If you’re curious how to become a travel writer, you’ve come to the right place. I’m a travel writer who has had a lot of success in the industry, but there’s a reason I don’t do it full time. Social media and travel blogs will typically only show you the perks of being a travel writer. In this article, I’m going to tell you the truth about travel blogging. I’ll tell you how I got my start in travel writing, I’ll provide you with tips on how to become a travel writer, and I’ll be honest about the pros and cons of this coveted career.
If you choose to be a travel blogger, you’ll likely trade monetary compensation for a free trip quite often. Since the unreal life experiences from travel blogging are so extraordinary, most travel writers are okay with this financial obstacle, and they find other ways of making money. Some very committed, disciplined travel writers do get paid to write about travel from airlines (for in-flight magazines), prestigious travel magazines and big tourism companies. It’s more common to be offered a travel experience in lieu of pay, though. Much of the time, it’s well worth it, and I’m not denying the countless perks of being a travel blogger.
Sometimes (and yes, it’s happened to me) you will get paid and get the trip as well. When this happens, it’s typically about how you write and who you write for, not what you look like or how many social media followers you have.
Travel writing is one of those coveted jobs that everyone seems to be intrigued by. If I ever let it slip that I’m a travel blogger, all eyes and ears are focused on me. Do I enjoy that kind of attention? Not really. Explaining the true nature of this highly romanticized “dream job” isn’t that easy, but I do enjoy telling crazy stories from my travels.
I do a lot of travel writing even still, and what inspired me to write this article is the constant misconceptions I’m faced with about how awesome my life is. I’m sure you can guess how many people say to me, “Erica, you have the dream career, you’re so lucky.” Few people are aware of the dark side of travel blogging, but the drawbacks don’t necessarily make me want to stop doing it. No matter how many challenges come with being part of this world, I’m still grateful. However, because I think it’s important for people to know the whole story, I will be sharing the cons of travel blogging.
Is Travel Writing as Amazing as it Seems?
Travel writers tend to showcase the highlights of their travels on their social media, and that’s why their lives seem to be so awesome. They rarely post the hard work that goes on behind-the-scenes, or the precarious situations they sometimes get themselves in when they’re abroad.
In many ways, I’m very lucky to be a travel blogger. Few experiences beat the buzzing energy of a hotel grand opening, and feeling like you’re part of something special and momentous when you’re invited to cover it as a blogger. There’s no denying that this is a privilege. A “FAM” experience, which stands for media “familiarization”, involves hotels and tourism companies pulling out all the stops to ensure bloggers like myself not only experience the hotel’s luxuries, but also what the destination has to offer in terms of local sightseeing and activities. When a fancy resort rebranded in Los Cabos, myself and a few other select bloggers were flown to Mexico and treated to a 4 night all-inclusive stay, complete with an organized press experience. This included scheduled activities each day for all media representatives, such as golfing lessons, food tours, and scenic boat tours.
It’s undeniable that the career of travel blogging broadens your horizons and pushes you out of your comfort zone, in a really great way. Many of my most unique life experiences and coolest destinations I’ve seen happened because I was a travel writer. When it comes to getting paid to blog, it’s typically been my other types of writing that paid my bills, not travel writing. However, traveling is a major passion of mine, so I’d like to share how I got my start in the travel blogging world.
My Travel Blogging Story: How it all Started
For me, it all started in 2015 when I was a freelance writer just starting out in her writing career. At the time, I mostly wrote about dating, relationships, health and wellness. In the back of my mind, I fantasized about how to become a travel writer, but it seemed like a very far-fetched dream. However, one day, someone I went to highschool with (who I hadn’t spoken to in years) emailed me because she had seen my Facebook posts where I shared my writing. She thought I was a great writer, and she was working at a PR firm that needed content written for clients. She asked me if I could write an article about Croatia.
I explained that I’d never done any travel writing before, nor had I ever been to Croatia. She was still very confident in my writing skills, and my ability to research Croatia. I did get paid a very fair sum to write this article, and I was happy with that. At the time of writing this article about Croatia, I had absolutely no idea that it would lead to a free vacation or any type of career in travel blogging.
