becoming a travel content creator

How to Become a Travel Content Creator: The Making of SoloTravelStory

It’s been three years since I changed my blog’s niche from fashion to travel, but it’s only been a year since I’ve taken my new role as a travel content creator seriously. I was clueless in the beginning. My content was mostly fluffy vacation experiences without any substance. It didn’t generate much interest. OUCH! I soon realised that if I was to succeed in this highly competitive niche, I would have to step up my game.

Now that I’ve settled into travel blogging, I feel confident as a travel content creator. In the hope you may find some guidance and inspiration, I’ll share my reflections and key learnings with you on how I run my blog. “The Making of Solo Travel Story” gives you exclusive behind-the-scenes insights, techniques & tools I use to run my blog and how travel writing changed my approach to content creation.

Is becoming a Travel Content Creator easy?

Yes and No.

Yes, because you can set up a blog right away and start writing about your travels and experiences online. You are the CEO of your travel blog and decide on the content, its style and tone.

No, if you strive for quality content and want your blog to make some money in the long run. Most travel content creators also aim to improve their writing style and bring it to a professional level. This takes practice, practice, practice, some uncomfortable feedback and painful personal growth. Be ready for it!

My Background: I’m trained in journalistic & academic writing. During the past twenty years, I gained tons of professional writing experience in the lifestyle sector & local news reporting. My writing style tends to be informative and complex, although I try to make it more casual. I’m also a MA linguist; research, word structures, and text analysis are my key strengths. 

Becoming a Travel Content Creator: Basics

I aim to monetise my blog. Therefore, I had to set it up for success early on. The basics for setting up a travel blog include a brand-worthy name and a reliable host. Keyword research to maximise SEO efforts are another step forward in the travel content creation process.

Blog Name Search

Finding a good blog name that is memorable and brandable is important to the long-term success of your blog. Cool ideas and inspiration may not strike right away, but there are certain techniques that can spark your creativity and help you come up with the perfect blog name.

I would start any blog naming search with the following considerations in mind:

  • The name reflects the niche. It should be clear from the get-go what the blog is about. If the blog is a travel blog, you need to look for words that relate to “travel”.
  • The name needs longevity. It should be snazzy but also age well. Ideally, you will still like the name after many years of blogging. Rebranding a blog and its domain can set you back in your DA and rankings, plus it is costly.
  • The name is professional. Make sure the name is professional, fun and won’t make you stumble or feel embarrassed. Best to say the name out loud and see what vibes. “Hi, I’m Carolin and my blog is Solo Travel Story”. Smooth!

I found my blog name using the techniques of semantic field analysis and mind mapping. 

Semantic Field Analysis: the aim is to create a pool and tool kit of words related to “travel” that sound good and inspirational. I started with “airport” and “travel essentials”. Then I listed any words that came to my mind. This brain dump exercise can show you the variety and range of the linguistic corpus that is available to you and help combine words and clusters. From my list, I liked “journey”, “destination”, “check-in”, and “passport”.

semantic field analysis for travel
Semantic field analysis for “travel”

The first blog name ideas I got from this exercise were: 

Destination Next, Status Away, Life Offline, Offline Stories, Destination X

Mind Mapping: I placed “travel” in the centre and then chose 4 to 5 strong words from my semantic field analysis. I would let my creativity lead me and create names through compounding, clipping & blending or expressing concepts.

mind map for travel blog names
Mind map for my travel blog name search

This exercise returned the following ideas: 

Trip-flair, Xenturalia, Runaway to Adventure, Countdown to Destination X, Escape the Grind, Fly Gemini, Solo to Destination X and finally Solo Travel Story.

Hosting

A reliable hosting provider can make a big difference and contribute to your blogging success. Creating travel content is time-consuming enough, so you should rely on your host for all technical matters and issues. I am with Lyrical Host and I highly recommend their service. They set me up in no time and I was able to start writing right away. I only focus on creating my travel content and I can count on technical support for any problems. They literally do everything for me in the backend. Errors, faulty coding or displays are fixed and sorted within a few hours.

