15 Ridiculously Useful WordPress Plugins for Travel Bloggers

Let’s face it… WordPress solves a lot of problems for travel bloggers.

But sometimes the sheer volume of plugins – almost 20,000 at time of writing – creates more hassle than it saves.

You should also be aware that adding lots of plugins can ultimately slow down your site’s load time.

Bummer.

So it pays to choose wisely.

Therefore, here are 15 WordPress plugins to (almost) instantly improve your travel blog:

#1. After the Deadline

Need another set of eyes before you hit “Publish”? Look no further than After the Deadline, a highly intelligent editor which automatically checks style, grammar and spelling.

But how intelligent is it? Very.

For example, most spell checkers (including Word) fail to consider context. So “I pass the butter too you” appears correct to them… even though a third grader could see it should be “I pass the butter to you.” After the Deadline picks this up.

It also checks for passive voice, a vile form of writing. For example:

  • Passive voice: “The ball was thrown by me.”
  • Active voice: “I threw the ball.”

Active sounds better, right? It says the same thing in less words. That’s good.

Here’s what After the Deadline looks like:

#2. Photo Dropper

There are tons of high quality Flickr plugins available, but Photo Dropper wins for its ease of use. It automatically searches Flickr’s Creative Commons photos and lets you insert the image – along with accreditation - with a click of a button. Words cannot describe how much this saves.

You can search for Flickr images directly from WordPress:

Then select what size you want. You can see under each image there are three sizes (Small, Medium, Large).

Here’s what the image looks like:

You can see accreditation under the photo.

(NOTE: If you run a commercial blog, be sure to check “Show only photos that can be used commercially” in the Photo Dropper options.)

One caveat to consider is that Photo Dropper will load the image from Flickr… which puts you at the mercy of their servers. In other words, if Flickr has a slow day, you have a slow day.

The next plugin can help.

#3. Grab and Save

Adding images to WordPress is a pain. You’ve got to download an image, then upload it to your Media Library and then insert it into your post.

Fortunately, Grab and Save eliminates the first two steps. You simply enter the URL of the image (e.g. www.anothercooltravelsite.com/penguins.jpg) and Grab and Save automatically saves it to your Media Gallery. This is a HUGE timesaver for locally hosted images.

Simple interface. Saves time.

When you use the image, link to the original website in the “Link URL” field.

 

This way they get credit for the image!

 #4. Smush.it

Locally hosted images are usually big files. Really big. Bigger than they should be.

Therefore, to speed up load time you need to…

  • strip meta data from JPEGs
  • optimize JPEG compression
  • convert certain GIFs to indexed PNGs
  • strip the un-used colours from indexed images

Do you have any idea how to do this? Me neither.

Fortunately, the WP Smush.it plugin does this for you automatically. Seriously. Every picture is automatically optimized or- if you want to optimize existing images – you can click the “Smush.it now!” link in your Media Library.

(NOTE: Smush.It is currently out of date. Hopefully they’ll update shortly. Cheers to Alexandra for pointing this out).

#5. Geo Mashup

Dude, you run a travel site, right? Why not put customized maps on each page?

With Geo Mashup, you can easily put customized maps (using Google Maps) into each post. You don’t even need the address: just type in the name of a city (or state, region, etc.) and it pins the location on a Google map.

Here’s a modified version of Geo Mashup:

Users can click and drag the map to further explore the region.

#6. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP)

YARPP automatically serves up links to related posts. It’s surprisingly accurate – you can adjust it to show posts by title, body text, tags, categories and much, much more.

And with testimonials from both Matt Cutts (head of Webspam, Google) and Matt Mullenweg (co-founder of WordPress) you know it’s good.

#7. W3 Total Cache

WordPress is notoriously slow out of the box. W3 Total Cache promises 10x improvement in your site’s performance when W3 is fully installed. It’s a bit heavy for first-time users (read this W3 tutorial from wpbeginner… it helps a lot) but certainly worth the effort.

This plugin was developed by Frederick Townes, CTO of Mashable. It’s also used by Smashing Magazine and Mashable. You should use it too.

#8. WordPress SEO by Joost de Valk

If you know next-to-nothing about SEO, Yoast’s Wordress SEO Plugin will do wonders for your site. And if you know quite a bit, it’s even more valuable. You can create breadcrumbs, create and submit XML sitemaps and resolve canonical issues with the click of a button (if you don’t know what these mean, don’t worry… just follow the plugin’s advice and you’ll be fine).

