How to Make a Travel Journal

Two Parts:Gathering Your SuppliesCompiling the Journal

Travel is a time for growth, new experiences, and seeing more of the world. If you're taking a trip, you'll want to remember everything that you did for years to come. Keeping a travel journal will not only help preserve your memories of the experience, but help enrich your trip in the moment as well.

Part 1
Gathering Your Supplies

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    Buy a lightweight but durable hardcover journal. The binding should be strong, and it’s usually easier to write and sketch if it can lay open flat on a table. Choose a book that’s large enough to hold regular 5x7 inch postcards too.[1]
    • Opt for a journal that’s small enough that it’s easy to carry in your bag wherever you go.
    • A journal with acid-free paper is usually a good investment because it will ensure that your writing and sketches will hold up for years.
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    Purchase colored pens, pencils, watercolors, and highlighters. You’ll want to have pens that you’re comfortable actually writing with, but you should also have tools for sketching sights that you see and embellishing other materials that you’re adding to the journal.[2]
    • Gel pens are a good option because they can write over most materials with ease and come in a wide variety of colors.
    • Using watercolors directly in your journal can get messy, so you may prefer painting on postcards or other scraps of paper and then adding them to the notebook.
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    Buy some glue sticks and/or tape. When it comes time to adhering photos, postcards, and other materials in your journal, you’ll need some type of adhesive to attach them. Glue sticks work well because they’re not messy and are easy to throw in your travel bag. However, you can also use decorative tape to fix your travel mementos to the journal pages.[3]
    • Washi tape works well for travel journals because it comes in a variety of colors and patterns. You can find it at your local craft store.
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    Pack scissors and a ruler. You may want to trim some of the materials that you place in your journal, so it’s a good idea to have scissors with you. A ruler can help you cut a straight edge or write in a straight line if your journal is unlined.
    • Consider bringing two pairs of scissors with you: one regular and one craft. Craft scissors have a decorative edge, such as scalloped or zig zag, that can help give your journal a more distinctive look.
    • If you’re flying, don’t put scissors in your carry-on bag. You’ll have to surrender them to security.
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    Find an expandable clear folder. You’ll be collecting various materials to add to your journal throughout your trip, and you may not want to take the time to attach them all right away. To stay organized and prevent any of the items from being lost, it helps to have a clear, expandable envelope-style folder to gather all of your mementos in.[4]
    • A folder is especially important if you don’t want to compile your journal while you’re actually traveling. You can just write in the journal as you go, and add the mementos after you’ve returned home because the folder will keep them all organized.
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    Print out a map for your destination. You can find a variety of cool vintage maps online, so choose a favorite to paste on the cover of your journal. You may need to shrink the map to get it to fit, especially if you’re taking a trip to multiple countries.[5]
    • If you’re visiting multiple cities or locations on your trip, you may want to print out a black and white map and then use a marker, highlighter, or pen to indicate where you are going.[6]

