In nearly a decade of blogging, 2020 to 2021 have to have been the most challenging years. After all, how can you be a travel blogger when you can’t travel?
To mark the eighth anniversary of Tin Box Traveller I invited friends and followers to ask me anything. “How has this year, and the pandemic, affected your blog?” is a question posed by Donna who writes What the Readhead Said. Lots of people asked me similar questions on LinkedIn and Instagram.
Everyone has their own pandemic story and, while I don’t have my usual travel highlights post to publish, I thought I’d share what’s been happening behind the scenes.
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Travel blogging during a pandemic
Ironically, the pandemic and its impact on travel came on the back of year in which I’d earned my highest income from blogging and had some brilliant experiences.
We’d even been able to start 2020 with a Caribbean cruise thanks to the extra income I’d earned in the previous 12 months. I had high hopes for increased revenue and opportunities ahead.
This made the impact of COVID-19 even more difficult to handle, especially in those first weeks after lockdown when it felt like I’d lost all control of my blog. I wrote about how that felt and what I did to pick myself up again on my freelance website.
I wrote this post nine months on from the first national UK lockdown. It was my honest answer to how 2020 had impacted my blog along with my thoughts on how to be a travel blogger when you can’t travel.
I’ve added a 2021 update below too as, frankly, that took the wind out of my sails a bit too.
Visits to my website
Even before lockdown, I could see people’s appetite for travel waning in January as visits to this blog began to drop. This is when Coronavirus started to make international headlines.
The first few months of the year are usually when people are thinking ahead to the summer and looking for holiday inspiration – traditionally a great time for travel websites. But the mood music was already playing loud.
Between the end of March and end of May 2020 my website visitors were down 75% compared to the same period in 2019.
Over the summer my stats bounced back to 85% of what they were in 2019. Then between September and the end of December my page views were up 40% on the same period last year. Phew!
The recovery was very much to do with the success of my UK travel and days out posts.
Our travel plans
By March I’d had a press trip to Guernsey cancelled and talks about other 2020 blog trips ground to a halt.
We scrapped our original holiday plans, which included a family gathering in Cornwall at Easter and a trip through Spain and France in our camper van. Instead we spent our summer camping in Perranporth and St Austell in Cornwall, and at Kingsbridge in Devon.
To be honest, it was lovely and far less pressured than the usual back to back press trips that we might have had organised.
After the summer, we lost the will to make any other plans that might have to be cancelled. We spent our weekends and October half term at home in Devon. Paddle boarding is a new topic I added to the blog.
We were away a lot less than in a ‘normal’ year of travel blogging. But when I think back on it we were very lucky to do the trips we did. We also had lots of fun despite the elephant in the room.
Deciding what to publish
Some days it was difficult knowing what to post. Finding the right balance between appreciating what we have and acknowledging that not everyone is so lucky has been tricky.
Early in the pandemic I scaled back my social media posts about holidays and focussed in on what we were doing at home. During the year I increased and decreased my social media posts depending on the current restrictions.
Something else I was carefully trying to manage, and didn’t always succeeded in doing, was updating posts with 2020 travel and days out advice.
For example, between July and December I updated my popular UK Christmas days out post more than 20 times as restrictions changed and events were cancelled.
The impact on my income
As I mentioned earlier, 2019 was a good year for this blog. The pandemic meant 2020 was a very different story.
The main way I make money on Tin Box Traveller is with advertising; the ads you see appear around my website, and paid blog and social media posts.
In 2020, I published about half the number of paid posts as in 2019 and the fees for these added up to less.
An area where I did earn more than in 2019 was ads and affiliate income. This tanked between March and June 2020 but began to pick up again before the summer holidays. This is when more people were visiting my blog posts about camping and caravanning, which took off in a big way when restrictions eased.
While that sounds good, adverts and affiliate income are still a small part of what makes Tin Box Traveller money.
Like so many people around the country we had to tighten our belts. This means that even if we are offered press trips in 2021 we will have to seriously consider whether we can afford to do them. Press trips are not free.
I turned down three press trips in the second half of 2020 and expect to say no to more in 2021 as our travel budget has been slashed.
This will definitely reshape the content I share.
So, did 2020 made me rethink being a travel blogger? No. I believe there’s still a future in travel blogging. It’s just going to take a while to recover.
In the meantime, I’m grateful I can make money writing and creating content for other people. Without my freelance business I’d feel much less optimistic.
If there’s a lesson to be learnt from my 2020 story it’s to have eggs in lots of baskets!
