Travel Journal Ideas: how to make journaling fun and easy

My mother insisted we keep a journal on our childhood trips. I love looking through those travel logs, seeing my little girl handwriting and reading the entries. But even with Mom’s urging, my entries all grow shorter as the trip progressed. Fifty some years and many trips later, I’ve returned to keeping journals, but have come up with some fun travel journal ideas to keep up my enthusiasm throughout the trip.

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A travel journal is one of the best souvenirs you can bring home. In it you capture feeling and memories as they happen. Opening that journal years later will transport you back to that trip and let you savor the experience all over. But that is IF you are diligent in keeping your journal. Many of us begin with enthusiasm, only to drop off as the week goes on. It’s not easy to begin writing at the end of a long day of touring.


Find a style and create a schedule to keep you on track.

Travel journal ideas: the medium

I suggest you consider the format that works best for you. Some enjoy the traditional travel diary, but some are more comfortable using technology for their notes. A video diary might be the best travel journal for you!

image of phone camera amalfi coast

Journaling with technology – platforms and apps

A plus for using technology for journaling is luggage space. You already have your phone, so there’s nothing more to pack!

  • iPhone and android apps – there are dozens of good apps available. I suggest trying one or two well before your trip to see what works for you. A benefit of these apps is some allow you to share with family back home who have the app. They can keep up with you, travel vicariously, and be assured that you are well.
    • note taking apps. Tried and true apps like Evernote, OneNote, or Google Keep, are easy to use for your personal journal entries. If you use these at home, you’ll feel comfortable using them on the road.
    • photo based apps. You upload a photo with an optional location tag and add a line or two about your experience.
      Note: I turn off the location option for security and to avoid excess data use. Many of these apps allow you to keep your posts private so that the fact you’re away from home is not publicly shared.
      • We recommend: Polarsteps – tracks your trip on a map with images and brief captions. This app has a private option which is great. Travel photo books can be created after your trip. (We haven’t tried the photo books so cannot comment on quality.)
      • another popular and well-reviewed app is Journi’s Travel Blog which also allows for a printed book after the trip.
    • itinerary based apps. These allow you to upload information ahead of time re. flights, hotels, etc. and you’ll get notifications if there’s a change in plans. These are great for staying organized on a long trip. Some of these will allow you to add notes, eg., journal-like comments as you travel.
  • Blogging platforms – WordPress.com, blogger, etc. offer free blog options. It’s easier than you might think to set up your blog, and you can easily share with friends and family. Again, try this at home before you go. (Be forewarned… this website started as a way to keep in touch with family on a trip to Egypt in 2012 …)

I try to write on my WordPress itinerary blog at the end of each day. If I’m really tired, I dictate my thoughts from my phone. Fortunately, these late night ramblings go into the private blog until I’ve had a chance to review and correct any mistakes. (the transcription of the dictation is often strange, so enjoy a laugh, but remember to edit.) I also carry a notebook, for quick entries and information. More on that later!


different sizes og travel journal ideas

Paper travel journals

Some people just prefer the feel of paper and pen. And most of us know it’s smart to carry paper documentation in case phone batteries die, or there’s no internet available.

There are many options for buying a travel diary. The benefits of a printed journal is that the pages are preformatted and often include pages for contact info, itinerary, etc.. It’s easy to just pick up the journal and begin to write.

A couple of great ones for children are the Kids Travel Journal, and Go! a kids’ interactive travel diary and journal.

But consider designing your own travel journal. Creating a trip journal is a fun way to fill those exciting weeks before your trip. Your journal can be as detailed or as freewheeling as you like it. With your own self-created book, you will not end up with empty pages reminding you when you hadn’t the time or inclination to write every day.

Leuchtturm A6 journal is compact but with all the organization of a larger journal. Travel journal suggestions

How to set up your own travel journal

  1. Choose a notebook. Use one you have at home or buy something special. To save space I use either a Field Notes book for a short trip, or a Leuchtturm 1917 A6 notebook for a longer, more important adventure. Both of these are small enough to fit easily into my bag. But if space isn’t a problem, choose a larger notebook.
  2. Outline the pages you’d like to include. Suggestions:
    • cover page
    • index page
    • itinerary
    • contact information (hotels, travel insurance info, etc.)
    • basic phrases in local language
    • packing list
    • trip ‘bucket list’ – activities, places, foods to try
    • expenses
    • books to read before (or during) the trip
    • allow plenty of pages for your notes or memories
  3. If you plan to keep a diary in your book, designate pages and create a list of writing ideas. Megan from Cullessense has a great list of travel journal prompts.
  4. Decorate as much or as little as you choose! I’m not artistic, so I personalize my journal with 1-2 stickers before the trip and add any cute stamps or stickers I come across while traveling.
travel journal ideas - checklist of places to visit

Keep going: strategies to encourage journaling

Ok. So you’ve got the journal. Now how to stay motivated to write in it?

