travel instagram influencers

7 Secrets to Starting a Travel Instagram and Building a Killer Following

Instagram has boosted travel and tourism to destinations all across the globe. For example, U.S. national parks saw 330.9 million visitors in 2019. The highest ever recorded.

Horseshoe Bend in Arizona has seen its visitation growth skyrocket from 100,000 per year in 2010, to 750,000 in 2015, to 2 million in 2017!

Travel instagram accounts are inspiring people from all over the world to set out on adventures and explore new cultures.

If you dream of becoming a travel Instagrammer and having this kind of influence, we’ve got good news. YOU can tap into this audience with their bags packed, ready to start a new adventure.

travel influencers in national park

To that end, we’ve compiled 7 tips to show you how you can start your own travel Instagram account with a splash.

1. Start with a Smart Username

Don’t get too fancy here. Avoid using confusing symbols or spellings in your username. We suggest either use your actual name (for authenticity) or a travel-inspired moniker.

Whatever username you select, keep it short and sweet. And if you’re on other social media platforms or have a blog or website, be sure your username is consistent throughout your brand touchpoints. Users will jump from your Instagram to your blog to your Facebook group and back again, so consistency is key.

If you can make your username and/or brand memorable and “ownable,” that is gold.

For example, travel blogger Lesley Murphy was able to tie-in her name and her favorite topic of discussion with “The Road Les Traveled.” (Get it, “Les?”) Her website is TheRoadLesTraveled.com (“ownable”) and her Instagram account is her actual name (authenticity).

Make it real, authentic and ownable.

Creating a Username? Crowdsource From Other Influencers... On Perlu! Ask the Influencers!

2. Find Your Focus + Your Voice

You aren’t the world’s first travel Instagram influencer, but don’t let that intimidate you. There are plenty of ways to stand out in your niche, no matter how oversaturated it feels.

travel foodie influencer taking photo of food

What makes you unlike any other travel Instagram influencer is, well…you. You have your own voice, your own personality, your own likes and dislikes.

Christina Kantzavelos of BuenQamino

Be you.

Better yet, if you have hobbies outside of travel, cross-pollinate your passions to make your Instagram account truly unique. Anthony Bourdain, chef and travel documentarian, combined his three favorite passions: food, travel, and meeting new people. This cross-pollination made him one of the most beloved and influential celebrities in the travel world.

So what else do you love? Fashion? Sustainability? Food? Numchucks table tennis? (Yes, it’s a thing.)

Christina Kantzavelos of BuenQamino loves travel and food – and she has celiac disease. Instead of letting her food allergies stop her from traveling the world, she created a “gluten-free, dairy-free, autoimmune-friendly travel and lifestyle blog” that inspires others to travel despite similar limitations.

Find your loves, combine them and, above all else, be authentic.

3. Learn to Take Good Photos

Since Instagram is a visual platform, good photos are essential. Notice we said “good” photos, not “professional” photos. You’re not Thomas Havel, professional outdoor and adventure photographer – and that’s okay!

There’s no need to drop thousands of dollars on a camera. You probably have the perfect camera in your hand already – on your smartphone. Instead, why not spend significantly less $$$ on an iPhone photography course? Or better yet, hit up YouTube for some free pointers.

travel influencers taking selfieOne thing you’ll notice about a lot of successful travel Instagrammers is that they have a solid aesthetic – in other words, their Instagram has a theme that makes their feed look beautifully coordinated.

A theme isn’t necessary, but if you want one, start figuring out what kind of aesthetic you’re going for. Light and summery? Dark and moody? Earthy and neutral? Bright and minimal?

“I also utilized a theme, either a color palette or a place or something that when people looked at my entire account versus just one photo, that it looked interesting and pleasing,” says Perlu member Cacinda Maloney of Points and Travel. “Many IGers put the same filter on all their photos, which works for some, but I don’t do this, as I like bright photos for some themes and less for others depending on the location.”

Start researching the best editing apps such as Lightroom, VSCO and Snapseed. Test them all out until you find the one that works best for you. If you find yourself struggling to create filters and presets you love or a consistent feed, check out sites like Creative Market, where Instagrammers and photography experts alike create packs of presets for people just like you! And ask other travel Instagrammers what their favorite tools and resources are.

Travel Influencer Dr. Cacinda Maloney Horseback on Beach

“Everyone knows how important it is to use great quality photographs on a travel Instagram account,” says Perlu member Dana Freeman of Dana Freeman Travels. “The old adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ has never been truer. However, these days, with so many travel Instagram accounts it is more important than ever you post authentic photos. Followers want to be inspired to travel to the destination that you are sharing. They won’t be able to do that if they can’t actually picture themselves there.”

No matter how much or how little you edit your photos, remember that authenticity is key. The majority of your time should be spent finding and telling stories and interacting with your audience.

4. Engage Your Audience!

“Engagement is key,” says Christina of BuenQamino. “Responding and interacting with your audience through comments, stories, messages, etc. is quite impactful. It lets us know you’re not a bot, or a person hired to just post and do the bare minimum.”

travel instagrammer engaging with her audience

Engagement makes you appear approachable and authentic. When you aren’t creating stories or telling stories, take time out of your day—every day—to interact with your audience.

Better yet, set aside time during each day for your audience. Half an hour may be all you need. It will pay dividends faster than most any other technique you can implement.

Connect with Other Travel Influencers, and... Start Collaborating! Explore Perlu!

Reply to comments and DMs (even the negative ones, if you want). Ask your audience questions. However, don’t be a “askhole: a person who asks for advice, yet always does the opposite of what they were told.” Involve your audience and let them participate. For example, you could use the Q&A feature on Instagram to ask your audience where you should travel next.