What can travel bloggers do when you can’t travel?
It is possible to be a travel blogger when you can’t get away for whatever reason. You can still create blog and social media posts that inspire and connect with your audience. And, while my income is down considerably, I have still earned something from my travel blog.
Here’s seven of the things I’ve done in 2020, and at other times, when I haven’t had a fresh trip to write about:
1. Share your tips
Travel blogging isn’t all about destination guides. An important part of travel blogging for me is sharing things we have learned along the way.
2. Create a round up
If you write a lot about a particular destination or type of travel then create a round up that links back to them all.
This is great for internal linking and helps keep your readers find similar posts.
3. Think local
One of the ways I have diversified in 2020 was to start a new niche, location-focused blog.
We moved to Devon five years ago and have become experts in our local area. However, I remember finding it quite difficult to find things to do when we first arrived. So, Devon with Kids was born.
The places I write about don’t involve travelling far for us. But what’s on our doorstep is a holiday destination to someone else. I’ve used my experience of travel blogging to create a website that’s useful to people visiting the area.
Devon with Kids has got some great feedback and I can see it growing in 2021 as the future of international travel remains uncertain.
4. Write about products
What’s your must have travel gadget or piece of kit? It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been sent it or bought it yourself; share a review on your blog!
Even better, check whether the manufacturer or any of the places where the product can be bought have affiliate programmes. By adding affiliate links to your honest reviews they could earn you some income. Just make sure your disclosing everything appropriately.
5. Do some blog maintenance
When I have proper writers’ block I turn to blog maintenance tasks.
There’s plenty you can do to old blog posts to bring them up-to-date and enhance them.
Here’s a list of tasks I work through when I don’t fancy writing something new:
- Check the details in posts, like prices, are still relevant
- Check for broken links
- Add internal links
- Create new Pinterest pins
- Add affiliate links
- Reschedule posts on social media
- Republish evergreen posts.
6. Create a social media series
From the day the UK went into its first lockdown until my youngest daughter went back to school I posted to Instagram daily. This is much more than my regular schedule of every few days.
We didn’t travel more than a few miles from home during those 77 days, so the pictures were mostly taken in our own garden or on our walks, but it gave me a focus and kept me connected to my followers.
In ordinary times you can:
- Share pictures from previous trips
- Share your local adventures
- Ask your followers questions
- Invite your followers to ask you questions
- Share your top travel tips.
7. Write for someone else
This is something I do all the time in my freelance life. Writing for another blog or website can be liberating, allowing you to change your style and talk about a new topic.
As a blogger, guest posting is a good a way to broaden your audience and, if the other website agrees, get a valuable backlink.
A word of caution on this one: I get emails all the time from writers who I don’t know asking if they can guest post for me. The emails are often generic and offer me blog topics that are irrelevant. So, if you want to guest post for other websites start by speaking to bloggers you know and suggesting something that will add value to their site.
If you don’t know other bloggers in your niche have a search on Facebook. There are thousands of blogger groups you can join to build your online community.
So, that’s what 2020 was like for me and my recommendations on how to be a travel blogger when you can’t travel.
If you’re a blogger, what was your experience? I know some people in other blogging niches, like food and crafts, have had a different experience.
And, if you are a travel blogger do you have any recommendations on things to do when you can’t travel?
Well, 2021 didn’t take off quite as I’d hoped for either. Starting January home schooling was not in my grand plan.
However, after that, things improved immensely.
It’s easy to overlook small wins and even the bigger ones when the world around you has changed so much. But I ended 2021 having a good look at mine and celebrating them.
Here’s my blogging business highlights:
- We were able to have some fun holidays in the UK again. Four of them were press trips
- 57% more people visited Tin Box Traveller in 2021 than in 2019
- My Devon with Kids website had 565,000 page views and its Facebook group had 4,900 members at the end of December 2021
- I launched a couple of offline products to add to my income streams – two children’s colouring books about Devon
- My overall blogging income for 2021-22 is already up on 2020 thanks to fewer but better paying content contracts, and increased advertising income from both my websites.
This is on top of a whole load of personal wins and, let’s face it, getting through another year in a pandemic.
More posts about travel blogging
If you want to read more about my experience of travel blogging here’s some posts that might help:
- How I became a travel blogger
- A day in my life as a travel blogger
- How travel bloggers make money
- My top travel blogging tools
- Blogging essentials I never leave home without
- Why press trips aren’t free holidays
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