When I started “travel blogging” I thought it would be easy. I wrote about my travels, shouldn’t I be paid for it? I had no idea about how to get sponsored travel as a blogger. Since I was already a blogger with an established presence and engaged audience, I thought I could slip into the world of travel blogging, much like Cinderella slipped on her slipper and became betrothed to the prince. But I quickly found out: it doesn’t work like that.

You have to do your research, build relationships, grow your audience, and know a few tricks.

I’m going to break it down from beginning to end; how to land sponsored travel as a blogger. I’m so excited for this post because I feel like I’m cracking open some secrets that haven’t been told, at least out in the open, or to me.

How To Land Sponsored Travel as a Blogger

Know Your Worth And How To Prove It

Now, before we get into the specifics of how to land sponsored travel, you need to know one thing (and I think it’s so important I’m putting it in capital, bold letters): YOU ARE WORTH IT. A lot of bloggers think they aren’t worthy of free stuff or being paid. That notion is just silly. Your blog, what you write, what you do, and your audience are all unique to you. Absolutely no one else has the same audience as you. (Insert a Keanu Reeves “WOAH” sound effect here please.) Seriously, what you write is your own stance, your own views. Coupled with your life experience and audience, there is nothing else out there like it. The point being? A company or advertiser SHOULD want to work with you because when they do they are getting your voice, original thoughts, and a brand new audience. So, remember your worth.

I realise this sounded a lot like a Maybelline ad, but it’s true. You are worth it AND born with it. Win-win.

I swallowed my pride and decided to do my due diligence and reach out to a few hotels to see if they would have any interest at all in hosting me. At first, it was just crickets. But a few days later I got a free hotel at a prime location that was absolutely beautiful AND a free meal at one of the most exclusive hotels in the entire city. So, the point is, you CAN do it. If I can, so can you. There is nothing wrong with leveraging your worth and getting paid to do something you love, travel.

So, your first step before you do ANYTHING else is to know your worth, then prove it. Go back and list out any and all collaborations: hotels, brands, sponsored posts, mentions, etc. Write them all on a list. I suggest that you create a “press page” listing out who you’ve worked with, when, along with links. Haven’t had anything sponsored? It’s okay. List out companies you’ve talked about on your blog. You can use this to prove that you have talked about companies in the past along with showcasing the types of post that include your voice.

I also think it’s best to create a media kit for your blog. This way, when you are ready to reach out to companies OR companies/brands/sponsors reach out to you, you are ready to show them what you’re all about.

So many people ask me: how many page views do I need? When will I be ready? The answer is that you just have to START. Be confident and know that you will hear some no’s. That’s the nature of the business and does not mean you are bad or that your blog is either. You’re going to need to cast a wide net and find the right brands that will work for you.

You need to find that ONE thing, aka, your Unique Selling Point. Basically, you need to show off

1. why you stand out and

2. Why THEY should work with you.

And then you need to prove it. Don’t be shy about showing off your credibility: own it! Still think you’re too small?

If you have NEVER worked with a sponsor or brand before, my advice is to start small. Try to reach out (I’ll go over that process, don’t worry!) to smaller companies or businesses and look for opportunities that are mutually beneficial. Creating relationships with sponsors is a huge perk and can serve you well in future partnerships.

How to Find Contacts

This is usually most blogger’s biggest hurdles. It’s so hard to figure out who to contact and how. But I promise it can be easier than you think. Like, Google, easy. Seriously. Google “all opinions are my own + {travel destination} blog”.

So that will look like:

When you look up these keywords or phrase you’ll find other brands or sponsors that have worked with bloggers. This is important because you’ll be able to see companies that you can potentially reach out to.

Next, you want to find personal contacts. Yes, you might find a “contact us” page on the website, but if you can get an email address of a single person, this is going to be your best bet. If you really want to dig deep, check out LinkedIn and search for an individual. You can use search terms like “Hotel Name + Marketing” or “Hotel + Media” etc. This will help you find a direct contact so you can personally reach out. Which I find does make a world of difference.

Still can’t find a name? Turn to Twitter. Remember, these businesses are customer facing, so chances are they want to answer their customers and provide service. So simply ask there!

As for actually searching for businesses and contacts, focus on those that fit what you blog about. I don’t write about luxury yachts. So I probably won’t reach out to any. Instead, I focus on what my readers might enjoy which is mid range pricing that is actually affordable, because that’s what I talk about and what my audience cares about.

Reach Out To Contacts

When you do reach out, you need to be as personal as you can. As my friend recently pointed out: it makes all the difference. Let me give you an example. When you get an email that is very specific, addressed to you, with clear ideas of what they want or what they have in mind you’re much more likely to reply back. While if you receive an email that’s vague and impersonal, you might just delete it.

Extra props for even talking about specifics like their bio etc.

What does this tell us? WE SHOULD DO THE SAME!