It also analyzes your on-page SEO. For example, if you’re writing a post about what to do in Medellin, Colombia, the plugin scans your content and makes suggestions for SEO (e.g. add the phrase “Medellin, Colombia in the title, meta description and header tags).

It even previews how your post will appear in Google’s search results

#9. Fast Secure Contact Form

The name says it all. Fast Secure Contact Form lets you set up contact forms to prevent spam and receive comments via email.

You can customize the forms and connect them to autoresponders like Aweber.

Here’s what it looks like:

I’m not really a fan of CAPTCHA (it hurts usability IMO), but it does block spammers.

#10. WP Touch

A recent Google study on the travel industry revealed more and more travelers are searching sites from their mobile phones. WP Touch helps you create a mobile friendly site in seconds.

Here’s a screenshot:

This is what your homepage would look like on a mobile phone. Go here to see a full listing of screenshots, including individual pages, comments and log in pages.

 #11. Sociable

Sociable makes it easy to add social media icons to your site in whatever order you wish. It covers all major social icons (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.) and its simple drag and drop interface gets you up and running in minutes.

Here’s what the interface looks like:

The Sociable interface.

And here’s how it looks on your site:

You can also see a working example at the bottom of this page. Don’t forget to share ;)

#12. CommentLuv

It’s a brutal fact: most readers don’t leave comments. But with CommentLuv you provide an excellent incentive: it automagically adds a link to your commenter’s most recent post.

For example:

How’s that for an incentive?

#13. WP-DBManager

An admittedly unsexy plugin, WP-DBManager is like the employee who comes in every day to do the dirty work. It automatically backs up your database at predetermined intervals (e.g. once a day) which – when something invariably goes wrong – can really save your ass.

#14. Akismet

It’s the most popular WordPress plugin for a reason: it works. Akismet blocks spam comments on your blog and makes life easier for everyone. There’s really no reason not to use this one.

#15. Use Google Libraries

I paid $700 for this advice, so listen up.

Every WordPress blog has javascript files. These files are usually on your server, which takes up space. Use Google Libraries lets you store all your Javascript files on Google’s servers, which speeds up your site.

But that’s not all.

Since Google has lots of servers around the world, those servers are probably closer to your user than your server. Which makes your site faster for them.

Plus, if your reader has recently visited another site using Google’s libraries, they already have “cached” versions of your files. In English, this means they don’t have to load those files again, thereby making your site even faster.

In Conclusion

These 15 plugins will save you time, increase usability and ultimately generate more traffic, comments and links.

So if you’ve enjoyed this post, don’t forget to share it by clicking the buttons below.

Also, which plugins do you use, and why? Leave a detailed comment below!

 

About adamcosta

Adam Costa is co-founder and Editor in Chief of both Trekity.com and TravelBloggerAcademy. He currently lives... um... somewhere.

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Comments

  1. Good stuff! I use most of these plugins. I would definitely recommend nRelate instead of YARPP. Not really a fan of Sociable though. Not sure if they’ve updated but at the time you couldn’t edit the tweet button to include your own Twitter handle to RT. Now using Digg Digg and the customization on there is pretty nice. Rather use the default tweet, like’s, and +1′s since everyone is familiar with them and they run quite fast.

    Just discovered your site too. Definitely going to follow along. Keep it up!

  2. What light of day isn’t today?

  3. Awesome advice, Adam! Neither Mary or I are super tech-savvy, so we’re always curious about which plug-ins are most worth our time/energy. We STILL can’t fix the latest one we added, Comment Reply Notification… So clueless.

  4. FYI: Seems like Smush.It isn’t compatible with the latest WordPress

    • Heartbreak! You’re absolutely right.

      I’ll edit the post and (hopefully) they’ll have this updated soon.

      Thanks for the heads up Alexandra.

  5. Excellent post – re-posted on Facebook Global Travel Bloggers group. Quick note about WP Touch – many WordPress users do not need the plug-in to have their site format beautifully on an iPhone or iPad, etc. because many of the WP templates already code the pages to automatically reformat. To see if your site is already device-friendly simply do a search for an iPhone simulator (there are a few online) and enter in your website URL to view. The plug-in does have a pro version etc. where you can change colors, etc. but for most folks just having the website reader accessible is all they need.

