Travel blogs are quickly replacing the trusty, but dusty Frommer’s or Rick Steves’ guides as the go to resource for the modern and savvy traveler. Today’s travel blogging community has expanded to become a viable resource to suit just about any traveler. But be aware, there a number of pros and pitfalls associated with using travel bloggers to plan your trip. With this handy guide, you will be prepared to make the most of the travel blogs out there. Lets go!
Picking the Right Travel Blog
Step one is the most obvious, you need to find blogs that match your travel style. There is an ever-expanding collection of sites to choose from. Blogs are reflections of those that write them. Example, if you are looking for a carefree and relaxing solo vacation with the best booze joints: The Fighting Couple is not for you. Our focus is off the beaten path, history focused sites from a couple perspective (and we don’t drink). Surf a lot of sites. Most travel blogs, including our,s have link love pages (here is ours). This is a great way to quickly hop from one site to the next in your quest for the perfect fit.
The about me/us section are often helpful tools to quickly evaluate the site’s focus. Granted a baby boomer can learn something from a 20 something blogger, but the perspective would be clearly different. Let’s give it a try.
Go ahead and enter www.suzyguese.com
Click on the about section and give it a quick scan.
Here’s what we can quickly divine:
Many mentions of Italy and Europe
25-35 age group
Simple huh? After you check out the about section that fits your travel style, look for the site’s search button. Type in the location you are looking for. On Suzy’s site, I typed in Rome and quickly found a dozen posts on the city. From there, you can quickly scan the headlines to find the post that best fits your travel needs.
The best part of reading travel blogs are their interactivity. You can’t ask a Frommer’s book a question, no offence to Mr. or Mrs Frommer. Travel bloggers are passionate about travel and the locations they feature. Most travel blogs offer a comments section where you can ask questions and interact with other readers. Cool huh? You can also share your experiences right there for the rest of the community. Candidly, this is our fave part of travel blogging. Join the discussion. Travel bloggers are also adept at social media. Engage them on Twitter or Facebook. Ask your questions free of charge! If that is not enough, most bloggers offer some form of a contact me section, where you can send direct questions. Most will answer you right back! Here’s a little secret: travel bloggers use other travel bloggers to find new and exciting locations, restaurants and hotels. During our recent trip to Budapest, we sent out shout out to help us find the best goulash. In a matter of seconds our friend @confusedjulia pinged us back with an awesome recommendation: Kadar Restaurant. It ended up being our fave meal of the trip.
Mix and Match
One of the fun things that blogs offers are micro niches. Use a combo of different genres of blogs to plan you trip. The fun part of using blogs is that you can read a foodie blog to plan out your gastronomic visits, then check out a fashion blogger to tell you where to snag the best designer deals. One blog we follow, Beers and Beans offers great tips on taking really good travel pictures. The travel blogging world is a virtual buffet of travel insights! Best of all, its free!
Blogging is a lot of work. Often the only payday we have are the kind comments of our readers. If you find a blogger that you identify with, shoot them a quick line telling them how much their advice meant. It also doesn’t hurt to give one of their ads a click.
A Few Cautions About Travel Bloggers
The old adage, “you get what you pay for”… is true. There are a few pitfalls to using travel blogs as your single source for travel planning. But if you look past a few spelling errors and are aware of a few drawbacks up front, you will find your visits more meaningful.
Challenge What You Read
I have heard it said that if you get 99 travel bloggers in a room you would end up with 100 opinions! We tend to be a very discriminating bunch. We strongly believe in our take on the world. So much so, we broadcast it around the planet. Our take on the world, a country, a hotel, a restaurant is jaded. We view it through the lens of our own perspective. Challenge what you read. Look to more than one source. Case in point: sometimes we get exhausted as we travel. I know…it can happen to anyone. After a grueling day, the last museum or church of the day might not get the rave review. Someone else on the other hand, hit that one in the morning and it changed their life. Challenge what you read.
Bloggers Travel on the Cheap
The life of a lonely travel blogger is difficult. Except for a small handful, full time travel bloggers are barely making a living. Sad, but true. Travel blogging offers an exciting lifestyle, but no one is getting rich. Many more, including the Fighting Couple do it part-time. Most travel bloggers travel on the cheap. More often than not, you will read hostel reviews 2 to 1 in the travel blog world. We don’t stay in hostels…its not our thing. Again, search out the blogger you identify with and your wallet can hang with.
