Planning a trip without reading travel blogs is like forgetting to pack snacks in your picnic basket when heading to the park. While guidebooks and major media outlets publish glossy overviews of a destination, travel bloggers fill your basket with tidbits of smart, timely, and insightful advice.
Don’t get me wrong… I love flipping through the pages of Lonely Planet, Rick Steves’, and the colorful DK Top 10 Travel Guides. I turn to them as my starting point, read one on the airplane or during a train ride, and pull them out when I need a reference point on the ground. (related post: Get the Vacation Ideas Flowing). They are just one piece of the vacation project plan.
As far as travel agents are concerned, do you need to rely on their advice when your friendly travel blogger is on the ground posting “I’m there right now” free advice? I would be remiss if I didn’t say that a trusted, expert travel agent can be essential for many types of trips. I thoroughly enjoy planning my own travels but it is up to you!
Whether you use a travel agent or book independently, it pays to do your own trip research first. That way you get exactly what you vacation heart desires. Read on to learn how travel bloggers can be your personal guide to optimizing any trip in your own country or around the world.
The one commonality among travel bloggers is that they post articles on their own website about trips they are taking and have taken. Blogs commonly display posts in chronological date order, with the most recent travel experiences near the top. Often you can browse past trips by destination or region of the world so you can find exactly what you want.
Each travel blogger offers their own perspective on trip style, destination, and activities. They are story tellers, taking you along on their journey. Photos are almost always a central part of every post as when it comes to travel, a picture does tell an even better story.
A few lucky travel bloggers make a living traveling around the world. They tend to run the most popular travel blogs with huge numbers of people following them via email subscription and on social media. Their advice may get syndicated on travel planning and online magazine sites around the Web.
However the reality is that the majority of travel blogs are written by people who work for a living, often in full-time jobs. In some cases they are hoping to break free someday to become full-time travelers. Maybe that is just a pipe dream. In the meantime they share their travel lifestyle stories online for your work-life-vacation balance benefit.
Regardless of which type of travel blogger you discover online, they are an essential source for trip planning facts and opinions. The only warning comes when a travel blogger was given a free (sponsored) trip or otherwise paid to write about a destination, hotel, tour, or vacation activity. In those cases a clear disclaimer should be included in those posts in case the write-up shows any sign of bias.
Finding vacation advice and trip ideas from travel blogs is as easy as searching your favorite search engine. Travel blog articles, officially called posts, are fully indexed by all search engines. They will appear in search result pages that same as news, articles, reviews (almost always TripAdvisor), and vacation booking sites. If you search for the matching keywords, the most relevant and highly rated blog posts will appear.
Search engines like Google take into account blog popularity in a number of ways. Travel blogs that are well-regarded and whose posts are shared and commented upon will appear higher up in the search rankings. That way you are able to jump directly to what others consider to be the most trusted travel content.
Notice how professional travel bloggers often have a personal photo that appears alongside their lists. This means they have taken the extra step to have their author identity (authorship) verified. But don’t let popularity be your only guiding factor. UPDATE: Google, as it does so often, changed their search algorithm and no longer displays photos in these results.
Many newer travel blogs and lesser known bloggers (your next door neighbor or co-worker down the hall could have a casual travel blog) offer incredibly useful trip planning information too. So while it pays to read the most popular and “professional” blogs first, don’t forget to dig deeper into the search results. It won’t take long to find travel bloggers that match your vacation and time-off point of view.
To improve your search results further, include more specific keywords for the exact advice you are seeking. For example instead of typing in “Paris museums” try “Visit Paris best museums”, “Visit Paris art museums on foot” or even “List of Paris museums with the best gift shops” to uncover the most relevant and useful posts.
More examples of keyword-rich searches include “traveling with kids to Naples for the best pizza”, “how to hike the Machu Picchu trail and avoid crowds”, “Hostels near temples while backpacking in Thailand”, “How to celebrate New Year’s on a budget in NYC”, “First time in Tokyo top foods to try”, and “3 day weekend itinerary in Porto Portugal to taste port”
If a keyword is essential to your search query, add a plus (+) sign just before it. Travel search phrases you can surround in quotes to tell Google you want those words to go together.
The kinds of travel stories and advice to be found on travel blogs is all over the map, no pun intended! For popular destinations, you’ll find endless travel blog posts taking you on their journey from multiple angles and perspectives. There are far fewer posts about less popular destinations and your travel search results will reflect that.
You’ll probably get the best inspiration and advice from travel bloggers that match your lifestyle and travel wishes.
Overall you will uncover the following types of valuable travel advice, all available for free.
VacationCounts plans to introduce a resource guide to the best in the world travel blogs, so sign up to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay informed. In the meantime if you have a favorite travel blog to recommend (including your own), add a comment below to share it. Please include the name of the blog and why you feel that it is an essential vacation inspiration and planning resource.
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