The inside guide to travel blogging

Don’t waste your travel observations in a notebook. An online diary is an easy way to tell everyone about your trip – and could turn into a money-spinner.

What exactly is a blog?
In simple terms, a blog (it’s short for ‘weblog’) is an online diary that allows you to keep friends, family and others up-to-date on your whereabouts while you’re hotfooting it around the globe. It eliminates the time-consuming task of having to send regular emails to everyone – at the click of a button, loved ones can just look at your blog whenever they want to catch up on your latest news.

Why would I want one?
As well as allowing you to share your journey with people back home, a blog is useful for meeting and interacting with fellow travellers: posting up-to-date information, and offering and receiving travel tips. You can upload photos and videos, create your own interactive message board, store personal details, even pinpoint your route on a world map. Best of all, it’s impossible to lose (unlike a normal diary) because it’s all stored safely on the web, and you’ll have a souvenir of your travels once you’re home.

How do you set it up?
It only takes a few minutes. All you need is a valid email address to open an account, which involves registering a few basic details. There are lots of platforms you can choose to host your blog: www.travelpod.com and www.travelblog.org are among the most popular. Once you’ve registered, select a theme, colour and style. Have a look at some blogs online first to help you get a feel for how you would like yours to be.

What does it cost?
It’s free to set up a blog. After that, the cost varies depending on how much information you want to share and how much energy you want to put into maintaining it. For advanced users, paid-for sites offer additional features such as increased upload limits (more photos and videos) and additional privacy options from around £20 a year. So if you’re going to be blogging all the time, it’s worth paying extra. But free basic blogs are perfect for first-timers as they are simple to set up and have all the tools you need. If you keep your blog public (which most are) rather than make it password-protected (so only selected friends can access it), you may even build up a following of like-minded people. It can be a great way to launch a writing career, or even earn a little cash from featuring adverts on your site.

Now what?
Once your blog is up-and-running, it’s up to you how often you update it. While there are no hard and fast rules, it’s good to keep posts regular or people will lose interest. The obvious catch is that this depends on having internet access, which means you may struggle in more remote locations. Alternatively, for the price of a standard SMS – and providing your blog host allows updates this way – you can simply text updates to a number provided and the information is uploaded for you. You can also link your blog to social-networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Myspace for greater exposure.

Five of the best travel blogs

Before you set up yourself, seek inspiration from these sites

For Euro escapes…
Europe a la Carte is the brainchild of travel enthusiast Karen Bryan, a UK-based author who shares ideas and tips on travel to all corners of Europe (www.europealacarte.co.uk/blog).

For bargains…
Not only great for finding deals, this one has detailed insider travel advice – such as how to bag the lowest long-haul fares (www.betravelsavvy.co.uk).

For hip hotels…
The first stop for stylish sleeps, Mr and Mrs Smith also runs a blog, which highlights a hotel of the week, along with monthly picks and chic city-break ideas (http://blog.mrandmrssmith.com).

For roaming rants…
Darren Cronian sounds off on everything from the state of the airline industry to the best way to book a holiday online on this amusing site (www.travel-rants.com).

For quirky travel tips…
Venturing off the beaten track? Try this backpackers’ fave, which dishes out useful advice and inspiration (www.globalgrasshopper.com).

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