Bloggers are Biased
Its no secret that bloggers are given free stays and free tours. Destinations pay to bring in bloggers to review a resort or area. Tourism is a business, a huge business. Be aware that a glowing review of a resort that lacks any sort of critique might be a lame attempt by a blogger to keep their client “happy.” Look for a sponsored tag somewhere on the post. This can clue you in that there could be some editorial pressure. Sponsored trips are not all bad for the reader. Bloggers are often given inside advice and insights that would serve you well. We always try to make it clear when we are “comped” and we always make it clear that we are going to be honest in our review. We are the “Fighting Couple” after all!!
Where Blogs go to Die
Reality check: Most blogs don’t survive. Every day new blogs are born and some fade away. The blogosphere is littered the corpses of former vibrant travel logs. Always check the date of the last post. This will let you know if the blog has a pulse. Don’t read dead blogs. Too much changes over time. A once great hotel or location can fall apart fast. There is a reason that even Rick Steves in the “tree killing realm” updates his books every few years. Too much changes.
Even with these drawbacks, blogs still offer the novice to the most advanced traveler an unrivaled peek at some of the best destinations on the planet. Keys to effectively utilizing blogs: 1) Find a blog that matches your travel style. 2) Study the about sections to get feel of blogger personality. 3) Mix and match other blog genres.
We truly hope you find that best travel blog that matches your travel style. Happy hunting!
Nice post and so absolutely right! I think you found your niche in the travel blogging business. Keep on blogging . . . and fighting :)
Thank you Bob. Likewise we love your blog!
Interesting read guys, I agree with you when you say that people shouldn’t consider travel blogs like the only source of information and base their trips only on what they read. What we write is definitely a good input and can be a good starting point, but everybody has a different way to experiences and appreciate places and activities, this should always be considered when relying too much on online information.
As a fellow travel blogger I can really connect with this great article.
You’ve summed everything up perfectly.
Every travel blog is different and you need to get the vibe as to which perspective the blogger is coming from.
Many blogs are by twenty something year olds and they often have a low budget/backpack/hostel approach to travel.
Fewer of us, like myself are in their 40’s and provide a different perspective.
I must admit that I’ve never done a sponsored trip anywhere, I’m not really sure I’d be all that interested. Nor would I have the time.
Keeping integrity and honesty is important to maintain your audience. As you say, if sponsorship is evident in the article then you can understand how you should read an article (sometimes with a pinch of salt).
Overall though travel blogs are a great resource today. They offer real life perspectives and opinions. They are free from the guide books so they tell and show what it is really like.
Great insight. I agree, so many different perspectives when it comes to travel. You can truly find a blog that fits!
Love this article and agree with your recommendations about finding the right blog to fit your style. It’s fun searching other bloggers recommendations and finding that great AHA recommendation that makes your trip.
Thanks for your comment. Travel bloggers have so much to offer! But you are correct, gotta find the right one.
Interesting insight, I would also add that many travel blogs focus on a specific destination (such as mine and Mexico) with the added value of covering other countries as well.
Great call. Country specialists are a great help.
Great post! I just started my english travel blog and am excited to engage with more travel bloggers! :)
Congrats! Let us know how we can help.
All great points. Blogs are perfect for finding the quaint and eclectic experiences that make traveling so interesting.
There are so many things I would have sadly skipped over if I weren’t using blogs as a resource for travel planning.
Good post and agree in every way. One point I have to say about being “biased” – even without free stays and free tours every blogger will be biased because we all have different tastes and requirements. Plus we all have our own experiences – I may show up at the same hotel that you did a week ago and have a different experience because the hotel owner had a bad day or I saw a giant roach crawling over the floor in the bedroom.
I think the important thing is to follow bloggers who you connect with, who travel in the same manner you do, and who you trust for advice. We’re not big enough for free tours and honestly have not looked for them. For now we make our money outside the blog. But I’ve wondered if it is something we would even want to consider. I know I start losing a little something for a blog when every post is preceded with “we want to thank the tourism board of…”. And I get what you are saying about being honest but I’ve very rarely seen any sponsored review that was less than glowingly reviewed. I think it is a minefield and something that has to be seriously thought out by bloggers before accepting sponsored trips.
In my preparation to enter the travel blogosphere myself, it was interesting to stumble upon this post. I’ve reviewed countless travel blogs over the past few weeks and there is a whole range when it comes to niche and quality. You’re right that everyone has a different opinion and perspective out there. One way to see if you click with the blogger is to read a post on a location you’ve visited. Does it resonate with you or does it seem like you’ve visited two different places. Thanks for the post. Love your blog.
Congrats!!!! Let us know how can help. B