Lyrical Host promo code
Feel free to use my Lyrical Host discount code

Finding Your Voice

Other bloggers have consulted me in the past asking for travel publication recommendations. I like doing it, but personally, I don’t compare my travel content creation to travel publications, e.g. National Geographic or Lonely Planet.

The reason for this is that the travel writing of an established publication differs from those of a travel blog. They are professional travel journalists and their writing style is more focused on gripping reports and documentaries.

A travel blog is more personal and informative based on your experience. Readers often have shared interests with you, so they are eager to hear about your activities and recommendations. Plus travel content creators don’t limit themselves to itinerary-style posts only. They also share travel tips, advice or pure travel inspiration.

Make sure to spend some time thinking about your niche, and your writing style. Reflect on what is important to you when you share your travel content. Ask your audience and see what resonates best with them. Try out different formats such as: 

– lists

– itineraries

– long-form content (such as this one)

– mostly picture-based content (e.g. Gorlitz – an authentic fairytale town)

– paid collaborations

After two years of travel content creation, my audience loves my coffee culture posts, but I’m also known in the travel community for my Camino hikes and Leipzig promotions. Moving forward I’ll continue to cover these three topics. 

Keyword Research

It took me a while to figure this out, but KW research is the bread and butter of quality content. For me as a travel content creator, the KW research not only determines and keeps the focus of my posts; it can also help me identify content gaps and find suitable KWs that my blog can hopefully rank for. How does this magic work? I can hear you ask.

travel content creation keysearch keyword research
Keysearch interface and results for the term “travel content creator”

I use the ever-so-popular tool “Keysearch”. It does not necessarily spit out the perfect KW but it can show you where the opportunities lie and where the content gaps are. The best KWs are the ones with 70+ Search Volume (SV) and a Competitive Score (CS) of under 30. Especially in the beginning when your own DA is low, you won’t be able to compete with other blogs/websites and rank for KWs that have a higher competitor score. This will obvs change the more quality content you produce and publish on your site.

I also go for long-tail KWs (travel content creators) instead of generic ones (creators). Whilst popular KWs have thousands in SV they are often generic and stand very early in a user’s journey. The more refined the KW, the fewer searches there are but those are the users that have an active intent of buying or visiting a specific place. Therefore they’ll translate into customers and sales.

Top Tip: Focus on producing travel content rather than worrying about the low stats and slow growth – especially in the beginning, this can create a toxic cycle that’s hard to break out of.

Travel Blogger Community

I firmly believe that a blog can only grow with the support of others. Not only do I enjoy talking to like-minded people, but I get to learn from their journey. I took inspiration from other bloggers who shaped my style and layout for Solo Travel Story

Hannah was the first person who introduced me to travel research. I remember reading her post on the photogenic Mont Saint Michel. The mix of personal experience, impressions and informative facts resonated with me and gave me an understanding of a balanced travel blog post. 

Caroline’s guides have been a huge orientation for me in terms of text style and formatting. I used her 3 Day in Porto post to find a uniform style with marking links, sections and listing further blog posts. Her consistency resonated with me and I integrated some of her styles for my posts. 

Another blogger who shaped Solo Travel Story is Riana. I’m a huge fan of her opinion pieces and travel advice. She knows how to eloquently voice her views and her diplomatic writing style is an art I aspire to learn. Riana is a huge source for me to keep on learning, as I do tend to be very direct when expressing controversial opinions. Some content of hers that I particularly enjoyed is her What to do when you hate a Place post.

travel conference and learning opportunity for travel content creators
At a travel conference in Brno | Picture Credit: Michael Tomas @LondonViewpoints

Solo Travel Story wouldn’t be the blog it is today without the support of others. I regularly participate in Twitter chats and am an active part of the travel community. I also run two groups of very dedicated members who support each other with quality comments on their blogs.

