Travel tips: How to keep an easy (and fun) travel journal | Girl with a saddle bag travel blog

Travel tips: An easy (and fun!) guide to keeping a travel journal

Keeping a travel journal is an easy, fun and enjoyably rewarding way to record your adventures at home and abroad. In this post I’ll share my tips and ideas for how to journal, as well as my favourite souvenirs and moments to capture on it’s pages.

I’ve kept a journal on and off since I first started travelling as an adult.

I’m not really sure what prompted me to start. A practical need (back in the pre-smartphone days of a decade or so ago) to jot things down before I left might have been what got me going. And somewhere along the way, it evolved into something I started to make time for and enjoy as part of the experience of being away*.

I realised that I loved having something to look back at, to remind me of my adventures and crucially the details that get lost in the gaps between photos. The stack on my bookcase has grown over the years, and still makes me laugh and smile in equal measure as I flick through the dog-eared pages.

Keeping a travel journal that you’ll fall in love with is actually surprisingly easy. You don’t need to lug half a suitcase of stationery round the world with you, nor prepare to write War and Peace. All you need is a little time and enthusiasm to create something special.

So today I’m sharing my tips for making travel journalling quick, fun and memorable. Who’s ready to get started?

*Of course, you might be thinking “and somewhere down the line, it all got a little out of hand and turned into a blog”. And you’re right, but it’s a story for another day. I still keep a journal just for me, just for fun.

Why should I keep a travel journal?

It’s unique.  A travel journal tells your story of where you’ve been and what you’ve done. But it’s also a way to record how you felt – what made you laugh, what excited you, what scared you and what you thought was beautiful. It’s personal in a way that even photos can’t be.

It’s useful.  It’s where I record the details that’ll help me when I’m away, and if I return. I jot down flight numbers, the street address of my accommodation (just in case) and keep notes of things I’d like to see and do. I’ll often leave myself reminders for future similar trips – from what to pack to what things cost.

It’s enjoyable.  I love finding a few moments to sum up what I’ve loved about my day away, and to reflect on what I’ve enjoyed most. It creates a fantastic record that you can enjoy looking back at.

What do I need to keep a travel journal?

Thankfully, not much!  I’m not one for carting lots of extra stuff with me.

My essentials are;

  • A small notebook. I prefer A5 size with a soft cover as it’s light and easy to pack. As I tend to get through them pretty quick, I don’t invest in anything special, but you might want to.
  • 2 pens. At least. Because you can guarantee one will break and another will get lost.
  • Small roll of sticky tape/washi paper tape. To stick in tickets and other items.

And if you’ve got a creative streak, consider adding coloured pens, stickers or even art materials to bring your journal to life.

My tips for keeping a travel journal

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to journalling.

But it can seem a bit daunting for the first time, especially if you’re not sure what to write about.

So I suggest a layering approach. Start by adding in the basic details for your trip, and maybe of your day, and layer in extra detail as you feel like it or when you have time.  It helps to stop you feeling overwhelmed by your journal, and makes it easy to squeeze in time for it.

Here are my suggestions;

1. Start with the key details

Before I depart, I note down key details for the trip – flight numbers and times, accommodation names and addresses, any must see or must do activities or places to visit. These details are a great starting point for recording your travels – they outline what you’re planning to get up to. (Also, super helpful if your phone battery ever dies).

2. Add a simple itinerary

If you’re planning to stay in or visit multiple locations during your trip, a simple itinerary or timeline can be a nice addition. You can add the details of what you get up to in each location later on.

3. Layer in things you collect on your travels

This is one of my favourite things to do with my journal. It’s a quick, easy and fun way to bring your journal to life.

I keep hold of tickets and boarding passes and stick these in throughout the trip (usually with a few notes of what I got up to or what we did). But keep your eyes peeled! There are plenty more great things you can pick up to add colour and a reminder of what you got up to (without having to write an essay). Business cards for hotels, restaurants and cafes are my favourites (and sometimes really pretty). I’ve also stumbled across interesting stickers and local produce labels, and even wristbands that have made their way into journals.

Make it easy for yourself and pack a small roll of sticky or washi tape (colourful paper tape). Don’t wait until you’re home and you can’t remember where things came from.

4. Jot down what you got up to

This is the part where you can let your creativity run wild.

How you document your travels in words is entirely up to you. And in my experience, it’s something that evolves over time and from trip to trip. Short city break? You might not have much time for sitting down scribbling, so you might like to write a list of your favourite moments on the flight home. Longer getaway? If you’ve more time, there’s something really enjoyable about describing what you’ve seen, been up to and who you’ve met.

If you’re stuck for ideas, here’s some that might spark your imagination;

  • List the highlights from your trip – or day
  • Describe the view from your accommodation (this works better in some locations than others!)
  • Recall a funny moment from your trip or a quote of the day. Seven years later and the phrase “Have you lost your lobster?” (asked of my friend in a ski hire shop) still makes me chuckle. It’s a long story.
  • Note down the route of a hike, cycle or journey – and anything interesting you encountered
  • Review somewhere you ate, or something new you tried.  Keep a tally of new beers you’ve sampled or ice cream flavours – whatever floats your boat.

Whatever way, it needn’t be an essay.  And remember you’re writing for yourself, so there’s no need to impress anyone. Keep it simple, keep it sweet.

5. Add finishing flourishes when you’re home

I’m not one for adding to my journal once I’m back, but I’m really taken with the idea of including photographs and thoughts once you’ve returned. It’s also a nice time to summarise what you thought of the trip or your destination as a whole.

