There’s a real art to writing a good travel journal. You want to create something that you (and perhaps others) will enjoy reading over and over again. A day-by-day listing of every thing you did during your trip isn’t going to cut it, although it is usually helpful to write at least something each day. You’ll need to be a bit more creative for a truly good travel journal.
Determine the Purpose of the Journal
Before you start your travel journal, determine why you want to keep one. Is the journal just for you, or will you share it with others? You may write differently if you’re writing for an audience, if you plan to use the journal as a reference when writing a travel blog, or if you want it to serve as a detailed record of the trip so you can recommend places to friends in the future. If writing in a book isn’t your thing, try writing an online travel blog instead.
Purchase the Right Materials
Purchasing the right journal and supplies gets you started off on the right foot. Begin with materials that inspire you! Choose high-quality materials. And bring a glue stick or washi tape to attach interesting items you come across during your travels. Pack colored pencils or pens if you like to draw.
Travelers often recommend the sturdy and durable Moleskine notebooks. They feature binding like a hardcover book. They can lie flat, have a back pocket, and have a strap to hold the journal closed.
Include the Planning Phases of the Trip
Because the planning and organizing phases of a trip are half the fun, consider starting your travel journal at this stage. Document why you’re taking the trip, what you expect to happen, what you need to pack, and your hotel, flight, and passport information. Consider including a tentative itinerary or DIY walking tour along with information on all the sites you plan to visit so everything you need is handy in the same place.
Establish a Writing Routine
Get in the habit of writing something every day, starting even before you leave. You don’t have to write at a set time each day, but learn to fit writing into any downtime you have. Bus or train rides are great for writing time. Avoid waiting too long to write about something after it happens, as the events will be less clear in your mind. If you write about the same topics each day, you can create a template to kick-start your daily journaling.
Keep Things Organized
While you don’t necessarily need to write about things in chronological order, it is a good idea to have some type of organization. Include a table of contents, an index, or both in your journal so you can find things easily later, and start each entry with the date, place, and time.
Focus on Quality Rather Than Quantity
Write as little or as much as you want, focusing on the highlights of the day, using details and active verbs to draw a picture. Keep the sentences simple. Don’t worry too much about spelling and grammar mistakes, especially if the journal is just for you.
Add Variety to Keep Things Interesting
Vary your writing and formatting from day to day to add more interest. Write an entry in the style of a tweet or a haiku for something different, or create a story map to show the day’s activities. Include drawings of interesting things you see some days, or simply change the size or style of your lettering.
Document the Events That Occur During the Trip
Documenting this adventure is the main reason for starting the journal in the first place, so include plenty of details on what you do each day.
- What are your first impressions of people, places, or things?
- What are your day-to-day experiences on the trip, and how are they different than a normal day at home?
- What are you feeling during different key moments of your trip?
- What insights do you gain as you travel?
These types of entries draw the reader in more than simple lists of what you did each day and make the overall journal more interesting.
Include Travel Ephemera and Attraction Extras
You can take your journal from ho-hum to wow by including small items you pick up while on your trip. These multimedia items—often called ephemera—add variety, color, and texture to your pages. Get started right at the beginning of your trip by gluing in your boarding passes. Add in some notes about anything unusual that happened on your flight for a complete journal entry.
You can also add interest to your journaling about the attractions you visited by including little extras. Use postcards to capture a view, save your tickets, and keep a brochure. You may even want to add a map (either preprinted or hand-drawn) showing the attractions you visited, perhaps with a number by each attraction to link to the relevant journal entry.
Make Food-Related Entries Stand Out
Don’t forget to include food-related entries and ephemera. Food plays a big role in many trips, especially if you’re going to a new country. Keep track of all your new culinary discoveries by adding in related ephemera, such as receipts, labels, and even take-out menus. Highlight your choices, and write about what you thought of the meal or snack.
Don’t Forget About the Money
Money-related ephemera can also be interesting. When you go to places with different currency, you can add in bills or coins in little clear envelopes. You can even include the currency exchange receipt. Then people can see what the exchange rate was when you were there.
Writing about things that truly interest you and adding variety to each of the entries help turn a travel journal into a document that’s fun for you and others to read after the trip ends. Next time you take a trip, give travel journaling a try.