Travel Journal: How to Make the Best Travel Diary

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See the bottom of this post for a Leuchtturm 1917 2011 Travel Journal.

Most travelers on an extended trip want to keep some sort of record of their travels. Something they can look back to 5 or 10 years down the road and remember those amazing moments or a way of recording the exact details of places they ate and slept – as sort of a modified guidebook. Many people now use a travel blog for this, but keeping a travel journal or travel diary is much more private – and easier. I’m not normally a person to keep a diary, but when we take an extended trip I always keep a journal nearby.

So, how to you pick the best travel journal?

Here are reviews of my favorites followed by the simple method I use to record my memories:

Leuchtturm 1917

I use a Leuchtturm 1917 daily planner as part of my regular work day at home. They are much like Moleskines (see below), but I find their planner superior for several reasons. First, there is a small 6-month monthly calendar at the bottom of every page. You probably don’t think this is such a big deal, but I promise you it will change your relationship with your planner because you won’t constantly be flipping to different pages. leuchtturmtraveljournalThere are also several perforated sheets at the end of the planner for easy note taking. It also has all of the features of a Moleskine – like a pagemarker, pocket, is thread bound, hard cover, and ink-proof acid free paper.

I like using a daily planner like this on all of my trips because I can just jot notes on the days we visited a certain place. But if you want more room for notes, drawings, and empty space, I recommend the Leuchtturm 1917 plain blank notebooks. (With either completely blank pages or ruled pages.) These are also like Moleskines in many ways, except there is a tiny page number in the corner of each page. This pagination makes it easy to create a table of contents (in the front of each notebook) so again you’re not flipping through trying to find a particular part of the journal.

Leuchtturm 1917’s motto is “Details Make all the Difference” and they live up to their theme. The details of the Leuchtturm products are fantastic.

Note about Leuchtturm 1917 – I used a Leuchtturm 1917 planner last year and hunted furiously for one for this calendar year. I finally learned that there was a mix up with their US distributer this year – but they were kind enough to send me one all the way from Germany! You can still buy their notebooks throughout the US. And you can enter to win a 2011 planner below. But unless you’re traveling to Europe and can pick up a Leuchtturm planner while you’re on the road, you’ll have to make do with the blank notebooks.

Moleskine Planners and Notebooks

I was a Moleskine fiend before I discovered Leuchtturm 1917. They have an amazing assortment of products that make great travel planners including plain notebooks, planners, and City Notebooks. The plain notebooks and planners come in soft cover leather and hardcover leather.

The City Notebooks are pretty amazing, though I’ve never used one for a trip myself. The tagline is: “The first guidebook you make yourself” and that’s exactly what you do with the Moleskine City Notebook.

Moleskine City NotebookHere are some of it’s features:

The Key Map summarizes the overall layout of the city, including large-scale maps of the city centre, an alphabetical street index, and map of the metro system.
Up to 76 blank pages gives you all the space you need to write, jot down useful information, and record your thoughts, stories, and memories.
A personal 96-page archive keeps everything that matters most at your fingertips. 12 translucent sticky sheets, to overlay and re-position, allow you to trace your route as you go.

Unfortunately, they are city by city – so you have to be staked out in one place for a longer time to make good use of one. And they currently offer them for only 44 cities. But, it’s a clever idea and makes a great leather travel planner.

But, the Moleskine brand is well known and you can find them in almost any bookstore or specialty paper store as well as online at Amazon.

How to Make a Travel Journal

I find that sometimes when traveling it’s too time consuming to write down all of the details of my day – so I use my travel journal as a kind of travel scrapbook. I carry with me a small role of double-sided tape and paste in my journal business cards, receipts, brochures, candy wrappers – whatever I’ve picked up over the course of the day that will help me remember my journey. Then I can jot down a few notes by that particular object and I’ve created a way to record my thoughts and details of my trip.  You can dress up a Moleskine or other fancier journal – or you can just use a smaller Meade notebook (I like the 9” x 6” size in college ruled – non perforated). My favorite travel journal was a cheap Meade notebook that I actually glued small change from the countries I visited to the cover of the journal.

The best part about a travel journal is that if you start with a completely blank slate the journal is yours to fill with whatever you wish. No matter what you include inside I highly recommend always including the names of your favorite sites and restaurants. Because inevitably  a friend or family member will be visiting the same destination and you’ll want to be able to give them the specific name of that one place where you had the most amazing and delicious steak/coffee/cake/pasta you’ve ever eaten.

Do you keep a travel journal? What do you use and how do you use it?

10 thoughts on “Travel Journal: How to Make the Best Travel Diary”

  1. I would love to win this! I keep trying to keep a journal when I travel but I am not successful. But I think it is because I am just buying a really really small notebook that is not organized or anything.

  2. I’m not eligible to win (all the way here in Australia, the postage would be painful.) But I really like your idea of carrying double sided tape. I always keep ticket stubs and scraps of paper as mementos with the INTENTION of making a scrapbook, but it never happens. Tape it down on the spot, done. Far better option

  3. I love my Moleskine notebooks but now my curiosity is piqued with the Leuchtturm 1917 although a cursory look online doesn’t show much of a difference between the two. I need to get my hands on one and feel the paper and sketch on it.

    Btw, I have the Moleskine Beijing City Notebook and I’m not a fan. As you mentioned, it’s meant for one city and with the number of pages and detail demanded, it’s only for those who intend to stay there for extended periods of time. Although I frequent the city, I still found it difficult to use and given that the city is constantly changing, the data is outdated quickly.

  4. wandering educators

    your ideas. i generally type things up in our laptop each night – but i love the thought of such a beautiful travel journal. i don’t need this travel journal this year, but i will keep that brand in mind – looks great!

  5. Interesting read! I have an all-purposes journal – that’s where I log my travel thoughts. I’ll keep your suggestions in mind for when I’ll finish my current one.

  6. To write while you travel is a beautiful thing. The immediacy of your thoughts while jotted down in unfamiliar territory simply cannot be captured once you are back home and at ease.

  7. Awesome, just got back from Vietnam to find my Leuchtturm 1917 on my table. I’ve already started copying over my notes and schedules onto the planner. Thanks again!

  8. Tita of Vietnam Visa

    I made it to Saigon, uh… I mean Ho Chi Minh City. The flight attendant repeatedly caught herself calling the city we had just arrived in by the “wrong” name. When one refers to the city as Saigon, it insinuates something negative. I don’t know what, something to do with communism. I will leave that part to the historians. Apparently it took half the flight crew to wake me on approach. Literally, I woke up and there were three flight attendants standing in front of me looking quite shocked. I mumbled something about San Francisco and put my seat upright. I fell back asleep on our taxi. I attribute my sober stupor to two days of flying to get here, but also to Cathay Pacific’s lie flat Business Class seats. At first glance they look small and cramped but there is plenty of space, privacy and comfort. More on those seats to come.

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