Annabel Kirk is the owner of Smudged Postcard, a family travel blog which focuses on cultural and adventure holidays with kids. Smudged Postcard includes road trip ideas, city breaks and beach holidays, all with a family-friendly angle. There’s also a focus on affordable, sustainable accommodation ideas. Follow Annabel on social media – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter.
What inspired you to start blogging?
After spending over 10 years working in the travel industry, along with countless travel experiences of my own, I felt I had a lot to share so I started my blog Smudged Postcard. I’m lefthanded and always smudge my writing hence the blog name.
I’ve spent many years visiting tourist destinations across the world for work. It’s always been a tough industry with tiny profit margins for many of the property owners so I wanted to shine a light on some of the smaller players in the industry. I love writing about off the beaten track destinations and independent places to stay (even if that’s not always great for page view stats!)
What are your blogging and travel plans for the next 12 months?
Like lots of other people, we had some exciting travel plans for 2020 until COVID-19 appeared. Fortunately, we did a big European road trip last year so we had always planned to stay closer to home this year. Fingers crossed we’ll still manage our summer holiday in August: exploring Northern Ireland. We enjoy being outdoors so provided we have wet suits and waterproofs and there’s no COVID spike, we’ll be surfing, climbing mountains and hopefully visiting some of the country’s brilliant museums.
I usually have lots of travel plans in the pipeline but with these uncertain times, it’s difficult to plan past next week. We had booked a trip to Cyprus for Easter 2020 so I’m hoping we can do that in 2021. After a brilliant trip to Denmark last year, I’m keen to explore more of Scandinavia so I think Sweden may be on the cards for next summer.
My blog has taken a bit of a backseat these last few months, I’ve found homeschooling takes up quite a bit of my time! But I hope I’ll manage to focus on the blog a bit more by the end of the year. There are lots of SEO changes which I need to make to the site as well as plenty of blog posts I’d like to publish.
Where is your happy place? Your favourite destination in the world?
I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but my favourite place to visit is Italy. I lived in Italy for a year when I was a student and I’ve returned for work and holidays many times over the years. Sicily has really captured my heart. There’s so much history to get to grips with as well as incredible food, wine and hospitality.
I really love a big road trip so my other happy place is being on the road. We did a big trip across Chile and Argentina pre-kids and I’d love to return and explore these destinations as a family. We’ve managed to instil a sense of adventure in our children: they relish a road trip adventure (I just hope that doesn’t change…)
Which blogs do you love to read for inspiration?
Reading other people’s blogs is a great source of inspiration for both my blog and my travels. I’ve found Every Treasure really useful for researching hiking ideas in Northern Ireland while Clare at Suitcase and Sandcastles and Nell at the Pigeon Pair and Me both have some great family travel ideas.
Can you share the three most popular posts on your blog?
Lockdown and COVID-19 have had some interesting effects on my blog. Obviously, my page views about holidays plummeted initially but I did see an increase in views to my pages about walking with kids in Hertfordshire where we’re based. I only wish I’d written more posts like that now!
As the lockdown has relaxed, my blog post about where to stop just off the motorway has become popular once again, it features family-friendly service station alternatives, lots of people are trying to find quieter places to stretch their legs. My guide to the best beaches in Sicily was one of my top posts pre-lockdown but UK visitors to my site are now looking closer to home for holiday ideas. My post about the Isles of Scilly is now more in favour, reflecting a preference for off the beaten track holidays, for now at least.
Can you share any tips for newer bloggers who would love to set up a travel blog?
No doubt I’m not alone in saying SEO is a vital key to success in blogging. However, I think it’s also important to write authentically. Travel blogging is a crowded place but there’s always room for a fresh voice.
If you could go back in time to when you first set up your blog would you do anything differently?
I love some of my early blog posts. But like many new bloggers, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I’m now going through all of my old posts to make them more SEO-friendly.