IRL opportunities are rare, but they can inspire new ideas and help you create travel content. The best way is to build relationships with PRs and marketing teams, but it takes some effort and luck. Always share your posts with these teams and see if they are willing to build a long-term relationship with you. You can get a free press pass for well-known travel fairs such as WTM, ITB or the Berlin Travel Festival. TBX and WITS are travel conferences.

Keep in Mind: Not all conferences and trade fairs are suitable for you. Trade fairs in particular are primarily used for sales and trade. The sales reps may not be particularly receptive speaking to and working with content creators.

Becoming a Travel Content Creator: Research

I had zero clue what travel writing research meant until I was inspired by a fellow blogger. Thanks to her, I made it my goal to create informative posts based on thoroughly researched information. I tend to overdo it and understand that density isn’t everyone’s taste. I’m still learning and aware that I write a personal travel blog and not a scholarly encyclopaedia entry.

Mission

When I travel to a destination, I go on a mission. This is a specific topic that I have in mind when creating my travel content. This way I stay focused on the topic and can use my time at the destination effectively. Before I travel, I have an idea for possible content, but I keep checking back on Keysearch to spot potential gaps. The insights from the KW research give me context and understanding of what I want to investigate at the destination, e.g. when it comes to exploring coffee culture, I research popular coffee shops from various sources and check keyword stats.

Top Tip: Have a mission, but also allow the story to come to you. It sometimes happens that the topic develops by itself; best to keep an open mind and give the topic the time and space for that. Example: my no-nonsense guide to pastel de nata cafes in Porto. I knew I wanted to review pasteis de natas in Porto, but I didn’t want to write a mere comparison. I spiced up my reviews with the “no-nonsense” angle giving them an honest insight into the café scene of Porto with facts and research beyond the pasteis tasting.

Research Tools

During my research phase I consult different sources. After a while, the same names of popular cafés or those to avoid pop up. I use this filter method as a guide, then create my list and add my self-researched cafés to choose from, e.g. for a coffee tour, I look at 10-15 cafés (depending on how long I stay there).

Top Tip: I use voice notes (VN) and flexible notebooks to document my thoughts. My travel content will later write itself down as I type and transcribe my recordings. I add all sorts of information, observations and insights. My notebooks are empty so I can focus fully on my thought process.

Research Supporters

Some destinations have tourist information centres for selling tours only. Whereas others, e.g. Vienna, have information centres to educate visitors. I prefer those and consult these centres for my research. Here I pick up additional material such as books, random facts, leaflets, brochures & local recs. Be careful with the latter though as tourist information centres have an interest in pushing certain businesses (which may not be the best fit for you).

travel content research material
The Tourist Information Centre in Vienna gifted me 2kg of books and material for my research

Reliable Tourist Information Centres from My Travels:

Vienna – City Information at the city hall, Friedrich-Schmidt-Platz 1

Brussels – Information desk at Halles Saint-Gery

Vilnius – Tourist Information Centre, Pilies G 7

Quality Material

My research is drawn from external material and based on time spent experiencing the destination. 

Example Vienna: Guilty of it in the past, but moving forward I’ll refrain from writing itineraries based on one time visit knowledge. I don’t like to label something as “the best” when I’ve only been there once. I feel I can make a better judgement when I revisit experiences/destinations and provide expertise to the reader by sharing a time efficient itinerary. Building credibility and trust is very high on my list. 

For my 4 Day Vienna itinerary, I:

  • Visited multiple times 3x
  • Stayed for 3 months
  • Took part in countless popular & local experiences & reviewed them
  • Revisited some experiences for a second & third impression
  • Collected additional information at the Tourist Information Centre
  • Researched and visited highly recommended cafes
  • Read two books on Vienna
  • Explored neighbourhoods beyond the traditional sightseeing

For my coffee posts, I try to provide a representative sample of 10% (usually around ten experiences) and spend substantial time at a place before publishing content with a specific focus.

