charge a one-time fee, and others with monthly subscriptions.
I have used several themes over the years and currently have Astra Theme set up on this blog. It’s very light, fast and does the job well. But this is not exactly a beginner-friendly theme as you will need to create and customize most of the design yourself using blocks.
I don’t have the “fanciest” looking blog out there but sometimes overloaded themes can significantly affect your website speed. So while you might pay a premium price for a super-nice-looking blog, people will exit before they see the content if it takes too long to load.
If you’re ever wondering how fast your website is, you can plug in your URL on the PageSpeed Insights website and it will give you a score of where it stands (keep in mind that if you have ads, lots of plugins, and large images on your blog, your page speed will be highly impacted).
My second blog California Wanderland has the Ashe Theme. The Ashe Theme comes with a modern pre-made design and requires minimal setup. I just had to switch out some photos & text and was able to get the website up and running in a couple of days.
You May Also Like:
6. Customize Your Website
I also recommend getting a custom logo done for your website – I had mine created by an Etsy artist for just $15.
7. Create Content
This is by far the most time-consuming part of being a travel blogger. I often travel to a location for just two days and then spend a week creating a blog post around it.
For the past few years, my content strategy has revolved around creating extensive guides 2000 to 3500 words long for a better chance to rank on page 1 in Google. Other people keep their blog posts much shorter and publish content more frequently. You won’t know which strategy fits you best until you publish a few posts and start seeing the results.
And don’t worry about being the “best” at anything in the beginning. Yes, you do want to keep improving your skills over time but also be patient with yourself and try to enjoy the learning process.
These are some of the first photos that I uploaded into WordPress in 2016 from our trip to Bali.
Once your travel blog is up and running, your learning curve doesn’t stop there. There is still a lot of work to do if you want your blog to be successful.
8. Learn About SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Without understanding the basics of SEO, your blog posts will have lower chances of being discoverable. Even a great, long, detailed blog post can tank if you don’t try to optimize it for search engines like Google.
Before writing a blog post, I come up with an idea or a “keyword”, I look it up in Google Keyword Planner to see if it’s something people are searching for, and build my blog post around that keyword.
I also use the All in One SEO plugin that has a section at the end of the blog post in WordPress where you can fill in the Post Title, Meta Description, Focus Keyphrase and see what “SEO score” the plugin assigns you.
You certainly don’t need to get a 100% in every category but it’s a great tool that can help you understand how SEO works when you’re new to blogging.
PS. Keep in mind that this is my basic SEO strategy and there are plenty of experts out there that are way better at SEO than I am.
9. Invest In Photography Gear
While many other blogging niches can get away with using basic visuals or stock photos, travel blogging is all about describing locations and showing how beautiful they are. And the best way to do this is through photography.
You don’t need a fancy camera when you’re starting out – even a small mirrorless camera can do the job well. We used the beginner-friendly Sony a5100 camera for years before upgrading to an expensive full-frame camera.
But if you plan to work with clients and sell your images & prints, you will need to upgrade to a full-frame camera eventually.
We now use the Sony a7c which is the world’s smallest and lightest full-frame camera – perfect for traveling. A full-frame camera creates high-quality images in large file sizes which is the expectation in commercial photography.
10. Promote Your Blog On Social Media
Posting on Social Media is one of the easiest ways to grow a blog – and it’s also free! But social media can take a lot of time, so while you want to be present on social media, make publishing blog content your priority.
If you’re a team of one, it can be hard creating so much content all the time. It’s a good idea to try out posting on several social media platforms to see which ones you like the best, but trying to do them all will also burn you out quickly.
I use Tailwind social media management tool to schedule all of my Pinterest pins for the week and engage in communities where I re-share content with other travel bloggers.
Facebook has an easy post-sharing interface, but it can be very hard to grow a Facebook account without paying for ads. Instagram and Tik Tok are great for going viral and getting sponsored posts, but drive very little traffic to my blog.
My Travel Blog Salary
It might take a year or two to get to a place where your blog posts are well written, have great visuals, and are starting to get some traction.
So what’s the next step? How do you get your travel blog monetized and start making some money or at least cover your current travels? We’ll dive into that next!
Whether you have an established blog with a large readership, or you’re in the starting phase, one of the easiest ways to make money from a travel blog is by having ads on it. At first, I was very hesitant about installing ads on my blog. But you hear ads on the radio, on podcasts, see them on TV, in magazines, and in newspapers so don’t be afraid to have them on your blog too.
I always thought that as soon as I started serving ads, the readership would tank but quite the opposite has happened. If visitors find your blog valuable, they will try to support it in many different ways.
