Becoming a travel Instagram influencer seems like a dream come true. Can you imagine getting paid to travel to beautiful places and post about it? To the casual observer, starting a travel Instagram account is as easy as going on vacation and posting a few photos of yourself looking wistfully at the sea with a caption that reads, “Vitamin Sea” or “Salty air, wind in my hair.”
But there is so much more to running a travel Instagram account than meets the eye. In fact, posting on Instagram like it’s your job can actually take a lot of the fun out of travel and social media if you don’t have a plan in place.
In early 2018 I rebranded from a mommy blogger and lifestyle account to a family travel Instagram account, and I have learned so much about how to be successful in this niche. I’ve done extensive research on how to take better travel photos, which travel Instagram hashtags to use, and how to be a successful travel Instagram influencer.
If you’re just starting out, or planning to start a travel Instagram account soon, here are my best tips and tricks to get you started on the right foot, from setting up your account to taking photos to growing a following. Let’s dive in!
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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO STARTING A TRAVEL INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT
TIPS FOR STARTING A TRAVEL INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT
Starting a travel Instagram account is a wonderful way to share your experiences and photographs of your adventures. I don’t know about you, but I find myself opening Instagram when I’m bored, when I want to be inspired, or when I want to escape my real life for a few minutes. What better way to escape than by looking at photos of beautiful destinations?
So yes, there are people who want to consume what you create. So get out there and create great content!
1. FIND YOUR COMMUNITY
Figure out what you specialize in, and post about that. I live in Florida and have 3 little kids, so I share photos of beautiful beaches and what it’s like to travel with babies and toddlers. Moms of young children are my people, and I aim to show them that you don’t need hundreds of thousands of dollars or all the free time in the world to travel: you can start in your own backyard.
Maybe you love frequenting state and national parks, or you specialize in solo travel, adventure travel, far-flung destinations, or a specific state or country. Maybe you’re talking to moms of bored teenagers or college students who crave adventure. Find your people and serve them.
2. BE SMART WITH YOUR BIO
You only get 150 characters to tell the world who you are, so use them wisely. Do you want brands to collaborate with you? Put that in - and include your email address. Want to get travel opps in your state? Make sure people know where you are. (For safety reasons you don’t have to be super specific. A state will do).
One thing a lot of people don’t realize is that you can use the name field for keywords. My IG handle is my name, so I made sure to put “Family Travel” in the name field. You get 30 characters, so play around with what you want to put there to maximize search visibility.
Use emojis and abbreviations where possible to save characters in the rest of your bio, and type it up in the notes app so you can separate lines.
3. MAKE YOUR ACCOUNT VISUALLY APPEALING
Ok. So some people get really caught up on whether or not you need a cohesive theme. I don’t really think that’s necessary, especially as a travel blogger. You’ll end up getting way too stressed about finding backgrounds of a certain color, and you’ll avoid posting awesome photos just because they don’t fit your theme.
And to me, that defeats the entire purpose of Instagram and connecting with your community.
What I do instead is edit all my photos the same way with tiny changes depending on the lighting of the photo. Everything somehow ends up looking connected, you can tell it’s one of my photos, and I find that I’ve gotten better at spotting areas that will look good on my account.
Buy a preset for the free Lightroom app on Etsy or Creative Market and make your editing process go 10x faster.
4. POST A VARIETY OF PHOTOS
You have to try different things and do some experiments to see what will work for your audience. Do they prefer landscapes? Pictures of your whole family squeezed into the frame? Candids? Posed shots? Close-ups? A faraway shot of a person in nature to show scale?
I’ve seen all of these done successfully. You just need to find what resonates with your people.
I’m “selling” family travel, so I get the best response on my photos when I’m actually in the photo with one or more of my kids. When it’s me and all 3 or my kids, or both my husband and me with all 3 of them the photos do even better.
Just play around with it and see what tends to get the best engagement. You’ll get into a rhythm.
I mean, duh. But what content are you going to post if you’re not getting out there and traveling?
I like to take a bunch of photos on my trips and space them out in the days and weeks following my trip. This gives me time to go through the pictures, edit them, and type up helpful captions.
If you’re posting all of your photos in the moment you’ll be rushed and not as thoughtful.
If we don’t have travel plans for a few weeks, I’ll force myself to get out of the house and explore my city or cities nearby. Remember, travel doesn’t HAVE to be a 3 month backpacking trip to Europe. Exploring your own surroundings can be just as exciting, plus it feels accessible to your audience. Even if they’re still saving up for a trip, ANYONE can get out and experience their city. Who knows? Maybe you’ll inspire them.
So if you’re just getting started, that’s some of my best advice. You need content, so travel! Start local, plan day trips, then plan weekend trips, and if you can afford it and have the time, take some amazing international trips! Press trip opportunities will come with time, but not right away. Be resourceful and creative.
HOW TO TAKE GREAT TRAVEL PHOTOS
I actually already wrote an entire post about this, but I’ll summarize a few main points here:
1. Find good lighting.
The light is best right after sunrise and right before sunset. But with little kids, a lot of the traveling we do is in the middle of the day, so lighting can be harsh. I try to find shade if possible. If we’re inside, I’ll move toward a window where the lighting is better. A well-lit photo is easy to edit. A harshly-lit or dark photo can be a lot tougher to fix.