Part 2
Compiling the Journal

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    Write entries as you go. For your journal to really capture the mood and tone of your trip, it’s best to jot down notes while you’re traveling because it can be difficult to remember key details after the trip is over. That doesn’t mean you have to write diary-style entries that cover everything you did on a given day, though. Aim to take your journal out a couple of times a day and write down the activities, sights, and experiences that immediately come to mind.[7]
    • Remember to date each entry, so you can remember the timeline of your trip. You may want to include the time that you wrote each as well.
    • It helps to set aside a specific time to write in journal. For example, you might do your entries at breakfast or just before bed. If you’re taking a plane, train, bus, or car to another location, the ride is a great time to work on journal entries.
    • If you’re in a hurry, jot down notes about your day on a scrap of paper that you can copy into the journal when you have more time. You may forget some details if you don’t write things down as you go, so a rough draft can come in handy.
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    Decide who you're writing for. In most cases, a travel journal serves as a personal memento of an interesting and exciting experience in your life. However, you may plan to show yours to your family and friends, so they can share in the experience or get ideas if they decide to take a similar trip in the future. Knowing who the intended audience for your journal is can help you come up with the right style and tone.[8]
    • If you plan to share your journal with others, consider the details that you plan to include -- or leave out. You may not think it's necessary to write down the address of a restaurant that you enjoyed to preserve the memory, but a friend may find the information helpful. On the other hand, there may be personal details of your trip that you don't want to share with family and friends, so it's best to leave omit them.
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    Find a theme. It's often easier to write journal entries if you have a central idea or mood that you're focusing on. Think about all of the things that you saw and did on a given day, and see if there's a recurring theme that can help shape your entry.[9]
    • If you’re having trouble identifying a theme for an entry, start by asking yourself a few basic questions, such as “What made me smile today?”; “What surprised me today?”; or "What did I learn today?" Write down the answers, and you may see a theme start to emerge.
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    Engage all of your senses. Don’t just focus on the things that you see in your journal. A compelling entry will also capture what you heard, smelled, tasted, and felt during your travels.No details are too small because they'll all help you recall the trip years down the road, so describe the scent of the flowers on the table in the cafe where you have lunch or the feel of the breeze when you're relaxing on the beach.[10]
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    Describe the people. You're probably going to meet plenty of interesting people on your trip, so be sure to include them in your journal entries. It doesn't matter if it's a fellow traveler from your tour group that you wind up spending an entire afternoon with or a cab driver who takes you for a quick ride -- think about how they looked, spoke, and, most importantly, how they made you feel, and include it in your entry.[11]
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    Collect mementos. From the moment that your trip starts, begin gathering together materials that will help chronicle your journey. Airplane boarding passes, postcards, tickets to local attractions, business cards from restaurants and hotels, paper menus and logo napkins from restaurants, clippings from local newspapers, labels from regional food and beverage products, and receipts from your purchases can all help the memories come to life in your journal.[12]
    • You don’t necessarily have to glue or tape the mementos in your journal as you’re traveling. Just set them aside in your folder, so you can add them when you return home. However, make sure to leave space among your written entries to add the materials that match up with them.
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    Take photos. No trip is complete without photos that help you remember what you saw and did, and your journal will benefit from visual reminders of your trip. Digital cameras make it easier to ensure that you wind up with high quality photos because you can just delete the ones that you don’t like. Go for a combination of landmark shots and informal portraits to give your journal variety.[13]
    • You likely won’t stop to have photos developed while you’re on the road, so make sure to leave room in the journal to add photos after you’ve returned home.
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    Add some sketches. While photos are ideal for capturing the things you’ve seen or done on your trip, drawing some of the sights can actually help you focus on details that you’d otherwise miss. Use colored pencils, pens or watercolors to include some personal artwork amid your entries.[14]
    • It doesn’t matter if you’re not a great artist -- sketch a simple map of the neighborhood that you’re staying in or a pretty bunch of flowers that you saw. As long as the drawing helps you remember details of your trip later, it’s worth it.


  • Gather all of your supplies, such as pens, pencils, highlighters, tape, and scissors in a pouch or pencil case, so you’ll remain organized even while you’re on the road.
  • If you want to add even more visual interest to your travel journal, visit the craft store to find stickers and other scrapbooking supplies that fit the theme of your trip.
  • To get into the habit of journaling, consider writing a few entries before you leave for your trip. Describe your planning process or the old friends who you plan to meet up with. You might even create a list of your hopes for the trip, which you can revisit when you return home to see how the vacation lived up to your expectations.


  • While compiling a travel journal can help you appreciate the little details of your trip even more, don’t let your work on it stop you from enjoying the trip in the moment. For example, take a moment to really savor the delicious meal that you’re having before taking a photo or writing down your order.
  • Avoid simply listing the things that you saw and did in your entries -- that can get boring. Instead, focus on how the experiences on your trip made you feel.

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Categories: Journal Writing | Travel Tips