Travel Journals Ideas – How and Why to Write One

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DAY 3 (Must be Friday) We got a late start, as more in our party started to adjust to Hawaii time. We headed west to Waimea Canyon. After driving to a few lookouts we came to the end of the road and set off on what we thought was an “easy one mile family hike”. Little did we know what we were getting into. We found the trail marking for a one mile hike and set off happily, humming a little tune. We were soon thinking this wasn’t quite what we had expected. The first half-mile was a good bit rockier and muddier than we’d expected. There were some pretty views, but not much different than we’d seen from the overviews. But surely, we thought, the view at the end must be spectacular. So we traveled on, as the ground got muddier and the trail got steeper, until we were climbing hand over hand, over logs, up steep slopes. All the while we were thinking “I’m really surprised the guidebook called this an easy family hike”.

The Value of Travel Journals

The above paragraph was written in our travel journal in the safety of our Kauai hotel room on the evening after our misadventure on that beautiful island. We had started what was supposed to be a short hike to a waterfall but had turned into an overland adventure when we started from the wrong parking lot. While my wife wrote the words above, our clothes still were covered with the red clay mud of Kauai.

We have a bookshelf in our living room where we keep some of our most cherished possessions. Our travel journals are kept there above out photo albums where theoretically we could grab them in our hurry out the front door should our house ever catch fire. Travel journals have been important in my family since before we were married. My wife still has the journal from her Spring Break trip to Florida. It sits next to our journal from driving cross country after college in the 1980s. Combined with the photographs we take, these journals help us remember the details of what would otherwise be a faded memory.

How to write a Travel Journal

If you are going to write a travel journal then I would suggest you:

  • Make sure a journal and pen are on your packing list. You can use any notebook or your computer or smartphone.
  • Decide who you are writing this journal for. Our travel journals are written for us. Sometimes they contain witty prose and humor and sometimes they just contain facts we want to remember. They are not my blog. They certainly contain details that would be boring to other people. I don’t care. I would also suggest you write for yourself.
  • Jot down notes every day that will help you remember the details of the day. If you don’t have time to write a journal entry, just keep a list of your notes in the back of whatever you are using for a journal.
  • Set aside time in the evening, at breakfast, on the plane, on the train or on car rides to take these facts and write your journal entries. Try and write something for every day of your trip.

Travel Journal Writing Prompts

  • Think about what you saw that surprised you.
  • Think about what amused you.
  • Think about the sights, smells, tastes, and sounds.
  • What was the name of that guide, site, etc?
  • Who was the most interesting person you saw or talked to?
  • Take a picture of that historic plaque to help you with details you may want later.

Don’t worry too much about editing, spelling or grammar. This journal is for you. You can clean it up later.

Travel Journal Examples

You can see some online versions of my travel journals on Amateur Traveler. You can keep a travel journal on paper or you can keep it on your laptop, smartphone or tablet. If you do plan on putting it online as I do there are some advantages to keeping your journal electronically. Of course, that does also mean that you have to worry about your device being charged.

Travel Journals

There are no particular requirements for what you write in or on. The travel journal above is 3 sheets of yellowing 8.5″ x 11″ pieces of paper. We have written in small notebooks, Moleskine notebooks, and college-ruled notebooks. It does have to be small enough that you will take it with you. I once gave my wife the gift of a notebook where I had covered it with our travel photos and then laminated the cover. I loved that travel journal.

Globtrotter%27s%20LogBookThere are also some commercial options. I was recently sent a copy of the Globetrotter’s LogBook which is a nifty looking Moleskine-like book with a place for country stamps for every country, a flight register, a vaccination register, maps, website lists and an area to write notes. I am not sure it is the most practical travel journal because of the limited space, or even that it is all that practical… but it is awfully cute. Amazon has a large range of blank travel journals.

And of course, if you travel with a laptop or even a tablet like an iPad you could keep your notes electronically but this will add additional complexity as you worry about battery life and backups.

Whatever medium you choose, don’t assume you will remember all the things you want to from your trip. Write them down and cherish them for years.

Travel Journals - How and Why to Write One

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

3 Responses to “Travel Journals Ideas – How and Why to Write One”

Bohemian Trails


Nice tips! I always make a point to bring a journal with me when I travel



My mother kept journals of her travels, starting in 1933 at age 11 when she took a trip to the Chicago World’s Fair. Later on, of course, they included trips taken with my dad. Late in their lives, when they were both pretty bed-ridden but sharp mentally, she got them out and read them out loud to my dad. What a special thing to have to relive those fun times!
I have those journals now and have started a blog of them for my grown children. It’s been a great way for them to see their grandparents in a different way – not to mention seeing how different travel was back then.

Chris Christensen


very cool fayster

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