Your Ultimate Guide to Your Best Travel Journal
Your travels are special. Your travel journal should be too. It will hold the physical trinkets of your travels — and the photos on your camera cannot compare to the note your host family gave you or the small painting you bought on the streets of the oldest market in the city. Give some thought to making your best travel journal and create a space to document the adventures you have – weather in your city or in the most remote place you’ve ever been. I’m here to help you along the way with your inspiration.
Here are a couple of my previous travel journal posts if you want to catch up, or begin with this ultimate travel journaling guide.
1. What is the best travel journal to buy?
There are two questions you should consider when purchasing your journal:
1) What are the physical attributes of a notebook (that would make travel journaling easier)?
Here are some things to consider:
- Does is lay flat? – This is the number one quality I look for in a journal. If there is a journal that does not open well or all the way, it is ruled out in my book. There are a lot of quality notebooks that are inexpensive and lay flat. This quality also makes adding photos, tickets or extra items to your travel journal that much easier.
- Spiral or bounded? – I have used both spiral notebooks/sketchbooks and bounded notebooks for my travel journal. This is up to preference; I usually prefer bounded journals to use on the go, and I’ve used spiral notebooks to put together travel experiences after they occur in a scrapbook format.
- Lined, ruled or dotted, or a combination of all? – I go back in forth between lined and blank pages. If you wish to had drawings, stickers, etc. in your journal, starting with a blank canvas may be easier and make your page layouts cleaner.
- Size of the journal? – Do you need it to fit in a small purse? Or would you like a larger journal to put more items you collect inside? Will it be easy to carry on the go? Is it a heavy journal? These are all good to consider during the purchasing process.
- What is the format? Do you like having boxes on top for the date or location? Do you like having blank pages intermixed with lined pages?
- What is the durability? Also, make sure to look into the durability and material of the journal. Is it comfortable to hold? Is it waterproof; is that important to you?
2) Does the journal inspire you?
What are the quirks of notebooks that get us excited to write? Simple, black notebooks have been my preference, so I can create them how I like. Sometimes, I like journals with bold colors or themes inside. Make sure you are inspired by the notebook you will use during your travels.
Where should I buy my journal?
There are many options! I recommend seeing the journal in person, but there are some good online options too.
Target – They have a wide collection of notebooks, from Moleskine® to other quality journals that do lay flat and have good durability. I’ve found many notebooks at Target and if you buy the right one, they don’t disappoint.
Etsy – If you are looking for a unique journal, peruse Etsy for handmade options. There are some sellers that provide personalized journals for a special touch.
Baron Fig – The Baron Fig shop has a variety of well-designed notebooks you can customize. Its Confidant notebook is its classic notebook and it can be a good starting place. Baron Fig also plants a tree for every Confidant notebook sold.
Hallmark – I have found some quality lay-flat notebooks at Hallmark many times. It’s worth popping in if you want to see more choices.
Michaels and other craft stores – I bought my first travel journal at Michaels. I used a sketchbook, which had high-quality paper and allowed for drawing the sights I saw. It holds up very well and I’ve had it for years. The Recollections® brand has many travel notebooks to consider.
Moleskine® – Always a favorite, Moleskine has a website full of notebooks; you can most likely find what you’re looking for on their site as well.
Rite in the Rain Journals – This company sells a variety of notebooks and pens that are waterproof and great for on the go. If you will be outdoors for an extended period of time on your trip, this could be a good option for you.
Rifle Paper Co. – Rifle Paper Co. is also a brand providing pretty notebooks good to use as a travel journal. Their Bon Voyage journal can be a nice, inspiring notebook to use, too
My Travel Journals
Here are the best travel journals I’ve used in the past and currently use now:
- Extra large black Moleskine, blank, softcover
- Large hardcover Moleskine, lined (similar)
- THRICH Handmade Travelers Journal Notebook with Elastic Band, Leather, Refillable, Navy Blue
- Creativity Is Where Dreaming Turns to Doing is a simulated leather journal with 160 blank pages, from Hallmark.
