Over the past decade of working as what some label a “travel blogger”, I’ve used all different kinds of blogger services, tools and equipment. Some of these tools have been invaluable resources for online business, but I’ve had to learn the hard way not just the “which resource” to use but almost as importantly, when I should spend the money to use them.
There’s a lot of great information on the internet comparing different travel blogger resources or recommending resources.
What I’m aiming to do different here is to provide you with specific recommendations based on where you’re at in your online business.
I currently run about 13 different websites, almost all of them travel-related. When I started 10 years ago, I spent less than $50/mo on various services but as I’ve grown, I now average about $5,000/mo in expenditures. With all this experience under my belt, I want to share with you the premium options I use as well as free alternatives.
The Basics | SEO & Social Media | Royalty Free Media | Camera Equipment | Misc Tools
It’s not always about the best resources for travel bloggers, it’s also about your budget and your needs. Use the link markers below to jump ahead to a specific section.
**Note: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that at no extra charge to you, I receive a small commission if you decide to use the service. I take recommendations very seriously and only recommend services that I have in the past or am personally using. I hope you find this helpful and thank you in advance for your support of the time it took to put this together for you!
The Basics for Bloggers
The following are tools or services that pretty much every travel blogger needs to use. Whether you’ve been blogging for years or starting a blog for the first time, you’ll always have these in your blogger toolbox.
Travel Blog Hosting Recommendations
I know there are free options for hosting your blog, but I’m not going to list those here.
The reality is that if you take your travel blog seriously, you need to host your own website. This requires a hosting service.
Low Cost Hosting Option – HostGator
- Ideal for: Small blogs (<25,000 visitors)
- Pricing: $2.79/mo (host multiple sites)
My experience with HostGator has been good for basic hosting needs on my smaller blogs. The advantage here is the low cost and reliability, which are key when you’re starting out.
Eventually, you’ll want to upgrade your speeds and other features, but I recommend staying at this level until you reach 25k total visitors or $500/mo in revenue.
Premium Hosting Option – WPEngine
- Ideal for: Med-Large blogs (25k+ visitors)
- Pricing: $29/mo (one site) or $99/mo (multiple sites)
I moved my larger websites to WPEngine about 2 years ago and I’ve never been happier. My costs are significantly higher ($400+/mo vs $3.95/mo) but the speeds are incredible, I have daily backups and a bunch of other amazing features that add up to being worth it.
If you have one or more websites that combined get 25k+ visitors, I highly recommend WPEngine.
Travel Blog Theme Recommendations
Once you’ve decided on a website hosting company, your next step is to work on a theme. Unless you’re an HTML wizard, you should focus on Wordpress to create your website.
Think of it this way: if your hosting company is a plot of land, Wordpress is the foundation and the theme is the house you build on top of that foundation.
A free Wordpress theme is perfectly acceptable when you’re starting out, but it’s never a bad idea to invest a bit (it’s not much) in a better Wordpress parent theme or premium child theme. Here’s what I recommend:
Low Cost Theme Options – Themeforest
- Ideal for: Those just starting out
- Pricing: $2+
Themeforest has an excellent selection of Wordpress themes to work with. The themes are usually better than the free ones you can Google and find online.
You can browse through demos of each theme and then making a purchase is very easy. You can download and install in less than 10 minutes.
Premium Theme Options – Genesis Themes
- Ideal for: Any blogger who’s beyond “beginner”
- Pricing: $99+ (one time)
Too often we focus on how a theme looks instead of how it performs. That’s why I love the Genesis framework. Not only are all of their themes optimized for speed and security, they’re all responsive and easily customizable.
These are the themes I recommend for those who can’t spend $10k on a custom theme.
Travel Blog Email Service Recommendations
You need to be collecting emails as a travel blogger. I don’t care if you’re just starting out or if you have an established blog: start collecting emails today.
You can offer a free download or access to a closed Facebook group. Whatever you decide, the earlier you do it, the happier you’ll be later.
The good news is that it’s free to start doing email and you probably won’t need to pay for the first year or two. And once you’re at the point that you’re paying for email, it will already be paying for itself many times over (if you’re doing it right, that is).
Here are my email service provider recommendations for travel bloggers:
Free Option – MailChimp
- Ideal for: Bloggers with <2,000 email addresses
- Pricing: Free!!
