Making the Most of a Travel Journal

journals

Keeping a travel journal is a wonderful way to enhance a trip you’re taking, and this post will cover some of the benefits of journaling, important things to include in your entries, and how to customize your travel journal before you ever leave home.

Why Journal?

You might be tempted to skip journaling on a trip.  After all, there are only so many hours in the day, and you want to be out seeing and doing things – right?  You can do both though, with a little dedication and forethought.  The rewards will be many!  The trip will be more indelibly etched in your mind, you’ll have a chronology and log of events to help you with any printed photo books or scrapbooks you might make, and you’ll have a one-of-a-kind souvenir that will take you back to those incredible moments and places.

The Method to My Madness

When I went to Ireland I took my travel journal with me everywhere I went, and I discovered that lugging around a backpack full of stuff daily was not ideal.  By the time I headed to Peru I knew just how to streamline.  I still took my full-size journal with me, but I left it in my room each day.  My constant companion was a small paper notebook that I jotted down the date and order of events in, and then I took some time each evening or morning to elaborate in my journal.

My travel journals are part diary and part scrapbook – I take pens and glue sticks with me, and paste things into my journal as I go along.  Not only does this add visual interest, but it’s a great way to record certain stops along the way.  Postcards are an inexpensive way to illustrate your journal as you go, and are sometimes the only image you’ll capture of the inside of a structure.  For example, in Peru many of the cathedrals didn’t allow photography inside, but did sell postcards.  Now the incredibly ornate interiors can be seen in the pages of my journal.  I also glue in some receipts – and anything else that strikes my fancy.

postcard

Style and Substance

Whether you write out full paragraphs, make printed bulleted lists, or just glue down ephemera from your travel and jot down meaningful and informative phrases adjacent to these treasures, it’s all up to you.  I tend to combine all three of these techniques – I go with whatever the day or moment requires. Your journal, your rules, but please consider including the following:

Dates, times, places: These details, which are fresh in your mind during your trip, will soon fade away if you don’t have them written down.

The meals you eat, and where: Whether it’s a bit of street food from a vendor’s stall or a meal at a sumptuous restaurant near the Eiffel Tower, each meal – and where you eat it – helps to tell the story of your journey.

Ticket stubs, postage stamps, coins, and more: The bits and pieces you pick up along the way will help form a beautiful patchwork illustrating your trip – one best captured in your travel journal.

Personalizing Your Journal

As a writer I think the most important thing is documenting and writing as you go along, no matter what your journal looks like, but the artist and visual journaler in me demands a bit more when I go abroad!  For my trips to Ireland and Peru I chose journals from Cachet.  They have a variety of colors and sizes to choose from, and I love that I’ve started a little library of sorts!  The simplest way to customize your journal is to decorate the front cover, but why stop there?  I also added pockets and marked each new entry with something along the pages’ outside edge for easy reference.

The cover: I used a vintage map and a vintage postcard to embellish my covers, and sealed both the front and back with water-soluble Polycrylic that’s available at the hardware store – or in smaller containers at Michaels.  Not only does this give the cover a nice shine, it protects it from damp tabletops, dirt and spills.

cover-detail

ireland

Front inside pocket: I put a pocket with a library card inside the front cover, and use it to record the hotels I stay at, along with the date(s) and my room numbers.

inside-pocket

Front inside page: I like including something decorative on the first right inside page – just for fun.

first-page

“New day” delineation on inside pages: I’ve stapled some paper element on the first page of each journal entry so I can easily flip from day to day.  In my Ireland journal these papers were decorative, and in my Peru journal I used Peruvian bus tickets I’d purchased online before my trip began.  This is why the folks in customs might find a tiny stapler in my luggage.  I like the look these tabs create on the book’s closed edge.

page-tab

page-edges

Pockets on inside pages: These pockets can hold things like small coins, stamps, or other goodies you pick up along the way.

inside-page-pocket

Back inside pocket: Consider using this area for miscellaneous items, like notes on the must-see spots a friend recommended or an extra copy of your immunization record.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed these travel journal tips, and hope they’ll inspire you to document your next trip – or to embellish a journal – in ways you hadn’t thought to before.  Happy trails!

Warm regards,
Melody

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10 Comments

  1. Posted November 9, 2010 at 9:14 am by Wendy Telford | Permalink

    Beautiful entry! Loved seeing the pages of your journal. Great pocket ideas!

  2. Posted November 9, 2010 at 9:46 am by Jeff G. | Permalink

    Great entry Melody! Enjoyed reading it.

  3. Posted November 9, 2010 at 10:31 am by carmen tangherlini | Permalink

    Thank you Melody for all the terrific tips!

  4. Posted November 9, 2010 at 9:04 pm by Melody | Permalink

    Carmen,
    You’re very welcome. Thank you for reading my blog!
    Melody

  5. Posted November 9, 2010 at 9:05 pm by Melody | Permalink

    Hi Jeff,
    Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.
    Melody

  6. Posted November 9, 2010 at 9:06 pm by Melody | Permalink

    Wendy,
    Thank you for your kind words, and for reading!
    Melody

  7. Posted November 10, 2010 at 9:15 am by Barb Langan | Permalink

    Thanks for posting the fun journals! I loved seeing what you did with pockets, memorabilia, etc.!

  8. Posted November 10, 2010 at 12:52 pm by Beth Nielsen | Permalink

    Great post! I also keep a journal while traveling & love to do so. For me, the best part about having the journal is that later on I go back and re-read my adventures – it takes me right back!

  9. Posted November 10, 2010 at 9:18 pm by Melody | Permalink

    Thank you, Beth!
    I love that about travel journals, too. The remind you of so many little details you might otherwise forget, and transport you to that special time and place.
    Melody

  10. Posted November 10, 2010 at 9:21 pm by Melody | Permalink

    Hi Barb,
    Thank you for your kind words, and for posting a comment!
    Melody