So you want to start a travel vlog.
Makes sense! Video is one of the most immersive and engaging mediums for telling stories. When done well, you can effectively bring people along with you on your journey and make them feel like they’re traveling with you. You’ll also be able to showcase your personality and connect with your audience in a way that words and photographs just don’t allow.
Then there’s the glamour surrounding this line of work. After all, who doesn’t want to travel to exotic destinations and make a living off it? It may sound like a dream — and it can be — but it’s a lot of work. Many people set out to be travel content creators and ultimately give up because the road to success is such a slow burn.
In this post, we offer a step-by-step guide to starting a travel vlog on YouTube based on our learnings over the past year. From deciding on the type of vlogs you want to make and choosing the best filming equipment to video editing tips and promotion tactics, we’ve got you covered.
Table of Contents
- Decide on the Type of Travel Videos You Want to Make
- Choosing the Right Video Cameras & Equipment
- Just Start Filming
- Editing Your Videos: Process & Tools
- Publish Your Video & Promote: YouTube SEO & More
Decide on the Type of Travel Videos You Want to Make
Before you do anything, it’s important to decide on the type of videos you want to make and what story you’re trying to tell.
Here are a few types of travel videos you can consider:
- Travel guides
- Documentaries and cultural storytelling
- Explanation and marketing videos
- Niche topics, such as adventure and sports, travel hacking, food, urban explorations, etc. The possibilities are really endless!
If you’re not sure what you want to focus on yet, you can start researching what others in the field are doing to get inspired (this basically means binge-watching YouTube). You can also begin by filming and publishing a few different ideas. Take note of what your audience seems to like and what you enjoy doing and lean into that!
How We Decided on Travel & Food as Our Niche
A lot of content creators have trouble deciding on their niche. I certainly did.
This is not my first rodeo — I first created my travel blog in 2013, and the site you see now is in its third iteration. For years, I created generalized content on travel, and, as the number of creators proliferated, it was extremely difficult to stand out.
For me, I associated my niche with my passion, and I was always stuck on figuring out what in the world that was. It always felt like this elusive idea that I couldn’t quite nail down, and I was over-complicating it like hell.
Ask yourself, what do you like to do? What do you already do? What can you do regularly and consistently over a long period of time? This will be your niche. It may already be right in front of you and you just don’t realize it yet.
I’ve been a voracious eater for as long as I remember. I love food, I’m curious about food, and I’ll try anything once. When I travel, I often center my explorations around food and eat more than three meals a day. In 2020, I had this lightbulb moment: I’m going to make travel videos, and a lot of them will be about food. Duh. I was already eating everything while traveling anyway, just not filming it.
And it’s ok if what you like is outside the box. So many people have built empires around non-traditional topics or interests that school convinced us we couldn’t make money off of. Jason Rupp has almost half a million subscribers on YouTube posting videos of himself getting barbered and pampered around the world. People make a sustainable living on YouTube by posting hour-long videos of fishing, for goodness sake. People watch YouTube for all reasons. Use this to your benefit.
Choosing the Right Video Cameras & Equipment
Of course, cameras and equipment are essential for making videos. However, I would nail down your niche and the story you’re trying to tell before choosing what to invest in, as this will impact the type of equipment you need.
For example, if you want to showcase how you travel hack and get the best deals, maybe all you need is a webcam and screen recordings to start.
We create food and travel videos — what we care about is producing high-quality content that makes people feel like they are traveling with us. We also care about being able to fit all our equipment into a backpack so we can film on the go. Our camera and accompanying gear were chosen accordingly, and we made the conscious decision to put in a larger upfront investment.
Camera & Gear We Use for Our Travel Vlog
- Sony a7 III camera body (and we just pre-ordered the Sony Alpha 7 IV!). This is often regarded as one of the best cameras for filming videos because the images are 4k and of cinematic quality.
- Sony 16-35mm camera lens. This is the lens we use to shoot most of the footage you see on our current YouTube videos.
- JOBY GorillaPod. This is a bendy, flexible tripod that can be set up anywhere. It also easily fits into a backpack for on-the-go shooting!
- Sennheiser wireless microphone system ensures crisp, clear audio in spite of background noise. We also use a RODE microphone on occasion, especially when we’re shooting multiple subjects.
For those with less to spend and who want to get started quickly, the Sony Z1 Digital Camera for Content Creators is a fantastic all-in-one option. This camera films in 4k, has a flip screen and super-wide filming angle so you can easily film yourself, and a high-quality microphone and wind screen.
Just Start Filming
It’s going to feel weird when you first start filming — especially if you’re talking on camera or filming yourself. You’re not going to feel prepared, you may feel awkward, and you’re not always going to know what to say. It can be nerve-wracking to talk on camera in front of a room full of people. I used to judge YouTubers for not being perfectly articulate until I started talking on camera myself, and now my attitude has changed to pure admiration.
The best way to learn is to simply start doing and improving from your mistakes. Being on camera gets easier with practice, and you’ll get better and more natural with time (even if the nervousness never fully goes away). Now, whenever I feel shy during filming, I remind myself of a piece of wisdom passed on by Lenza — “literally nobody will remember you in an hour.”
When it comes to the quality of your footage, watching what you’ve filmed and taking a stab at editing will show you what you’re missing and what you need to capture in the future to tell the story you want to. Just throw yourself into the deep end and let it happen.
Editing Your Videos: Process & Tools
Alright, so you have your raw footage. Now it’s time to make magic with it.
