WordPress Plugins Every Travel Blogger Should Use

It’s the new year and high on everyone’s resolutions is to improve their blog. Mine is five years old now* and I’ve been designing web sites for even longer. I’ve seen things change over the years and I know what works and what doesn’t because I’ve tried it all. That having been said, here is my advice for you.
* I started it in 2008 with the name Shibuya Daze but it wasn’t until 2012 that I got serious about blogging and transferred my old posts to The HoliDaze.

  Plugins You Should Already Have

The usefulness of these first couple plugins have been documented times countless times before and therefore for the purpose of this article I will assume you already have them and not discuss them in great detail. If by some chance however you do not, install them now:

travel blogger wordpress plugins
An amazing all-in-one plugin that has made dozens of plugins obsolete since it was first released. Social media sharing, viewer statistics, post by email, contact forms, mobile theme, and much more have already been incorporated into this plugin. Even the popular After The Deadline plugin is now part of Jetpack. A true lifesaver. The one-and-only SEO plugin you will ever need. Using its page analysis feature you can see how well your new posts have addressed all the important SEO factors and make any necessary adjustments prior to hitting publish. Advanced options also allow you to control, well, quite literally everything.

Now The Plugins You Need  

If you think of any additions to this list then don’t forget to mention them in the comments below.

travel blogger wordpress plugins

  This plugin is a MUST! We all know page load speed is an important factor, especially since it contributes to your Google search ranking. People like sites that load fast and this plugin does exactly that.

For the purpose of this post I recently deactivated W3 Total Cache for a few days. Rather than list a bunch of boring technical numbers, just look at this graph of my blog load times below. It speaks for itself.

The one and only downside to this plugin is that it can be a little overwhelming to anyone who is not technically savvy. Luckily there is a “toggle all types of caching” option, just use this if unsure what to do. The plugin will configure everything and let you know if any errors arise.

Screenshot: W3 Total Cache

All the tech geeks out there will love the extent of configuration settings possible. Pictured above is only the general overview. Each setting page has a full range of in-depth options to customize your site and achieve optimal performance.

  W3 Total Cache plugin page
  I do web design on the side and am more than happy to help you with this plugin (for free) if you need it.

Photos are a key part of travel blogging, especially large, vivid ones. The only downside is that frequently these can have huge file sizes, even when re-sized prior to uploading. Plus since WordPress automatically makes several different sizes of every photo uploaded, in reality there are five photos on your servers for every one you upload. Over time that really adds up.

Before discovering this plugin I used to manually compress my .jpg and .png images using a Windows program. It worked well but was a lot more time-consuming. Doing it prior to upload also means that only the original file is compressed, not the re-sized versions that WordPress generates and saves.

Smush.it runs in the background and automatically does it thing without you having to worry about it. It’s even possible to smush (compress) all of the old photos already on your blog as well.

  Smush.it plugin page

Send email only on Reply to My Comment

Reader engagement is pivotal in developing a successful travel blog. WordPress comments are great but they lack one key thing: comment response notification. The only option is to check the “notify me of follow-up comments via email” which sure, will email you when your comment receives a response — however it will also email you every single time a new comment gets added. This is very annoying and therefore almost no one actually subscribes to all comments.

Because of this some bloggers have switched to 3PD commenting systems such as Disqus, IntenseDebate, and LiveFyre. While I won’t get into the upsides and downsides of these plugins here, I will say that switching over is not always a seamless process. Plus after posting about this to the Global Bloggers Network I learned that a surprising number of people actually hate these 3PD commenting systems for a variety of different reasons.

The easiest, quickest, and most effective solution is to use this plugin, which adds an email notification option to the comment field allowing individuals to subscribe to responses to their comments and nothing else.

Screenshot: Comments

Since installing this I’ve noticed a HUGE increase in the number of follow-up comments I’ve received. But even if people choose not to leave another comment at least this way they receive a copy of my response in their inbox. (I comment on people’s blogs daily but have no idea how many of them actually respond to me because I don’t subscribe to all comments.)