The article I wrote about Croatia being a hot spot for millennial travelers ended up being published in a big magazine. It performed well, and got a lot of shares.
The next thing I knew, I was getting emails from a new Croatia-based tourism company, inviting me on an all-expenses paid trip to Croatia because they loved my article. Their hope was that if I experienced Croatia first-hand, with the help of their tourism company, I’d write another article about Croatia.
How to Become a Travel Blogger: Was it Too Good To Be True?
When I was invited on an all-expenses paid trip to Croatia as a travel writer, I definitely thought it might be too good to be true. I knew that most travel bloggers have to write tons of travel articles before they’ll get noticed by any tourism companies or get invited on all-expenses-paid trips.
That’s why when I was invited on an 8-day paid trip to Croatia after writing my very first travel article, it was shocking. This company was offering to pay for my round-trip flight from Canada to Croatia, and put me up in a luxury villa (complete with an outdoor pool and a private chef) with a few other journalists. I was told that during our stay, we’d be treated to fancy dinners, VIP music festival experiences, wine tastings, scenic boat tours, historic outings, and excursions to various landmarks and national parks in Croatia. My family was worried this was all a scam, and that falling for this offer would be very risky and dangerous. Being a natural risk-taker, I said “Yes!” to this experience – and it turned out to be entirely legitimate. Everything they promised was the truth. It was a legitimate press experience in Croatia, and I didn’t have to spend a dime.
Croatia is known for it’s delicious mediterranean food and the perfect climate to produce some of the world’s best wine. Some of the highlights of the press trip included a trip to a beautiful winery, an excursion to see the breathtaking waterfall at Krka National Park (which looks like a screensaver, it’s that amazing) and a VIP experience at a Fresh Island music festival. Downtime at our villa was spent getting to know the other bloggers, sipping cocktails on pool floats, and group dinners featuring Croatia’s famous dishes cooked for us by a private chef. I never in a million years would have expected that article I wrote about Croatia to lead to such a luxurious, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
My story is the exception, not the rule. You need to know this, because most travel bloggers wait a long time and produce a lot of content before they reap any real travel perks or earn any sort of real income from this line of work.
The lesson here is that if you put very high-quality content about travel out there, published under your name online, it can lead to some very surprising and exciting opportunities. The great philosopher Seneca wisely said, Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. So, if you think about it, half of what happened to me was dumb luck. The other half of it, however, was the fact that I researched, prepared, and wrote a very high-quality article about Croatia. I produced a piece of content that was well-written and engaging enough to be published in a popular New York magazine, and subsequently re-published on several Croatia-based publications.
In this specific circumstance, would I rather get paid to blog about Croatia, or be treated to an all-expenses paid trip to Croatia? It’s undeniable that the trip was priceless, and that I’d never choose cash over the experience. It was a bonus that I received monetary compensation for the original Croatia article that led to all this.
The fact that professionals planned out our day every day, so that we could experience the best-of-the-best (AAA in Croatia) made it an experience I’ll never forget. I was going through a rough heartbreak at the time, and I came home to Canada completely healed. It was the exact healing retreat I needed. However it came together to fall in my lap, all I really know is that the Universe certainly had my back.
My introduction to the travel blogging world was essentially very glamorous and romanticized. Only later would I find out about the cons of being part of this world.
I’m okay with being paid in life experience instead of cash. Partly because I place a very high value on life experiences, and partly because I have money in savings and other forms of income from other types of writing projects such as ghostwriting and copywriting.
Pros and Cons of Being a Travel Blogger
Before I get into the pros and cons of being a travel blogger, I should preface this by explaining that I’m not a full-time travel blogger. I earn an income by writing website copy, acting as a content strategy consultant for various companies, writing content for various clients, and freelance writing on various topics. Travel writing is only one of many types of writing I do, so this advice is coming to you from a part-time travel blogger, not someone who does it as a full-time career. However, there are pros and cons to this so-called “dream job” that you should be aware of if you’re keen to pursue it.
Below are some pros and cons of being a travel blogger that you should consider if becoming a travel blogger is your goal:
PRO: Free Vacations
The most obvious pro of travel blogging should of course be mentioned first. Yes, you might get some free vacations. Sometimes everything is paid for, from flight and food to hotel and activities. Other times, your trip is partially paid for in exchange for your travel writing skills and online influence. Not every travel blogger has a huge social media following. Some are chosen strictly based on their high-quality blog, or their stand-out writing skills.
