Blogging is such a funny field. I mean, it’s evolved into its own industry since I opened up my blogspot account in high school. Travel is a relatively newer niche in the industry, and with it comes a lot of growing pains. When anyone can start a blog, you’re going to get a really mixed bag.
Not everyone is aware of what’s out there when they start blogging, and not everyone takes the time to do their research. Heck, I’m not even 100% on top of that game. No one is. However, as this industry evolves, and I constantly meet new people, I’ve learned a thing or two. If you plan on having any sort of influence or care a fiddle about the world in which you want to explore, then you should 100% abide by these rules for travel bloggers.
- How to Start a Blog
- For a great blogging course, check out Blog Boost and see when it runs next* (aff link).
- My PSA on Instagram
10 Rules for Travel Bloggers
10. Do not promote unethical attractions.
I get it. We’ve all mistakenly participated in these attractions, and it sucks when we find out they’re unethical. That doesn’t mean it’s okay to post photos from that event.
I went to Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai, thinking it was a sanctuary. It wasn’t. However, you will never see me post a single tiger picture of my time there or recommend it to future travelers. At best you look ignorant, and if you’re positioning yourself as a travel blogger, that discredits you. At worse, you look like an asshole. *cough* Every Instagrammer with dreamy photos of Pinnawala in Sri Lanka *cough*
9. Be mindful of the words you put out on the interwebs.
You have a duty to be purposeful with your words. I’m not saying you need to be polite 24/7 – I’ve said things, and I’ll stand by them even if they offend someone. Why? I believe in what I said. Obviously, if I learn a new viewpoint and maybe don’t believe what I said anymore, I’ll also talk about that. However, making offhand, offensive jokes… NO. Just no. And yes, I’m referring to that #whenasiansattack incident. Don’t be dumb.
8. Don’t deceive your readers.
If you had a crazy time, don’t just show your readers the few pretty shots you got and pretend it was a dreamy escape. That’s insanely misleading and could harm your reputation later if your readers try to repeat your experiences and realize how bad it was.
Same with reviews. If things were not hunky-dory, say so! You don’t have to be rude about it, but you have to be honest. And if you are criticizing, make sure you back it up with concrete reasons and explanations.
7. Seriously don’t post that picture of you riding an elephant.
Going back to #10, I need to reiterate this because it makes my blood boil when I see this from travel bloggers. Of all the unethical attractions, this is the most notorious, and you frankly look willfully stupid if you’re still posing pictures of you on top of one. I came across a site hoping to contact and work with them, but when I went to the About page, I noticed they had a photo of them riding an elephant.
Yup, nope. Bye. RIDING ELEPHANTS IS NOT OKAY. IT’S INSANELY HARMFUL, AND THERE’S A TON OF EVIDENCE TO BACK THIS UP. OF ALL THE UNETHICAL ANIMAL ATTRACTIONS, THIS IS ARGUABLY THE MOST INFAMOUS.
6. Be wary of promoting voluntourism.
I’m not saying all volunteer work abroad is bad, absolutely not. But, yeah, those two weeks you spent with some cute kids of a different ethnicity… That did nothing but make you feel good about yourself. You can talk to teachers or people who’ve been in these places long term about how silly it is, and how, at worst, it gives kids attachment issues.
I mean, picture this. Some foreign person drops into your life, gives you all the stuff you love, and a cute bracelet. They’re smiley, and they treat you like you’re the cutest thing on the planet. Then they and leave, you never hear from them again. And this happens again and again and again. That’s pretty traumatizing for even the most resilient personality!
5. Disclose. Disclose. Disclose.
This is so freaking important, and I’m appalled at how easily so many bloggers get away with it. Big name, millions of followers, and they get away with not disclosing properly. If you stay at a hotel for free in exchange for some social media posts, those suckers better note it. It’s illegal not to.
4. Don’t sell out.
If you start out using Nikon and switch to Canon because they offered you a deal… That’s selling out. I haven’t seen anyone do this exactly, but it’s an easy example. (Heck if you’re really savvy, leverage it into a deal with Nikon!) If you’re a budget travel blogger, don’t start staying in $200/night hotels. That’s selling out. There’s one fashion blogger I can think of who used to be very picky with her clothes, chatting about what she looks for in quality and fit… Now she’s shilling for cheap China brands like Shein… Yeah, okay.
When I say sell out, I don’t mean it’s not okay to monetize, work with new brands, or change up your business strategy. If you started out as a budget blogger, but now you’re at a place where you can splurge on better hotel rooms or your readers are more interested in luxury travel, then go for the rebrand. But don’t post about how careful you are with money one day and then next talk about what a great deal a $1,000/night room is because you got it for free.
3. Don’t use other travel bloggers.
Using people is not cool. Just because x, y, z has 50,000 followers and is able to get sweet hotel deals, it’s not okay to latch on and expect her or him to bring you along for the ride just because you’re acquaintances. And it’s even less cool to expect her or him to contribute to your media kit for a hotel and get mad when s/he doesn’t want to. And, it’s even less cool to then passively aggressively ignore them. Not cool. Not cool at all.
I find you reap what you sow in this industry, and people talk. Word gets around who’s not a nice person pretty quickly.
2. Don’t run yourself into debt trying to do this.
Yeah, travel blogging can feel like keeping up with the Jones’s sometimes. It’s important to not run up your credit card debt or take out loans or freeload off of people so you can do so. Travel is amazing, but if you need to work or the money just isn’t there, don’t go to extremes to try and make it happen. Patience.
1. Above all, be authentic.
Be you, because if you’re putting a character on for your blog it only gets more exhausting keeping that facade up as your blog and readership grows. Here are some ways to be authentic:
- Don’t photoshop yourself. If you’re size 10, don’t shave your sides away until you look like a size 2.
- Write in your voice.
- Be yourself in real life.
What are some of your rules for travel bloggers? It’s always a bummer when I see my favorites (travel or otherwise) making these major faux pas.