How and Why I use Travel Affiliate Programs to Make Money

… This post contains some affiliate links. Which is kinda the whole point of the story …

When I first started my blog I didn’t have a plan. I just wanted a fun outlet to write about random things that I found interesting.

My early posts included pieces about why only female mosquitoes bite and my take on pedestrian crossing etiquette, but then I realised I wanted to concentrate on travel, and that I wanted to give my blog a chance to actually become something.

So one year I took all of my tax return money and invested it in myself.

I turned to a professional website designer, the wonderful Cath Hughes from Phase Creative, and she created a site that I loved. A few weeks after her job officially ended I realised I could either spend hours on YouTube tutorials, worrying that I was about to break my website every time WordPress emailed me about something, or I could pay Cath a monthly fee to keep the behind the scenes running smoothly while I did all the other work.

How I use travel affiliates programs to make money on my travel blog

It was a good decision, but of course it meant that there was money going out of my travel blog every month and for a long while there was absolutely no money coming in.

In the past year or so, my blog has been finding lots of lovely new readers (thank you guys!) and that makes me very happy. But it also means I’ve been getting lots of ‘visitor overage charge’ invoices in my inbox from my website host.

You see, as well as paying an annual fee for hosting if I get more readers in a month than I have in my plan, I pay extra.

Of course it’s a bill that I’m very happy to pay because it means the blog is doing well, but the reality is that as well as investing my time, I invest actual money into my baby every month.

Do I really expect to be paid AND travel?!

It’s taken me a while to figure this out, but yes.

For so long I was so grateful for the travel opportunities alone that I didn’t care that there was more money going out of my blog than coming in.

As my credit card debt will show, this was not exactly the best plan.

I won’t share just how big that debt is, but I occasionally want to breathe into a paper bag. But instead of freaking out and hiding under the bed I think about all the amazing things I’ve done and promise myself I’ll be smarter going forward and I’ll dig my way out of that hole.

If you’ll allow me a little woo-woo moment, this year I’ve been working on releasing my energy blocks around money, loving books like Money, A Love Story by Kate Northrup, and doing courses to help me get over my whole ‘but I’m so lucky in life already, it’s greedy to want money too’ mind set.

And the great thing is if I put in the work my blog can make money. And in a way that doesn’t cost my readers anything extra.

I’ve recently completed an online course by a woman who has the most awe inspiring crazy success with affiliate marketing it blows me away.

Last month Michelle Schroeder-Gardner made $131,448 on her blog and $62,492 of that was from affiliates.

Yes, that’s last month. Not year. Last year she made $979,321 blogging as she travelled around in her RV. And it looks like she’s going to smash that record this year. I mean, wow.

Her course, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing has made me realise that even though I’d dabbled in using affiliates before I’ve been letting way too many opportunities pass me by, and that it’s okay to want to be paid (really, really) well.

Of course if I could make a tenth of what she does I’d be beside myself. Truth be told I’d be doing a happy dance if I could even make 100th of what she does.

So for now that’s my ambition… make 100th of what Michelle makes in affiliate marketing and go from there.

If I use my travel affiliate programs right I'll be able to make money more easily on the road

How travel affiliate programs work

Travel affiliate programs work the way all sorts of other affiliate programs work, and that’s by placing special links on websites or sharing them through social media so a business can tell how someone found them and pay a little something for the referral.

So if you read my blog post on great gifts for travel lovers on Etsy, you’d see there are links to the products, and if you were to buy them, or anything else on Etsy after you clicked on my link for a period of time, I’d get a small percentage.

The best bit is it doesn’t cost readers anything more than it would if they just went to the site. Personally I like knowing that when I click on another blogger’s link they’re getting a little love, and hope other people do too.

For those of you thinking, ‘hang on, Etsy isn’t a travel site!’ that’s true, they have great travel related goodies but a lot more going on.

Once you join affiliate programmes there are hundreds of businesses to choose from and while I do have some that aren’t purely travel, they are still things I believe in and use myself.

I don’t want to pimp my blog out with loads of random links to things, so am rather picky and often say a polite no thank you after being invited to join programmes that aren’t right for me or my readers.

Some of the companies I do have affiliate relationships with include…

Booking.com

Wotif

Virgin Australia

Etihad

Fast Cover travel insurance

Earworms (for language lessons with music)

Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

And after finishing the course I’m now all motivated and joining some other great ones.

Sometimes sites have cookie periods, so if you click on a link, go away to think about it for a few days and then go back and buy the blogger still gets something.

Others, like Booking.com don’t use cookies so we only get something if people book when they click through from our site. Obviously I’d love it if there was a week or more’s grace there, but I still use Booking.com because I know so many people like using them and trust them.

Sometimes we don’t actually get money, but could get a credit to an account that we have with the company. That’s not really an affiliate though, and is instead the sort of referral programme anyone can benefit from, such as the way new customers get AirBNB credits if they click on an existing user’s link.