  Send email only on Reply to My Comment plugin page

jQuery Pin It Button For Images

It’s no secret that Pinterest spiked in popularity during 2013. During a recent survey in the USA 21% of people said that they use Pinterest, compared to only 18% for Twitter. Growth is steady and expected to continue. As such it only makes sense to make your blog Pinterest-friendly, even if you do not use the site yourself.

Screenshot: Pinterest Pin It

There are several Pinterest-themed plugins however this one works flawlessly, is the most highly reviewed and has a variety of extra options, including selective targeting via a range of options (posts, pages, categories, all images, selected only, classes, etc) and custom Pin It compatibility. As long as you have watermarked your photos, might as well let others pin them and generate a fresh source of traffic. This is especially true for newbie photographers because some of those iconic shots get re-pinned countless times.

  jQuery Pin It Button For Images plugin page

travel blogger wordpress plugins

Your database is the brain of your blog so please do not neglect it — keep it optimized and running at peak efficiency! This plugin covers everything from spam comments to post revisions and even includes a weekly schedule option for those short on time. (I do believe that would be most all of us, no?)

  WP Optimize plugin page

 

There are plenty of other useful WordPress plugins for travel bloggers but these are definitely five of the most important ones.

What other plugins would you recommend?

About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel." ย  Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

31 thoughts on “WordPress Plugins Every Travel Blogger Should Use”

  1. Thanks for these Derek! Plugins are the one thing I have trouble sorting through. There are so many and never do exactly what I’m looking for. Haha!
    I use a few of these already. Might look into the others. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I completely agree Meg — especially when traveling and dealing with all the other chores of travel blogging, who has the time to dig through plugins and test them all out. But as I’ve designed several other web sites these are some of the core plugins that I use not just for travel blogs but for nearly all of them. They’ve been thoroughly tested and now have the Derek4Real seal of approval…whatever the hell that means LOL ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Anyway if you decide to test the new ones out or have any concerns, feel free to give me a shout. I’m always happy to help out fellow bloggers ๐Ÿ™‚

      Oh and as a side note, if you are already aware of Google Page Speed ranking then a couple of these make a consider impact there — most notably W3 Total Cache. I’ve gotten my page speed up to 89/100 and aim to have it up in the 90s (ideally to 95) before long. For more on Page Speed and to find out yours, take a look here.

  2. Great to hear of your experiences Derek. I’ve tried a fair few of these with mixed results. I adored Jetpack since I started but ditched it a couple of months ago due to lots of problems with it and it can be load intensive compared to other plugins I’ve used.

    I’ve also had W3 Total Cache for a number of months and agree it can have a dramatic improvement on site speed. In spite of reading extensively about it and following recommended settings I in the end suffered too many conflicts with it and ditched it.

    I ran a GTmetrix today on my site and got a site speed of 87% which isn’t too bad compared to a lot of other sites, including big name companies and travel blogs!

    I have though recently been in touch with a consultant who will be assisting me in the next few weeks at improving things further.

    • Shame to hear W3 caused issues for you — it’s been a gem for me, love it!

      As far as Jetpack I have over the months deactivated more and more of the components that come with it. It has undoubtedly become more bloated than it originally was. Plus by using things like IFTTT and other 3PD site additions that don’t require extra scripts on your blog it is possible to achieve the same results without it. Of course that also requires more work / knowledge and sometimes with us travelers and how short we can be on time, convenience is king.

      Awww you hired a consultant instead of just asking me? LOL j/k bro. Curious to see the results he can bring. Am glad to hear you are monitoring your page speed and working to further improve it. 87 is definitely good, although I’ve never used GTmetrix, only Google Page Speed. Out of curiosity I tested several of the main blogs I read regularly over the last few weeks and most were consistently in the 70-75 range. That was surprising to me because most (and by most I mean all) of those blogs are far less complex in design than mine. Even so I’m still working, still trying to improve it further.

      And on a side note dammit I still need to email you interview questions. Been island-hopping in the Phils the last cpl wks and today was my first real prolonged period with wifi so I opted for writing instead. I swear I’m not trying to blow you off or anything, promise ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Hey Derek, no worries at all. I don’t know how you manage without decent wifi for so long! I’ve always a back log of things to do, mind with wifi I tend to have a lot of time answering e-mail queries! Once you get around to them is fine, I might be delayed getting them back!

