The other day, I ran into some friends that had just returned from touring Ireland and Scotland. I asked “What did you see while you were there?”

They looked at each other and smiled, and then turned to me and said, “We don’t remember! But we had a great time!” We all laughed, but that’s what happens, right? When on vacation, we’re all so busy running around seeing things that we can’t remember what we did when it’s over! My friends assured me they would tell me more about the trip after they had a chance to review their photos.

Our conversation sparked this blog as I think many of us would benefit from keeping a journal of our travels. Don’t get me wrong, I love photos (and I take hundreds of shots), but a travel journal is a great place to help you catalog all the “bits and bobs” acquired along the way (entry tickets, menus, pamphlets, restaurant biz cards, etc.). I typically prepare a photo album for mom of all our pictures, however, that can take weeks to pull together. A travel journal on the other hand is something she can show her friends immediately upon return (and help keep the after-glow of a great vacation for a longer time period).

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When I mention the word “journal” a lot of folks get that faraway, nostalgic look. You know… the one where you remember talking about what you wore when you saw your first crush, two rows over and one seat back in math class? Or how awkward you felt? Or what about the devastation you wrote six pages about when he gave you the blank look, as if he’d never even seen you before? Oh wait….I digress…. 🙂

In case you were wondering, there are a lot of options out there as yes, people still do write down their thoughts. Here is just a handful of the different types of journals I keep on hand to document my trips (and other thoughts):

travel journals

I keep a variety of journals on hand depending on the mood before I head to the airport.


Although my journals have a much more utilitarian feel to them, there are hundreds (dare I saw thousands!) of options depending on how ornate you want to go. Your local bookstore is a great place to start although you’ll obviously have great luck online too. You can get some beautiful custom-made ones via Etsy (although many were way more than I typically spend!). In addition, if you’re on Pinterest, journaling is HOT HOT HOT at the moment and you’ll find many, many options to wile away the hours! Side funny note on Pinterest:


If you’re new to journaling (or it’s been a while), here is a primer on the Why, How and What to get the most out of it this creative, fun activity:

Why keep a travel journal:

  • It helps us remember.
  • It’s a great quick keepsake for your parent.
  • It helps us think.
  • It’s creative.
  • It’s fun.
  • You can do it alone or with friends.
  • It’s nostalgic.
  • You can do it dressed, or hanging out in your P.J.’s.

When to journal:

  • Do it before you leave on your trip and use it as a planner.
  • Take it with you and journal on the road.
  • Write and glue and play with it when you get back using ticket stubs and photos, menus and stamps, fabrics and postcards… whatever
  • If journaling is not your thing, keep one for your parent that they can take home with them.

What kind of travel journals are available:

  • Find a plain, sturdy, no frills version that you can toss in your carry-on or backpack.
  • Make or buy the most intricate, decorated, lovely book that will make your heart sing every time you see it.
  • Use a three-ring binder if you like to keep big things and lots of photos. Decorate or not.


Using a travel journal on the road

Once you’ve committed to journaling, either for yourself, your parent (or both!), now what do you write in there once you’re on the road? Here’s our primer for what to write or things to include (these should get you started):


  • The people
  • The buildings
  • The smells
  • The streets
  • Sounds (voices, church bells, animals, emergency vehicles, etc.)

The culture

  • Foreign phrases you’d like to remember
  • Music you heard
  • Dances, street fairs, parades, etc.

Food and drink (my personal favorite)

  • Foods you liked (A menu? A recipe?)
  • Foods you didn’t like!
  • Addresses of restaurants you’d visit again (if you had the chance)
  • Wines, beers, or drinks you liked

What you saw (What are your hobbies… let these stimulate your thoughts)

  • Museums
  • Trees or flowers
  • Crafts
  • Animals
  • Performances
  • Churches
  • Castles
  • Parks
  • Natural phenomena unique to this country/locale

Other interesting tidbits

  • Goofs or mishaps
  • Lucky finds
  • Weather
  • Transportation
  • Things you forgot to bring
  • Things you wished you’d left home
  • A list of daily expenditures (and what it costs back home)
  • Hotel stories – good and bad
  • Things ‘lost’: your wallet, your purse, your way (my mind!)

Perhaps most important, your thoughts

  • What you’re thankful for….
  • What scares you (I find writing stuff like that down takes a lot of the power away).
  • Your next trip!
  • Anything and everything! That’s the great thing about a journal – it’s for whatever you want to include or write about!

I’m exploring journal options now for mom for our impending family trip to Yellowstone over Labor Day week (I’ll be taking one of the ones from the picture above with me). I’ll be sure to post a picture once I’ve found Mom’s journal. She likes really ornate ones so there is a bit of pressure on this selection process. 🙂

Any TWAP followers who use a journal? Would love to see pictures on our Facebook page along with the backstory (or other recommendatios you have to fellow TWAP readers). We would love to hear it! Hugs to all.