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 journal prompts and 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 feelings and travel memories as they happen. Opening that journal years later will transport you back to that trip and let you savor the experience all over again. 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
Consider a 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!
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!
Mobile device apps for journaling
- 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.
- 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.
Blogging platforms for journaling
- Set up a simple blog – 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. The important thing is to try to preserve those memories. More on that later!
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.
But consider designing your own travel journal. Creating a trip journal is a great option for filling 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.
How to set up your own travel journal
- 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 traveler’s notebook or similar.
- Outline the pages you’d like to include. Suggestions: index page, itinerary, contact info, a world map, etc.
- If you plan to keep a travel diary in your book, designate blank pages ahead of time. Note any travel prompts you think you’d like to write about on a back page to refer to as you go. Leave space for travel photos you can add later.
- Decorate as much or as little as you choose! I’m not artistic, so I personalize my journal with washi tape and 1-2 stickers before the trip and add any cute stamps or stickers I come across while traveling.
Keep going: strategies to encourage journaling
Ok. So, you’ve got the journal. Now how to stay motivated to write in it?
Add some lists, prompts, and 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.
If you’re artistic, bring sketching materials, use paint, and fill your pages with images. No room for colored pencils and paints? A multi-colored pen takes up little space and will brighten your pages.
If you’re a collector, adding ticket stubs or postcards is a great way to preserve a memory. Bring along a glue stick if there’s room in your luggage. These little details will be fun to see in years to come.
101 Travel Journal Prompts
Some people are naturally creative. They need no suggestions for their evening journaling. But for most of us, it’s helpful to have some writing prompts to get us started. Here are some of my favorites:
Important information for your journal’s front pages
Be sure to share your travel plans with a family member before leaving home!
- Your travel itinerary
- Transportation and Flight details
- Accommodations with address and contact information
- Booked tours and guides with contact information
Travel Planning and Brainstorming Lists
- Your packing list and pre-trip to-do list
- Your destination bucket list? What are you most excited about doing or seeing?
- Foods and drinks you want to try
- Travel budget & ongoing expenses
- Souvenirs you plan to buy and for who (leave room for spontaneous purchases)
- Books (or movies) about your destination.
- Some basic words in the language – please, thank you, etc.
- Cultural customs to understand and respect.
- What advice have you read or been given about your destination?
- Inspirational quotes: your favorites or something you hear and want to remember.
- Plan a playlist for your trip.
Travel journal prompts: on your way
These are great prompts to work on during those never-ending days before the trip, or on the flight.
- Facts about your destination
- What are your expectations of the destination or experience?
- What made you choose this destination?
- What part of this trip have you enjoyed planning for the most?
- Have there been any pre-trip disasters?
- Is there anything about the trip that worries you or makes you anxious?
- What do you want to learn on this adventure?
- How will you prioritize your health while you are traveling?
- Make a list of things you can do for self-care while on the trip.
- What an essential thing you pack that you will never travel without?
Daily prompts for your travel journal
- Gratitude pages (or add a bit of gratitude to every day’s entry)
- How did you travel to your destination?
- What was your first reaction upon arrival in this new place- joy, surprise, disappointment?
- What did you do today?
- What will be your favorite memory of this day?
- What was the most amazing thing you did today?
- Did anything embarrassing happen today?
- What made you laugh today? Or was there something that made you cry?
- Was there an uncomfortable or difficult moment today? How did you handle it?
- Did you try something new today? If you’re on a big trip, you could designate a whole page in the journal for new experiences!
- What’s the biggest challenge about being in this destination?
- What did you eat today? Did you try a local delicacy?
- Are you maintaining a balanced diet? How does it make you feel?
- Did you meet some interesting people today? What did you talk about? If you think you’d like to keep up with them, make a note of their contact information or tuck business cards into your journal.
- Did anything go wrong today? How was it resolved and how did you react?
- What cultural experience did you experience today? How did it impact you?
- What makes this place similar or different from your home?
- Is your destination being affected by any current events? How is it impacting your trip
- Do a self-check. Are you feeling relaxed and happy or tired and stressed?
- What exercise did you get today? How many steps have you logged?
- Did you take time for self-care today? How will you prioritize yourself tomorrow?
- What did you do today that energized you? What drained your energy?
- What did you wear today? Make a list of what you packed and check items off as you wear them. See what can be left at home next trip.
- Make a timeline of your day.
- What local traditions might you like to adopt at home.
- Consider the environment at your destination? Is there a problem with litter or smog? What is being done to fix this.
- What challenges are the local people facing?
- How do the locals live? What’s the top industry?
- Make a prompt based on your hobbies, e.g. Wines you’ve tasted, art museums you’re visiting…
- What’s working for you on this trip? Do you like the pace of travel? The people you’re with?
- Describe your hotel/accommodation as if you were reviewing it for Travel and Leisure
- Make a list of the interesting animals and wildlife you see on the trip. This is one of my favorite things to keep track of in my journal.
- Travel stats: distance traveled, weather, etc.
