Before I dig into the myths (vs reality) of how to make money with a travel blog, 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).
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.
Here’s my list of the myths vs the reality of how to make money with a travel blog, and why you should manage expectations accordingly.
The myths vs reality of making money with a travel blog
1. As long as you have Google Ads, you can make decent money on the side.
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 through the integration.
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 yes, 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 other stories on how people make money with a travel blog, they may be stretching it a bit if they talk about Google Ads.
It definitely works, and I recommend it, but you really need to get high traffic and rank high.
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But 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.
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 hundreds of stories that rank first page on Google.. but it’s still not enough to make a lot of money with a travel blog. You need to supplement this.
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. But this is only for ads. There are other things you can do to make money with a travel blog.
2. Hotels, destinations, and airlines will pay you to post content on your blog — or at least offer free travel for exchange.
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 (influencers is a different story). Even if you’re a top tier travel blogger, there’s a chance no one is going to pay you. Sponsored content is the way to go. If you work out sponsored content with a company, they will pay you… but remember, it depends on your traffic.
If you’re not getting any traffic (and 99% of travel bloggers rarely get good enough traffic that warrants sponsored content), you should look at other ways to supplement the income stream. 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 this to make money for your travel blog.
3. I see so many travel bloggers giving advice on monetization — they must be making money!
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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Ironically, optics for your site 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, as I just did, so keep in mind you want to do affiliate marketing too.
If you Googled “how to make money with a travel blog,” some of the high-ranked travel blogs that come up in that search wrote a long, well researched post. They got a lot of traffic through their social media channels as well, but here’s the reality. Even one of your posts end up on the first page of Google, it doesn’t necessarily mean people will click the story. It’s why branding yourself is also crucial too.
4. Affiliate links will make you money.
As I mentioned earlier, I use affiliate links. Everyone needs to use affiliate links to make money with a travel blog 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%. So yes you could get lucky, and you hear stories all the time of a post going viral.
The reality is that you need to brand yourself well, write well written articles, take your blog seriously and have a little bit of luck and hope that the Google algorithm Gods, affiliate marketing Gods and readers who really want that travel pillow on Amazon all work in tandem to help you make money.
Bottom line: Don’t expect to make money right away. Stay with your blog for months, even years, and you’ll see massive growth in revenue as you figure out what works best for you when it comes to monetization.
So, can you make money as a travel blogger? Yes. Do everything I said earlier and take your blog seriously. If you take your blog seriously, readers will, and so will Google.
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Please do! I’m a one-man team for this website, so any help is sincerely appreciated.