How I Make Money as a Travel Blogger

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I'm going to be completely honest here: I sometimes avoid telling people that I'm a travel blogger when I first meet them.

This isn't because I'm ashamed of what I do, or because I try to keep it a secret. I just hate the inevitable follow-up question that always comes whenever I tell someone that I blog as a career.

It's the number one question I get as a travel blogger:

“How do you make money doing that?”

Sometimes it's phrased more delicately. Like, “Sooo… you, like, make a living doing that?”

Sometimes it's much more blunt, like, “How much do you make doing that?”

To be honest, I sometimes want to tell people that it's none of their business. I don't go around asking my accountant or nurse or teacher friends how THEY make money, or what their paychecks look like.

But I get it. My “job” is an unconventional one, and people are curious.

So my short answer is, yes, I make a living doing what I do. But as for the larger question of HOW I make that living, the answer is not so short or simple.

Up until late 2015, I almost always had some sort of steady income coming in along with what I was making from my blog and other related side-gigs. When I started blogging, I was working full-time at a newspaper as a copy/layout editor. Then I was in grad school working as a grad assistant. And up until November 2015, I was working part-time for a social media startup.

Amanda in Solitaire, Namibia
Just another day at the office.

It wasn't until late 2015 that I decided I was comfortable enough to leave behind the safety net of a steady paycheck to fully work for myself.

Though even that is a bit misleading. When I say “work for myself,” I mean that I am fully in charge of how I make money. I get to choose how I monetize this site and which projects to say yes to, and in most cases get to set my own prices. But I still sometimes work for other brands and companies, and make money in ways that aren't “traditional.”

To fully answer the question of how I make money as a travel blogger, I have to write you a list.

I don't make money in just one way. In fact, the thing I've learned from building this sort of career is that it's important to make money from a variety of sources, in case one of them suddenly dries up. Diversification is the name of the game.

How I make money as a Travel Blogger in 2020

In order to give you a true overview of my income streams, I made this nifty pie chart to show you how my income broke down in 2019.

2019 income breakdown

This pie graph of mine is always changing, since the ways I approach my business are always changing. For example, back in 2017, advertising only made up 29% of my income and paid campaigns 7%. I was selling more courses (10% of my income), doing more freelance writing, and posting more sponsored content.

These days, I'm trying to work smarter, not harder. I've dropped most of the low-paying freelance writing work I was doing, and am very picky about the sponsored work I do now. My passive income streams are strong, and so I spend more of my own money to travel these days.

Amanda at Ait Benhaddou
Worth it.

(And, PS, these income charts never tell the whole story. It costs money to run a business – especially when you're in the business of traveling! My monthly expenses usually tally in the $2500-$4500 range between website/business expenses and travel expenses.)

To get a better idea of how this all shakes out, here's a more detailed look at all these income streams:

1. Advertising

In 2017, I signed up for Mediavine, an ad network that now places all the advertisements you see on this site. I was unsure about doing this (would the ads look awful? would people stop reading my site because they hated them?), but in the end it was by far the best business decision I've made.

I've been producing content on this site free-of-charge since 2010, and I won't apologize for wanting to be paid for all that work. Adding ads to the site was the easiest, least-intrusive way to do that (and still keep everything around here free!).

How much? In 2019, I averaged around $6,000 per month from advertising, and as the site continues to grow, so will that number.

2. Affiliate sales

I've worked hard in the last couple of years to increase the amount of money I make passively each month. And one of the best way to earn passive income is through affiliate sales – which basically means that I often earn a commission if you click through to something you see linked on this site and buy or book it. It doesn't cost you anything extra, but is a steady income stream for me.

Over the past few years, I've been growing the amount of affiliate links on my site, and have happily seen an increase in sales, too. I have Amazon affiliate links in some key posts on my site (including all my packing posts) recommending products that I use and love, and also link to hotel booking sites, tours, and other items through other affiliate platforms and programs.

I only recommend things when they are relevant and fit in naturally with the content I'm writing – and I only recommend things that I have tried or would spend money on myself.

How much? The amount of passive affiliate income I make varies depending on the time of year, but it averaged out to be about $4,400 per month in 2019.

Amanda in Ireland in the rain
For example, head over to my Ireland packing list, where I tell you about all the gear I used there!

3. Paid campaigns

As this industry evolves, brands and destinations have started to hire people like me to promote them. Contrary to popular belief, these campaigns do NOT mean that someone is paying me to spread or promote a specific message.

During a paid campaign, there are clear marketing goals defined (like maybe brand awareness), and a certain amount of contracted deliverables (like a specific amount of blog posts, photos, social media posts, etc.). I NEVER promise positive coverage, and usually have complete freedom in what I want to write about and how.

These campaigns are usually well-paid, but I don't do very many of them throughout the year because they are a TON of work. Like, we're talking at least 12-hour days during the campaign, and then days or weeks of work after the trip in order to complete all the deliverables.

I did 6 of these campaigns in 2019, and they made up 13% of my total income.

How much? I averaged anywhere from $1,500-$5,000 per campaign, depending on the length and deliverables.

Avalon Waterways cruise
Sometimes these campaigns take me to places like this! (The Danube River in Europe)

(For more about this sort of work, check out my Work With Me page.)

4. Consulting/speaking

In 2019, I launched affiliate consulting services for fellow travel bloggers, and also did some speaking engagements and a couple one-off consulting gigs with destinations.

I would love for this part of my business to continue growing, as I love teaching people all the things I've learned over the last decade. (If you're interested in any consulting work, definitely get in touch!)

How much: I made just over $5,000 from this sort of work in 2019.

5. Sponsored content

Branded content is essentially another form of advertising or advertorial content. But I count it separately since it's not passive income – when I run sponsored posts or participate in a sponsored social media campaign, I write 100% of the content myself.

I’m really picky about what branded content I will agree to run these days (my audience always comes first!!), and turn 99% of it down. In fact, in 2019, it accounted for a really tiny portion of my income, and I only said yes to the posts that I was really passionate about (like this one).

I also sometimes participate in social media-only campaigns for specific brands. This usually consists of me sharing a post (or posts) on networks like Facebook and Twitter (and sometimes Instagram), often promoting a contest or specific message, or participating in a branded Twitter chat.

Social campaign
An example of a social campaign post

How much? This one varies a lot, since it totally depends on what kind of offers I get each month (and which of those offers I accept – which isn't many). I purposefully set my prices really high. In 2019, if you average it out, I made just over $200 per month – but actually only did about half a dozen sponsored things on my blog and social channels.

5. Course sales

I launched my first course in 2015 and my second in 2017. They were originally sold through Travel Blog Success, but moved over to Teachable in 2018.

I've had trouble figuring out how to market them (they're for travel bloggers, but bloggers aren't my main audience here on this blog!), so my earnings have been sporadic.

This is something I need to work on in 2020!

You can check out my courses here:

Blogging courses

How much? I only made about $1,400 on my courses in 2019.

6. Freelance writing

I used to do more freelance writing for other online outlets, but have cut back to almost none. I still made a tiny bit from freelance writing in 2019, mostly writing for The Journal by Intrepid Travel.

While other creators still make a significant portion of their income from freelancing, I've decided that it makes more sense for me to focus on monetizing my own websites rather than spending time working for others.

How much? Not enough to really even factor in here! I may not do any at all in 2020.


So how much DO I make as a blogger? Well, you can probably do the math here. In 2019, my “worst” month brought in about $9,000, and my best month was nearly $20,000. That's of course before factoring in expenses and taxes and such, but this is definitely a viable, successful, full-time career for me.

I do want to point out, though, that the ways I've decided to monetize my site and make more income are not necessarily the ways that all other bloggers go about it. Blogging is a relatively new field as far as careers go, so there's no “one size fits all” way to go about making money.

There's also no guarantee that another blogger who tried to make money in the exact same ways would have the same amount of success. I'm very lucky that I've been able to turn what started out as a hobby into my career, but it's taken a lot of time and patience – my blog turns 10 this year!!

If you're thinking about starting a travel blog, just know that you have to be in it for the long haul; success (and money) definitely does not come overnight, and I still work incredibly hard each and every week to keep learning and growing.

READ NEXT: Turning a Blog into a Business: 7 Things I Did Right


Did I cover all your burning questions? What else do you want to know about what I do?

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How I make money as a blogger

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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75 Comments on “How I Make Money as a Travel Blogger

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  1. Thanks for sharing this, Amanda! I’ve seen some of these online from a few other bloggers, but it’s always good to see how it works for specific people, individually (particularly since yours is one of my favorites!). Appreciate the transparency, as I know this isn’t something your obligated to share with us but I imagine you hear questions about it quite often!

      It’s definitely the most frequent question I’m asked, and I have nothing to hide from anyone, so I figured why not break it down? I, too, think it’s interesting to see how different bloggers make this job work for them – there are so many different ways to approach it!

      This is inspiring Amanda!! Can you please have more articles like this?

      Thank you!!!!

    Thank you for the inspiration and especially for sharing as most people probably try to hide it. We are currently not having any income from our blog and are considering the options, so it is nice to see some of the alternatives and how they actually work for you. πŸ™‚

      Thankfully there are lots of options – but it definitely takes time to build up a combination that works for you!

    Amanda I love how you’ve built your blog from the ground up. Thanks for giving us a little peak into your income streams and being transparent. I know not everyone is comfortable sharing what they make on monthly basis nor is it a requirement. Like you said income and what you do for work is all so personal. No two people in the same field are completely alike. Love it girl!

      The question comes up so frequently – so I think I’ll just start directing people to this post now. πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for sharing this post with us. It is crazy how many different angles bloggers have to go in order to get a little bit coming in from each one.

    For what it’s worth I honestly don’t really notice ads on your site so you have nailed not making them too obtrusive. And I love the course you wrote for TBS. Very informative and I have pages and pages of notes and a long to do list from things you recommend. I’m on a mission to spend the next year putting all (or at least most!) of those suggestions into place.

    Thanks so much for sharing your tips and experiences.

    Kate

      I hope it can prove to people that you CAN make a living doing this, but that it’s by no means an easy job.

    It’s so nice of you to share all this information with readers. Especially because some people and beginning bloggers don’t understand how much work goes into making this more than a hobby. (Though mine is more hobby than job.) I’ve admired your blog for years and all the avenues through which you continue to expand.

      Thanks for sticking around Juliann! And yes, I agree – most people have no clue how much work happens behind the scenes of a blog like this!

    Great post, Amanda! And thanks for sharing some actual numbers. I know some people really don’t like sharing what they earn (and I totally get it) but it is helpful to see what’s realistic for someone with as big of a following as you have. At the beginning of 2015, my site Travel Made Simple earned maybe $200 a month from ads and Amazon affiliate commissions, but after a few tweaks here and there, the site is now my main source of income…though still not even what you earn in a bad month! I’m really impressed with what you’ve been able to build with your site over the years.

      Money is always such a touchy subject, but SO many people ask me about it that I figured why not just break it down? That’s awesome that you’ve cracked the affiliate/ad puzzle, too – it’s such an important one for me!

    Thank you for sharing this! This kind of information is always valuable and appreciated by other bloggers including myself. I’m not anywhere near ready yet to start making money off my blog, either directly or indirectly, but it is a path that I know exists and that I’m interested in maybe taking in the future. Receiving this kind of information definitely helps to imagine when/whether or not I’m ready to attempt the same πŸ™‚

      Glad to hear it, Ella! I didn’t really make money from my blog for the first couple of years – and it’s only in the last 2 years that I’ve made any substantial amount. It takes time and work, but I hope to show people that it IS possible!

    Thanks so much Amanda for sharing this valuable post with us all! As a newbie in the travel blogging world, I definitely got some useful information which may help me sometime in the future. But of course, to get to the level as you are right now, you need to as first step, grow your blog first and gain audience right? So, I’m not sure if you have a post on how to gain audience but I’d love to have some tips from you! πŸ™‚ I’m three months into blogging and my main readers are just few of my friends haha, so I’d love to ‘expand’ more in the next few months.
    Cheers and thanks again!

    Mani from Thousand Miles to Touchdown

      For audience-building, you really just need time! There’s no secret road to success, really – it’s just a mixture of writing good content, having decent SEO, being active on social, and sticking with it for a while. Best of luck to you! (Check out Travel Blog Success if you haven’t already, too – it might be a good fit for you!)

    Hi Amanda! Thanks for your post, this may be an out of the way question but, I’ll ask anyways: does a job reviewing hotels really exists? Do you have any insights?

      It very well could exist, though I can’t tell you how you might land a job like that!

    Awee…you are such a sweet heart Amanda…..you shared your secrete ..like i have never seen any one so willing to help others….lets connect on instagram…@sparkelforever…:)

    I will read all the blog post you have..i love to travel…

      They aren’t secrets, really, so I don’t mind sharing! πŸ™‚

    Thanks for sharing Amanda!

    I’ve always liked your blog because you’ve never been afraid to put yourself out there, and share information. I remember that you did the same with your press kit which I really appreciated, ‘cos when I first start blogging I didn’t even know what Twitter was all about, or what a press kit was either! Two years later, I’ve got things fine-tuned down to an art that fits my brand.

    I also like the way that you make your income responsibly and without bombarding people with links and chain letters, but enough, to create soft interest. There’s another blogger called Michelle from Making Sense of Cents – she’s great, humble, and open-minded. She’s just published her monthly income for September – $102,911! And she deserves it as like you, she’s generous with information on how she “made it.” And how? affiliate income and her new marketing course.

    Keep up the good work!

      Wow, I can’t even fathom making six figures a month – but maybe I just need to think bigger! πŸ˜‰ The great thing about what we do is that there’s always something new to try. Hopefully I can update this post next year and be making even more money!

    Although I’ve blogged for years I’m only just starting out with thinking about making it more ‘professional’ so posts like this are really useful. Thanks. I think a lot of people have no idea of how money can be made through a blog. Also I think people think it’s easy – you go out and have fun and then spend half an hour typing a bit and uploading a few photos and Bingo! you’re done. I’m learning now just how time-consuming it is and how much there is that goes on behind the scenes. Well done on making a success out of your blog. If I can be even half as good I’ll be one very happy blogger indeed!

      It’s always the first thing people ask me when I tell them I’m a blogger, and they’re definitely surprised when I say that I make money in so many different ways. But that’s kind of the awesome part – you can get really creative and try so many different things!

    Thanks for sharing this Amanda. This is very inspiring. I’m knocking on the door of making our blog a full-time gig as well but it’s frightening to let go of stability. You summed up my fears with this statement: “I STILL don’t know if it’s sustainable in the long term.” Next year will be pivotal for us. Thanks again. πŸ™‚

      Best of luck, JB! I know it’s definitely scary to take that leap, just hoping that you’ll find a soft place to land. But I also think it’s worth it. πŸ˜‰

    Thanks Amanda for being generous sharing not some experiences but your
    Professional life and being honest in writing.
    Honest in dividing your income in parts and describing them one by one and honest in replying all comments.
    Such rare articles are very useful and time saving for a newbie like me.
    excuse me for broken english.

    Thank you for laying it all out there! So many people ask this question and probably many more don’t, but wish they could!!! Like most things…..there is more hard work beneath the surface that you might guess!!

      Yup, this job is so much more involved than most people realize! And turning it into a job certainly hasn’t been easy – but I’m getting there, and am always happy to share what I’ve learned with others.

    Hi Amanda,
    Thank you so much for sharing all this!
    P.S.- You write beautifully. ?Top notch.

    Hi Amanda
    Thank you so much for the tips and love reading it thru the end. Glad that it works for you. For me, I am to come to my 365 days as an all rounder blogger, I had no intention at all to make money from blogging as I do write for other organizations or sites for $$$, leaving my blog as one hobby.

    However, in the first 2 months, one eatery in my place suddenly contacted me and invited me to come over, experience and eat everything for free for 6 months and then paid me some little $$$. I did not expect that but I accept it anyway.

    I wrote for some branded hotels and in return I get to stay and fly for free whenever I travel to certain places. While enjoying that free nights and flying, some smaller brands contacted me and offered me the same thing as what I got in my first 2 months.

    Being a junior blogger, almost a year now, I managed to save enough to pay for my coming blog fees (oh my) and have some more (not much) for myself. The total value of sponsored stays,flying and meals and so on is way beyond my ability to count.

    Not sure though if I am happy because still my intention is not to make money through my blog but I do admit that enjoyed receiving all that free things. True what you said, don’t start a blog for money, if one is destined to have such privilege later, then let it be that way.

    Others, junior or senior blogger, keep writing and inspire each other. I started one small ad in my blog, not hoping so much from it, just testing it, see if it really works in the real world hehe.

    Loving your blog, Amanda, cheers.

      Best of luck to you, Lan! I hope you continue to have success with your blog!

    It’s really great how open you are with all of the different sources of revenue. I think you are doing quite well in comparison to many of the bloggers out there as well.

      I know it’s something people are always curious about, and I don’t mind sharing what works for me!

    Thank you for sharing your story and experiences. It is very motivating and inspiring.

    Really interesting read and great to know how an established blogger makes income. Things are picking up for me a little, but not quite on your level! I have Google Adsense, some Amazon Affiliate links and various others, and also make a little from paid travel and actually most of my income is from photography!

    I agree about Google Adsense in the sense it’s great that it provides income based on CPM and I also try not to go overkill with the number of ads.

    Thanks for sharing this!
    Mke

      And I’m sure this will look a lot different next year! Things are constantly changing in the blogging world, and you have to be willing to change with them if you want to keep making money!

    I’m impressed with your Amazon Associates earnings! I get clicks but only a few dollars a day if I’m lucky. I’ve found that I’m more successful with the other forms of affiliate marketing that I’m doing. Congrats on creating a lifestyle that you love! I think we may have actually met five years ago at TBEX in Keystone when I was promoting my student travel blog. I have since went the corporate path and started a new money-focused blog. It’s really cool to see how you’ve grown the site and created your business around your passions. I’m inspired.

      Thanks so much! I’m always testing things to see how I can optimize the work I’m putting in and the money I’m making. Amazon is pretty easy (well, relatively speaking) for a travel blog because packing posts are very Google- and Pinterest-friendly!

    I would love to get to this point one day, where I make money by doing what I love! Keep up the awesome work πŸ™‚

      I’m definitely very lucky to be doing what I love AND making money from it!

    Thank you for sharing this information. We recently started a blog but kind of at the early stages. Hopefully will get to this point one day πŸ™‚

    Interesting to see the behind the scenes of your blog and it’s revenue. Thanks for sharing your insight and some tips for maximizing income!

      I don’t mind talking about it, and always find this sort of thing interesting since different bloggers monetize in different ways!

    I really appreciate you sharing this excellent post. Everyone loves a pie chart.
    I am just starting out and this overview provides answers that you do not find elsewhere. I don’t expect to get rich and will be happy if I can keep travelling and pay the bills. You show that this is possible, even if it does take a lot of work.
    Love the blog.

      Everyone does love a pie chart! πŸ™‚ Good luck with the blog – it does take time and work to start making money from a blog, but it’s definitely possible!

    Great Tips! Such a great information.

    I agree with you that ”Our β€œjob” is an unconventional one, and people are curious.” I have always been facing problems with How I Make Money As a Blogger and was trying to hire someone to help me.

    I will tweet your post. Thanks a lot for sharing.

    Thanks a lot!