CON: It Doesn’t Always Feel Like a Vacation: There’s a Lot of Hard Work Involved
After a full day of activities on a press trip, you might feel like relaxing. However, typically you have to write, not relax. Why? Because as a travel writer, it’s best to write while things are still fresh in your mind.
Additionally, always having to worry about creating content or taking photos for your blog can actually take away from the travel experience itself. It’s important to schedule some “off” days if you can, even though as a travel blogger, you’ll never really feel like you’re “off” work while you travel.
PRO: Unique Experiences and Broadened Horizons
Let’s take my Croatia trip as an example of how travel blogging broadened my horizons. I don’t think I ever would have gone to Croatia if my writing didn’t lead to the invitation. I’m not sure I would have chosen Croatia as a travel destination. I had no idea what I was missing out on, and I didn’t know how amazing Croatia truly is. It was an incredibly unique experience that travel writing gifted me with.
Some of the invitations travel bloggers receive are to destinations they either had never heard of, or never would have otherwise travelled to. That’s one of the most beautiful things about being a travel blogger, is its ability to completely broaden your horizons and shift your world view. You’ll discover a whole new range of interests, passions and hobbies you didn’t know you had.
CON: Post-Travel Obligations
When your trip is over, you’ll have a huge to-do list of obligations. You’ll likely have made promises to the hotels and travel companies that have hosted you, and you’re responsible for the production value of your travel blogs. All on your own, you’re responsible for everything from content creation and photo editing to blog formatting and distribution.
The distribution strategy you’re responsible for as a travel blogger is especially stressful. The onus is completely on you to promote the travel blog you’ve published, on a wide variety of social networks. The best travel bloggers deploy a distribution strategy that involves answering questions on Quora and Redditt with a link to their travel blog, as well as sharing it across various social media channels and tracking the blog’s performance. It’s wise to pitch magazines to see if you can get your travel writing republished or ‘scooped’ by a big publication for maximum exposure. Pitching, teasing content, following up, optimizing for SEO and tracking analytics requires hours upon hours of your time. A ton of strategy and discipline goes into this, but this hard work won’t typically be broadcast across a travel influencer’s social media highlights.
You’re running a business here, and you’ll have to be savvy in digital marketing, content strategy, and media communications.
PRO: The VIP Experience
Since hotels, tourism companies and travel agencies want to get positive reviews, bloggers and media representatives will often get the VIP treatment. If you don’t come from wealth and you’re not used to the VIP experience, you’ll get a thrill out of it, there’s no denying that.
I’ve had luxury hotels like the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel Air upgrade me to rooms that would normally cost $2,000 to $4,000 per night and given me complimentary room service because I am a blogger. I’ve dined at 5 star restaurants where the hotel manager covered the entire bill, along with my suite. I’ve gotten press passes and VIP tables at music festivals. I’ve experienced the luxury lifestyle, always keeping in mind that this is not real life. I can appreciate the VIP experience without feeling entitled to it on a regular basis, and that’s key.
CON: It Can Get Lonely
As a travel blogger, I’m a one-woman show. I don’t have any coworkers, or a team to work with. It feels very isolating working on my own all the time. It’s just me – by myself on my laptop – working and writing. It definitely gets lonely. Even the trips themselves get lonely, because travel blogging trips don’t always involve a group of bloggers. Sometimes as a blogger, you’re invited by yourself to experience a destination or resort, and you’re not with a group. You’re often not even allowed to bring a plus-one. Even if you were allowed to bring a guest, you might find that you can’t find anyone to go with you, since many travel blogging opportunities are very short notice. It all depends, and it’s always different, but for the most part, I find that it does get very lonely. Luckily, solo travel is something I got used to, and I now consider solo trips to be very therapeutic and recharging.
