You’re the editor-in-chief behind Travel Mamas. What gave you the inspiration for the site and how did you get it off the ground?
When I became a mom, I looked for a book with practical and fun advice for traveling with babies and children but had a hard time finding what I wanted. I asked practically every mom or dad I met for tips on traveling with kids. After a few trips of my own, I decided to write the book I wanted to read.
Eventually I signed with a literary agent for my book, “The Travel Mamas’ Guide” and she told me to get some articles published and start a blog. I knew so little about blogging that you couldn’t even make comments on my site at first because I didn’t use a blogging platform like WordPress. Rather, I used the more cumbersome and difficult Dreamweaver and eventually had to convert to WordPress.
I attended blogging conferences like Type A Mom (now Type A Parent), BlogHer and TBEX, which really helped me learn so much about building a successful blog. The sessions were great, but meeting and building relationships with other bloggers was key to the success of Travel Mamas. Blogging can be such a solitary endeavor and having someone with whom to brainstorm and from whom to get advice is beyond valuable. There’s no way I’d still be blogging if I didn’t find the blogger friendships that I have today.
How did you get into writing and blogging in the first place? What led you to where you are now?
I had been taking writing classes for years but had never submitted anything for publication. I decided to write an article on how to travel with kids to submit to magazines. But after writing, and writing and writing, I realized that I had started a book. That book is what led to my website.
I wanted to create the website that I wished had existed when I first started traveling with my kids. I included printable packing lists, travel tips, reviews, and narrative pieces to inspire travel. The Travel Mamas Team also publishes stories about romantic retreats and girlfriend getaways because parents deserve a break sometimes too!
Where do you see your income mix going in the next 5-10 years as digital media continues to grow?
It’s so hard to say because the rules and practices of blogging, journalism and social media keep changing. I teach blogging classes and I have to update my curriculum for each session because things transform so rapidly in digital media.
I focus less and less on freelance writing because the pay is typically pretty horrible. I make money from my blog with a blend of sponsored posts and giveaways, standard ads, an Amazon store, and Google
Adsense ads. Lately I am focusing my efforts on #KidsNTrips Twitter parties to help brands build buzz along with my partners, LA Times Columnist Jen Leo and USA Today/10 Best Contributor Katie Dillon (a.k.a. La Jolla Mom). I am also trying to grow my resume as a public speaker and broadcast media personality.
I have started a second book too. This one is much more personal; it’s a memoir about how travel has influenced my life. It includes stories that, I hope, will cause tears and laughter and inspire others to live their best lives.
On your site, you say that witnessing your children’s pure joy in the journey makes traveling with kids worth it. What other advice do you have for parents who worry about the expense, time, and effort it takes to travel with kids?
It seems crazy to me to put off traveling until your children get older or move away or until you have more money. None of us knows how long we have on this planet so I advise people to make the most of their lives with their children today. Kids learn so much from traveling too. They learn about how other people live, eat, and talk. They learn about art and beauty and nature. They learn about how they fit into this big crazy world. It would be such a shame to rob your children of those experiences. You don’t have to go far or spend a lot of money, either. A camping trip is just as beneficial as a trip to Europe, in my opinion.
What advice do you have for a new blogger who is trying to create a niche and grow a readership?
Write about your passion. Don’t try to figure out what people want to read. Write good stories and people who have the same passion as you will want to read your blog. Blog readership is based on three things: good content (well-written stories, great photography, and maybe video) plus good search engine optimization (if they can’t find your blog, they can’t read it); and good social media (this is freePR for your blog and leads to more page views and paid opportunities).
You’ll be speaking at the upcoming TBEX conference. Can you give our readers a sneak peek of what you’ll be talking about?
I am leading a session on Building a Vision Board…for a blog, writing career, desired travels, or life. I will help people define what they want to draw into their lives and provide the tools, time and assistance to create a physical vision board they can bring home with them. Envisioning positive things has been proven to have just as positive an effect as experiencing positive things. The process will help attendees define goals too. If you want to get somewhere, you need to choose a direction. As Franklin Roosevelt said, “To reach a port, we must sail—Sail, not tie at anchor—Sail, not drift.”
Colleen Lanin is the author of “The Travel Mamas’ Guide” and the founder/editor-in-chief of Travel Mamas. She teaches blogging classes and gives presentations on how to travel with babies and children. She has given travel tips on television, radio, and as a paid video blogger. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. Her stories have appeared in such publications as the “Today” show’s travel section on NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, Expedia.com, Working Mother Magazine, and more.
Interview conducted in September, 2014 by Kristin Winet.