Mailchimp makes it super easy to start collecting emails as a travel blogger. Their service is free until you reach 2,000 email addresses and includes automatic emails, automation and more.
Best of all, Mailchimp is a quality service that I’ve paid to use as well. I love their phone app and the many email themes to choose from.
Premium Email Option – ConvertKit
- Ideal for: Travel blogger with 2k+ email addresses
- Pricing: $49/mo+ (scaled by subscriber count)
While Mailchimp is the cheaper option, I’ve moved to ConvertKit and highly recommend you do the same. This service is geared specifically to bloggers like us and offers higher deliverability and better automation.
I saw my open rates and conversion rates jump by 10% within the first month of using ConvertKit.
SEO & Social Media for Bloggers
Even with the basics listed above, you can do a lot as a travel blogger. I started the first few years of my blogging career using only “the basics” and I was quite content.
But for those that think “If I write it, they will come”, I have some bad news for you. That’s usually not the case.
The growth of your travel blog depends on your ability to market, network, and optimize your site for search engines.
It’s easy to stretch yourself too thin, though! For social media, choose 2-3 platforms among the many available (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) and focus on those. Do what you can to automate but don’t let that automation take the place of real interaction with people.
For SEO, use tools that help you optimize your site for search engines and help you research the best ways to present the information you have to share.
Social Media for Travel Bloggers
Social media takes time. The benefits are certainly worth it, but it’s easy to get sucked into the black hole of social media and never get out.
I recommend you spend some time creating a social media editorial calendar. How many days a week do you plan to post on each platform? For example, for one of my sites I post daily on Facebook Mon-Sat and the editorial calendar looks like this:
- Monday: A beautiful photo with a CTA (call to action) in the caption (i.e. “What do you think?” or “Have you been here?”)
- Tuesday: Link, either to a new post or an archived post on my travel blog.
- Wednesday: A shared video I like from another related Facebook page.
- Thursday: One of my Instagram photos with a link asking people to follow me on Instagram.
- Friday: A video I natively upload to Facebook.
- Saturday: A personal post (usually with photo) talking about what I’ve been doing that week (to create more of a connection with my audience).
Creating an editorial calendar helps you plan out your week and keeps you from scrambling every day to find something to post. You can see how this can become time consuming, which is why I recommend you only choose a couple social media platforms.
These are a few tools to help with this social media automation:
Free Option – Recurpost
- Ideal for: Any travel blogger
- Pricing: Free with limits
Recurpost is an excellent MeetEdgar alternative (MeetEdgar is waaaay too expensive!) that allows you to create a library of your article archives and have it posted whenever you want to your Facebook or Twitter feed.
RecurPost is free for up to 100 posts in your library and I use it to recycle my posts, YouTube videos and photos. I still use it!
Premium Option – HootSuite
- Ideal for: Travel bloggers who manage multiple accounts
- Pricing: Free option, $19/mo for paid
I’ve hired a team to help me with my social media, so I use Hootsuite as a way to help us all manage what we do. You can use it free as an individual with three profiles.
What’s great about Hootsuite is that I can schedule my social media for the next couple weeks and just spend a few minutes every day replying to people’s comments. I love it!
SEO Research Tools | Travel Blogger Toolkit
Most travel bloggers like to wing it. They travel to a place and then hope that the photos they capture and the stories they tell will resonate with their audience.
If you have a sizable audience, that might even work. However, for many travel bloggers what you’re relying on are two things: social sharing and search engine traffic. If you want to do well in either of these areas, you’re going to need to do your research.
You need to figure out what types of travel articles do well on social media as well as things like search volume, competition, etc. It’s next to impossible to do this without the right tools. Here’s what I recommend:
Free Option – Answer the Public
- Ideal for: Every travel blogger
- Pricing: Free
Oh man, if you’ve never heard of Answer the Public, you’re in for a treat! This site is a gold mine of research for any travel blogger.
Just type in your topic and learn the types of questions people search for on this topic (what is considered “long tail keywords”). The more questions you can answer in your article, the better you’ll do.
Premium Option – Ahrefs
- Ideal for: Advanced SEO research
- Pricing: $99/mo and up
All of the major internet marketers use Ahrefs as their tool for internet research, and for good reason. You can track keywords, do a site audit, check backlinks and research keywords with ease.