If your blog is still somewhat small, there are several options on how to install ads on your website:
- Google Ads. I currently have Google Ads running on my newbie blog that has 10,000 monthly page views and earns around $3 a day – just enough to buy a cup of coffee at my favorite coffee shop. While this is not a lot, you just need to start somewhere. Google Ads have low RPM rates (page revenue per thousand impressions) but you can start running Google Ads on a blog of any size and start making income. I’m also convinced that Google gives preference to blogs that run Google Ads and rewards you by showing your content more. Maybe I’m wrong but I’ve seen the visitor rates starting to increase with both of my blogs after installing Google Ads. So if you have a small blog, install Google Ads and see if your readership improves in a few months.
- Monumetric. Monumetric is a full-service ad revenue partner that will automate the ad setup and offers good RPM rates. But Monumetric charges a $99 setup fee for smaller blogs with 10,000-80,000 monthly page views and has a couple of month waiting list.
- Ezoic. This is another ad network that can help you automate ads on your website. Ezoic is very similar to Monumetric but is free to join when you have around 10,000 monthly visits. I plan to apply to Monumetric or Ezoic in the next few months with my second blog.
(Note: Since I wrote this post, I did apply to Monumetric with my smaller blog, and from day 1 of acceptance tripled my ad income!)
If your blog is bigger in size, consider applying to these ad management companies:
- Mediavine. I love Mediavine! I have been part of the Mediavine ad network with this blog for over 3 years now and couldn’t be happier. Mediavine is a market leader when it comes to blogging ad management due to its incredible support, customer service, and technology. My Mediavine RPM yesterday was $67 which is unreal for March compared to the $9 RPM I’m getting from Google AdSense with my newer blog. But to join Mediavine you now need 50,000 monthly sessions which can be hard to achieve when you’re just starting out.
- AdThrive. AdThrive is a premium ad network that only accepts websites with more than 100,000 monthly page views. While this blog has over 100,000 monthly page views and I COULD apply to AdThrive, I plan to stick with Mediavine because I just love working with them so much! And I currently earn a 3% bonus for every year that I have been with Mediavine (bumping up to 4% this year).
One of the biggest turning points in my blogging career was applying to the Mediavine ad network, being accepted in their program, and starting to run ads on this website. I applied to Mediavine while my husband and I were traveling in our van across the Pan-American Highway just burning through our savings. Having a monthly income from ads helped relieve some of that money stress and continue our travels.
Income from ads also serves as a steady, passive salary. While ad income can fluctuate month to month as marketing budgets increase and decrease, in general, it stays somewhat consistent.
Having a passive income is so great when you’re traveling and don’t have the time or energy to do partnerships or take on clients. It’s a great feeling to wake up in the morning, check my Mediavine Dashboard, and see that I made $200 the day before.
This month I made $5,702.06 from Mediavine Ads and Q1 is typically the “low time” of the year.
I’m excited to see where the rest of the year takes us as we bounce back from Covid travel restrictions.
When it comes to blog ads, there are some factors that you can control and other factors that are out of your hands. Typically ad income starts low at the beginning of the year and picks up in revenue towards the end of the year.
Some years don’t always follow this model (ex. 2020 when many companies stopped advertising due to shutdowns, low revenues, and decreased marketing budgets). Other years like now are higher than average because the markets are doing well and companies have more money to invest in ads.
Ad income can also depend on how your blog is set up. Here are some things that can bump up your ad income:
- Increase the font size. Larger font means longer read times and more ad money. 18-20px is the recommended font size and this is an easy fix that you can do any time.
- Write shorter paragraphs. In order to serve more ads, you should have shorter, more frequent paragraphs. I usually keep paragraphs 2-4 sentences long. This also makes it easier for visitors to read posts as most people skim, not read everything word per word (unless you do, in which case – I really appreciate you!).
- Promote “related posts”. If one reader visits two pages, that doubles your income vs if they immediately exit after reading a post.
- Don’t run AMP on your blog. One year I added AMP as an option in my blog which is a mobile-friendly way to show blog posts to increase speed and viewership. But AMP posts rarely show ads and have a low payout. So while my readership doubled, my income plummeted.
- Analyze which posts do well. After a few months of running ads, I looked to see which blog posts have the highest CPM rates (how much the advertiser is willing to pay for 1000 impressions). I realized that some of the highest paying categories are car and van posts, gear, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Mexico-related travel posts so I started creating more material around these subjects.
- Add a video player. If you’re part of an ad network and they offer a video player option, opt into it! My income increased by 30% after adding a video ad that Mediavine offers. Sometimes it’s not about reaching more readers but figuring out how to increase the value of your existing readers.
Ad income this month from Fun Life Crisis travel blog: $5,702.06
Ad income this month from California Wanderland travel blog: $90.51
You May Also Like:
Partnerships, Collaborations & Sponsored Posts
Doing sponsored posts is one of the most common ways that influencers make money, especially on platforms like Instagram and Tik Tok.
