A useful beginner’s guide on how to make money with a travel blog, from someone who actually does it.
Five years ago, I quit my safe desk job, strapped up my backpack, and began my journey of full-time adventure travel. I didn’t have much of a plan back then, but I knew I wanted to pursue the digital nomad lifestyle, no matter what it took.
But naturally, I still needed to find a way to earn a living. Initially, I resorted to working low-paying remote jobs from my laptop. However, I knew early on that this wasn’t the lifestyle I packed my life up for.
So, in between teaching English in hostel common rooms and ghostwriting about bee hive boxes for affiliate websites, I began publishing my own blog posts, sharing my adventures, and writing travel guides to the unique destinations I was visiting on We Seek Travel.
Fast-forward to 2023, and running this travel blog is now my full-time job, earning me a multiple-six-figure income.
So, how do I make money from my travel blog? What does it take to become a professional travel blogger?
The short answer is affiliate marketing– But, the truth is that there’s a bit more to it than that.
To clear the confusion, I’ve written this guide, where I reveal everything new travel bloggers need to know about monetizing their travel blogs. I’ll introduce the best ways to make money from the highest-earning affiliate programs and give some alternative ways to create additional income streams from your blog, including display advertising and active income sources like securing paid press trips and selling digital products.
- What is Affiliate Marketing?
- How Much Can Travel Bloggers Make with Affiliate Marketing?
- The Best Affiliate Program for Beginner Travel Bloggers
- Other Travel Blogging Affiliate Programs
- More Ways to Monetize a Travel Blog
- FAQ About Making Money With Your Travel Blog
What is Affiliate Marketing?
In a nutshell, affiliate marketing is a way to make money by promoting products or services to an audience. A travel blogger will partner with a company, or sign up for an affiliate network to create personalized affiliate links (usually with a unique tracking ID) to place within their blog posts. When a reader clicks on these links and then buys the product or service, the travel blogger earns a small commission.
Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to monetize travel content because it allows advertisers like tour operators, flight search engines, and hotel booking sites to reach a wider audience and only pay for direct results. The great news for travel bloggers is that your audience will likely already be interested in purchasing these services when they land on your blog.
Affiliate marketing is a way to use your blog to develop passive income streams. That is, to create something now that will continuously earn you money far into the future.
How Much Can Travel Bloggers Make with Affiliate Marketing?
Generally speaking, travel bloggers can earn anywhere from a few dollars to thousands of dollars per month through affiliate marketing. However, during my first year of blogging, I hardly made much money at all.
Realistically, the amount of money that travel bloggers make is very dependent on the size of their audience. For example, at the end of my first year, We Seek Travel was seeing around 10,000 monthly sessions and earning less than $800 per month. Trust me, this isn't much money considering I was spending a lot of time, around 40-50+ hours per week building the blog.
However, as I write this today five years later, We Seek Travel is earning me over $18,000 in passive income per month with approximately 250,000 sessions, mostly coming in from search engines. The result is that I can now spend a month climbing in the Himalayas, not touch my laptop, and still earn a very nice wage.
As you can see, starting a travel blog is far from a get-rich-quick scheme. But, if you want to reap the life-changing rewards of building a passive income from travel blogging, you'll have to be in it for the long haul– and be prepared for a lot of hard work!
The Best Affiliate Program for Beginner Travel Bloggers
So, you've got your self-hosted WordPress site live and posted a bunch of great SEO-optimized blog posts. Now that some of them are climbing the search engine rankings and earning you some decent traffic, it's time to monetize your travel blog!
The tricky part about starting out with affiliate marketing is that many affiliate networks or travel booking sites require a certain amount of traffic before accepting you into their programs.
That's why I recommend beginner travel bloggers sign up for Travelpayouts and begin creating affiliate links through their platforms.
What is Travelpayouts?
Travelpayouts is a digital partnership platform dedicated to all things travel. Trusted brands like Booking.com, Tripadvisor, and GetYourGuide work together with over 300,000 bloggers and content creators around the world to bring people the best travel deals.
Here's how it works:
- Travel bloggers recommend the travel brands & services they love to their audience and get rewarded for their efforts. For example, an adventure travel blogger writes about an epic GetYourGuide canyoning trip and adds a special link to their blog.