Filming & Editing Travel Vlogs: Our Process
Every filming and editing process looks a little different, but here’s how ours goes right now:
1. Plan an idea. Whether this is a food tour in a specific destination or a story we want to tell, we plot out the rough flow of the video and the footage we want to capture. If it’s a food tour, I’ll research where we’re going to go ahead of time. If it’s a specific subject matter or story, I’ll script an outline of how the scenes should flow. There is an element of improvisation since you can’t predict everything that will happen during filming, and that’s what makes it fun!
2. Film the idea.
3. Stitch together a rough cut of footage. This can be a chronological stitch or a stitch based on a pre-set storyline or idea.
4. Trim excess footage. Oftentimes, you’ll find yourself with redundant scenes or footage that don’t add value — the “fat.” Be ruthless in cutting this. Modern internet users have the attention span of goldfish. If you don’t get to the juice right away, you’ll lose viewers.
5. Add the “frills.” Once excess footage is cut, we add transitions, b-roll, music, special effects — you know, the fancy stuff.
6. Complete a final round of feedback and record any voiceover that is needed.
7. Final review and publishing. We watch the complete video obsessively to catch any errors/make final changes before uploading to YouTube.
Video Editing Tools
- Video Editing Software: We use Adobe Premiere Pro to edit all of our videos.
- Music: Good music is powerful. I’m still amazed at how a boring clip of me talking automatically becomes more bearable with the right music. We get all the music for our videos currently using Epidemic Sound, which gives us access to a huge library of royalty-free music and sound effects.
- Voiceover: Voiceover can be an effective, engaging way to tie your footage together into a story. Think about Parts Unknown — what makes the show iconic is Anthony Bourdain’s deep voice and storytelling skills. It stitches together an hour’s worth of footage into a narrative. We use this compact RODE microphone to record voiceover on the go. It’s so easy to use that even the least tech-savvy person (cough, me) can figure it out.
When you get started, there’s going be a skill gap between where you are and what you aim to be. It may take hours to get something simple done. This is frustrating at first, but, like anything you learn, grow, and become better and more efficient. Practice makes perfect, as the cliche goes.
When you get started, there’s going to be a skill gap between where you are and what you aim to be.
Publish Your Video & Promote: YouTube SEO & More
Woohoo, your first video is ready! Now it’s time to create your YouTube channel and publish! But there’s more to it than just uploading your video. If you’ve never heard of SEO before, there’s no better time to learn than now because it’s a huge part of how people are going to find your videos. And there are other considerations to increase your channel’s visibility as well.
YouTube SEO…A Necessary Evil
SEO stands for search engine optimization. And you need to understand at least the fundamentals to improve the ranking and visibility of your videos on YouTube.
Let’s say you’ve created a video on the best places to eat in Rome and you’re trying to figure out a good title. Originally, you were going to go with “where to eat in Rome,” but after some research, you find that people search for “best restaurants in Rome” significantly more. The keywords convey essentially the same thing, but going with “best restaurants in Rome” will result in more people finding your video.
Think about how people find videos. They have a question they want answered or something specific they’re looking for and they turn to the YouTube search engine to surface relevant content. There are trends in the way people type their queries — specific sets of words or specific orders of words are more commonly used than others. You want to make sure you’re using the right words in the right order so YouTube will know to display your video when it makes sense.
Of course, there are more nuances than that, but that’s the gist of it.
Here’s how to optimize your videos for SEO:
- Learn SEO Fundamentals. Moz has a great SEO guide for beginners so you can begin understanding the landscape.
- Do Keyword Research. Find out exactly what people are typing in the search bar to find the type of videos you are creating. TubeBuddy has a video keyword explorer in their robust suite of YouTube optimization tools. I also like the Keywords Everywhere Chrome extension, which shows you a list of keywords that any video on YouTube is ranking for.
- Optimize Your Videos: Once you have your keywords nailed down, make sure you include them in your video title and video description. When you add tags your video, add your primary keyword as the first tag and then max out the number of tags you’re allowed with synonyms and tangential words and phrases. You want to provide the YouTube algorithm with a clear signal of exactly what your video is about so it knows which search terms to showcase it under.
How to Promote Your YouTube Video
Unfortunately, there really is no secret to making your video go viral or growing your channel rapidly. Instead of obsessively focusing on views or subscriber growth, direct that energy towards making high-quality content. If your videos are engaging, people will eventually come. Just be patient! In the meantime, here are a few things you can do to spread the word that are in your control:
- Create Eyecatching Thumbnail Images. You want folk to be compelled to click on your video when they see your thumbnail image. Go for colors, interesting imagery, and big ol’ fonts that pop right off the page. I use Canva Pro — a powerful drag-and-drop graphic design tool — to create my thumbnail images.
- Post to Social Media. If you have an existing following, great! If not, post to your personal channels or share with friends and family to get a boost.
- Share to Relevant Communities. Research Facebook groups, Slack communities, Reddit threads, and more that focus on the topics you make videos about. Be careful though — a lot of these communities are resistant to blatant self-promotion. Make sure you are contributing in other meaningful ways so your posts stay up.
- Embed and Link Videos. If you have a blog or website, make sure you embed your videos on relevant posts and webpages. This offers a great boost for SEO as well.
I hope you enjoyed this step by step guide to starting a travel vlog on YouTube! If you have any questions or thoughts, please leave a comment below!