When you reach out: be specific and personal. What value will you be providing them? Prove your worth and value and you will start to notice a change and even get some yes’s.

The thing is, you need to be persistent. I remember working with a company and they were being wishy-washy about whether or not they would work with me. I could have just tucked their email away and forgotten about it. Instead, I made a point to reach out to them every week or so. I eventually got a free week’s stay.

I suggest creating an excel spreadsheet of: the name of the property or company / the contact’s name / date you contacted them / date you followed up. After I hear back from them, I highlight the name in the excel spreadsheet to let me know I don’t need to follow up anymore. 

I find this system helps me see who I’ve contacted and puts everything in order.

The Structure of Your Pitch

Now that you’ve got a list of people, your stats, and you are feeling ready to approach companies, it’s time to curate a pitch!

  • Start by getting as personal as you can. Use their name, of course, but try to make sure you aren’t being generic. Anything specific you can mention is a good idea.
  • Make sure you introduce yourself and quickly illuminate as to why they should work with you. Maybe you have some excellent stats, maybe you want to showcase others you’ve worked with, or what your blog is about. This will help them understand why you’re contacting them.
  • State exactly what you’re looking for. How long is your trip? What do you need? For how many people? Make sure to clarify this so they can determine if they have availability.
  • If you have specific ideas about how will showcase the company, brand, sponsor, don’t be shy about it! Tell them how you will share about them on social media, how often, and what they can expect.
  • Let them know you’ve attached a media kit so they can find out more information.

The content of your email will differ depending on your background, stats, and information. BUT, I am spilling my EXACT email I use to send to companies. This is a game changing email that you can steal and tweak to make your own!

Join Groups

Now that you’ve pitched, know that you don’t always have to do ALL the work. There are ways for companies to find you. First and foremost, make sure you have an easy way to be contacted on your blog. For example, here’s my contact page. It’s very simple, just a quick way for people to get the information they need.

There are many third party sites that will connect you to companies and brands that are looking for bloggers and social media influencers. Don’t overlook these- they can be awesome opportunities and introduce you to the right people. Do a quick search on the internet for “travel + blogger or Influencer” you will find some awesome ones to join.

Don’t forget you can partner and be an affiliate for companies you love like AirBnb, hostels, hotels, and more. Do a search and find out more. Remember, almost every large company will have an affiliate program, so try to include links in your posts that will help you make money.

Full Disclosure

Of course, you need to disclose when you work with companies. Many companies will have guidelines on how they want the terms spelled out on your blog. It could be something like: “I have partnered with INSERT COMPANY NAME for this post. All opinions are my own.”

I often need to seek out my own opportunities and this does take time and effort. Reaching out means I hear lots of no’s and sometimes people don’t even respond. I don’t take this to heart because I know not everyone I reach out to will fit within my needs or what my audience might want. But it certainly can’t hurt to try.

Now before you start thinking that the life of free stays and experiences is glamorous, remember it is still work. I take notes, pictures, and analyse how I can make this opportunity matter to my readers. I do love what I do and I find it very fun. But I also spend late nights editing photos for my blog and writing articles.

What I truly love about sponsored travel (besides getting paid or the “free” stays) is that it forces me to write about my travels. I went to Switzerland in January and it’s still been 6 months and I haven’t written about it. With sponsored posts I have a deadline I have to stick to. I like having a fire under me that forces me to get things done. Otherwise I might let it slip behind.

Remember: do not be a sellout. Don’t focus on stuff you wouldn’t normally write about, your audience will not care and they will lose trust (THE most important part of your blog is your readers. Don’t piss them off!).

It is okay to talk about the ups and downs of your experience. Not everything needs to be perfect.

It’s important to tell your readers the truth. Be transparent that this is sponsored and still give your opinion. I promise, this doesn’t hurt the brand or company you work with.

How to Make Money With Sponsored Travel

Now there are, of course, a lot of discrepancies here when it comes to actually making money as a travel blogger. Many opportunities just offer the free stay or accommodation. And that’s fine! I like those opportunities too. And for many of us, sponsored travel itself is a form of payment since we would be paying to stay in a hotel. So my advice here is: if you WANT to do this and your readers would be interested, by all means take it.

For example, if I’m heading to Lisbon and got a free hotel stay.. I would not be paid for this, but I already planned to go to Lisbon, so it would work out well for me.

Many bloggers, and travel bloggers, don’t just make money from sponsored posts or social media – the other ways are:

1. Affiliate Marketing
2. Physical Products
3. Digital Products
4. Online Education

Of course, the process does take some effort, but like most things in life that are worth it usually means it’s not easy. The good news is you are ready to start! I do not travel 100% for free. I still hear no, but it’s so satisfying to hear a yes or land a sponsored, paid for travel deal. I find it makes everything so much more fun.

I hope this post inspires you to know your worth and go ahead and make things happen. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.