Add some fun activity pages to your book. Some of these ideas only require checkmarks or quick dashed off notes. But knowing you need to check off that place, or write what you had for supper, will keep you coming back to the journal. Here are a few of our favorite travel journal ideas.

Add a page of…

  • funny things that happened
  • names of new friends and where they’re from
  • wildlife spotted
  • unusual foods tried
  • fitness goals
  • gratitude notes

If you’re artistic, bring sketching materials, and fill your pages with images.

If you’re a collector, add ticket stubs or postcards.

Travel Journal Idea – BINGO – photography, wildlife sightings, etc.

One of our favorite pages is a bingo page. You’ll probably remember this from the road trips we took as kids where we checked off signs or other roadside things to make BINGO.

As we love to take pictures when we travel, I make a photography game. This can be an individual challenge or a competition among traveling companions. Though in my family I’m usually doing this solo, the benefit of the photography game is that it encourages me to look at my surroundings in a deeper way. As my game ‘card’ get filled up, I find myself focusing on finding that elusive image.

Create your own photography challenge

  • create a list of at least 24 or 35 image ideas to capture –
    • simple things – sunsets, hotel room, or food
    • artistic ideas – black & white, close-ups, or low light
    • things that elicits a feeling – funny signs or something scary.
  • randomize the list (we have our list in excel which has a randomize option but you can do it manually just by mixing up your list)
  • create ‘bingo’ cards in your journal, with 5 or 6 squares across and down.
  • write the list, as randomized, on as many ‘cards’ as there are participants. (everyone’s card should be different)
  • at the end of each day, or when you’ve got some downtime, fill in the boxes where you’ve captured images. See who gets bingo first!
travel journal ideas - create a photo challenge

If you’re not a photographer, you can do this with highway sightings or whatever. On our recent safari we made grids of animals and birds we hoped to see.


Travel Journal Ideas – make it easy, make it personal

Whatever medium you choose, make it something that you’ll enjoy, that will add to the trip, and not become a burden. Keep it close, so you can note things in it when there’s quiet time. Air travel is a great time to work on it.

We hope we’ve given you suggestions that will make keeping a travel journal easy and relevant. Remember, this journal is for you. No one will be grading it! Have fun!

Do you keep a travel log when you travel? What do you do to keep your interest from flagging? We’d love to add your suggestions into our next travel diary!

Journal writing. Simple and fun suggestions for keeping a travel journal.
Travel journal tips for keeping memories alive.
Rhodes castle and travel journal. Tips for creating a travel diary you will enjoy using.

22 thoughts on “Travel Journal Ideas: how to make journaling fun and easy

  1. I need to do more of this! If only to remember for when I come to writing blog posts and knowing what the heck that photo is of! Inspired!
    Alison

  2. Great post! I made a paper journal last year but got addicted to putting so much into it that it got too heavy to carry!

  3. I do a mix of several things (paper notebook, notes on phone, journaling on my tablet with keyboard) and yet, I am not always successful at getting it all down so I can write about it later. The best laid plans…
    One thing I do that helps me is that I take more photos than you might think necessary of things like signs explaining the site we are seeing or of menus in restaurants. This helps with reference later.

  4. I am going to start doing this! Will come in very useful when I am trying to recall details of when I was “there”!

  5. I do keep a paper travel notebook, but it’s very basic, more my thoughts and impressions on the road rather than a journal. You have given me some great ideas to make more of my on the road notes – thank you.

  6. This is something I majorly struggle with when traveling. I like that you included the various mediums because sometimes I feel like “journaling” is more paper. Thank you. I am going to try some of these strategies during my next big trip.

    1. I struggle too. I really, really try to get down thoughts at the end of each day, but sometimes I’m just too tired. That’s why I like having easy options in my journal to just jot something down quick.

  7. I think as travel bloggers we are all biased by the fact that we enjoy writing. I finished a full notebook on my last trip, while for some people in my group, keeping a journal ment only to write what they ate and what they saw. And… I am a classy journalist (?), only paper, and then once I am back I write on the blog a less chaotic version of it. Love this type of posts! Thanks for sharing =)

  8. Some great ideas here Amy. We take a lot of photos and videos but I am afraid I have never bee ngreat about taking detailed notes. I like your idea of dictating them. Even though mine would likely be rambling musings it would help sort things out later on.

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