It’s a load of great information, but I wouldn’t jump into a $99/mo commitment without at least $10k/mo in revenue for your business.
Finding Good Media
As you grow your travel blog, it’s essential that you understand what you can and can’t use in terms of photos and music.
You can’t just put any song you like on your YouTube videos and you can’t post any photo you like on your blog…
…even if you link back to the owner!
I remember the first time I got a call from a lawyer in Washington that represents Getty Images. They demanded that I pay $1,500 for use of one of their images I had placed in a stupid article years back. I ended up getting out without paying anything, but it was a stressful mess for me.
This happens to a lot of travel bloggers, but that doesn’t have to be you.
The key is “royalty-free”. Below I’d like to walk you through where I find both royalty free images for my blog as well as royalty free music for my videos.
Royalty-Free Images & Video
Stop using Google to find images for your blog.
If using your own images isn’t an option (and that should naturally be your first option), check out these recommended tools:
Free Option – Flikr
- Ideal for: Any travel blogger
- Pricing: Free with limits
The key to using Flickr is searching for images that are licensed with Creative Commons License (CC). Flikr gives you the ability to filter images that have a CC license during your search.
Look closely at the CC License as there are many different kinds. Some require attribution and some are for non-commercial use only.
Premium Option – Storyblocks
- Ideal for: Blogs / YouTube channels with heavy image usage
- Pricing: $29/mo (paid annually)
I’ve used a number of separate services to license images, videos and music, but Storyblocks has been amazing because I can get all of it in one place.
They offer a great selection of images, 4k video footage and even vectors/illustrations. Give them a try:
If you’re like me and you have a YouTube channel or Facebook page where you publish videos (and here’s another tip: you should do video!!), you’re going to want to use music to enhance the production.
You can’t just copy your favorite track to your video, though – at least not without YouTube putting ads on your video to pay the copyright owner. In some cases they might even shut down your channel.
It’s serious stuff, so make sure you’re using royalty-free music in your videos. Thankfully, there are some great free and premium options to choose from! Here’s what I recommend:
Free Option – YouTube
- Ideal for: Beginner Vloggers & Youtubers
- Pricing: Free to use with attribution
Many people don’t know that YouTube offers its own library of free music. Some require attribution and others don’t. Some music is good and some is terrible.
I love that it’s free to use this music but what I don’t like is that the options are limited and you end up using music that many, many other video creators use as well.
Premium Option – Epidemic Sound
- Ideal for: Serious Vloggers & YouTubers
- Pricing: $12/mo and up
Epidemic Sound allows you to either individually license tracks or get a subscription that gives you access to their full library of music to use in your videos.
They have a growing library of tracks that cover all sorts of genres and I’ve been very happy with the music I’ve been able to find.
Cameras and Equipment
As a travel blogger, it is our job to capture the beauty of the scenery and culture around us. It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional photographer or not, you NEED to be taking pictures of the places you go.
Some travel blogs are known for the incredible photography, but I’ve found that the most helpful travel blogs are those that show the nitty-gritty details of how to get from point A to point B. That doesn’t require beautiful photos, often it’s photos of the front of the train station or the sign that describes all the options.
I’ve already written a buyer’s guide for travel cameras, but here’s a quick breakdown of the equipment I use for photographs and video.
Best Travel Blog Cameras
I’ve used a number of different cameras as I’ve traveled around the world and the reality is that certain cameras are good for specific situations (i.e. using a GoPro instead of a DSLR). Still, in general, here’s what I recommend:
Free Option – Your Phone
- Ideal for: Any traveler
- Pricing: The cost of your phone
You don’t need an expensive camera to start off as a travel blogger. Most phone cameras nowadays take amazing photos and the best part is that they fit into your pocket.
My only recommendation here is that you take the time to learn how to edit and enhance the photos/videos on your phone. There are plenty of free and premium apps that can help. (I use LightRoom and love it)
Premium Option – Canon G7x Mark II
- Ideal for: More serious Photographers/videographers
- Pricing: $700
I love my big DSLR camera (I use the Canon 70D), but frankly I find the smaller G7X Mark II to provide stunning results at a fraction of the price and size. It allows me to shoot my photos in RAW and to shoot my videos in HD (not 4K, unfortunately).
The only thing I don’t like about the G7x is the lack of an audio input. For that, I must record audio externally.
