This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using them, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. It helps to keep this site running – thank you!
With most people relying on smartphones and apps, or starting a blog or social media accounts, to document and share their travels, the joy of keeping a paper journal has been lost in the modern age. Many travelers don’t even think about packing a simple pocket notebook and pen.
I’d like to think that the art of keeping a paper journal in addition to the more electronic forms is beneficial. There’s bound to be some thoughts, observations, and notes worth writing out and keeping to yourself.
I always bring along a pocket-sized notebook when I travel. I like to keep a very loose daily entry where I jot down expenses, little observations, and doodles… all the things that will spark those memories up down the road.
And yes, I can do this all on my phone, but there’s something therapeutic and relaxing about writing, especially while in transit.
And there’s something even more therapeutic about having a physical notebook to flip through down the road.
Benefits of a Travel Journal or Notebook
- You don’t have to censor yourself. Say what you feel. Get out any stress or emotions on paper. There shouldn’t be anyone else reading it.
- It helps you remember the small things. The name of the person you met on a bus, or the room number in your favorite hotel. Writing versus typing helps with memory recall.
- It’s a really great souvenir to bring home. Nothing like being able to flip through your old travel notes in a physical notebook form.
- It’s great for passing the time while waiting for an upcoming trip and definitely while traveling on buses, planes and trains. It’s also a bit more inconspicuous than getting out the laptop or phone to take some notes.
- It’s perfect when you need to minimize excess use of your phone. Save your battery by going old school.
Travel Journal/Notebook Ideas
Photos speak a thousand words, but those photos also don’t tell the whole story. Your thoughts and feelings, the way the air felt, the sounds you can only explain as YOU hear them… these are the bits of the experience that drift away over time.
Keeping a long-form travel diary makes the ultimate keepsake of an adventure. I don’t always keep one, but I will say that the ones I do have are inspiring to look back on. It’s a place to get out your internal frustrations, a place to reflect, and a place to be creative.
Writing is therapeutic and relaxing, not to mention a great way to pass time on long plane and train journeys.
No batteries or recharging necessary, you are only limited by page space and ink levels. My suggestion is to write small and write frequently.
Use a simple pocket notebook to keep track of your expenses as you travel. It’s a great way to ensure you’re sticking to a travel budget.
Plus, you’d be surprised at what memories these little entries can spark in the future! A little note like “lunch in Singapore food court” can instantly transport you back to that setting- the sights, the sounds, and to the best chicken rice you’ve ever had.
To make it even more interesting, get a notebook with a built-in pocket to store receipts, or attach them to the notebook as you go. You can add doodles to your entries, or extra explanations for your expenditures. Next to your entry for purchasing a hat, you can add a note that it was unexpectedly freezing cold at night in your Guatemala hostel.
If you’re not one for keeping a proper journal/diary, this would be my go-to recommendation. It’s simple and helps with the logistics of travel- staying on top of your money!
Of course there are loads of apps that allow you to do something similar on your phone.
Bring along some tape and a couple of colored pens, and a simple travel journal turns into a scrapbook. Ticket stubs, beer labels, receipts, photos, drawings, and so on transform a journal to a coffee table worthy souvenir.
- Get some tips for starting a travel scrapbook.
I’ve always enjoyed the unlined Moleskine Cahier notebooks for this purpose. I can write tiny entries and add in other paraphernalia without lines getting in the way. The built-in back pocket stores my scrapbook items until they are used.
Plus, they pack up super small, which is always important to me!
Travel Bullet Journal
Bullet journaling has become quite popular in recent years as a way to combine both mindfulness and productivity into one. It’s not a long-form diary, but more a series of tick-lists and goals – perfect for travel planning and presenting achievements in a visual manner.
Bullet journals vary greatly, ranging from categorized lists to pages of hand-drawn pictures and doodles. For example, you can list all the destinations you wish to visit on your upcoming trip, or you can draw a world map and color in all the hot spots with different markers. The possibilities are endless.
- Here are some ideas for travel bullet journal spreads.
Europe Map Travel Journal
Travel Journal with Envelope Pockets
Tropical Jungle Travel Journal
Retro Travel Scrapbook
Travel Suitcase Scrapbook
Navigating Travel Scrapbook
When we say travel scrapbook, we mean a scrapbook that you can actually fit into your luggage and take with you… not the gigantic, oversized ones that your mom has made from your baby photos!
For a good traveling scrapbook, really any type of notebook or journal will do the trick, as long as there’s room to grow (meaning the cover will still cover it when extra items are added).
Just be sure to pack some extra tape, washi tape, and colored pens to make it fun. A page of stickers can add pizzazz in a pinch. Oh, and a simple envelope attached inside will make a great place to store loose items and memories.
Moleskine Pocket Planner
For everything else, there’s no looking past the timeless Moleskine cahiers and pocket notebooks. I’ve used the unlined pads for travel journals, and I’ve used the pocket planners as a money notebook.
Do you carry a journal in your backpack, or do you think it is a waste of time and space?