    • Molly,

      You’re my hero ;) My wife Darcie and I caught a lot of flak earlier today for posting a link to this site; can’t wait to see what our “littlest fans” have to say about you reposting the content!

      Seriously, thank you ;)

      And thanks for mentioning the optional need for WP Touch. For anyone interested, you can test your site here:

      http://www.testiphone.com/

      Cheers,

      Adam

  6. These are soooo great! Thanks for sharing!

    Mike
    1000 Fights

  7. AWESOME! I’ve heard about after the deadline plug in before but thought I wouldn’t need it as I usually run a spell check on word and then on wp. You have clearly shown me why I need it. I really need help to move from passive to active and this will help. YAY! Already installed.
    Question? The grab and save could get me equally excited here. When you grab and save a URL can you select the use as featured image link and wp will feature it. This is the thing that bugs me most about WP, you have to upload an image in order to have it featured

    • Hi Caz,

      Good to see you here ;)

      Yes, Grab & Save lets you set the image as featured. It’s a huge timesaver, especially with your own images that you upload to Flickr.

  8. I’m definitely going to check some of these out! Thanks!!!

  9. Jumping over from Global Travel Bloggers group on Facebook. Excellent post! I’m constantly searching for bloggers’ recommendations for good plugins to have. I was glad to see I use 5 of the ones you recommend: W3C Total Cache, CommentLuv, Akismet, WP-DB and SEO. I’m definitely going to install After the Deadline, Photo Dropper, and a few more. Great post, Adam!

    • Glad to see you here again, Marcia. What type of content would you like to see more of here?

      • I love what I’ve been getting so far, Adam, and learning quite a bit — have bookmarked several posts. Will let you know if I think of anything I’d like to see more of. Thanks for asking!

    • As a heads up, After the Deadline is causing problems to some people scheduling their posts (though it’s working fine for me). So if you have problems, that may be the culprit.

  10. Jeez! I’ve been reading some of your great content, but when I got to this article… you actually gave me chills..! Why? There’s some great time saving tips here – the image management ones are a godsend! Thanks for this, you’ve got me hooked now :)

  11. You don’t happen to know similar plug ins for people who use blogger? I know – shame on me. Everybody seems to be using wordpress these days and I am considering migrating actually, but I am scared. :-)

  12. Some great tips in here. Thanks! One question, have you heard of anyone having issues with the W3 cache plugin? When I had it installed, it interfered with my scheduled posts actually publishing. I had to go in and manually do it each time.

    • Hi Talon,

      Someone mentioned that in a Facebook forum (was it you?). I usually publish posts by hand, so haven’t tested this against the scheduling issue. Hope it works out for you!

  13. I think it’s worth mentioning here that Smush.it definitely messed with a some of my settings. Looks like others have noted that it’s not compatible. I couldn’t upload any photos for the two days I had it installed. Took me awhile to figure out that the plugin was causing the headache.

  14. Hey Adam,
    Got an note that After the Deadline will now be updated with Jetpack. Do you know of any known issues with Jetpack and W3 Total Cache?

  15. Thanks , I just installed W3-cache and it really help.

  16. My brother recommended I might like this web site. He was totally right. This post truly made my day. You cann’t imagine just how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

  17. Thanks for the great advice!

  18. Another great plug in I found is the Ezine Articles plugin. after you set up your account, you just submit it from your site and it’s really easy. I found it was just another helpful way for me to get my articles out on the web.

  19. What I love about your site and this post in particular, is that although it is aimed at travel bloggers, your tips and advice is extremely useful and transferable for all types of bloggers including ME! Thank you!

  20. There are hundreds and hundreds of article online with tons of advice about wordpress and plugins but this has to be one of the most useful I have stumbled across yet, absolute gem thanks so much. Particularly like the WP Touch and after the deadline!

  21. Thanks for highlighting the little gem at number 3 – #3. Grab and Save – this is potentially a HUGE time-saver.

  22. Thank you very much for this. I am now using a couple of these ready for my trip to china.

  23. WOW! Thank you soo much for this list. I just started my blog and I’m excited I came across your site. Thank you for contributing to the Travel Blog World! Much Love!

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