“Engage, engage, engage,” Christina says. “Did I mention engagement?”

To create an even stronger connection, give your audience more than they expect. Not only should you show great photos – give them travel tips.

How do you find cheap flights? What airlines are the best? How do you find your rooms – hotels? Airbnbs? Word of mouth? What are your favorite travel apps? What are your best budget tips?

Your content tells your story, yes, but the more you help your followers, the more loyal they will become.

“You also need to engage, comment and like, other photos within your genre,” says Cacinda of Points and Travel. One great way to do that is with Perlu! Head over to the profiles of fellow travel influencers, give them a follow, and then head to their Instagram profiles and follow them there, too. This sets you up for amazing collaboration opportunities.

5. Use Relevant Travel Hashtags

This tip may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at the mistakes even veterans make.

100 million photos and videos are shared on Instagram every day, most of them using hashtags, and that number is conservative. So choose your hashtags wisely. Find a happy medium with hashtags that are popular enough that people are actually searching for them, but not so popular that your photo quickly gets pushed down by other posts.

travel instagram influencer choosing hashtags

Obviously, #travel is No. 1, but that means millions of people are using that hashtag. You won’t stand out. You may get found by a few people via that hashtag, but the chances of really growing your followers through #travel are slim.

So research other travel-related hashtags. Check out the hashtags Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler use. Piggyback their hashtags to grab their eyeballs. Some companies such as Atalanta create branded hashtags (#atalantaworld) that travel instagram accounts can use for the chance to get featured on their Instagram. Talk about a sweet way to grow your audience fast.

#blogtravel, #culturetrip, #travelwriter are all gathering thousands of followers, while at the same time appealing to a narrower audience. A family going to Disney World could use #travel, which is useless if you’re, say, an international travel writer. #travelwriter may be a better option.

Consider using location-specific posts, too. And while you’re at it – geotags!

Instagram allows users to search by location, so when they search for places you’ve visited, BOOM – they find you.

Activity-specific posts help too. And regional-specific hashtags. The better you define the content, the more likely you are to receive the perfect set of eyeballs. You could even tag restaurants, hotels and businesses you visit on your trip. Who knows – they may pay you to come back!

travel instagram influencer in hotel room with luggage

Our final word of advice: create your very own travel-related hashtag. Make one that is specific to you – one that defines you and helps your followers find you. Then, use that hashtag consistently so your followers come to expect it. They may even start using it, thus leading their followers back to you.

6. Use Instagram Stories + Instagram Live

You have many tools at your disposal. The trick is to amplify your brand as efficiently – and cost-effectively – as possible without getting lost in the crowd.

Here’s a great start: utilize Instagram Stories and Instagram Live to the very best of your abilities like Stephanie White of Stephanie White Travels.

“On Instagram stories, I love to promote my blog posts and latest Instagram posts to increase my engagement,” Stephanie says.

Instagram newbies are often so excited about entering the social space, they clutter their feed with post after post. But remember – quality trumps quantity. So there’s no reason to exhaust yourself by editing 5 photos and writing 5 captions every day. One really good, authentic post a day (or even just a few a week) can have a greater impact than multiple mediocre posts a day.

“When I first started on IG in 2014, I was posting photos four times a day starting at 9 AM,” says Cacinda of Points and Travel. “Once I reached 20K followers, I slowed down to one time a day at 9 am EST.”

On the other hand, when you’re traveling, there are a ton of sites and experiences you’ll probably want to post about. If you’re visiting Cairo, you may be tempted to post a photo of the pyramids and the Nile and the inside the pyramids and the Airbnb you’re staying at and your stroll through the local markets and…well, everything.

But that could lead to dozens of photos. That’s where Instagram Stories comes in.

Instagram stories allows you to post more content without overwhelming your audience’s feed. You can even utilize polls and Q&As within Instagram Stories.

Another cool IG feature? Instagram Live.

travel Instagram influencer using Instagram live

Instagram Live lets your audience follow your adventures as they happen. Instead of posting a blurry photo of the inside of a dark pharaoh’s tomb, you can just livestream it! It doesn’t get much more authentic – or mesmerizing – than live-streaming. Your audience gets to see you at your most authentic and exciting and interact with you in real time via comments.

7. Meet Other Travel Instagrammers

Influencers are a friendly bunch. Yes, they’re competitive and want to grow their brands, but the best influencers have found that when they play nice and collaborate with others, that’s when they really see growth.

Right now, on Perlu, you can find other travel influencers like Meg Jerrard and Kavita Favelle. Some travel together and share their content. Some co-host giveaways and contests. Others brainstorm video content, consult and co-write blogs together.

“I also like to partner with other Instagrammers and have both of us shout out the other on Instagram stories to build both of our followings,” says Stephanie of Stephanie White Travels.

two travel instagram influencers collaborating

Use Perlu to build a network of your favorite travel-related Instagrammers so you can learn, share and grow at scale. There are hundreds of travel Packs to explore and thousands of travel influencers to get in touch with. If a Perlu member has linked their social media, you can even click the icon in their profile to go visit their actual Instagram account!

When you collaborate, you can 2X your audience (or more!) with half the work!

It’s a crazy, growing, exciting, fantastic world out there on Instagram. In fact, there are more than 1 billion users.

Get out there and share your stories with the world. As they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression, so be sure to start the right way. Learn from others, help others and tell great stories. Next thing you know, you’ll build a killer following.

Meet, Learn From and Collaborate with Travel Influencers, and... Build an Audience! Read the Post!