September 2021 Valerie & Valise Income Report

After a roaring summer, the autumn slump has begun. This is a pretty common thing for travel bloggers to experience at this time of year, but it’s still hard to see your business contract and have no control over it. The reality is that people just travel less during this time of year – myself included – so the volume of people searching drops for almost every business in the travel industry.

Despite that, I had a pretty good month – definitely far from the best. Read on to learn how September went on my travel blog, Valerie & Valise, the cornerstone of my website business.


  • Travel: 🏔🐻🐋 again!
  • Blogging: 📉
  • Income: 📉

This month’s photos were taken all over Alaska on our 2.5-week trip.

Travel in September

September was the culmination of several months of what almost felt like normal life: regular trips to explore new places and re-discover how old ones have changed. J and I spent over two weeks in Alaska, visiting a ton of destinations and giving me a bunch of material for new – and updated – stories.

  • Destinations Visited: 1 – Alaska!
  • Flights Taken: 8
  • Days on the Road: 19 out of 31

September Travel Highlights & Lowlights

The best travel experience I had in September was… seeing the aurora during our Alaska trip. There were some real highlights of our trip, but getting to show J the northern lights for the first time was definitely a highlight. Oh, and our Denali glacier landing was great too. And running into a friend from middle school and his mom, my 8th grade science teacher, in Sitka. Alaska is just great!

The worst travel experience I had in September was… having our flight from Chicago to Anchorage cancelled, and missing our ride on the Alaska Railroad. Because living in Cleveland kind of sucks, flying well, anywhere is complicated. Long story short, I couldn’t book a flight directly to Alaska using my Alaska Airlines companion fare for J, so I had to book us from Chicago and book a second ticket (on Delta) from Cleveland to Chicago (via Detroit). We arrived in Chicago with several hours’ layover planned before our red-eye to Anchorage – until Alaska Airlines cancelled our flight. They rebooked us on a later flight, but this meant we would miss our ride on the Alaska Railroad (which doesn’t happen daily this year, so couldn’t be rescheduled). To say I lost my shit at Alaska Airlines is an understatement – this was the third or fourth schedule change we’d had on this one ticket since I purchased it. Luckily the rescheduled flight arrived safely and I was able to book us a bus instead of the train… but even just taking flights is too freaking complicated in 2021!

My September travel highlight from years past was… my first trip to London in 2011. Gosh, I miss London so much – it’s been two years since my last visit, the longest gap it has ever been since that first trip!

Blogging in September

Septembers are notoriously fickle for travel blogs: everyone winds up their summer vacations, heads back to school or work, and doesn’t really start planning their winter trips or spring break getaways for a few months.

Layer on a pandemic that just won’t quit (get your damn shot!) and this September has felt particularly painful from a traffic standpoint.

  • Pageviews: 129,600 (↓21% from August 2021, ↑39% from September 2020)
  • Unique Visitors: 110,572
  • Traffic Breakdown:
    • Organic: 80%
    • Social: 7%
    • Direct: 10%
    • Email: <1% ← what happened here??
    • Referral: 2%

Most Popular New Post: The 19 Best Hawaii Souvenirs to Bring Home from Paradise

How do I keep track of all these stats? I’ve got an organization system!
Check out my course:
The Blogging Organization Success System

New Posts I Published in September

I didn’t publish for most of September but came back home from Alaska with a fire to kick-start this blog and get it ready for 2022 travel. Here’s what I published:

  1. How to Plan a Trip to Alaska in 2022 (and Beyond)
  2. How to Plan Your Second Trip to Alaska
  3. John Hall’s Alaska Review: A Grand Slam of a Guided Tour
  4. The Ideal Oahu Itinerary for 5 Days in Paradise

I also started a massive update of old posts to ensure they’re up to the best standards for SEO and content quality – and accurate for 2022.

September Blogging Highlights & Lowlights

The highlight of blogging in September was…

The lowlight of blogging in September was… losing 43% of my traffic since its peak in May. Okay, yeah, 2021 has been really weird from a traffic perspective; I saw a huge early-Summer surge in Alaska travel interest, that has dropped tremendously now due to the end of the travel season and the resurgence of the pandemic. But it’s still pretty disheartening to be down by almost half in just four months, even if I have basically no control over it.

A close second is how much my email traffic fell – which is a combination of seasonality and not sending any newsletters in September!

Business in September

After several months where my income was able to soldier on, not dropping as much as my traffic, September finally started to catch up with me. This month, my income dropped more than my traffic did – likely as a result of fewer people being willing to commit to travel plans due to the pandemic.

Wildly, despite my income dropping, my diversification breakdown was consistent from August to September – the exact same pie chart! That’s reassuring, even though my total income was so much less.

September Income Report

  • Advertising income: 55%
  • Affiliate income: 38%
  • Product income: <1%
  • Sponsored content/campaigns: 7%

Total income for September 2021: $11,324 (↓27% from August 2021)

tRPM: $87.38 (↓7% from August) ← This is a new metric I’m sharing, that I use to compare the value of my traffic month-over-month.

Months I’ve been blogging on V&V: 96 ← Repeat after me: no site is an overnight success.

Business Highlights & Lowlights

The business highlight for September was… a few course sales to boost my passive product income. I’m excited to come up with a better plan for driving course sales to help more people find my little spreadsheet product and get their blogs organized enough to easily write recaps like this!

The business lowlight for September was… low income. I’m grateful to still be above the 5-figure mark (though I’m not sure how long that will hold in the autumn slump!) but who doesn’t want more money, ya know?

And that’s it! We have zero travel plans for October currently – we actually have no fixed travel plans until MARCH! I’m pretty sure that will change, but for now, I’ll keep reporting on the business.

Have any questions about this month’s recap? Let me know in the comments.

Avatar photo

Valerie has been blogging since 2001, and has been running her oldest travel blog for a decade. You can find her across the internet on her various niche sites, but she started Site School to help fellow bloggers grow and create better content.


  • Brian Lewis

    Hi Valerie
    Bumped into your blog a few days ago whilst researching an intended trip down PCH next year.
    Your current blog and the Alaska review is excellent, reminds me of my first trip about 5 years ago.
    You’ll appreciate that getting there was a challenge from the UK especially as I planned and booked the trip myself.
    Like you, I suffered flight delays and re-scheds’ from Delta. Ultimately flying Chicago/Salt Lake/Anchorage, putting about 5 hours ono the journey.
    But you are so right, I went to the upper 49th in May and did South, down to Homer (Beautiful) and took a float plane ride over glaciers including a glacial lake landing and then upto Alyeska resort on our way upto Denali.
    Called into Talkeneeta on the way and actually saw the summit of Denali in the sunlight but next day the cloud was down and our Denali float plane flight was cancelled.
    Then back to Anchorage and onto Vancouver Island before tripping home.
    Next year, we are trying to juggle 21 days to do the PCH to San Diego, fly back to Anchorage for a few days in a yet to be chosen location in Az and then back to Seattle for a few days ahead of UK return.
    Could be we opt for PCH & Seattle depending on our flights. Any advice?
    BTW, 2018/19 saw us doing big road trips around Arizona and New Mexico, wonderful states, great scenery and experiences that provide great memories, as did cycling from Miami down the Keys to Key West, but thats another story.
    Keep up the good work and await your updates.
    Best wishes from an autumnal UK

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *