9 Tips for Travel Bloggers with a Day Job


Today’s guest post is from Chris Christensen, speaker, blogger and podcaster.  He’ll be speaking on podcasting at TBEX Europe, but in his guest post today he talks about being a busy guy who also has a full time day job.  How does he balance it all and still keep his content fresh and engaging?  Even when he’s not traveling?  Here’s his story.

wall clockThe recent post on TBEX “4 Tips to Keeping A Travel Blog Going While Traveling” is not my problem. I have had a popular travel blog and podcast (Amateur Traveler) for over 7 years, but except for one 8 month break, I have had a full time job that entire time. What traveling I do, as well as what blogging and podcasting, has had to fit into nights, weekends and 3-4 weeks of vacation. For many bloggers, the end of their year long career break is the death of their travel blog, but that does not have to be the case. But, neither can your blog be unchanged.

Think like a Travel Editor

Make friends with a travel editor like Spud Hilton if you can and you will find that most of the time they are doing a normal commute to an office. I am not talking about the travel journalist who hasn’t been to his hometown since the Carter administration, but the guy who gets out the travel section every week or the travel magazine every month. How do they do it?

1) It’s not about your trip

One of the things that Spud will remind you about traditional travel writing is that the story is not about your trip but about the trip that the reader might take. So while the fun part about being a travel blogger or writer is the actual travel, any time you can provide a valuable service for the future traveler you can build a readership (or in my case a listening audience).  After starting the Amateur Traveler podcast I quickly learned that I was going to run out of travel stories since I was traveling about 4 weeks a year and publishing an episode about 48 weeks a year. The solution for me was interviews. Sometimes travel writers get on the phone and talk to someone about a destination. Of course the quality of your content can only be as good as the quality of your sources.

2) It does not always have to be your voice

The most popular style of travel blog is a single author blog. The closest analogy in traditional journalism would be a columnist. You always get the same style and sense of humor. You always know what you are going to get. But clearly, that is not the only model. Magazines and newspapers have for years been using multiple authors, some regular authors, and freelancers. They then use editors to maintain a consistent style or consistent quality standards. Purists will say that this is not a blog. Let them. But remember that there are dangers in this path. Getting other people to offer to give you “free” or affordable content is not so difficult as you might think. At Amateur Traveler I am probably pitched a dozen or two dozen articles a week. Most of these are crap. Some of these are crap that someone would actually pay me to put up on the site. Think like a travel editor. Don’t lose long term readers for short term gain. It is still your site. If you don’t like the article, don’t publish it.

Think Like a Road Warrior

Not all day jobs tie you to a desk. My last job as a Director of Engineering at TripAdvisor had a 2700 mile commute. It was not easy to get hired to manage a group remotely, but once I was, remote in San Jose looks pretty much like remote in Long Beach. My wife had a training class in Southern California and I tagged along. I still had to put in a full day’s work but in the evenings I was enjoying the nightlife and taking pictures for my blog. If your job is on an automobile assembly line they will probably not let you take work home, but if you are knowledge worker you might be able to negotiate some flexibility. My manager is working remotely next week from Maui.

If you travel for work, can you write about business travel? Can you leverage business travel to create content. You may have noticed more content from Boston on the Amateur Traveler over the last 2 years. TripAdvisor was paying for me to travel to Boston one week a month. Sometimes I was able to get out of the office in the evenings or stay an extra weekend. This gave me a great chance to explore a second home base.

Think Like a Hoarder

When you travel constantly you can write about what you saw today. When you travel less often save up and spread out your content. There is a shelf life for your content but most destinations don’t change so much in a year or two that you have to write all your posts now. But, you do have to either keep good notes or write your articles and schedule them. Think about an editorial calendar. When can you get the most leverage for your articles?