- What can’t you wait to share with your friends back home?
- What music have you listened to today?
Some creative travel journal ideas to keep things fun
- Describe where you are in right now using as many of your senses as you can.
- Draw a famous landmark you saw today.
- Sketch the inside of your hotel room or the view out the window.
- Share a story or legend about your destination.
- If you were to write a book about this trip, what would the title be?
- Draw a map of your travels.
- Make a rainbow or an ABC page – (these is a fun travel journal ideas if you’re traveling with kids!) Note things you see of every color in the rainbow (or every color of the alphabet), take pictures, or sketch what you saw.
- Make a photography (or wildlife) BINGO game.
- What advice do you have for others who visit here?
- What is something special to do here that isn’t in the tour guide?
- What was the most memorable meal from the trip?
- What were the favorite places you visited during the trip?
- Make a list of all the places you stayed.
- Words you’ve learned in the local language. Or regional expressions!
- What is the biggest lesson that this trip taught you?
- Am you any different when you travel? Do you have more or less – energy, creativity, irritability, etc.?
- What is something you did that you are proud of?
- What local traditions resonated with you most?
- What about life here is better than life at home?
- What are you most grateful for about this trip?
- Was there a moment that impacted you more than you expected?
- What do you miss most from home?
- Do you think this trip will change your life for the better? Will tourism help the community you’re visiting?
- Could you live in this foreign country? Would you like to?
- What advice have you been told by a local while on this trip? Can you apply it to your life?
Travel journal prompts: after the trip
Some ideas to reflect on during your flight home.
- What is something new you learned from this trip?
- Is there anything about this trip that didn’t meet your expectations?
- What was the highlight of your trip?
- What was the worst thing that happened on your trip?
- Would you visit here again?
- Is there anything you would do differently next time you visit? Experiences you missed or style of travel?
- Has your perception of the destination changed because of this trip?
- Has this trip inspired you to make changes in your life at home?
- What did you wish you’d pack and what could have been left at home?
- What has been the most rewarding travel experience of your life?
- If you could go on a trip with anyone, who would you go with and where would you go?
- What is a fear you’ve overcome while traveling? How?
- What have you learned about travel that will impact how you travel next and how?
- How has your travel (past and present) changed you?
- Did this trip challenge your limits physically or put you out of your comfort zone? Will you make changes on your next vacation?
- Where do you plan to go next?
BINGO – A fun idea for your travel journal – photography, wildlife sightings, etc.
One of our favorite travel journal pages is the 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 travel 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. This is a creative and fun idea to include in your own journal.
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!
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.
I hope I’ve given you suggestions that will make keeping a travel journal easy and relevant. Remember, this journal is for you. Have fun!
For more suggestions, Megan from Cullessense has a great list of travel journal ideas.
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!
This post is part of our Travel 101 series of posts that will prepare you for your trip.
27 thoughts on “101 Travel Journal Ideas & Creative Prompts to make journaling fun”
Love the Photo Bingo Challenge! I’ll definitely be adding this to my own travel journals
Wrote a similar post not long time ago. Wish I was more organized when writing my journal
I’ve never been successful at keeping a regular journal. But I so enjoy making my own travel journal that I keep at it.
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!
Yes!! I use excerpts from my journal if we make a photo book after the trip. It’s interesting sometimes to read things that we’d completely forgotten.
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!
Ha ha! I love that! We do tend to accumulate as we travel, don’t we?
Yes it’s terrible!!
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.
I am going to start doing this! Will come in very useful when I am trying to recall details of when I was “there”!
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.
Great! Let me know if you come up with other good ideas!
Wow! a lot of interesting ideas. Thanks for sharing!
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.
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.
I really love journaling. But with no success. I would follow yours. Thanks a lot!
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 =)
That’s amazing! I do a great job most days but there are times when I lag behind and just jot down a few things. I wish I wrote down what I ate!
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.
I love this post – I really struggle with journalling, I always go on and off. Lots of great ideas – I am going to try some out for my NY resolutions next year 🙂
When I first started travelling I kept paper journals. But the photos were in a separate place. I finally decided I wanted to bring the words and pics together and created a blog to do that. We still create a planning journal that capture all of our travel plans, things to see and do, photo ideas, contacts and more. Some good ideas here for blog topics.
That’s how this blog got started too! But, like you, I still carry a small notebook.
I do love to have a travel journal and it has to be a new one for every trip. I love that photo bingo idea, thats cool!
I create a travel journal as a planning guide before we travel listing what we must do and what is optional. Then comes the photos. I download the pics at the end of every day under the rightly named folder. That makes it easier later when we are writing blogs. I also tried the voice recording in our Australia trip at every destination. Thanks for the tips. 🙂
I love, love, love this post! I always bring a journal with me and recently spent about 2 hours journaling in the Rodin sculpture garden in Paris. One of my favorite prompts is “Has this trip inspired you to make changes in your life at home?” which, to me, is sort of the essence of traveling. I’ll definitely use some of these on my next trip.
Thanks Amber! What a wonderful place to journal!