What is a Travel Journal?
What is a travel journal: Complete Guide
A travel journal is a place to plan and organize your trips, write about your experiences, and add paper mementos from the trip. Use it to write about memories large and small, who you met along the journey, and what you learned.
Also known as a vacation journal, many people think that travel journals are used just when voyaging to far away places.
However, even a day-trip just an hour from home is worth journaling about. You don’t need to be on the other side of the world to have a new and unique experience that you want to remember.
In this article, you’ll learn how to keep a travel journal, what to put in it, and where to buy the best travel journals. I’ll also show you lots of travel journal examples and ideas for inspiration.
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Why use a travel journal?
If you think of your vacation as just the one week you are away, you are missing out on a lot of fun. Think of the quote, “happiness is a journey not a destination.”
There are 5 reasons to use a travel journal: planning, anticipation, mindfulness, reflection, and memories.
Enjoy the entire process of travel which means not just being there, but also planning, anticipation, being mindful during the journey, and time to reflect when you return home.
Now, rather than a one-week trip, you get to revel in the plans and anticipation before your trip and the reflection time afterwards - that could be months of enjoyment instead of just one week.
A travel journal is a place to record all of those things.
Let’s go through each of the 5 reasons I mentioned above.
Travel journals should not be reserved just for when you are away. Use them to create a travel bucket list or wishlist of places and things you want to see.
Once you’ve chosen a destination, use your travel journal to plan your trip including where you’ll stay, how you’ll get there, the cost of the trip, what you want to see and do, a packing list, and expectations.
Many people look at planning for a trip as a stressful time. Let’s change that! Rather than rushing around at the last minute with a million things to do, use your travel planner to plan and organize your tasks so that it’s a pleasure rather than a burden.
Look at this time as part of the actual trip. The time it takes to think about, plan, make reservations, can be an enjoyable part of the process.
Here are some of the ways you can use your travel journal while planning your trip.
Bucket list - Use your travel journal to keep a list of the places you’d like to visit someday, aka a travel bucket list.
Travel research - Once you choose a place to visit, do some research about it. Log the discoveries in your travel journal. For example, you might what the area is known for, how many people visit area, what the weather is like, and what they produce that you can’t find anywhere else.
Things to see - Make a list of the things you’d like to see and do while you are on vacation. It’s also helpful to make note of the hours open, cost, and if reservations need to be made ahead of time.
Savings budget - Now that you’ve done some research, it’s time to take the next step. How much will your trip cost? Write down all the costs you can think of, for example: flights/transportation, hotel rates, meal budget, lodging for pets while away, activities, money for shopping and souvenirs, and any items you need to purchase before the trip. Total it all up and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how much money you’ll need for your trip. Set aside money in a savings account every week or pay period so that you have the money saved when its time to leave on your trip.
Travel plans and hotel reservations - Use your travel journal to keep track of all flights, car rental, hotel reservations, and any other travel plans you need to book in advance. Be sure to write down flight numbers, confirmation numbers, and addresses and contact numbers for each. If you are traveling out of the country, it’s a good idea to keep your passport number and contact info for the local embassy in your journal as well.
Travel Itinerary - Your travel journal should be the “command center” for your trip. Keep your plans for each day in your journal so that you have a plan to stick to. Doing this will allow you to fit in everything you want to accomplish on the trip without having to try to remember everything. This small task will allow you to be present during each event rather than worrying about what event is next.
Things to buy - While planning for your trip, you may realize you need to purchase a few things such as a new suitcase, cosmetic case, luggage id tag, or travel-sized lotion/shampoo containers. Keep a list of those items in your travel journal and write down additional items as you think of them.
Travel prep to do list - What needs to be cared for while you are away? Create a travel prep to do list so that you don’t forget a task. Things such as stopping the mail, a house sitter, plant care, pet care and even child care arrangements need to be made before you leave.
Packing list - Packing for a place you’ve never been can be tricky. Start by checking the weather forecast and plan your outfits accordingly. Make a list of everything you plan on taking, not just clothes. Items such as phone chargers, electric adaptors, medicine, and feminine hygiene, may be easily forgotten…so be sure to add them to the list.
What do you think it will be like there? Do you think the people and culture will be different from where you live? What do you expect to see, eat, do? Record all of these thoughts in your head. It is interesting and fun to look back on these thoughts later and compare it to how things actually are when you are on your trip.
Take the time to really be in the moment when you are on your trip. Stay off the phone and revel in conversations you are having. Be mindful of the things you see, hear, touch, taste, smell, and do while you are on this trip. Make notes of these things so that you can recount them later.
Write about the food, architecture, people, prices,
Don’t wait until the end of the trip to make notes. It’s a good habit to make notes at the end of the day or several times a day so that you don’t miss a thing.
It’s those little things that are the most exciting moments of a trip.
When you get back from your trip, take some time to look over your notes. Revisit your anticipation notes and recap how your trip was different from your expectations and write it down.
Write about what you enjoyed, what you would change, and things you would do again. What were your favorite places? What were things you don’t want to miss next time?
You can write this for yourself or as a travel guide for others.
Add photos to your travel journal. Hopefully, you’ll take lots of photos on your trip.
I use my iPhone to take all of my photos. So now I carry a portable printer, the HP Sprocket. This handy device is smaller than my phone about about twice as thick. It’s lightweight and prints wirelessly from your phone. The best part is that the ink-free prints are all sticker-backed so that you can print and stick right into your journal. No need for glue or tape so you can add photos your travel journal as you go.
