Keeping a journal became an essential part of traveling to me. It is a beautiful way to document your adventures in order to remember them years later. Even more than that, a travel journal is super useful to plan and prepare your travels in advance. While there is not just one way to journaling, there are some tips and tricks to keep the creative process simple and fun. Here’s my guide on how to easily keep a travel journal. If you’re looking for a few creative ideas to get you started on your own travel journal, just keep on reading.
I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.
– Joan Didion
What You Need
Basically, to keep a travel journal you won’t need much more than just a pen and some paper or a notebook (more on choosing the perfect notebook later). If you care about design and are just a tiny bit creative, there are a few things that will definitely up your journaling game though. After all, journaling is supposed to be fun, right? While I’m rather a minimalist even when it comes to journaling, I can still spend hours outlining, sketching and lettering single pages.
So aside from the obvious equipment that is a pen and a notebook, here are a few more things I like to use for creating my travel journals:
- Brush pens or marker
- Stencils (letters, numbers, symbols, geometric shapes etc.)
- Stamps & ink pads in different colors
- Ruler or square
- Glue stick or permanent tape
- Washi tape, stickers and more decorative accessoires
- Dymo or any other labeling tool
- Postcards, tickets, polaroid pictures, maps and other souvenirs you’ll collect on your journey
This list could go on and on, just let your creativity run wild. I usually collect all kinds of things while traveling. From plane or entry tickets, maps, pretty business cards to rather boring receipts, I keep them until I’m back home. In the end not all of that stuff will be part of the travel journal, but it’s nice to have a variety of souvenirs to choose from. That way I can decide what fits in my journal and what simply ends up in the trash.
Choose the Perfect Notebook
When I started my first travel journal, I didn’t pay much attention to the layout of the pages inside, all I really cared about was the outward appearance of the book. While it is totally fine to pick a notebook in a pretty design you love, journaling will be so much easier if you take into account the layout of the pages. And it definitely doesn’t have to be one thing or the other. There are many beautiful notebooks, designed in a way that’s perfect for keeping a travel journal (I’ll show you examples below).
Deciding between blank, lined or squared pages can either be not important to you at all or it might even be a difficult choice. I created my first travel journal in a super pretty notebook with lined pages. If you only want to write down activities, thoughts and experiences like in a regular diary, this layout will work perfectly for you (same goes for squared pages obviously). If you want to draw and sketch a lot without writing much, go for blank pages. For me, the lined pages definitely weren’t ideal.
Like I mentioned earlier, I’m all into minimal, clear designs and geometrical shapes with a few sketches here and there. Also I really love to write down travel adventures and thoughts. Doing a little research I found notebooks that instead of lines or check patterns, are equipped with a dot grid layout. This page design turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. The dots offer orientation but aren’t too noticable, that way they’re equally suitable for writing as well as sketching.
To make your journaling life way easier and keep your pages pretty you should also pay attention to the quality of the paper. In case you’re using markers or fineliner pens, whatever you’re writing or sketching probably won’t be visible on just one page. If you go for thicker premium paper (e.g. 120grams) though your art won’t shine through the pages (or at least not significantly). Another nice feature to look out for is a lay-flat binding. Working on and flipping through the pages will be easier and the appearance of the entire journal is definitely high-quality.
In terms of design and quality my go-to brands are nuuna, a small label specialized in producing notebooks using sustainable premium materials, as well as dutch label monk & anna, selling clothes and stationery in beautiful soft and earthy tones. You can see a variety of my notebooks on the picture below.
Plan the Content of Your Travel Journal
A travel journal is not only a wonderful way to document your travels and keep those memories alive long after you returned back home. Anticipation is a great part of traveling and journaling can easily support the planning part of your trip. Starting my first travel journal I was a little overwhelmed by what to actually write into it. To help you getting started with filling those empty pages, I wrote down some content ideas that hoepfully spark your creativity. And don’t forget, number one priority of journaling – it’s supposed to be fun!
After finishing my cover page, I always start by adding the basic details of my trip. You could write down flight details, important addresses, contacts, hotel and other accommodation details etc. This is a great start for your journal as it gives you a detailed overview, plus, you have all the important facts collected in one place. Especially if you’re going on a road trip or you planning to stay in more than just one place, outlining a simple itinerary is a great addition. When are you staying where, what’s your next destination and are there any pre-booked activities? You’re itinerary will have all the answers. In order to stay organized before the trip, I sometimes like to include a packing checklist, or to-do lists with errands I have to run before leaving.
Once you’re done with this basic overview you can lay out a more detailed look at your trip. I like to create a seperate section for each individual destination of my road trips. I sketch a title page and fill the following pages with information about accommodations, things I want to explore, restaurants I want to try or shops I want to visit. You could also include review sections of all the places you visited for example.
In addition to these pages dedicated to certain cities or destinations there’s lots of space left in the notebook for your diary and more themed pages you can fill out while traveling or even once you’re back home. To give you some inspiration, I usually put down a list of songs I heard and discovered while being on the road. You could write down quotes or parts of conversations you had. Fill a page with some basic facts about your roadtrip and document how many miles and hours you drove, what you spent on gas, what type of car you had etc. Sketch the route of your road trip or mark it on a map that you stick into your journal. The possibilities are endless just let your creativity run wild.
The way you design your travel journal is obviously completely up to you. Wether you document your adventures by sketching them, by writing daily diary entries or if you’re simply collecting tickets, maps, booklets and other souvenirs that you stick into the notebook, journaling shouldn’t be a chore. Do what you enjoy and if you don’t find the time to journal while traveling, just stop. You can either finish your journal at home or just leave it the way it is.
I always try to develop a routine by spending 15-30 minutes at the end of each day, writing down memorable stuff. But there are always days where it just doesn’t fit in, or I am too tired or lazy and that’s fine. I either include the memories I want to keep in my journal later or I just leave a few blank spaces. It’s completely fine either way. Don’t stress yourself and simply enjoy your travels. You will find out what works best for you.
I hope you found some useful inspirations in this guide. Are you keeping travel journals on your trips? Maybe you have some more creative ideas for travel journaling. Please let me know in the comments.