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Behind the #travelhacks and aesthetic photos, you’ll often find a travel content creator who spends their 9-5 days documenting exclusive travel experiences to help other travelers determine how and where to spend their precious time. These creators have figured out how to get paid to travel without having to spend a second of their travel time in boardrooms and meetings.
How did you find out about your latest adventure? Maybe you read an article in a travel publication that inspired you to take a cozy weekend upstate, or maybe you were scrolling through TikTok and came across a 10-second clip of the Swiss Alps that convinced you to book a 10-day trip . Whether your travels have been fueled by reluctantly liking Instagram posts of your friends who always seems to be in Europe or an insatiable desire to eat sushi in Japan, something or more likely someone affected your route.
For most people, discounted travel is ideal, free travel is miraculous and profitable paid traveling is nearly impossible, but a select group of travel influencers have cracked the code to make the impossible a reality. JQ Louise, a Boston-based travel blogger and editor, is one of them. As someone who documents her travels for a living, Louise could write a handbook on how to build a career by traveling often, traveling well and documenting every spectacular moment – tips that anyone can use, whether they’re influential or not or not. Louise began documenting her travels long before it became her full-time job.
“I like to do research. I’ve always been the person everyone asks for tips and recommendations on where to go because they know I’ve really covered every single place you need to visit in whatever city you’re visiting.” Louise says.
After writing recommendations for friends one too many times, Louise realized she could build advice and itineraries on a bigger platform and started her travel blog as a passion project – over the past seven years she’s been able to turn it into a full-time business.
If scrolling through JQ Louise’s Instagram feed fuels your fire for a career change (or just a much-needed vacation), it’s not too late to start trying to build your own presence as a social media creator. With platforms like YouTube Shorts and Instagram reels chasing the success of short-form video content on TikTok, there are plenty of opportunities to tap into the algorithm and gain popularity on these platforms. You can follow the route chosen by Louise and start with written guides in a blog format or dive straight into video content. Think how you you love to be inspired and informed, and chances are this is the format of content you’ll enjoy creating, too.
But first, the entry-level requirements for a travel designer follow the same basic parameters of any job. You will need personal applicable experience, a willingness to learn, the ability to read analytics, some budgeting skills in Excel and above all excellent time management. It’s unrealistic and expensive to build a social platform based solely on luxury international experiences – according to Louise, the key to getting started is to start locally.
“It’s an easier way to find out what you like. Do you like boutique hotels? Big brands? AirBnB? The practice of traveling is so important to determine how to balance it with work and your normal daily life.’
Once you’ve determined your preferences locally, you can scale up your adventures strategically. While it can be tempting to hit up hot spots when everyone and their mother is visiting and posting about them, you may actually be able to have a lower-cost, higher-value experience if you visit during , which Louise calls “shoulder season”.
“When it comes to international travel, the trick is finding the optimal time to travel to those destinations. We can’t all go to the Amalfi Coast in July – and you wouldn’t want to either. You’re overpaying for flights and hotels are triple what they would be at any other time of year. I think it really comes down to research and finding what’s a good balance to go somewhere,” Louise says.
Getting there is only half the trick, the real maximization of travel comes from strategically optimizing the hours available. Plan your time off to include national holidays – turning a three-day weekend into a four- or five-day trip will help you increase the frequency of potential getaways without eating up all your vacation days. Also, the peak holiday weekend in the United States is often slower internationally.
On the creator side, visiting destinations during the off-peak season can also help secure a brand partnership, especially if you’re just starting out.
“Often the hotel will not be able to accommodate a creative during the peak season because they will be booked. Even if they wanted to, they just physically can’t,” says Louise.
Hotels, airlines and restaurants will often compensate experiences (or pay if you’re lucky!) in exchange for content. These companies get a lot of organic content when it’s tourist season, but still need to maintain a strong social presence the rest of the year. You may be able to secure a brand partnership by sharing a portfolio of your previous unsponsored travel content.
Exploring the world for work sounds like a dream job – and although it can be easily forgotten, there is a strong emphasis on the “work” part of the dream. Amid crowded tourist destinations, delayed flights, temperamental weather and poor lighting, it is not easy to capture content that is authentic to the experience while being beautifully curated. I mean, think about how hard it is to take a good Instagram photo when your non-photographer friend or significant other is behind the camera. Needless to say, travel influencers like JQ Louise are pros at documenting their adventures. The best artists know how to capture their travels so that it is the absolute best and most beautiful image of realistic experience – if the content is too flashy or staged, it becomes misleading and will ultimately lead to frustration for other travelers trying to recreate it.
“I really like to capture the moment in photos and in videos because I actually like to go back to it. That’s one of the main reasons we all love social media, because we really want to look back at all the fun things we’ve done,” explains Louise.
If you have a particular interest in shooting photo or video content, off-season travel will also benefit your final shot – especially if your salary depends on it. Louise’s tips for getting the perfect shot are in line with the concept of off-season travel. Simply put, be where everyone wants to be when no one is.
JQ Louise put her content creation methods to the test on a recent trip to Santorini, where the blue and white buildings serve as one of the world’s most popular photo backdrops. Of course, Louise got the chance, and if you follow these steps, you will too.
Make a list of your top 10 places where you want to be sure to get content, whether it’s for an Instagram post, a TikTok video, or just for the memories.
Create your best photo spots on your route. The locations probably overlap with the sites you want to see anyway.
Do a little research on each location’s hours and plan to visit when it will be least crowded. Usually, the earlier you get to the attraction, the better.
Strategize your route through the neighborhoods so you’re not running from one end of town to the other all day. You’ll end up seeing more if you localize your agenda.
“It sounds boring to some people, but if you do it a few days into your trip, it’s actually fun because you get up early and can experience a popular spot without anyone else bothering you,” insists Louise.
Also, the lighting will be better early in the morning. For creators like Louise, getting the money earlier in the morning also helps create the balance of living in the moment for the rest of the day.
Louise says: “For me, this is my job. I need to get my content. I usually shoot sponsored posts and things like that on these trips, so if I can get it down either early in the day or early in the trip, I can relax more about the trip anyway. ”
Like any job, you must be willing to work overtime. After you’ve explored a new city, mingled with the locals, and eaten as much regional food as possible, you can expect to spend hours editing and publishing content back at the hotel or when you get home. By the time you’re done posting all your photos, you’ll be inspired to book another trip.