        Hope your travels have been going well, it sounds like you’ve had fun.

        Never say never with regard to W3, it is highly respected but a complex plugin with great potential results. I think I’m using BWM (better WordPress Minify) at the moment which is helping with great results. >90% remains my goal and it is in touching distance.

        • The only reason I was able to manage is because I have a local Filipino # that comes with a data plan. That keeps me tweeting and Instagramming but won’t help with my real online work. Of course as I was island-hopping via small boats it really would not have been feasible to try and take my laptop along for the ride.

          Cheers to the two of us hopefully breaking into the 90th percentile soon! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Thanks Jim, glad the list helped shine a light on a few new plugins. Before you look too far or waste too much of your valuable time let me take a quick look and see if I can help ya out. I just ran your page speed tests and given the results (59/desktop, 53/mobile on my end) I’m quite sure I can make a difference. I was at 60-65 around last month before fine-tuning my new designs and getting it up to 88-89/100 now. Shooting for 95 or so but since I have such a complex/dynamic layout, not 100% sure that is even physically attainable…

  3. This is a helpful post, Derek, thank you. I also ran the GTMetrix report today for the first time after reading about it in the comments, and was pleased to score an 89. I guess even with my tech fumbling, I haven’t messed anything up too badly.

    Another plug-in that I like is the WordPress Notification Bar. It lets you put important info in a floating bar at the top. I use it for a “subscribe to” banner that floats as people scroll.

  4. Great Article Derek,
    We at Lazy Loafer currently use all of these and would also recommend WP Slim Stat. It gives you great and in depth analytics in real time. Great to know where your traffic is coming from without having to go off your site to Google analytics or some other outside source.

  5. Derek,

    Great list. I wish I found this a few months ago when I was looking to speed my site up. I spent a lot of time researching plugins, and now you have this handy list that does it all for me ๐Ÿ™‚ I am definitely going to try that comment plugin though. I like the engagement it seems to get on other sites I see it on.

    Thanks
    K

    • Thanks Kenin, shame I couldn’t have saved you some time. Definitely install the comment plugin! Ever since I put it in I get a lot more follow-up comments to my responses. Definitely a great way to build engagement or at the very least let your readers know that you cared enough to respond to their comment(s) ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I’m a BIG fan of the WordPress editorial calendar. Give’s me such a great view on what I’ve scheduled when and it’s easy to move and edit from within the calendar.

    • Yes, Sophie just mentioned the WordPress Editorial Calendar too — I had never heard of it before then. And I’m actually on my computer right now so I already have the plugin page open. Will be installing this and giving it a test run now. Thanks again for the advice and greetings from Indonesia!

  7. This list was very helpful!! Will spend the next few days trying and customizing the plugins listed here to get a sense of things. It sure was tough moving our blog from wordpress.com to a self hosted one.

    • Thanks Rishabh, glad the list was helpful and yes, I can completely relate — switching from WP.com to self-hosted is never as easy as it seems at first but in the end is always worth it, for countless reasons. If you two every have any issues or questions, feel free to drop me an email or ask me on Twitter @the_HoliDaze. I do web design and site management on the side and am always helping other travel blogging buddies out, most of the time for free too — as long as it is something fairly simple ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Well, that is just a list that all wordpress users should use, nothing special related to travel. I would suggest Mappress plugin so that every traveler could easily add maps on their posts. I don’t like travel posts without maps, it’s like a travel post without pictures.

    • Good point Julius. I’m actually in the middle of testing out new plugins for a follow-up edition of this post…will give MapPress a test. Thanks for the tip ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. I know this is an older post, but still incredibly helpful! I’ve not been blogging for long, but these are going to make some great suggestions for adding content, making the page smoother and most importantly a little more interactive! Thanks for the advice – keep it up

    • Hey Markus, yes it is an older post but I still use all these plugins. I’ve also been meaning to update it for 2016 and add in a few new plugins I’ve been toying around with.

      Glad you found it useful. Cheers and happy new year from Thailand!

  10. Hii Derek,

    I am working on WordPress and I want to use plugins but I don’t know how. It is a quite informative post. This post is a huge help for me. Thank you for sharing with us!

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