Think Like a Collaborator

So you don’t travel every week, but maybe if you created a site with 2 or 3 other reliable partners you could more easily create a steady stream of content. The dangers here are what you do with your spoils when things work well. How will you split up any revenue or opportunities. How will you deal with problems when things go poorly. Will there be a minimum number of posts that each person has to write? If things don’t work out, how will you dissolve your partnership? Who gets the URL? Decide those things in advance as much as possible.

Think Like a Teacher

You don’t have to take pictures of the Eiffel Tower every day to write about how people can take better pictures of the Eiffel Tower. You don’t need to pack your bag every day to teach a novice how to pack better. What skills have you picked up from travel that you could teach? Do you know how to book travel? Do you know how to learn a language? Do you know how to get a visa or renew a passport? All of these skills can be turned into useful articles, videos or podcasts.

Think Like a Local

Do you live someplace where people either do want to travel or should want to travel? Your local tourism board might be looking for someone just like you to help spread the word about your home town or about destinations that you can reach on a weekend excursion. I happen to live near San Francisco. You better bet that you can find pictures, walking tours, shopping advice and other information about the city by the bay on my site.

Think Like a Professional

Make a plan. Go through the categories in this article and come up with 3 blog post ideas for each. Then come up with your own categories. What did I miss?

Author bio: Chris Christensen is the host of the Amateur Traveler, a popular online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations. It includes a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog. By day he works at PayNearMe.com where they create products to help people without credit or debit cards pay for things. Chris was formerly the Director of Engineering for TripAdvisor’s New Initiatives group, the EVP Engineering at LiveWorld which runs online communities like those for eBay, HBO, and American Express, and a Software Manager at Apple, Momenta (pen computing) and HP. 

Photo credit:  SXC

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8 Responses
  1. Great tips. Chris has shown how they all work as his is a very successful blog and podcast that he has managed to keep going at a steady pace despite holding down a full time career. Something I have been more erratic at as work demands made output less frequent….

  2. Thanks for the tips. I am in the same situation, as a person with a demanding full time job and only periodic travel it is challenging to maintain a travel blog.

    My blog focus is on helping people to plan their travels and so far I have not run out of material to write about!!

  3. Great tips, Chris. You are a wealth of information for the weekend warrior travel blogger.

    I have a situation approaching that proves unique to my blog. Perhaps other bloggers may help out?
    I’m having hip replacement surgery in November and I’ll be house bound & on pain meds for a bit. I’m hoping the travel blogging community will help me out with guest posts, but they need to fit with my “insider tips” genre.

    Sign me Thinking Like a Collaborator

  4. I appreciate the tips too! I just started my blog and still have a ton of ideas for future posts. Being a native Russian also helps since a lot of people are interested in traveling to Russia. So my challenge is not the lack of content, but rather the lack of time and concentration to write and promote my blog in addition to socializing and keeping an eye on what other bloggers are writing about. I hope it will get easier and faster with practice.

  5. Great advice! I’m in the same situation–have had my blog for over three years and worked full time all but this last year. I’m back to work now and I’ll be damned if I let all of the travel blog momentum I’ve built up fade away. I have been saved by creating an editorial calendar, keeping notes, and using photos I’ve taken as springboards for posts–so I especially love the ‘think like a hoarder’ and ‘think like a teacher’ advice (though I AM a teacher, so of course I’d like the latter!)

  6. Nice think and article from you, Mr. Chris.. I think we need a great passion to make great travel blog. We must have consistency. But, I’m still feeling difficult if article that I made isn’t about my trip. How could I solve this situation?
    Now, I’m starting to make a blog from my experience travelling around Indonesia. Indonesia have a lot of beautiful place to visit. But my blog still in Indonesian. Hope a lot of people want to visiting my blog and visiting Indonesia too..

  7. Thanks for this, Chris. Balancing full time work with a blog which also seems like it’s full time work is a challenge for me, especially since my blog is video-based and editing takes an astounding amount of time. Being organized is extremely important, not to mention staying dedicated even in tough times.

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