6. Make notes for the future

One for the list-makers (welcome!).

I’ll often make a note of things not to forget for future trips. Sometimes it’s little things like “Must remember to validate metro tickets before boarding!!” that I think might be useful for future visits to the same destination.

Other times, it’s notes about packing. This can be really useful for active trips, such as skiing or hiking holidays, when I need to remember that at packed too few/too many socks/toilet rolls/snacks.

How do I find time for a travel journal?

Writing a travel journal can sound a bit of a labour of love. But I promise that creating something to remind you of your travels needn’t take much time at all.

If you’d rather be doing things than writing about doing things, stick to jotting down an itinerary and adding tickets and souvenirs.

Or make use of time when you’re travelling – I do much of my journalling on planes and trains, and sitting in airports.

And if it’s something that you enjoy, make it part of your routine. Spend fifteen minutes over coffee at breakfast, or before dinner.

Personally, it varies from trip to trip. I’m an early riser, so it’s something I’ll often do over cup of coffee before the day has really begun and before everyone else is awake. But whatever way, I don’t make myself stick to rules.  If I’ve got a spare ten minutes whilst someone else is in the shower, I’ll use them. And every once in a while when I’ve an hour and nothing better to do than enjoy some quiet time, you’ll find me scribbling and sticking – usually with a cold beverage at my side.

Most importantly, remember you don’t have write every day or write down everything. You don’t even have to write whilst you’re away. Work out what works best for you – and run with it!

So there you have it – a quick introduction to travel journalling.

Give it a go next time you’re away. You might just like it!

And if you’re already a journaler, what makes it special for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below or in the Facebook group. I’d love to know.

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Alice
alice@girlwithasaddlebag.com
17 Comments
  • Nicola
    Posted at 08:06h, 30 June Reply

    Your travel journals look so nice. I’ve got one too where I note my itinerary and places I want to visit. But then I don’t really use it during the trip. I really should…

    • Alice
      Posted at 14:29h, 30 June Reply

      You should give it a try Nicola 🙂 The nice thing is, you can make as simple or detailled as you like. And I find it a much easier way to organise mementos than a scrapbook.

  • Jane
    Posted at 09:02h, 30 June Reply

    Love it! I travel with my “dachshund nose book” and I use it to write down things I think about when traveling, but don’t have anyone to talk to about them. Things about the nature of life, observations of human nature, or personal realizations. The kind of things one only shares with close friends, if anyone. I love sitting on trains and writing, or late night hotel room thinking, waiting for the northern lights to come out!

    • Alice
      Posted at 14:30h, 30 June Reply

      Jane, I can completely relate to this! Sometimes I feel at my most articulate when I’m away from home. And there’s something magical about writing on train journeys. Lovely to hear that there are more journallers out there 🙂

  • Claire Coupland
    Posted at 10:50h, 30 June Reply

    Great post, I’ve never kept a travel journal but I love the idea! You make it sound so easy too.

    • Alice
      Posted at 14:32h, 30 June Reply

      Thanks Claire! I’m glad it doesn’t sound too intimidating either. It’s easy to search for travel journals on Pinterest or Instagram and be completely overwhelmed by the detail some people put into theirs. I’m happy to report that I get a lot of pleasure from something simpler, that I hope is just as authentic. Good luck if you give it a go!

  • Mayuri K
    Posted at 14:07h, 30 June Reply

    This is so cool. I do love maintaining a travel journal, but it is very plain, with lots of scribbles! This one looks great, I will put my washi Tape to good use!

    • Alice
      Posted at 14:33h, 30 June Reply

      Scribbles are great! And to be fair, I’ve shown you my neatest pages here 🙂 Definitely try washi tape – it’s such an easy way to make a journal more colourful and exciting.

  • Elisabeth
    Posted at 14:56h, 30 June Reply

    I used to write a travel journal when I studied abroad and always made plans to write again. Thanks for this inspirational boost, your tips are really useful!

    • Alice
      Posted at 08:33h, 01 July Reply

      You’re welcome Elisabeth! I find keeping it as simple and easy as possible encourages me to write more often. Best of luck if you begin journalling again 🙂

  • Christie Sultemeier
    Posted at 17:01h, 30 June Reply

    I really love this! I used to always bring one but was so bad about writing in it. I love that you collect different things from it, too. I have a few things like this from my grandpa when he was younger and love them so much – I should really do the same for my future fam!

    • Alice
      Posted at 08:35h, 01 July Reply

      Collecting things in my journal is my favourite part – and I think it’s easier than bringing items home to scrapbook or save somewhere later. I’d definitely recommend giving it a go, it’s great fun 🙂

  • Michelle
    Posted at 17:43h, 30 June Reply

    I used to keep scrapbooks but I’ve never done a travel journal before. I need to get more organized and do something like this!

    • Alice
      Posted at 08:37h, 01 July Reply

      I’d really recommend it Michelle. It’s kind of like ‘live’ scrapbooking – all my thoughts and finds as they happen. I try not to worry about making it too perfect (which goes against all my instincts!) and instead try to capture things spontaneously. Enjoy!

  • Jessixa
    Posted at 18:06h, 30 June Reply

    I got a travel journal and was so excited to use it… except I never did. I love these tips!

    • Alice
      Posted at 08:37h, 01 July Reply

      Now’s the time to dig it out Jessixa! It’s never too late to give it a go 🙂

  • Καλωσήλθατε στο Market Strom
    Posted at 19:37h, 01 July Reply

    I needed to thank you for this great read!! I absolutely enjoyed every
    little bit of it. I’ve got you book-marked to
    look at new things you post…

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