- Travelers get personalized recommendations from bloggers they trust to book amazing trips at the best prices.
- Travel bloggers are rewarded with a kickback for each paid referral, tracked via their unique links.
Which Services Can Travel Bloggers Promote Through Travelpayouts?
With the help of Travelpayouts travel bloggers have the ability to work with more than 100 travel brands in a single place. This is one of the best ways to combine your links and travel blog affiliate revenue earnings when starting out.
Below are some of the best brands to work with:
- Accommodation: monetize recommendations to Booking.com, Agoda, Expedia, and more.
- Flights: use links to WayAway and CheapOair to help your readers find a great fare and be rewarded.
- Tours and experiences: recommend the best travel experiences on the world's largest tour booking sites.
- More: think travel insurance, transfers, cruises, and more.
I've seen the best results with accommodation and tours/experiences since these are the things that readers are often looking for recommendations for when reading travel blogs.
Benefits of the Travelpayouts Affiliate Program
- A single wallet for withdrawing money. This means that you will quickly accumulate the withdrawal amount from different programs and different brands.
- You can withdraw money through convenient services like PayPal, WebMoney, or a bank account (bloggers usually use Wise for a free multicurrency account).
- Regular promo from brands get promos like double commission so you can earn even more during seasonal trends etc.
- High commissions: The Travelpayouts commission is comparable to direct affiliate programs due to regular promos and bonuses. While they take a cut, they are able to get much higher commission tiers not available to regular publishers.
- Easy promo tools: reach your audience and boost earnings with free widgets, deep links, banners, the WordPress Plugin for blogs, and more.
- Trusted brands: Travelpayouts immediately opens the doors to travel giants like Tripadvisor, Booking.com, Viator, Agoda, Rail Europe, Kiwi.com, Trainline, and many more.
- Transparent & easy to read statistics: get quick summaries right in your account dashboard and review your performance in detailed offer reports.
How to Start Earning Money With TravelPayouts
The first step is registering and sharing your travel blog project with Travelpayouts. During this step, you'll need to describe your content and where you'll plan to place the affiliate links and tools like widgets or banners.
Next, after signing up you'll be ready to join any program on their list and start generating your links! Then, all you have to do is embed the links in your top-performing content and start earning money from your travel blog posts.
The rate at which you'll see your first commission sales will depend on the quality of your content, the search intent of your targetted keyphrase, and your ability to recommend the right products or services in a natural way.
Tips for Travel Blog Affiliate Marketing Success
After years of trial and error, I've learnt a few things about what works, and what doesn't work when it comes to affiliate marketing.
- Content is king: Since you need eyes and thumbs on your blog to start earning money, you'll need to focus on creating great content that is optimized for reader experience before the SERPS will rank your blog.
- Learn everything you can about search engine optimization (SEO): Search engines drive about 85% We Seek Travel's traffic. That's hundreds of thousands of organic readers each month. Many land on posts I published months, if not years ago. This beats publishing social media posts every day in hopes that the algorithms will give you some reach. SEO is a skill that takes a long time to get right, but you don't want to put off learning about the basics.
- Choose products and services that you actually use: It's easy to see when a blogger is pushing a product or service on you that they personally have no idea about. This is one of the fastest ways to lose a reader's trust and a surefire way to increase your bounce rate.
- Be transparent and authentic: Disclose that you are using affiliate links, and be transparent and authentic in your promotions. Trust is the currency of the internet, and being upfront with your audience will increase the likelihood of them making a purchase through your links (and coming back to click them in the future).
- Focus on providing value: Ultimately, the key to affiliate marketing success is providing value to your audience. Focus on promoting products and services that genuinely help your audience, and be sure to provide helpful information and resources along with your promotions. Don't just throw random affiliate links at your readers hoping they accidentally click one!
Other Travel Blogging Affiliate Programs
With Travelpayouts, you can easily create a comprehensive affiliate marketing strategy that covers all the travel intent basics. However, if you're looking for a few more programs to check out, here are a couple that have proven lucrative for me:
- SafetyWing - affordable insurance for nomads
- ShareASale - tonnes of great affiliate programs in one place
- Avantlink - promote retailers like REI or great products like Grayl
- CJ Affiliate - connects you with a huge range of travel and non-travel-related brands
- Klook - wide range of tours and experiences
More Ways to Monetize a Travel Blog
While affiliate marketing is the most effective way to make money from your travel blog, there are other ways you can monetize as well. In fact, most travel bloggers including myself pursue several income streams.