Example: Brno Café Culture | Time Spend in Brno 1 week

To write a 3k word post on Brno’s coffee culture I:

  • Read an entire book on Brno cafés
  • Went on a 2h guided city tour on cafés
  • Researched the best cafés from various publications
  • (Re)visited 10+ cafes to do my own research
  • Attended a coffee tasting
  • Consulted tourist info

Becoming a Travel Content Creator: Writing

Writing is a skill that can be learned but requires regular practice. I did this during my studies and also worked as a freelance journalist at the time, so I know the different writing styles. I personally prefer informative content with advanced vocabulary, so my writing style is complex. My audience seems to like it. So it’s all about finding your own voice and figuring out what works well for you. Try out a few content forms and see what works best.

Process

I start by structuring my ideas on paper and when I have a rough outline, I create a first draft. I never write directly in WordPress and use Google Docs, although I often get a lot of impressions while writing and find it more convenient to take notes by hand. My posts are rarely finished in one go. I often leave the draft for a few days and then examine it with new eyes. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information and ideas I want to contribute, so it’s no wonder that creating most of my travel content takes a long time. My content is typically between 3,000 and 6,000 words.

My final draft will go through a Grammarly check. I also use Google Translate which helps me to structure my sentences more naturally, as English is not my first language.

When I first started creating travel content, I focused on fluffy vacation stories. I used a lot of platitudes and irrelevant phrases. My mistake was that I focused too much on myself and didn’t keep my audience in mind.

Example Hotel Review: there’s personal experience “My dreams were vivid that night, making me toss and turn in my bed for hours” vs personal experience “The hotel rooms are equipped with king sized beds and each has a Coco-Mat branded mattress. I tell you they are insanely comfy!” 

To add more value to the text and travel experience, I established criteria. This allows for transparency and may help my readers to also find their travel style, e.g. if I claim something to be “the best” then I share my criteria for evaluation and base of assessment. What I may label as “the best” may not be “the best” to you. 

Another question which has helped me during the drafting stage is “would I read my own post?”. What would I like to know about e.g. 3 Days in Riga? What would I find attractive or valuable enough to justify reading the content? I would focus on and structure my travel content (aka itinerary post) as followed:

1. Motivation for the visit

2. Cost and Spend

3. How to get from the airport to Riga centre

4. Where to stay in Riga

5. Potential activities for Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

6. How long does the activity last, what did I get out of visiting this specific activity, was it worth my time? What can I learn? What did this cost me? Basically answer the question will my resources (time, money, efforts) receive a return on investment (ROI). 

7. Café & Dinner suggestions 

8. My impression of Riga

keyword research spotting travel content opportunities
Download the Keysearch results and then start filtering for potential content gaps

Travel Content Creation: Clustering

As a travel content creator, I thrive to not only share my travel experiences and hope to inspire others, I want readers to come back and check out more of my content. I’m aiming to produce enough content around one destination so I can build clusters. 

I usually write niche posts first (specific posts) and then create a parent post (summary) which includes links to the niche topics. By the time the parent post is published, I’ll have enough niche content to link up to so the reader stays longer on site. 

Becoming a Travel Content Creator: Promotion

The promotion of my travel content is quite time consuming. To speed up the process, I keep a record of all promo content ever created so I can just copy and paste.

Organisation

I keep a spreadsheet with all of my previous promo tweets. I then only copy and paste these into Tweetdeck. This way, I won’t have to come up with brand-new tweets every time. For each blog post, I got approximately 3 to 4 different promo tweets at the ready and use them in rotation.

travel content creation excel for promo tweets
A snippet of my promo tweet database

Learning & Other Blogging Resources

I don’t really consult blogging resources to improve my content. When I do this, I do it because I want to find out how other bloggers “do” it, but honestly, most people are great at SEO and just know how to (ab) use the system. So I don’t really attach too much importance to them.

