I’m going to date myself by saying I launched my travel writing career back before personal travel blogs were micro-brands brand (and a dime a dozen). I’ve contributed to travel guidebooks, apps, magazines, newspapers, and websites. I also edit a family travel website that sometimes sends my family on press trips and outings. But I always hesitated to launch my own site. I figured I could largely skate by on the success of my credentials publishing in other people’s outlets.
Until I could no longer deny how much I craved building my own outlet and creation process. I was also tired of not being able to write and earn what I wanted.
Building a travel website, readership and business from scratch is not for the faint at heart, but is also thrilling and gives you more control over your content and earning potential. That’s why I decided to launch my own local travel website and show others how to quickly partner with PR teams (even if you don’t have readers yet), get perks and travel more.
It’s easier than you think.
Before we dive in, just know that it’s a great choice if you only want to write for fun or create travel content for other outlets to make a name for yourself. After all, that’s how I got started in my travel writing career and it’s been rewarding. But if you want to take more control over your career, create more opportunities for yourself and travel more for your family; you should be working on your own travel website.
Although it’s true the marketplace is saturated, there’s still room for you in this market. But it takes some sleuthing to sort out how your own travel site should work.
When You Should Launch a Travel Website Geared Towards Readers Around the World
The first step in creating a travel website is figuring out your market and readership. There are some pros and cons to both types of sites, and neither will work perfectly for your needs. It really just depends on what fits into your lifestyle and expectations the best.
Here’s when you should launch a travel site for worldwide readers:
- You live in a remote area or are not close enough to any cities to review enough attractions and travel destinations.
- There are no PR teams in your area to make connections with.
- Your local area is completely saturated with region-specific travel blogs. Areas like NYC and LA are tougher to stand-out in, but can be done.
- You have an insatiable love of travel and are looking at a big geographic region (or worldwide) to take your family.
- You’re comfortable promoting your content to a wide range of readers in different corners of the world.
- You eventually want to land on press trips covering different areas, and not just near your local area.
- You have the ability to generate a large readership and ongoing traffic outside of your existing personal and professional network.
When You Should Launch a Hyper Local Travel Website
I’m obviously biased, but I think launching hyper local travel is highly underrated. Like all travel websites, creating a local niche has its pros and cons and comes with its limitations. But for my family, this is the best choice for me to focus on.
Here’s when you should launch a hyper local travel website in your area:
- You live in a city, or close enough to one, with a solid base of museums, kid fun, events, attractions and hotels that you can review on an ongoing basis.
- You love to travel, but are content exploring within driving distance and have a goal to land on regional press trips.
- Your city or town has at least a few PR offices that handle attractions and destinations in your area.
- You’re interested in developing relationships with PR teams and communication departments to score free passes and media event invites.
- There aren’t an endless supply of travel blogs for your area written by locals.
- You thrive on being a big fish in a smaller pond.
- You already have a personal or professional network that you could lean on to get an initial readership going.
- You want to work your way up to professional travel and freelance writing opportunities in your area.
You can, of course, write about local travel destinations even with a bigger travel website. Likewise, you can certainly try to land on bigger press trips and write about global destinations with your hyper local travel website. But the foundation you build helps inform the path you take and the type of content you create.
Earn Perks from Your Travel Blog
Everyone’s travel website will work a little differently, but it’s entirely possible to earn perks relatively quickly after launching your site.
That doesn’t mean you’ll have an endless supply of press trips and invitations right off the bat, but it is possible to start scoring attraction passes and discounts almost immediately by developing relationships with PR and communications teams and creating an initial readership. We’ll talk more about that in this blog, but for now here are some of the perks you can score from your travel website may not have considered:
- Free attraction passes
- Free tickets to theater shows and performances
- Free tickets to festivals and fairs
- Free merchandise from local retailers that align with your audience
- Press trips
- Media invitations to event dinners and networking events
And with any blog, you can work your way towards earning sponsorship and advertisement revenue. This takes a longer more deliberate approach to website building. While you do need a high volume of traffic to land sponsored posts opportunities and advertising dollars, you don’t need a ton of traffic to ask for things like attraction passes.
Why? In some situations, PR teams and communications departments need a wide variety of local coverage for an event. While you won’t get invited to everything or snatch up free passes at the drop of the hat, local PR teams are much more willing to invite a new blogger with even a tiny readership to spread awareness. PR teams rely on locals in smaller markets to help spread the word in micro-marketing campaigns. Simply asking your personal network to sign-up for your email list and promoting attractions to your social media network can lead to immediate free perks.
Once you have an email list, you can simply tell PR teams you recently launched to 500 email subscribers and 700 Facebook followers (or whatever your numbers) and are working on growing your online traffic. Depending on the needs of the local PR team representing the attraction or event and what key performance indicators (KPIs) they’re looking for, they may not even care about your online traffic at all.
We’ll cover how to create an email list in a later post, but I highly recommend Convert Kit. Mail Chimp is local to Atlanta, and I did use them but found their automation process wasn’t as intuitive and my emails often got ‘stuck’ and wouldn’t send to my readers. Convert Kit is more expensive, but once you get up and running, it’s easier to create and maintain your list and I think it’s better for beginners (and experts!).
And to me, growing an email list and connections is another perk to launching a local travel website. I can tap into my own network and meet tons of new people in my community. There’s also something nice about the street cred of telling people you’re a travel writer. You’ll be surprised how much people want to talk to you and pick your brain. I love helping other writers, especially Moms, figure out their freelance writing path. And to me, there’s almost nothing better than combining a love of travel and scoring some free travel along the way. Sure, it’s work writing up the reviews and being “on” during your vacation, but I still love it.
What are your goals for your travel website? Let me know by leaving a comment below!