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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 …

It’s been three years since I first shared this story and it’s fair to say a few things have changed since then.

Back in 2017 I’d just completed the Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course created by the affiliate wizard Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and was all excited about how I could make travel affiliate programs work for my blog.

For those who don’t already know, Michelle makes over a million dollars a year blogging (yup!) and affiliates make up a big chunk of that amount.

I like to be open and honest with my readers so while I was planning to introduce more affiliates to my blog I wanted to let everyone know what was happening and why. And so I wrote the post we’ll be getting to in a moment.

But then life got really busy. I was travelling the world writing stories for print and online publications like Escape and while I was still blogging and making more than I ever had before through affiliates I wasn’t really focused on taking it to the next level.

Then 2020 happened.

Like most travel writers I’ve found myself with a whole lot of unexpected time on my hands and rather than take up banjo or the bagpipes I decided it was time to do the course again and check out the bonus lessons that had been added since I finished it the first time around.

And as I dived back into the course I decided it was also time to update this post. To add some of the new affiliates I now work with and remove some of the dead wood that I let go. Ready to peek behind the travel affiliate program curtain? Follow me.

Why travel affiliate programs?

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.

Over time my blog has found lots of lovely new readers (thank you guys!) and that makes me very happy. But it also means there are times when I receive ‘visitor overage charge’ invoices 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 blog 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.

Read: Ten Romantic Gifts for your Travel Lover Found on Etsy

If you’ll allow me a little woo-woo moment, I’ve had to work 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 more than they’d normally pay.

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, but they have great travel related goodies up their sleeve.

Once you join affiliate programs 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 travel affiliate programs that aren’t right for me or my readers.

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

Booking.com

Airbnb

Get Your Guide

Wotif

Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

And after doing the course again I’m now considering adding some more quality affiliates to the list.

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 program anyone can benefit from, such as the way new customers get AirBNB credits if they click on an existing user’s link.

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.

Read: Travel packing essentials

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.

I also say 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 travel 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.

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