As mentioned, I’ve attended quite a few travel conferences in the past, but these tend to be very cliché and can make you feel crappy if you don’t have the big numbers (yet). Fortunately, there are also online offers, such as the Blogger Breakthrough Summit, which takes place in February. It’s an online learning opportunity with fellow travel influencers, and while most use the platform to promote their products, the sessions do have their value. Always keep an open mind, but keep questioning this whole wild ride that is the blogging journey.

Key Take-Aways for Becoming a Travel Content Creator

  • There is a very, very small market in which personal experience & travel narrative blogs do well. The majority of travel content out there is information-based content that sells and brings in the $$. 
  • Quality travel content creation requires determination, creativity and tons of personal time. Don’t underestimate the efforts that go into travel content creation and don’t get disheartened if the ROI takes a while. 
  • SEO is a holistic interplay of various factors, onsite optimization, about me pages and even social media. 
  • Itinerary KWs are often favoured by Google over “things to do” lists (higher SV).
  • Your blogging journey needs the support of other travel content creators. The community is friendly and supportive. Do reach out if you struggle.

FAQs on how I became a Travel Content Creator

I understand this is quite a lengthy post and you may have some quick questions about how I became a travel content creator. You can, of course, always come back to any section of my post and read in more detail what you’d need for your blog. If you have questions or need help, please get in touch and I’m happy to assist.

Do you travel somewhere with a clear blog post plan in mind, or formulate the post based on your experience, with no or minimal plan?

I usually travel with a mission, as it helps me to stay focused. One area that I always explore is coffee culture & local cafés, but I also like to let a story come to me. This can happen when I research in tourist information centres or find other interesting activities whilst I’m at the target destination. I never structure a post beforehand and do the research first hand at the destination.

Thanks so much for reading. If you’ve enjoyed my Travel Content Creator/ Making of SoloTravelStory post and would like to support my blog & research, you can do so via Buy Me a Coffee.

Till next time,

Carolin

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17 Comments

  • Reply
    Riana
    2 July 2023 at 5:11 pm

    This was such a great post, Carolin! Thank you so much for including me and your kind words. You’ve actually gone my gears turning for another opinion piece I want to work on. I do admire how much research you put into your posts and all of the organization you do. Inspiring! Lots to learn here for sure.

  • Reply
    Olly
    2 July 2023 at 5:22 pm

    This was a really good insight into the way you create your posts, and if I was asked what three niches you write around I’d have absolutely chosen cafes, Camino and Leipzig (possibly pasteis de nata too!). I’m impressed with your methodological approach, and was wondering if you have any tips for frequency of posting content? Glad you didn’t go with the name “Xenturalia”!

  • Reply
    Melanie
    4 July 2023 at 12:20 am

    Great inspo, Carolin! It’s so interesting to learn about your educational background and your research/writing process. It’s no wonder your posts are so thorough! Looking forward to reading more interesting and informative posts from you 🙂

  • Reply
    Mitch
    4 July 2023 at 7:18 am

    I found this post fascinating and wish I had read it *before* I started blogging! It was really good to understand your thought process when developing your extensively researched and very thorough articles. Lots of great tips as well, especially on keyword research, blog promotion and organisation. You’re absolutely right that blogging is a journey. There’s always something new to learn. And the travel community is very lovely and hugely supportive. Thank you – the post is both interesting as well as very useful!

  • Reply
    Barry
    4 July 2023 at 7:55 pm

    This is a very thorough and inspirational piece of work and I’ve learned a lot reading through it.
    Some great tips on how to be a blogger and progress through the stages and what to think about.
    Interesting to read about your academic and journalistic past ,as I was not aware of that at all.
    It’s a post that I shall be referring back to as I progress through the stages and need some extra inspiration and thoughts

  • Reply
    Lyn (aka Jazz)
    6 July 2023 at 4:32 pm

    Fabulous post and a very interesting look at your process and evolution. I enjoyed picking up some tips and inspiration. SEO research is an area I need to continue to develop. Your words about blogging being a journey is so true — the ups and downs make it a real adventure at time. I agree that the blogging community is supportive and warmly welcoming — how I found you!