1. Display Advertising & Ad Networks
Implementing display advertising is one of the easiest strategies that travel bloggers can use to monetize their blogs. Display ads are graphic or multimedia ads that are displayed on a website, usually in the content, sidebar, or a footer wrapper.
Advertisers pay website owners to display these ads to their audience, and website owners earn money based on the number of clicks or impressions their ads receive. This is usually achieved by signing up for an ad management service or network, which automatically places the ads on your site with one click.
Beginner bloggers usually start with Google AdSense, which has no traffic requirements. However, revenue per mile (RPM), the dollar measurement per 1,000 visits, is very low and might not be worth it. Expect between $2-$6 per 1,000 visitors.
However, once your blog starts receiving around 10,000 sessions each month, you can sign up for Ezoic, which sees much higher RPMs than AdSense. I was seeing around $12-$15 per 1,000 sessions with Ezoic in 2020.
Finally, once you have 50,000 monthly sessions, you'll be able to sign up for Mediavine, the bees-knees of ad management services. If you're on a big site and see an ad, chances are Mediavine put it there. These guys have the highest CPMs in the market and while every blog is different, you can expect to earn anywhere from $15 to $65 per 1,000 sessions.
2. Sponsored Content
Sponsored content is content that is created by a travel blogger on behalf of a brand or advertiser.
Unlike affiliate marketing or display advertising, placing sponsored content on your blog is usually a form of active income, meaning you are paid once for the work (however some collaborations pay on a monthly or yearly basis).
Essentially, a brand will pay a travel blogger to create content that promotes their products or services, and the blogger will disclose the partnership to their audience (crucial). Sponsored content can take many forms, including blog posts, social media posts, videos, and more. However, you should always disclose if you are being paid to recommend something, and the links should always be tagged as a nofollow or with a sponsored tag.
3. Sell Digital Products & Online Courses
Once you have built a large and loyal reader base, an effective way to make even more money from your blog is by selling digital products and courses.
Digital products can take many forms, including e-books, travel guides, photography presets, and more. Bloggers can leverage their expertise, reach, and knowledge to create valuable products that readers actually want to pay for.
Online courses take things one step further, providing a more comprehensive learning experience for customers. Bloggers can create courses that teach their audience about travel, blogging, photography, or any other relevant topic. By creating a comprehensive course, bloggers can command a higher price than just taking a small commission sale from another brand. This is also another effective way to create something once and sell it over and over again for another passive income stream.
4. Use Your Blog to Secure Press Trips
Of course, one of the best indirect ways that a travel blog can earn you money is by serving as a portfolio to help you secure paid gigs and press trips with travel brands or tourism boards.
These trips are typically all-expenses-paid and provide bloggers with an opportunity to create new content and grow their blogs. Many brands and boards will also pay in exchange for promoting their destination or service, or for marketing content like photo and video packages.
In order to land press trips, you'll first need to establish yourself as a credible and authoritative voice in the travel industry by creating high-quality content and growing a large reader base. It took me a few years to land my first tourism board gig by pitching my Media Kit. These days, many boards and brands approach me directly since I have a large portfolio of excellent testimonials.
FAQ About Making Money With Your Travel Blog
Depending on your niche, existing reach, and the amount you publish, it may take a few months to several years after publishing your first blog post to earn your first $100.
It's crucial to be authentic and transparent with your affiliate marketing recommendations. This results in more trust between you and your readers.
Yes, in case you missed most of this blog post, travel bloggers can earn anywhere from a few dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars every year from their blogs.
This depends on the quality of your content, your affiliate marketing strategies, and the topics and destinations you are writing about. You will want at least 2,000-3,000 monthly sessions before seeing your first $100 from your blog.
Again, this question depends on the topics, destinations covered, and the time of year. Expect to earn anywhere from $10 to $150 per 1,000 page views.
Publishing regular social media posts can be an effective way to start earning affiliate commissions. However, you'll be posting quite regularly as most networks will only show your content for 24 hours. Blog posts ranking for high-traffic keyphrases on the search engines can be seen by thousands of people every single day for several years, resulting in much higher earnings for the work required.