Some sponsorship examples for travel bloggers include:
- Tourism Boards
- Travel-related products
- Tour agencies
- Gear companies
- Clothing companies
I’ve done a fair share of sponsorships over the years and can tell you that sponsored posts are a lucrative way to make money, but certainly not passive.
The moment you sign up for a partnership you are committing to:
- Strict deadlines
- Lots of back and forth emails
- Negotiations & contracts
- A list of requirements of what is expected of you
Companies and brands want to make sure that they will receive plenty of exposure & material so there will be lots of work involved.
When I first started I completely undersold myself and took on partnerships, even if they didn’t pay that well. This is fine if you’re just starting out and want to get a feel for how partnerships work, what is expected, and build a client base. But as your audience and skills grow, don’t undersell yourself and adjust your prices accordingly.
After taking on a few partnerships I realized that I was spending more money on gas driving to their preferred locations, paying for flights, hotels, and buying outfits than I was making in income from the partnerships. And it was taking away time from creating content on my blog or researching other ways to make passive income so the cost of those partnerships was much higher than I accounted for.
Now I only take partnerships for products that I love, think my audience would enjoy reading about, and have marketing budgets to compensate appropriately for my time and travel costs.
If you’re taking on a partnership in exchange for a free product keep in mind that YOU might end up paying for it in other costs like travel and time.
A travel blog is an expensive business to run. Now I have many monthly costs that I have to consider too. Just like any other business, I could not operate if I gave away my time for free.
Partnership income this month: $3,200
As a travel blogger and business owner, you should never put all of your eggs into one basket. Having multiple income streams is key to lowering your risk in case one of them abruptly ends. I have lost all of my income by focusing on just one platform in the past and it’s not a great feeling when your income plummets to $0 (like when my Instagram account got hacked and deleted).
Even blog ads can still be affected if your website hosting goes down, Google stops indexing your blog posts, the world shuts down during a pandemic, companies reduce spending, etc.
If you want to diversify your income like a healthy 401K portfolio (which I just started investing into again since I left my 9-5 job so don’t even get me excited!), look into creating various streams of income.
Affiliate marketing is another source of income that is easy to start even for new blogs with small readerships.
But while affiliate marketing is a passive source of income (once you add a link, it could make you money for years), I find it less reliable than ads. Affiliate programs can shut down without any notice (ahem Airbnb) leaving you with a lot of links on your website promoting products that don’t make any money for you.
When it comes to affiliate marketing, it’s best to try out a few different programs and see which ones readers are interested in, have decent affiliate commission rates, good customer service support, and pay on time.
Most programs require you to reach a certain threshold until you can get your first payment. It can feel like your money is being held hostage despite having done all that work. Just be patient and keep working at it and before you know it, you will reach that threshold.
Here is my affiliate income breakdown for this month:
- Amazon: $333.05
- AvantLink: $78.27
- Skimlinks: $115.71
- CJ: $185.30
- Booking.com: $156.96
- Get Your Guide: $7.41
Some of the above affiliate programs such as Amazon, Booking.com and Get Your Guide are partnerships that you will need to apply to direct and keep track of earnings on their dashboards. Keeping track of affiliates can get a bit difficult if you’re part of many different programs.
Another option is to go through affiliate advertising companies such as AvantLink, Skimlinks, and CJ that require one application and have many different affiliate partners.
If you’re new to affiliate marketing, I recommend Skimlinks network because they make it very easy to get started, have a user-friendly reporting dashboard and offer an extensive list of merchants to work with.
My goal for this year is to continue investing time in affiliate marketing. Currently, my affiliate income makes up a small portion of my monthly income and this is something that could be improved significantly.
Affiliate marketing income this month: $876.70
If you excel in photography, selling your image licenses to companies, brands, magazines, and book publishers is a great way to make a side income.
Many companies outsource images so they don’t have to organize and pay for their own photoshoots and can instead use existing images from photographers found online.
Your blog and social media accounts can serve as a portfolio for potential brands & companies looking to outsource images.
Most of my image licensing gigs now come from my blog. A lot of times I get approached when someone finds my image from doing a Google image search on a certain subject and wishes to incorporate it into their own product, website, magazine, or book.
There is a fair amount of work that goes into creating content so you should not be giving image licenses away for free. You could end up spending hours re-editing the image and sending back-and-forth emails until you get a final product a company likes and approves of. You can also offer bulk image packages since in many cases companies are looking for more than 1 image to use.