  • Reply
    Jan
    7 July 2023 at 3:21 pm

    Talking about methodology and coming up with an appropriate blog name, this is totally on a different level Carolin 😉 You really pulled-out all the semantics and tricks and approached it almost like science. Your post made me think of my first blog name – LipBum then later turned to Flying Baguette. The blogging journey is like travel in itself don’t you think? We all start from small steps and then giant leaps thereafter 😉

    Jan – https://flyingbaguette.com/

  • Reply
    Emma
    8 July 2023 at 3:35 pm

    I was so naive when I first started blogging, directionless too. I should have taken SEO more seriously earlier. Since then I have tried out different styles of posts to see what works best and what I enjoy writing, which is ultimately when a post seems to do well – when I’m enjoying writing it. It’s always fun to see how far you’ve come, I’m sure you feel the same way. Research is key though, I love attributing fun experiences now to Research. The perks of being a travel blogger

  • Reply
    Alison
    11 July 2023 at 8:58 am

    I’m always fascinated by other blogger’s experiences of the writing process. Someone I know once expressed surprise at how long it took me to write a blog post, from the initial idea to hitting the publish button and seemed proud of the fact that he could write a post in 30 minutes. Admittedly not travel but still… I’ll leave you to guess at the quality of his writing. 🙄

  • Reply
    Donna Meyer
    11 July 2023 at 10:03 am

    A very thorough post, Carolin. It is exactly what every beginning content creator needs to know. When I first started my travel blog for older women, I was guilty of writing mainly fluffy personal experience posts, basically personal essays. I seldom do that anymore, since I want both to inform my readers and make some money. BUT…once in a while, I simply have an idea for a post I want to write. There are no good keywords. The readership is likely to be small. But I wanted to write it. So I did. And a couple of those posts have ended up ranking at #1 for a few KWs and phrases. Go figure. Thanks for this thoughtful and deep look at your process.

  • Reply
    Angela
    11 July 2023 at 10:24 am

    This is so cool! I love the graphics associated with the post in helping to understand the process.
    The post is extremely well structured, realistic and extremely useful information.
    I thought the idea of organization in promoting the content was spectacular, I will definitely use it! In fact I will save this post for inspiration.
    Keep going with your awesome work Carolin, You are an inspo!

  • Reply
    Katy
    11 July 2023 at 11:00 am

    I loved reading this, creating travel content definitely isn’t as easy as some people believe it to be is it! Your posts are always so wonderful 🙂

  • Reply
    Christina Four Tickets
    11 July 2023 at 12:08 pm

    We started out travel blog less than a year ago. Reading this was super helpful and informative. I don’t think I’ve come across a post as thorough. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  • Reply
    Carina | bucketlist2life
    11 July 2023 at 12:30 pm

    The amount of work you put into a blogpost is absolutely mind blowing. I often think I’m already ahead of the curve by only writing about places I have really visited. I sometimes struggle with the dichotomy between traveling for myself and traveling for the blog. How do you manage?

  • Reply
    RJ
    11 July 2023 at 9:14 pm

    Great Post, we are similar with the blig researcg missons in destinations. Henry drags me far and wide to find anything dog friendly everywhere we go…

  • Reply
    Pam
    14 July 2023 at 12:12 am

    What a great way to look at it and look back along the journey. I related to a lot of what you said, and I hope more people read this because so many people think its easy and not a lot of work -but it really is!

  • Reply
    Nic's Adventures
    23 September 2023 at 9:05 pm

    Thanks for sharing these tips in becoming a travel content creator, I did not realise when I moved niches how much work it would involve to write one post, including SEO which I’m pretty clue less about doing, and all the money that I need to fund it all which never seems to be there, hopefully these tips shall help me 🙂

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