10 Travel Blog Monetization Strategies – Even If You’re Not an Influencer

The waters are muddy, y’all. Anymore, it’s easy to see why brands get confused when everyone’s a content creator/influencer/travel blogger, no matter what platform they publish on, whether they have a website, and how many people actually engage with their content.

If you’re a committed travel blogger – as in you have a website – and you’re trying to figure out how to make money from it, this one’s for you. (I normally try to create content focusing on all niches, but my primary experience and expertise is in running my own travel blog, so apologies if you’re not in this niche!)

Travel Blog Monetization Strategies Hero

I recently ‘sat down’ with Dalene Heck, of Hecktic Travels, HMI Marketing, Road Trip Alberta, and Road Trip Manitoba – with that many projects, you can see why she and her husband Pete are my kind of people. Specifically, I saw Pete and Dalene speak at TravelCon in 2022, and they showed a grid of monetization strategies that will help every site owner – whether you’re brand new or have been around the block.

This post is meant to accompany the podcast conversation Dalene and I recorded, going through that grid in detail and helping you make sense of the smartest monetization strategies you can try, even if you hate being in front of the camera. So grab your headphones, pop on the podcast episode, and give this one a listen/read to make sure your travel blog monetization strategies are dialed in.

🎧 Want to listen instead? This post was inspired by episode 24 of the Site School podcast.

Income Targeting by Traffic & Influence-Ability

HMI Income Targeting Grid

The above grid was taken from Dalene & Pete’s talk, “$0 to $100K: How to Succeed with a Single Destination Blog” at TravelCon 2022. It was a great talk even for those of us who already have sites (niche and otherwise) in the travel industry.

As you can see, the two axes are:

  • Vertical – “Potential Traffic,” ranging from Locals to Non-Locals/Visitors
  • Horizontal – “Influence-ability,” ranging from Behind the Camera to Selfie Star!

The grid formed by these two is populated with different monetization strategies, and where they tend to work best. That’s not to say you couldn’t use these monetization strategies in other parts of the grid (such as promoting affiliates as a local influencer), but this grid helps you get started adding in the smartest monetization strategies for whenever you are on the grid.

Now, I’m going to assume if you’re reading this that your Potential Traffic is actually Actual Traffic; you know where you fall on the “Locals to Non-Locals” scale. That means you have two options:

  1. You can look at exactly where you are on the Influence-ability scale, and see which travel blog monetization strategies you can add to your current plan.
  2. You can put yourself more (or less) in front of the camera, and diversify with new travel blog monetization strategies there.

Let’s dive a little deeper into the options along that range.

How to Make Money Behind The Camera

Travel Blog Monetization Strategies 1

You’ll hear Dalene say it in the episode, and I’m kind of the same way: in an ideal world, the most you’d see me is in the photos on my blog. No social media, no video, no YouTube channel… I just sit at home and write.

While I’m personally pivoting my business more toward the video/influencer side, you should do what’s right for you and your mental health. (Diving into those new algorithms is hard work on the headspace!)

If you just want to stay behind the camera, that’s totally okay: there are lots of monetization options, and putting them all together can be very lucrative. I’d point you to my income reports as an example – my current business as of mid-2023 is very much a Behind-the-Camera+Non-Local business!

Here are the different options available to you in this kind of business (whether your audience is non-local or local):

  • Affiliate marketing is, as Dalene says, essential no matter how much traffic you have. From day one, you can be set up to monetize with affiliates.
  • You can also look at creating your own products, like guidebooks and itineraries, even if you don’t like being in front of the camera; with traffic, you can sell these too.
  • Speaking of traffic, ads are always a powerful way to monetize once you get that SEO dialed in and driving people to your site.

There are some other fun ideas here too, such as running/hosting tours or selling merch. These require a bit more creativity – and a bit more of you (or at least your brand) in the business, but can be exceptionally lucrative. Dalene gives two great examples – Wandering Earl and Alex in Wanderland – and I’d throw in a third, my friend Nicole; all of these bloggers have added tours to their business and seen great success. (If you’re stuck on the idea of merch, listen to the episode with Amanda about her local Cleveland site and the success she’s had with selling to that audience.)

How to Make Money as a Selfie Star

Travel Blog Monetization Strategies 2

While I’m far from being an expert on becoming or succeeding as an influencer (#stilltrying #justpickedupmyphoneandnowits20minuteslater), Dalene and I had a really productive conversation about what your monetization strategies can be if you’re leaning more toward being a travel influencer – even on your blog.

Some of the ways you can monetize if you like being in front of the camera:

  • Paid trips and sponsorships are two huge opportunities. You can do these on your blog, on social media, or both. There’s nothing like getting that cold hard cash right away when you do the work.
  • Events – either one you host yourself or ones you are paid to attend and promote – are another great way to show your audience valuable information.
  • If you have a dedicated enough following, you might also look at the paid subscriber or patreon model to monetize your audience by giving them even more content exclusive to them.

Dalene also pointed out that while she originally thought guidebooks and itineraries were more “influencer agnostic,” they actually work really well if you are front-and-center in your business: “people like to buy from people,” as she says.

In short, there is no shortage of ways to make money as a travel blogger, even with a potential impending “AI-pocalypse” and if you absolutely hate the idea of being an influencer. All you need to do is tap into the kind of audience you have and the monetization strategies that will make the most sense.

Have any questions about how to monetize your travel blog, or Dalene’s grid of Income Targeting options? Let me know in the comments!

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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.

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