Image licensing income this month: $576
Total Travel Blog Salary This Month
Well, there you have it! Here is the breakdown of my income for this month:
- Ads from Fun Life Crisis travel blog: $5,702.06
- Ads from California Wanderland travel blog: $90.51
- Partnerships: $3200
- Affiliate marketing: $876.70
- Image licensing: $576
Total Travel Blog Salary This Month: $10,445.27
Keep in mind, that this is a one-month income example. When running a travel blog, your income is never guaranteed and it’s up to you to put in the work, learn, grow, apply new ideas, improve the existing ones and keep going.
At the beginning of the year, I like to write down what my expected income goals are for that year, what that breakdown looks like for each income stream, and start working on those categories. It’s important to be steady, persistent, and consistent while pursuing your goals!
When I first started, my goals were much smaller and more realistic. At first, I was reaching for $2000 income per month, then increased it to $5000 and then $10,000. It’s important to keep raising the bar and trying to live up to the challenge but also give yourself a big pat on the back when you reach your next threshold.
Travel Blog Costs
It’s also important to note that not all of this income ends up in my pocket and there are plenty of costs associated with running a travel blog.
Just to give you an idea of what those costs were for this month:
- Travel: $727.42. This month we only went on two short camping trips so our travel cost was much lower than typical. Usually, our travel costs average around $2,000 per month for gas, flights, rental cars, hotels, campsites, travel food, permits, activities, and entrance fees.
- Contractors, VA’s, and writers: $528.62. While I still manage my travel blogs mostly by myself, over the years I have tried to outsource some parts of my business because it’s just impossible to do it all yourself. For me, that mostly includes finding writers for specialized subjects and virtual assistants to help manage some of the busy work. This cost can also vary from month to month. After spending a lot on writers for year-end, I have been cutting back in Q1.
- Office expenses: $166. This includes the cost for various software like Tailwind, Adobe Lightroom and Planoly, internet and phone.
- Web hosting & domain name: $75. This can get expensive, depending on how much traffic your blog receives. I recently had to increase my SiteGround plan (which is truly a good thing since that means we’re getting more visitors!)
- Coffee shops: $64.16. Lately, I’ve been enjoying working in coffee shops in the mornings. After covid shutdowns it’s nice put on jeans instead of sweatpants, go out in public and feel like a normal social person again.
- Equipment & gear: $183.33
- Business license: $100/month
Total travel blog expenses this month: $1844.53
Note that this does not include other living costs like rent, food, clothing, pets, medical bills, or just the insane general cost of being a human adult in 2022 with the rising inflation. We also happen to now live in one of the most expensive California coastal cities and we spend $2800 of our income on rent.
I miss the days when we lived in our campervan and paid $0 for rent but after spending 15 months on the road, it’s also nice to have a permanent home base for a change.
My goals for this year are to expand my income by writing about subjects with high CPM rates, keep testing different affiliate programs and incorporate a product or a shop into my website. I have some fun ideas for van life products but I need to carve out time from a busy schedule to look into it creating them.
One of my main goals is to get my second website to 50,000 monthly sessions and apply to Mediavine. Despite having 70 blog posts on it, my second travel blog is growing much slower than my first one. I haven’t invested a whole lot of effort into social media for my second blog which might be the reason why it’s not growing as quickly. It’s impossible to do everything by yourself and I’ve been stretching myself pretty thin over the years trying to do so.
I hope this guide has helped shed some light on what type of income you can expect to make from a travel blog. Keep in mind that I’ve been managing my travel blogs for several years now so it’s not something that happened overnight. I spend A LOT of time creating content, sometimes working until late hours and on weekends too.
Travel blogging is a field that requires constant monetary and time investment. Many travel bloggers get burned out from this constant “go-go-go” lifestyle so that is something to keep in mind for your long-term goals.
Working on a travel blog can also take away some of the enjoyment from traveling itself because it becomes full-time work, not just a fun thing that you liked to do in your free time. Now when we travel we spend a lot of time:
- Doing research
- Taking photos
- Writing notes
- Editing photos
- Posting on social media
- Creating blog posts
- Replying to comments
- Keeping up with website maintenance
BUT I love travel blogging! I enjoy the creative aspect of it, the challenge that it brings. It gives me a thrill and excitement every time I push that “Publish” button. And I doubt that I would be able to make this type of salary if I stuck to my old 9-5 accounting job.
I hope to continue working on my travel blogs as long as I can earn a decent income from it, pay my bills, and feel happy about the work that I am doing.
Looking for more tips & inspiration? Here are a few of our other popular blog posts that you may like:
- 12 Proven Strategies On How To Promote a Travel Blog
- How To Make Money While Living In A Van
- 10 Things You Should Know Before Living In A Van
- 15 Traveling Tips For Van Life Couples
- The Ultimate Solo Female Van Life Guide