2. Play around with different angles and compositions.
Think about what you can do to make your photos stand out. How can you photograph this destination in a different way? Try backing way up, zooming in, showing scale, kneeling down, etc.
What are some different ways you could pose yourself or the kids for a more interesting shot? Try facing away from the camera (looking out into the distance), hugging your kids, jumping, holding them on your back, sitting, etc.
I highly recommend studying different ways people pose on Instagram, then play around with it and figure out what works best for you.
3. Research best photo spots before you arrive at a destination.
Check the location on Instagram for great spots for photos. Look on Pinterest for “instagrammable spots” in that city. Save those ideas into a folder, then find out where each of those locations are in relation to your itinerary. This way you’ll know exactly where to find these great photos opps and build them into your day.
Honestly, that’s my biggest takeaway here. Good Instagram photos are rarely an accident. I almost always have a specific idea for what I want to post, I shoot my potential Instagram photos vertically, and I take quite a few so I have options to choose from.
You might be thinking that this seems like a lot of work to do to get one good picture on vacation. And yeah, if you’re just on vacation dedicating all this time and brainpower for a photo would be silly.
But if you’re running a travel Instagram account, you’re probably not just “on vacation.” Maybe you’re just starting out and paying for your own travels, but you’re trying to build your credibility in order to land partnerships with destinations.
Maybe you’re already on a press trip or fam trip and need to get good shots as part of your agreement with the destination or hotel.
Either way, it’s your job to travel and document what you see. There’s no need to apologize to others traveling with you. Just briefly explain what photo(s) you’re looking to get and why it’s important before you get there. I’ve found that most people are very understanding and happy to help or wait.
I’ve also found that when I plan ahead and know exactly what photos I need to get, then I can relax and enjoy the rest of my travels knowing I’ve done my job well.
Read the rest of the article about how to improve your travel photos here!
GROWING YOUR TRAVEL INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT
Instagram is making it harder and harder to get new accounts seen by fresh eyes. That’s ok. No one ever said this was going to be easy!
You need a few things to begin gaining followers:
A fun profile picture that shows your face and an exciting, descriptive bio.
A beautiful and engaging gallery of photos.
Genuine interaction with other people.
Sadly, you can’t just post a photo with 30 hashtags and hope people will discover you. That would be awesome, but it’s not how social media works. (Though you still should use targeted hashtags.)
Engage with other people before and after you post a photo. Like and comment on photos from your followers, people you follow, and accounts that you find through relevant hashtags.
Follow people in your account that inspire you, that you can relate to, whose pictures you enjoy seeing in your feed.
Work at it for 30 minutes to an hour every day and you will see results.
It will probably be a slow and frustrating build at times, but keep going. If you truly want this to be your job, you’ve got to treat it like a job.
That’s something I personally forget a lot of the time. I don’t want to be the person who is always on my phone or obsessed with social media, but I do have to be engaged on the platform. I have to remind myself to treat it like a job, too.
If you need more guidance on growing a targeted and engaged following, consider investing in an Instagram course taught by someone who has built multiple successful accounts from the ground up. I took the Infamous to Influential course and walked away with a solid strategy and better understanding of the platform.
If you’re not sure you want to invest just yet, perhaps start with the free week-long course to see if you like her teaching style and content.
MY FAVORITE TRAVEL ACCOUNTS TO FOLLOW THAT NEVER FAIL TO INSPIRE ME:
Narelle is an Australian mother of 3 who loves to document her family travels. The way she captures her family’s memories and the views of Australia leave me breathless. I always look forward to her creative and beautifully-lit photos in my feed. Australia never used to be high on my bucket list, but I can honestly say this account has changed that for me!
Kathleen is a mom from the U.S. who lives in London with her family, and she is not letting her small children stop her from seeing the world! I can relate to her on so many levels, and love watching her IG stories because she keeps it so real. She often talks about using travel rewards points to fund her trip, which is really helpful and inspiring.
Ciara is a kick-ass solo female traveler who I met on a press trip to Brazil. She has inspired so many women to get out there are give solo travel a try not just by posting about her own travels, but by sharing everything she’s learned along the way. She gets amazing shots of herself in beautiful destination, but keeps it so so real.
This family inspires me so much! They have 4 kids and are digital nomads who world school their kids. How cool is that? I think sometimes we get the idea that once you have a bunch of kids your days of traveling are limited to one cheesy vacation per year. They are proving those stereotypes wrong, and take some stunning shots of their travels and their family.
Kelly, Aaron, and Hudson are a family of 3 on a mission to discover new spots you’ve never heard of (and the biggest tourist destinations, too)! After scrolling through their account I guarantee you’ll want to slip on your hiking shoes and head outside.
And don’t forget to follow along with my account @emilymkrause! Right now most of our travel takes place within the United States - specifically Florida - and I aim to show parents that you don’t have to spend a year backpacking Asia to be an adventurous family. If you like beaches, blue, white, and green hues, and cute but sassy kids, then definitely follow along with our adventures!