The Key to the Perfect Travel Journal

By Jessica Russo

You put so much energy, money, time, and planning into your trip - you owe it to yourself to remember it! Sure, pictures hold great memories, but how many times have you looked at a photo you took and thought I wish I could remember what this was called...

From that romantic sunset on the Ponte Vecchio, to the first time you saw the Eiffel Tower, to that time when the monkey jumped on your shoulder in Thailand, it's important to record your thoughts and feelings. When you return home and the memories begin to fade, pick up your journal and transport yourself back in time and place!

Choose the right book

Just this one time, judge a book by its cover! Choose something big enough to write in, light enough to carry, and small enough to fit in a backpack. You'll also want to pick a color or pattern that you associate with the destination you're writing about. Going to Africa? Find a cute elephant design! Paris? A pretty pastel may do. The simple things, like the design of the book, the feel of the pages, and the pen you use, may make you want to write even more.

Start before you leave.

The night before a trip is always filled with bursts of excitement and jitters of anticipation. Write down those feelings! Record what you’re most worried about and what you’re most excited about. It’ll be fun to look back at this after your trip!

Bring it to life.

Journaling doesn’t have to be all about formal prose writing. Draw a map and pinpoint your route! Create a “cast list” of people you meet along the way and jot down their contact info! Overhear someone say something funny or interesting? Scribble down the dialogue. Those real-life conversations bring your trip to life!

Keep a "best of" list

Think: best sunsets, best meals, best hike, best shopping area, best view, etc. Basically, highlight a list of things to see when writing your vacation ideas and do as if one of your friends told you they were taking the same trip!

Use all of your senses

Write down what you hear, see, smell, taste, and feel. Describe just how creamy that gelato in Italy was. Write down textures! Was the ground easy to walk on, or was it rugged and rocky? Was the sand silky soft or coarse and pebbly? How did it feel to chew escargot? What did the air smell like on the streets of Bangkok? Sensory writing is great for jogging your memory years after your trip.

Stop worrying

Don’t go crazy writing down every little itty bitty thing. Make sure to take everything in and stay present. Don’t waste time worrying about organization and chronolgy – write whatever, whenever. Do, however, try your best to write things down while they’re still fresh in your mind. Even just a few quick words will jog your memory later, when you have the time to write a full, detailed entry.

Make time

Vacation days fly by so quickly, sometimes it gets hard to keep up! Jot down something in the early morning, before dinner (in that late afternoon nap-gap), before bed, or on the way to another destination. Sitting on a train or in a taxi? Scribble down a couple sentences. Even if it’s not a written masterpiece, you’ll be happy you took a few minutes to record.

Show and tell

Who says a journal can’t also be a scrapbook? Stick photos, receipts, tickets, business cards, paper menus, etc. to the appropriate pages of your journal. On the day you visit the Louvre, write about it, then tack your ticket onto the page. If you’re an artist (or just like to draw), sketch out a scene! This is a fun way to really focus on every detail of a sight or landscape. To really capture the memory of a place, press some flowers, grasses, or leaves into the book. It’ll be extra special to have a physical piece of a special place with you when you return home.

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