2. How do I structure my travel journal?
At first, I used my notebook as only a way to write about my trips. But then I saw some people structure their journals in different ways. They used them as an organization tool to make sure they document all the small details of their trip. There are various ways to keep your travel journal organized, whether you are traveling for a week or several years. Or you may choose to journal spontaneously as well.
Here are some organization tips to make your journaling easier:
First, determine the amount of time you’re going to cover in your journal. Is your journal for a particular trip or a season of your life? This gives you a theme for your journal.
You can also give your journal a title, perhaps based on the country you’re visiting or your mindset for your travels. This can be similar to a travel blog name. I used “Snapshots in Sevilla,” as a name to document my travels in Sevilla, Spain. The title can also be words you want to describe the upcoming season of your life or incorporate some of your goals into your vision for your journal. I used the title “Strength & Serenity” for my last journal. Some other examples are:
- Wild & Free
- Abroad Awaits
- Snapshots in Spain
- The Great Road Trip
- Coast to Coast
Another way to organize your journal is to determine your categories or bullet lists. Will you have a running list of places you visit? Will you have a section on food? A spot for new words you learn in a foreign language? You can also consider some of these categories:
- Organizing by city or country
- Itineraries / weekly logs
- Historical sites / facts you’ve learned
- People you meet
- Ticket stubs
- Packing checklists
- Inspiring quotes
- Places on your Bucket List
The most popular sections I’ve seen are ticket stub sections and itineraries or monthly logs. Also, it’s very easy to organize by city too.
3. How do I collect items for my travel journal?
This is the exciting part — collecting unique items will make your travel experiences come alive in your notebook. There are many ways to make your journal beautiful with photos, diary entries, drawings and so much more. We have to be on the lookout and conscious about finding interesting pieces to include in our journals.
Here are some ways I found items for my travel journal:
- I went to a flee market in Spain, known for merchants selling a lot of junk, to put it plainly. There, I found cheap stamped envelopes that would be interesting visuals for my journal.
- I designed stickers for my Spanish design class and added them as well.
- When I ordered a cocktail at the beach, I removed the “parrot” cardboard cutout that was used as a decoration for the drink.
- I collected stickers at a film festival event.
- At major landmarks and historical sites, I bought postcards that would fit with my journal theme.
- When my friends sent me letters, I glued them into my notebook to remember their kind words.
- Along those same lines, I kept some post-it notes my friends passed to me.
More ideas for travel journal items:
- Food or product labels
- Business cards
- Magazine cutouts
- Scrapbook paper
- Ticket stubs
- Boarding passes
- Polaroid pictures
- Washi tape
- Stickers to decorate
4. What should I write in my travel journal? [Your Best Travel Journal Prompts!]
For a new country/city you visit:
- What is similar and what is different about this country and mine?
- What are the most beautiful places in the city?
- Who did you talk to in the city?
- What was a memorable conversation you had here?
- What do you like about the culture? Why?
- Would you be able to live here?
- What are some of the best foods you ate while visiting? Which restaurants would you recommend?
- Did you meet any new people here?
- What sites, art pieces, landmarks or cultural experiences spoke to you?
- Did anything go wrong on the trip? How was it handled?
While on the go:
- What is your travel playlist?
- Where are you visiting next? Why are you looking forward to it?
- What are the people like in the airport/train station/bus, etc.?
- Who would be your best travel partner?
- What are your travel must-haves?
For travel reflection:
- What is the one place I would go back to?
- What has traveling taught me?
- Why am I grateful for this trip?
- Where do I want to go next?
- How will these travels influence my next steps in life?
- What are your best tips for traveling?
- What would you tell a friend who is interested in traveling?
Ready to document your next trip? I hope you’ve found some ideas and are ready for your next creative project! Be sure to share how you make your travel journal with me on Instagram!