Best Drones for Travel Bloggers
Drones used to be something that only professional videographers could use, but that’s not true anymore. DJI has turned the drone world on its head with some of the most amazing and affordable drones on the market.
Although there is no “free option” for great travel drones, I will share the two best options for a travel blogger who wants to get incredible shots without spending too much money (or taking up too much space in the pack).
Budget Option – DJI Spark
- Ideal for: Drone beginners
- Pricing: $350-$500
The Spark is DJI’s smallest drone and also the cheapest. The size will amaze you yet despite that small size it can capture some really good footage. There are limits, though.
If you’re looking to do high-quality videos or to seriously fly a drone around, you’ll eventually want to upgrade. But the DJI Spark is a great start!
Premium Option – DJI Mavic Air 2
- Ideal for: More serious vloggers
- Pricing: $850 – $1400
The DJI Mavic Air 2 has become the go-to drone for any serious travel blogger/vlogger – myself included. I love how small this drone is (although larger than the Spark), how much control I have in flight and the resulting photo and video footage.
It’s the best there is until you cross into professional drones.
Below, I’d like to list out other tools that I use on a daily basis as a travel blogger that didn’t really fit into a category.
These tools may or may not relate directly to your travel blog, but they are services that I subscribe to because I’m frequently traveling abroad.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
As you travel around the world, you’ll encounter certain countries that censor their internet as well as certain services that are geo-restricted (i.e. Netflix, ESPN or Hulu in China). That’s where a Virtual Private Network comes in handy.
A VPN allows you to connect to the internet as if you were in your home country.
Additionally – and in many cases more importantly – a VPN encrypts your internet data so that you stay safe as you connect to wifi in coffee houses, hostels and other places where it’s easy for hackers to steal your info.
I’ve already written extensively about the best VPN for China, but here’s a quick recommendation on the best free and paid VPN:
Free Option – Hotspot Shield
- Ideal for: Any traveler
- Pricing: Free with limits
Normally, I don’t recommend a free VPN because as they say, nothing is really free. In this case, you’re trading your privacy (they sell your info) in exchange for open access to the internet and geo-restricted services.
If your budget can only handle free, though, Hotspot Shield is the best way to go.
Premium Option – ExpressVPN
- Ideal for: Those serious about security & privacy
- Pricing: ~$99/year
I’ve been using ExpressVPN for many years now and have loved the simplicity and security. I use it on my phone, tablet and desktop computer – they have specific apps to download for each one – and I have peace of mind as I travel around that my data is safe.
There’s a 30-day money back guarantee for a risk-free trial, and you can read my full ExpressVPN review here.
Virtual Address For Travel Bloggers
If you’re on the road as much as I am, you’ve run into the problem of where to send your physical mail. This includes stuff like purchase you make online, magazine subscriptions, tax documents, etc.
Once you take steps to set up an LLC for your travel blog business, you’ll also need to consider a registered address (which is required). Even email providers like Mailchimp require you to put your business address at the bottom of your emails.
All of this means one thing: a virtual mailbox service.
Free Option – Family/Friends
- Ideal for: people with understanding family/friends
- Pricing: Free…usually
Most travel bloggers I know use a family or friend who is willing to accept mail on their behalf. This usually works well until you either start getting too much mail OR you end up setting up a formal company.
If you do end up using your family or friends, please make sure you thank them and maybe even compensate them for the trouble. Because it is trouble.
Premium Option – TravelingMailbox
- Ideal for: Serious travelers & business owners
- Pricing: $15/mo and up
When I set up a company 4 years ago, my parents let me know that using their home address was no longer an option. That’s when I started using Traveling Mailbox.
They receive my mail, scan the front and I can ask them to open and scan, forward the mail or shred it. It’s like turning my physical mail into email…I love it! They even have a phone app.
Conclusion | Best Online Tools for Travel Bloggers
When I first started travel blogging, I almost exclusively used the “free” or “low cost” options I’ve listed above…and I’m proud of that!
It wasn’t until the business started growing to $5k/mo, $10k/mo, $15k/mo and more that I started spending money on premium options and even then, it was only when I felt that it would benefit the bottom line.
Remember that all of these recommendations are just tools to put in your toolbox.
The real product is what you create with those tools.
Make sure that your writing, photography and videography are the best that you can produce, no matter what kind of tools you have to use.