    Stefan

    I love your honesty in this post. I recently watched the webinar on TBS about Affiliate Marketing and really enjoyed your responses during that as well.
    I learned quite a bit from that webinar actually and I will be taking the course once I get through the initial lessons. Thanks for sharing your experience.

      Glad to hear it, Hoda! I try to be as transparent as I can with my blog, and am usually willing to answer most questions.

    I am not a travel blogger, but I must say I got a good idea that how to make money with my new blog, especially that Amazon Affiliate stat inspired me.

    Eye-opening and inspiring Amanda. Thanks for sharing more of what you do, and especially of breaking down the detail of how you bring home the bacon. Great info for fellow bloggers.

    Carl

      It could look very different next year, but I’m happy to share what works and what doesn’t for my business!

    Great blog it’s interesting to know about the income of bloggers and how they earn their living. for making carrier in this field one must require a lot of patience and hard work and constant effort. Thanks for sharing this post with transparency.

    Hi Amanda! I just came across your website for the first time. I think it’s fabulous! I too am a travel junkie, but also an avid photographer – thus I consider myself a travel photographer (currently 100% self-funded πŸ˜‰ I’ve had my website/blog/portfolio up and running for about two years now, but I am struggling with the direction I want to take it. I’m realizing, as you said, that any income I make will largely need to come from multiple sources. I’m curious as to how you got started working with destination/tourism boards and what that process looks like.

      I pitched my very first tour collaboration way back in 2011, a little over a year after I started my blog. And as my audience grew, I became more confident in what I could offer to destinations, and began pitching more partnerships to destinations I was already planning to visit, and companies I wanted to work with. It’s trickier these days because the market is much more saturated than it was 5 years ago. Now it’s more about strong audience match and the value you can offer a brand/destination. (And these days a lot of people pitch me!)

      I have a whole course about travel partnerships if you might like to check it out: https://dangerousbiz-blogging.teachable.com/p/travel-bloggers-successful-partnerships

    Affiliate marketing is no doubt the main source of income for bloggers, but what about google adsense how many visitors I must have on my blog to become adsense approved??? Do i have another option??

      Advertising is actually my main source of income now! I’m with an ad network called Mediavine; they require 25,000 sessions per month on your site. But I don’t believe Adsense has any traffic minimums – you just have to apply and get approved by Google.

    The ads don’t bother me at all. How do you start affiliate sales? How do you approach businesses you want to partner with. This is such a great article and tool. I’ve greatly enjoyed exploring your site and look forward to your future adventures and relatable posts!

      This is a good reminder than I need to update this post this year! Affiliate sales often go hand-in-hand with certain types of traffic; I started recommending products that I use and love, that would help my readers. And the same goes for businesses I wanted to partner with; it’s always about what YOU can do for THEM, and showing how the relationship would be mutually beneficial.

    Amanda thank you so much for writing this – its fascinating. We have a blog but no traffic – and see our blog more as an SEO tool than an income generator but the insights you share here are real eye openers.

    Thank you Amanda! I hope to make money at this one of these days. I keep plugging along – we’ll see! I appreciate the information!

    Thank you for such a nice article. We have also started our travel blog, and was looking for various ways to monetize it. Do you think writing ebooks will make a good profit?

      It will of course depend on the topic(s), pricing, and your audience, but yes, ebooks are another good way to monetize a website!

    very honest post. i think blogging is like any other career, some make it, some don’t

      Very true. And in this industry where the majority of people will quit after a couple years, part of success is just sticking it out!

    Thanks for sharing this post, this is a boost for those who want to start a career in blogging. appreciate your good work

    It’s a lot of hard work to get your blog producing passive income to that amount. I commend you Amanda on that because it is not easy. You probably have a lot on your plate already but have you considered starting a YouTube channel or a podcast. That could be another income stream for you.

      I have a YouTube channel, but I don’t have the time to dedicate to it to really grow it. Plus, in the travel industry, the people doing well either focus on a blog OR YouTube, but it’s really tough to be successful with both! As for a podcast, it’s not something I’ve really considered yet.

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