How To Make Money As A Travel Blogger — Myths Vs Reality (MUST READ)

Before I dig into the myths (vs reality) of how to make money as a travel blogger, I should mention I’m a formerly successful travel writer. I’ve written for top-tier outlets, from Conde Nast Traveler to New York Post, and I made an incredible living, traveling across the world for over a decade — and getting paid.

I say “formerly” because the rules of being a travel writer have changed, and the industry has not been kind. Due to the state of publishing, a lot of my outlets folded, took all their travel writing in-house, or paid less (or not at all).

Puerto Rico

Because I had so much content, knowledge and photos from all my journeys, I launched Travelbinger in 2019, thinking I could have a little side hustle money. I had heard travel bloggers can make a lot of money, even an entire career from blogging — but making money as a travel blogger is not super common.

Despite everything you hear from travel bloggers and their alleged success, I’m going to give it to you straight — and real.

Taking Amtrak Acela quiet car

Here’s my list of the myths vs the reality of how to make money as a travel blogger, and why you should have low expectations.

The myths vs reality of making money as a travel blogger

1. As long as you have Google Ads, you can make decent money on the side.

rooftop pool DC
Rosewood Washington DC

I wish this were true. I connected my site with Google Ads, and I thought it would result in this amazing stream of passive income, especially because my traffic is good (between 30K to 50K unique monthly visitors), and I write an original story a day — but I barely make $150 a month from Google.

If your site receives tons of traffic, in the hundreds of thousands to millions per month, and readers are clicking your Google ads (and even buying whatever is being sold), then you can potentially make hundreds, even thousands, a month. But if you’re getting less than 100k UVM a month like me, you won’t be using this money to pay your rent. Honestly. If you read any stories on how to make money as a travel blogger, they may be stretching it a bit.

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Here’s another reality: a travel blogger will usually not get tons of traffic because Google tends to give larger, more established publications and legitimate authorities, like Travel + Leisure, all the first page love on Google searches. It’s easy for a top travel publication to get most of the clicks because they have tons of money to burn as well as a dedicated team that works with SEO to get their site in the first page of Google.

Palmaia Resort Atlantis Spa Jungle Treatment Room
Palmaia Resort Atlantis Spa Jungle Treatment Room

If you’re a travel blogger, it’s just you working behind the scenes with no marketing team. You’re a one-man team doing everything (writing the content, doing the ads, editing your own pieces, sourcing images, setting up SEO optimization, etc), and since you’re already not making money from your blog, you likely have a full time job that sucks up all your time — meaning you struggle getting content up and could burn out later.

I write all my content, daily, to meet the rules of both Google News and Apple News… and I have a full time job. If travel blogging was my full time job, sure, it’d be a lot easier to run my travel blog. I could spend a lot more time focusing on SEO. Also, I have DOZENS of stories that rank first page on Google.. but it’s still not enough to make a lot of money.

Ecuador Latitude Line
Visiting Ecuador.

So can a travel blogger make decent money with Google Ads?

If you’re starting out, not so much — unless you hire a team of writers to do daily content, have hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for ad visibility in searches and quit your full time job to make all this happen.

If you DO spend a lot of time on your travel blog, producing daily, thought-provoking content that gets enough clicks, and people are clicking the Google ads, then you will be heading in a better direction than most other travel bloggers.

2. Hotels, destinations, and airlines will pay you to post content on your blog — or at least offer free travel for exchange.

What you should pack for a long flight.
Qatar business class Q Suite selfie

Unless your travel blog gets at *least* 20,000 unique monthly visitors, and you have a decent combined following on social media platforms, a travel company like a hotel might consider an exchange (free night for a blog post) — but this will be rare.

You have to think about the exchange in value. Is your hotel review worth the $200 – $500 nightly rate the hotel will have to comp? Not really. If Google’s not even paying you much, why would a hotel?

As for paying for content, travel companies almost never pay travel bloggers. Even if you’re a top tier travel blogger, no one is going to pay you. Sponsored content is a whole other story, and yes, if you work out sponsored content with a company, they will pay you… but remember, it depends on your traffic.

Maldives 5.8 undersea restaurant
Me at 5.8 undersea restaurant in Maldives.

If you’re not getting any traffic (and 99% of travel bloggers rarely get good enough traffic that warrants sponsored content), you can only hope for other ways of income.

Sorry, I know this is harsh, but I’m speaking from experience! Also, you need to remember that travel companies are still trying to make a comeback post pandemic. They lost billions and billions of dollars, so any extra budget they have will go toward ads or marketing. They’re not in a place to pay bloggers or give out free travel.

Ultimately, don’t expect companies to pay you or give you free hotel nights, airfare, or other perks in exchange for a blog post. Once you get to really high traffic (and yes you can!), then you can revisit.

3. I see so many travel bloggers giving advice on monetization — they must be making money!

I visited Syria back in 2009

Here’s the reality. I did a deep dive with 5 random travel bloggers, each of whom had good social media, but average blogs. All 5 travel bloggers did not write daily content (as Google states, a website must have thoughtful, original content *and* daily content to be ranked high. Naturally, there are exceptions, but those exceptions are rare).

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Optics are important, so if you’re going to take advice from any travel blogger, make sure you check out their site, see if they are authentic/legit and determine whether they’re worth getting advice from. Many travel bloggers simply write these type of posts to have you click their affiliate links.

If you Googled “how to make money as a travel blogger,” I think some of the high-ranked travel blogs that come up in that search are lucky because they are not an authority, but they wrote a long, well researched post. They likely got a lot of traffic through their social media channels as well, because these blogs do NOT get any traffic, meaning they do NOT make money… and here’s how I know that.

Punta Mita beach at sunset

I have access to Muckrack, a PR platform that shows the unique visitor count for any website. I can assure you, some of these travel blogs claiming to make money did not have great numbers on Muckrack.

4. Affiliate links will make you money.

Helicopter tour in Chicago.
Helicopter tour in Chicago.

I use affiliate links. Everyone needs to use affiliate links to make money as a travel blogger in the hopes that a reader will click the link and buy the product (we get a kick back for any referrals). But, again, you need high traffic and hundreds of people clicking that link to have any sort of impact.

Now, a travel blogger could have gotten lucky with a high ranked story that has tons of affiliate links, and they could make money off that link alone. Good for them. They’re part of the .00001%. Not only did they get lucky, they use this to feel empowered and tell you that you too can make it big.

The reality is that you need to be lucky and hope that the Google algorithm Gods, affiliate marketing Gods and readers who reallly want that travel pillow on Amazon all work in tandem to make this happen.

Hiking and meditating in the town of Rishikesh.

If you get a ridiculous amount of traffic, and a ridiculous amount of people wanting whatever you’re linking to, sure, yes, you can make money, but remember, it’s only going to be a kickback (1 to 10 percent at most).

So, can you make money as a travel blogger? Yes. But not a lot unless you have really good traffic, know how to work affiliate links well and write daily content… and, of course, great content that Google finds worthy of ranking high.

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