You can also add ticket stubs, receipts, business cards, pressed plants or flowers, stickers, stamps, or any other little mementos you find during your travels. See my full list (below) on what to put in a travel journal.
What to put in a travel journal
You may be wondering what should a travel journal include. In addition to journaling, here are some of the things I like to put in my travel journal.
When I return home, I really enjoy reading through my notes and looking over all of the things I collected on my journey.
Places to visit
Doodles and sketches
Pressed leaves and flowers
Memories - recap after you leave a location
Money also prices of things and exchange rate
What is the best travel journal?
If you don’t already have a travel journal, what are you waiting for? It’s time to get one so you can make your wanderlust dreams come true.
Here are the best travel journals including general travel, camping and RV-ing, and travel journals for kids.
I’m a huge fan of Erin Condren planners, so when I saw she had a travel journal, it needed to be included on this list.
Just like her planners, this travel journal is well planned with sections for everything including packing list, travel itinerary, meals, and outfit of the day as well as lined pages for journaling your trip. I love that this set includes travel stickers, banners, and page flags.
Moleskine has been my go-to journal for years, so when I discovered their collection of Passion Planners, I was hooked. In this case, their travel journal is a must-see when considering a book for your destination planning.
In traditional Moleskine fashion, this hardcover travel journal has easy-on-the-eyes ivory pages, an elastic closure, two ribbon bookmarks, and expandable back pocket.
There are three sections with cutout tabs for easy flip-through. Sections include Travel Memories & Wishlist, Short Trips, and Long Trips. There are simple prompts and lots of room for journaling.
If you’re looking for a travel journal that is free-form so that you can journal without prompts, take a look at the Old World Travel Journal. The cover features and old world map and is closed with a magnetic flap. The 160 page book lays flat when opened for easy journaling. Pages are filled with light lines for writing but not intrusive if you want to add sketches, doodles, or photographs.
Thin pages keep the journal light for travel while gold leaf edges make it really special. It’s a travel journal you’ll treasure for years to come.
I was here is a beautifully illustrated travel journal filled with prompts and ideas for an exciting and interesting trip.
My favorite Amazon review summarized this book brilliantly, “it's perfect for folks who aren't great at regular, daily journal-writing (that would describe me!). I recommend leafing through it PRIOR to leaving on your trip since it has lots of great ideas but you'll be better prepared to use it if you do. Take with you some tape &/or a glue stick, even a few colored pens/pencils to make it more colorful. We had great fun with it as a family & I've since given this journal as a gift to someone else.”
Kate Pocrass is the the author of both I Was Here (above) and En Route (below). They are travel journal but both very different. I Was Here is loaded with prompts and very little room for journaling while En Route is a writer’s travel journal.
Here’s a promising Amazon review, “EN ROUTE is a more traditional journal. There are 13 pages of checklists at the beginning (to research; to do; morning of; etc.). There are half-pages for dated diary entries (12 sections with room for a date, and weather icons to circle, and a half-page for notes). The bulk of the book is mostly blank/lined/gridded pages. Nearly every page has some travel-themed illustration. There are a few full-page illustrations interspersed (international teas, snacks on a stick, a collection of flowers). Most of the illustrations appear in both books. The reference pages (common words, measurements, sizes) are mostly the same between the two books. There's a small pocket in the back as well.”
I grew up RV-ing with my family so The Joy is in the Journey Camping an RV Travel log gets me. If you love camping and RV-ing this travel journal has prompts for all of those questions you’ll be glad you answered such as how you got there, did you like your campsite, was there shade, and what amenities were offered?
You’ll also be able to record helpful information such as what was the cost, how was the water pressure, and what we did while we were there. Once you fill it out, it’s handy information you’ll refer to again and again when making camping plans.
If the camping-check style cover doesn’t suck you in, maybe this review will. “This camping journal is a great addition to any family (or solo) camping journey. I was initially skeptical of the purchase since there are very few pictures of the actual product, but I am pleasantly surprised. There is space for information about 78 camping trips - likes and dislikes, information about the campground, what site you were in, etc. The inside back cover also holds a small pocket for campground maps or memories. All in all, a great way to remember your camping locations.”
If you’re taking the kid on your vacation, don’t forget to pack travel journals for each of them. Not only will it give them something to do, it will also allow them to put into words the things that were memorable for them. It may surprise you to find out what was really meaningful to them.
Here’s what an Amazon Top Contributor has to say about the Kids’ Travel Journal, “Both my 10 & 8 year old loved the book. We took it on a recent 12-day vacation to Hawaii and the kids had fun recording their adventures in it. I wanted to limit the amount of time they spend on electronic devices and this journal was the perfect replacement. They spent quite a bit of time on the plane ride filling in the first few pages about our destination and then we arrived, they recorded their daily adventures and rated the days. There are several activity pages in the back of the book and they had fun doing those when they weren't writing notes. I would definitely get 2 copies of this book again for our next vacation. This book is intended to use for one vacation/trip and not multiple ones.”
Travel Journal Ideas and Examples
If you are new to this website, I’m happy to tell you that when I cover a topic I like to include lots of ideas and inspiration to help get you started.
Your travel journal is what you make it. Have fun with your journal and record memories in a way that works for you.
If you love to write, record all of your memories in long flowing paragraphs and write for pages at a time.
Are you more of a collector? Then use your travel journal to tape in receipts, postcards, photos, maps, and sketches.
I fall somewhere in between. I like to write and collect mementos so my travel journal is a combination of both. As you’ll see from the ideas below, you can create a beautiful and memorable travel journal now matter how you choose to record your trip.