How to Start a Travel Blog
Part 3: Best WordPress Travel Blog Themes
Travelociraptor.com’s Web series on “How to Start a Travel Blog” details how to start a travel blog using the popular WordPress content management system. In this Part Three I will show you how to find the best WordPress theme for your travel blog.
The WordPress content management system allows you to run a real website without having knowledge of computer code (HTML, CSS, etc.). Once the WordPress files are installed in your web hosting account (on a server at a web hosting company) you will be able to log in and post an article with about the same ease as posting a Facebook post.
Every WordPress site has a theme. By theme, I mean a template that defines how your website looks to visitors. Elements that are defined by a theme include the design, layout, colors and fonts of the WordPress website.
When you install the WordPress files at your web hosting account, several free themes are included in the installation. These are basic themes with just basic design elements. In the control panel (dashboard) of your WordPress website, you can select and activate the different themes. However, you will most likely want a more professional design for your travel blog. There are many WordPress themes to choose from on the Internet that are professionally produced by graphic designers and Web experts. Many if not most WordPress themes cost between $50-$100, a reasonable cost for what you are receiving.
Above is a screenshot from my Travelociraptor.com WordPress dashboard showing some of the themes I have installed. I have tried out a number of themes throughout the years, but one stands out for a number of reasons.
But first, here are a few things you need to know about WordPress themes.
- Themeforest has become the most trusted place to purchase WordPress themes.
- There are different categories for WordPress themes, with themes designed specifically for certain interests. Specific categories include corporate, entertainment, eCommerce, retail, real estate and blog/magazine.
- Though there are WordPress themes specific for travel, “blog/magazine” WordPress themes work well for travel blogs.
- There are thousands of themes available, but many are substandard and some are out of date.
- It is important to purchase a theme that has been updated recently. Older themes may not be compatible with the latest version of WordPress.
- Some themes have their own control panel within the WordPress dashboard that makes it easier to configure the theme. Some do not.
- Most every WordPress theme has particular settings in the dashboard. You will have to learn the particular settings for each theme.
With all of that said, there is only ONE WordPress theme that I use for my several WordPress websites, and that is Newspaper by tagDiv. This highly-configurable, flexible theme is clean in design, is highly rated by users, is continually updated, and has more than 100,000 sales. It is one of the most popular WordPress themes of all time, and for good reason. Below are some of the stats for the Newspaper theme. Besides the design aspect, these stats are what you will be looking for when searching for a WordPress theme for your travel blog.
As you can see, the Newspaper theme is highly rated and highly used. There are also over 20,000 comments (that you can search) concerning the theme.
This article was written in January 2021 and the Newspaper theme was recently updated in December 2020. This is very important. I have had several experiences where a theme was no longer updated and it eventually became incompatible with the latest WordPress application. For example, one theme I was using had not been updated in two years, and one day I clicked on the website and just the top menu was showing. Turns out, the theme’s social icons (directly after the menu) were no longer compatible with the latest version of WordPress. Unless you are a coder, such an issue is near impossible to fix.
Another reason I almost exclusively use the Newspaper theme is that it can be precarious to switch themes. As I stated above, I have tried a number of themes for this website, but each time I switched to another theme (which is easy to do in the control panel) there were elements of the website that did not display correctly. Each theme has particular ways of working, and when you switch themes, page elements are often rendered differently or not at all. Some of the common elements that are often affected in a theme switch include logos that are missing, wrong menus, widgets in the wrong places, featured images not visible and page and post layouts rendered differently. To fix these issues you will need to go into the new theme’s control settings and attempt to revert (or make better) the elements that were affected. So now, I just go with the industry-leading Newspaper WordPress theme and don’t even attempt any other themes.
One of the many things I like about the Newspaper theme is that it includes dozens of demos that are variations of the theme (some can be seen in the above screenshot). The demos can be activated in the theme’s control panel, with or without the demo content. Once you have activated a demo, customization is still possible, to the extent you can combine elements from many of the demos.
In addition to the Newspaper theme, there are a couple other WordPress themes that I recommend for a travel blog. They include, Soledad, Sahifa, Newsmag (very similar to Newspaper) and Bimber, with Bimber being the theme I would use after Newspaper. Though I prefer Newspaper over Bimber, I really like Bimber for its design and social networking-type features. And like Newspaper, Bimber has a number of different demos (theme variations) that can be installed or uninstalled with one click.
(Click on the above image to see larger.)
One tip that might be helpful in your search for a WordPress theme for your travel blog is to find out the themes that are used by other travel blogs. If a travel blog is using WordPress, you can find the theme listed in the code. To see the code, right click anywhere on the Home page (or any other page) and select View Page Source. This will open up another window with the website’s code. Scroll down a bit to find code that looks similar to the code above, which is from this website Travelociraptor.com in this example. You will notice that on line 102 the Newspaper theme is listed. Note that the code is somewhat different with each theme or website and you may have to do some searching to find the theme. If you’re not sure of the name in the code, Google the name you think it is to see if there is actually a theme by that name and if it looks similar to the travel blog you are investigating. Also note that not every travel blog uses WordPress and also in some cases the name of the theme has been changed (for example Newspaper to Travelociraptor). Though changing the name of a WordPress theme is said to be easy, and can be done from the WordPress control panel, I have not been brave enough to attempt the change nor do I find it necessary or advantageous. Overall, by using this search method, you can peruse existing travel blogs and find the WordPress themes of the travel blogs that you find attractive.
One last word of advice, be sure to read the documentation that comes with the theme, whichever one you decide. Though you will want to jump right in with the new theme, reading the documentation could save you countless hours in the end.