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.
The routine of travel journaling helps me to slow down, stay in the moment and reflect on what I see and experience on the road. If you’re looking for a few creative ideas to get you started on your own travel journal, just keep on reading.
1. What you need for keeping your travel journal
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 accessories
- A Dymo or any other labeling tool
- Postcards, tickets, polaroid pictures, maps and other souvenirs you’ll collect on your journey
This list can go on and on, just use what you have already around or pick up while traveling. I honestly collect all kinds of things while traveling. From plane or admission tickets, maps, pretty business cards to rather boring receipts. I usually 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 into my journal and what simply ends up in the trash.
2. 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 did was judge the book by its cover. 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. See some examples below.
Pay attention to the layout
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 visible or even distracting. Thus they’re equally suitable for writing as well as sketching.
Go for high quality paper
To make your journaling life way easier and keep your pages pretty, pay attention to the quality of the paper. In case you’re using markers or ink, whatever you’re writing or sketching probably won’t be visible on just one page.
Your art won’t shine through the pages (or at least not significantly) if you go for thicker premium paper (e.g. 120grams). 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 will definitely be more high-quality.
Where to find beautiful notebooks?
In terms of design and quality my go-to brands are nuuna and monk & anna. Nuuna is a small label specialized in producing notebooks using sustainable premium materials. Monk & Anna is selling clothes and stationery in beautiful soft and earthy tones. You can see a variety of my notebooks in the picture below:
3. Decide what and when to write into your travel diary
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.
That’s why my travel journals usually satisfy three needs: The planning of my trips, the diary a.k.a. my experiences, thoughts and feelings as well as my reflections and special memories. But more on that later.
In terms of finding the right time to journal and maybe even developing some sort of routine, I advise you to just try out what feels best. After all keeping a travel journal is not only supposed to document your trip and all these special memories. It’s also a great technique to slow down and reflect.
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 as well. I either include the memories I want to keep in my journal later or I just leave a few blank spaces. Don’t stress yourself and simply enjoy your travels. You will find out what works best for you.
4. Plan the Content of Your Travel Journal
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 hopefully spark your creativity. And don’t forget: Priority #1 of journaling – it’s supposed to be fun!
Design a cover page
First things first. I always start my travel journals by designing a title page. This can be just a headline or you can add the dates and destinations of your journey or you actually draw or sketch something. I usually like a combination of it all.
write down the basic details + an OVERVIEW of your trip
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 plan 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? Your 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.
Get down into the nitty-gritty
Once you’re done with this basic overview you can lay out a more detailed look at your trip. Try to break down your trip into different sections. For example: I like to create a separate 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’re visiting and rate them once you’ve been there.
Now it’s time to leave and prepare enough space for your thoughts, experiences and reflections while you’re literally on your trip. Like in an actual diary I create a template for every single day of my journey.
There definitely are many ways to design these templates. To me the absolute essentials are the day and the date. But, depending on the type of your trip, you could also add place holders for the location, the weather your overall mood etc. Let your creativity run wild here.
I usually leave two to four pages for each day. This leaves me enough room to write down all my thoughts, feelings and all the details I want to keep in my travel journal. Even though I call this part of my journal diary it is way more than that. You really don’t have to write down a simple recap of your day.
Instead of just listing the stuff you did, you could simply describe where you are and how you’re feeling right in that moment. What do you see, hear or smell? Are there people around you (describe them) or are you all by yourself? You probably won’t forget what you did on your trip anyways . These details though are what’s worth keeping in order to still remember them years later.
More Themed pages
In addition to the pages dedicated to the planning of your trip and the diary, there’s lots of space left in the notebook for more themed pages. You can fill these out while traveling or even once you’re back home.
To give you some inspiration:
- A list of songs you heard and discovered while being on the road
- Quotes or parts of conversations you had or overheard
- Fill a page with some basic facts about your road trip 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
Maybe you’ve got even more creative ideas how to fill the pages of your travel journal. Let me know in the comments down below.
5. The possibilities are endless
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, how you keep your travel journal is totally up to you.
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. Journaling shouldn’t be a chore on your daily to do list. It is supposed to ground you, slow down your day and help you collect and reflect your thoughts and experiences while traveling.
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. If you want to learn more about journaling and why and how to use different techniques check out this blog post.