PRO: Exposed to New Cultures and History
Travel blogging requires a lot of research and first-person participation in the area’s culture and history. In Croatia, I spent an entire afternoon learning about how olive oil is made, and visited olive trees that are over 1500 years old. The next day I got a tour of old-town Dubrovnik and learned about its medieval history. For example, I learned that in the Middle Ages, Dubrovnik’s maritime influence resulted in it being the principal competitor of the Venetian empire for the Adriatic waterways. Today, Dubrovnik is renowned for being one of the most well-preserved medieval cities in the world. It’s truly a fascinating site to see, and if you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you’ll enjoy it that much more for its filming locations.
At the iconic and historical Beverly Hills Hotel, I got a tour of the over 100-year-old grounds, and was shown Frank Sinatra’s booth at the hotel’s polo lounge and Marilyn Monroe’s favorite bungalow. Tales of other Hollywood royalty who lived at the Beverly Hills Hotel were told while I was also shown the interior of the exact bungalows they lived in.
In Rome, I received a private tour of the most historic landmarks, visited the Vatican, and got a guided tour of the colosseum complete with a history lesson.
CON: Unfair Judgments from Your Peers
If you become a travel blogger, you might be surprised at how unkind some people can be if they’re even the slightest bit jealous of your travel blogging life. I’ve always wondered why some people feel the need to be cruel just because they’re envious of you. It’s one thing to feel that sting of jealousy, but it’s a whole other thing to decide to give that person attitude or cast judgment.
As a travel blogger, many people unfairly assume that you’re spoiled, entitled or not in tune with reality. You will be misunderstood and misjudged a lot, but you can’t control other people’s perception of you.
It seems most people aren’t ready to acknowledge that being a travel writer is a real job that requires actual hard work. It’s therefore quite difficult to gain the respect of your peers, especially if they think what you do is cool, but that it’s not actually a real job.
It’s important to celebrate the success of your friends, family and peers. Travel blogging is unique and exciting, sometimes it’s even very luxurious. However, there is a dark side of it from loneliness on work trips and potentially dangerous situations while solo travelling, to unfair stereotypes and a struggle to make any real money. Why do you think I’m not a full time travel blogger? Because it’s very difficult to earn a living, since most of the time, you’re offered a hotel stay, press trip or some sort of travel experience in lieu of monetary compensation.
I’m personally very aware of the trade-off. The more I pursue travel blogging, the more I risk losing valuable relationships and connections to my roots.
PRO: A True Passion for Your Work
People always say, Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. Well, who doesn’t love travelling? If travel is your passion, and your job is to write about travel, you won’t be lacking any passion for what you do, that’s for sure. This job might not be easy, but it’s certainly not boring.
CON: Unexpected Costs
Unexpected costs arise all the time in the travel blogging industry. I’ve been invited on an all-expenses paid trip before, and committed to it, only to later find out the cost of the flight was not included because I’m Canadian. I’ve missed flights before that a travel company paid for, and of course had to pay for the new flight myself. One time I was on a press trip and I used the phone in the hotel room to call home a few times, not expecting a $200 phone bill later. These are only a few examples of unexpected costs that travel bloggers get hit with, so just be aware of this possibility, and prepare for it.
PRO: You’ll Always Have a Story to Tell
Anytime and anywhere, a travel blogger always has a story to tell. People will want to hear your travel stories, and sharing your tales of adventure is a great way to re-live the experience, too. Someone who has chosen to pursue the life of a travel blogger will never have a shortage of stories to tell, and the stories I’ve told in this article only account for about 10% of all my travel stories. It wasn’t all lonely days on my laptop at Italian cafes. I did meet some really cool people, and I do have some unforgettable stories to tell for a lifetime.
CON: Relationship Issues
You’d be surprised how many relationship issues can arise from being a travel blogger. It’s not easy finding a partner who is okay with you being away that much. A ton of trust is required. Codependency can’t be a thing.
Not only will your partner not always be invited to join you on press trips, but if they have a traditional corporate job, they won’t always get the time off to join you, either. You’ll need a partner who misses you while you’re gone but supports your endeavors, and appreciates their time with you when you’re back home.
Another surprising relationship issue I’ve dealt with from being in this line of work is contempt. I’ve had a partner who was jealous of my lifestyle and held contempt for me, which led to arguments I didn’t sign up for and some mistreatment. It didn’t matter that he often reaped the rewards of my job such as complimentary hotels during our trips together. Contempt was in the air, and it’s not a great feeling.