Other ones that I get credits rather than cash for include Boardbooster, the Pinterest management tool that has made my pinning life a lot easier, and Later, formerly known as Latergramme, which I love using to load up and schedule some of my Instagram posts from my desktop.

Other ways my travel blog makes money

As you can see on my site, I don’t have banner ads or flashing boxes trying to get your attention for someone’s sale.

Instead I work with companies in other ways, and along with affiliate programs I sometimes do sponsored posts.

As the name suggests, this is where a company sponsors a story, and it gives me a chance to share a travel tip or some information that you can use on your travels, while being able to keep the blogging lights on.

Working with travel affiliate programs means I can make a living while travelling and blogging along the way

Regardless of whether a post is sponsored, or if I’m hosted somewhere, I write honestly and don’t let it affect the story. I also always disclose that it’s sponsored or that I’ve travelled or stayed as their guest.

Seriously, you wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve had to say no to money that would have been very nice to put towards that credit card bill because the company that approached me wanted to pay me, but didn’t want me to tell you guys that I’d been paid to include them in a story.

A big no thank you to that one!

I’m also saying thanks but no thanks to all sorts of businesses that I don’t believe in or agree with. Online casinos need not apply. Seriously guys, stop emailing.

But I love it when I get to work with companies that are a great fit, and when I can share new things with you guys to hopefully make your travels even better.

So now you know how you’ve been helping lots of bloggers out when you’ve read our stories, clicked on affiliate links and bought something. And on behalf of all those bloggers out there, working away to make their dreams come true I thank you.

And if you’re a blogger who wants to embrace affiliate programs and make them work for you, I really do highly recommend Michelle’s Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course.

And yes, I loved it so much, I became an affiliate. I have a feeling you will too.

This post contains some affiliate links, so if you click on a link and buy something I will get a small percentage to help pay the blogging bills and keep my site ad free. But don’t worry, it’s absolutely no extra cost to you. Thanks!

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

About the Author

As a journalist who loves to travel and is fond of a chat I'm oh so happy when I'm sharing travel tales and tips through my blog and on my weekly travel segment on Sydney Radio 2UE. When I'm not travelling or writing about it I can be found out and about with friends, curled up at home with a good book or watching an addictive tv show promising I'll stop after one more episode. Amanda on Google +

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  1. Absolutely no shame in knowing that it takes money to do what you do, without cashflow you can’t afford to run the blog so it’s a perfect scenario. Affiliate relationships are win-win – your visitors learn about products and services you’re thrilled with, and you can keep doing what you do.

    And thanks for the shout out lovely, always a delight to see how you’ve grown your blog, one of my earliest and most talented blogging clients 🙂 big love.

    • Awwww thank you! I remember our first chats so well and what my blog was like before I met you 🙂

      Thank you for helping me build that dream, and you’re so right, no shame in actually wanting to be paid for work! And I’m finally getting over that crazy concept.

  2. Hi Amanda, great to follow you as you take the next step. Look forward to reading you hit your various milestones

  3. This is great, Amanda. Congratulations on valuing yourself. As someone who has travelled with you and who knows your reputation in the travel industry, I know just how principled and independent you are. I just wanted to stick my oar in and give you a shout out! xx

    • Oh thank you so much! That really does mean a lot and has me all warm and fuzzy. I’m glad I decided to finally sit down and share a little bit of the behind the scenes of my blogging world. It’s been a wonderful ride so far, even if there have been some white knuckle moments on the money side. I’m so glad I’m finally figuring out that I can value that side of my life as well. thank you! xx

  4. I was just looking at starting to do some affiliate deals and then your post popped up. Thank you darling! This is so, so helpful and the kick that I need!

    • Snap!! That’s great you’re embracing them too. We’re mad not to have been better at it from the start but live and learn 🙂 Look forward to swapping tips about the programs x

  5. Thank you for sharing this Amanda! I am in a similar situation to yours, and this is very helpful. I also understand the part about “working to release energy blocks around money”. Yep, been doing that, too! I am happy you are making progress, and look forward to seeing even more progress, and move beyond even your loftiest goals! xoxo Monica

    • Oh thank you Monica! That’s great to know that you’re doing similar work in all sorts of ways. I hope your blog brings all good things to you as well, and that we take things to the next level in all the ways 🙂 xxx

  6. Thanks so much for sharing your story so candidly. There are so many things you’ve said that have struck a cord with both me and Christina; credit card debts from travel, money blocks, and feeling like we have to make excuses for wanting to travel and get paid… here’s to all ships lifting on a high tide. x

    • Oh that’s great to hear that you guys are moving onwards and upwards too. We have created amazing jobs for ourselves and have worked hard to be so ‘lucky’. Funny how hard it can be to want to be paid for all that work too. Here’s to valuing our work and ourselves 🙂 x

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