PRO: Leaving Your Comfort Zone
One major lesson I’ve learned from travel writing is the truth behind that expression, The best things in life happen outside of your comfort zone. There are countless occasions where travel writing presented me with an opportunity that was outside my comfort zone. For example, flying all the way from Canada to Croatia by myself and putting my trust in a brand new tourism company I knew nothing about to take care of me when I got there? Ballsy. Outside my comfort zone? Yes. But I’m going to cherish that experience forever.
When I travelled to Orange County, California for the grand opening of a new Marriott hotel in Irvine, I felt grateful to have been invited. However, that event was very social and required so many meet-and-greets. I definitely had to push myself out of my comfort zone since I struggle with a bit of social anxiety. I’d get ready for big events alone in my hotel room, and I’d have to walk to the venue alone and bravely introduce myself to all the movers and shakers. Professional photographers were snapping candid shots of me (another thing I’m not super comfortable with) and I had to feign confidence the whole time. This did help boost my confidence authentically, though.
In Italy, I went on several private tours for travel writing purposes as a solo, single female. I ended up in a couple of dangerous situations when one particular tour company wasn’t what it seemed. However, I learned a lot and I value the experience.
CON: Living Out of a Suitcase and the Physical Toll of Travel
Many travel bloggers feel like they don’t have roots. They spend so much time travelling, that they don’t see the point in investing into making their house a home, since they’re simply not home enough. This can lead to a sensation of not having roots or a proper home base.
On a similar note, living out of a suitcase can be very stressful. The novelty wears off when you’re always living out of a suitcase, and this digital nomad lifestyle comes with its own set of drawbacks along with the perks.
As far as the physical toll of constantly traveling goes, a few things that stand out are the jet lag, early mornings and long days that come with organized press trips, and the expectation to eat a little more food than your stomach can handle. This is especially true if a hotel grand opening wants its media reps to also promote the hotel restaurants, and they want the media to sample a lot of different menu items. Sounds amazing, I know, but your stomach bears the burden later.
A more casual travel blogging adventure, however, involves a complimentary hotel stay without the organized press events. The absence of an itinerary, and the notion that all you have to do is experience a stay at the hotel, is much less taxing.
PRO: Opportunities are Truly Endless
The truth about travel writing is that you’ll have a very rich and fulfilling life, especially if you’re passionate about travel. If you start a travel blog and it becomes popular, or you land an authorship at a big travel magazine, you will have an email inbox full of exciting travel opportunities. The places you can go – and the opportunities presented to you – are truly infinite. Many travel writing opportunities are very out-of-the-box, unique experiences. I was once invited on a river cruise through Europe, and had to turn it down due to a friend’s wedding, but that’s an example of the type of opportunities the average person doesn’t get offered. There are downfalls and trade-offs, and you might have to sacrifice personal relationships or a sense of belonging. But if you decide you can find aspects of love in your travels, you’ll be set for life.
What Skills Do You Need to be a Successful Travel Writer?
The most important skill required to be a successful travel writer is being a good writer. Your grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary and ability to write in a way that engages the reader is crucial. The way you write about travel could catch the attention of a huge magazine’s managing editor.
Photography skills come in handy too, as do sales skills. You have to know how to sell yourself, especially when you pitch yourself to magazines, or pitch yourself to tourism companies.
Let’s not forget the very important skill of SEO content writing. SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization”, and the best travel writers tend to use strategic keywords and a well thought out writing style that promises the article will rank on search engines like Google.
Digital marketing skills are crucial in this industry. Marketing strategies can be very complex, but you can self-educate by taking online courses or reading digital marketing resources.
A travel blogger is the ultimate digital nomad, requiring the above skills in addition to a ton of self-discipline and self-motivation. Remember that you don’t have a team, colleagues or coworkers. Your success as a travel blogger rests entirely on your shoulders. With the right skills and dedication, you could get paid to blog as a travel writer, and collect a plethora of unforgettable life experiences along the way.
Have questions about being a travel blogger? Ask me anything! Follow me on Instagram @the_babe_report and send me a DM!