Are you looking for easy travel journal ideas to make your creation more unique?
Are you one of those rare travelers who still has the urge to write a sentence or two in your travel journals while on the road – your thoughts and opinions about a subject, the things that you do, what you spent on lunch at a small cafe in an alley in Honolulu?
Creating a handwritten travel journal is one of the most important things I do when we’re on the road – just a book, a pen, and a glue stick is all I need. For me, writing it all down is part of the fun.
So, is it worth doing? Definitely! Throughout my years of travel, I have developed a few unique things to include in my travel journal, aside from the usual writing.
Travel journal tips and pics!
Here are eleven cool travel journal tips and examples that may help you write a travel journal that’s worth reading!
1. Tickets and maps are great travel journal ideas
Unless you just fly into a city and stay in the airport the whole time, you have tickets and maps from your travels. But maybe you just put them all in a plastic bag and keep them in the closet.
Instead of putting them in a shoebox, physically glue maps and tickets into the pages of your travel journals.
Do this so that you can keep them organized and in context.
2. Record unique interactions with others
You meet a lot of people on the road, both locals and fellow travelers. You may exchange contact info at some point. Or you might just have a nice chat!
Capture all this stuff in your traveler’s notebook.
Glue business cards in your book. Let them write their email addresses or contact information.
Tell them to do it both in your language and their own. Translate a few local words and phrases in your travel journal.
3. Add sketches to your travel diary
Back in Landscape Architecture school, I did a lot of great sketching while traveling with my class. Although I wish I have done more of these sketches on the road, I did a handful.
I love sitting down in front of an object – taking my time to look at it and sketch.
It might even be an animal like a Komodo Dragon, who could easily get impatient with being my model and rip me to shreds!
If you see something interesting while on the road and can draw even a little bit (or not!), make a sketch in your travel journal.
Here’s an example of my own:
4. Glue money in your travel journal
One of the first things you do after clearing immigration at the airport is hit an ATM or currency exchange counter to get a stack of the local currency.
At the end of the journey, you probably have some left. So, why not glue money in your travel journal? I have an entire South African set in my journal!
Of course, this always works best with a currency that doesn’t have a high value, but go ahead and glue those in, too!
Especially if you know you won’t be back anytime soon.
5. Postage stamps for a unique travel journal
This is one of my favorite travel journal ideas. I just walk into a local post office and say…
I want to buy a stamp for my journal. I want it canceled with today’s date and the location of the post office. And I know you don’t speak English, but I’m not leaving until you understand what I mean in my introductory Arabic.
Hey! I’m a stamp collector, and I love the interaction that I have with postal workers. And I end up with a very unique and pretty keepsake in my journal!
But even if you have no interest in stamps, they add a touch of local flavor to a travel journal that is unique. And, like a passport stamp, it proves you were there!
Further reading: More about my travel journal postage stamps and cancellations here.
I have never encountered any problems with this request all around the world, except in Italy, where the clerk refused to cancel my stamp.
In the United States, all 400+ National Park sites have a passport stamp that I add to both my NPS Passport and my custom travel journals. NPS locations can be found here, including the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, the Everglades, and the White House.
6. Leaves & flowers are great travel journal ideas
As a Landscape Architect, I’m always drawn to different plants in foreign countries. Even if you’re not a plant enthusiast, you can always appreciate them.
Plants may also beautifully capture a specific event you experienced – a yellow sugar maple leaf from Canada’s Fall visit or sakura petals from the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan.
The sandwich that I ordered at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in Cape Town came with a branch of fragrant rosemary that I keep in my journal!
I kept a few Cherry blossom petals from the festival I attended in Nikko, Japan, as well as a small cedar branch that defines this UNESCO site.
As a result, my Japanese journal now still smells like an evergreen forest!
Note. If you decide to add plants to your travel journal, you might not want to tell a Customs agent. I’ve never had a problem, but, you know…laws and stuff!
7. Include color from a special place
This travel journal idea came to me when I was in Fiesole, near Florence. We spilled a jug of red wine at a wine bar, which partially ruined my journal.
And as it dried, a few of my travel journal pages turned a tinge of purple. It became a story in itself that captured our experience in Tuscany.
I know that this may be dirty and messy. But it’s worth doing. Not spilling wine – but adding color to your journal…
I even like to rub dirt onto my journal pages sometimes. I’ve done this in only a handful of places – the pink sand of Petra, the mud volcano in Colombia, and during my hike up Table Top Mountain in Cape Town.
In Cartagena and Valparaiso, which are famous for their colorful houses, I found a few paint flakes on the street that I glued onto my travel journals.
8. Found something unique? Put it in!
I don’t do this a lot. A few times though, I found interesting objects on the road while traveling, and I keep them in my travel journals.
In Lucerne, I found a Ukrainian bill on a road and I glued it next to a goose feather.
Both of these were interesting travel journal ideas that added nicely to the experience I wrote about that day in Switzerland.
Found objects can come from anywhere – supermarket flyers, free handouts – all interesting items that make cool travel journal ideas that add depth to your journey.
9. Stickers & interesting food packaging
I like going to local grocery stores to see what they sell that is different from home. Local products typically have great and interesting packing, with label designs that are worth keeping.
Keep eye-catching stickers or labels in your travel journal that come from products that you used or ate. A sticker from an egg carton. Teabag labels or labels from wine and beer bottles.
Those little stickers from fruit or cheese or prepackaged sandwiches could make a good collage in your travel diary.
All are nice, personalized travel journal ideas that will spice them up – maybe even literally!
10. Design a custom travel journal cover
Yes, I even make my own journal covers. My travel journal cover ideas include fabric or bag-like objects that I find during my travels that can be made into custom travel journal covers.
I’ve used a plastic bag that I received from my Marathon Expo in Germany, even a goodie-bag from a wedding in Portugal.
This is especially good for those crafty types who like to sew.
You can even make travel journals with pockets this way.
An old garment or tourist t-shirt with the city’s name or a reusable grocery bag make excellent travel journal covers.
The list is endless.
11. Send yourself a postcard and add it
It sounds pathetic and lonely to send yourself a postcard, but it is actually a very cool keepsake to add to your travel journal.
For more than twenty years, I’ve sent postcards to my mom in Indonesia. She’s received one from everywhere I’ve traveled. When I visited her a few years ago, I was astonished to see that she kept every single one of them!
I describe a snapshot of my day in that particular place and add the postcard to my travel journal when I get home.
Travel Journals for kids
Of course, none of the ideas above are unique to adults. They’re perfect for children’s travel journals, too!
When you’re on the road, a travel journal that incorporates the ideas above are a great way to keep kids occupied. It’s an amazing way to stoke their creativity and keep them engaged with the world they are experiencing with you!
Give it a try!
The best travel journals are personalized
Keeping a handwritten journal of your travels is fun! If you don’t do it now, at least give it a try!
If old school is not your thing, at least record your thoughts and feelings on the road in some way and add your new travel journal ideas to them.
While digital (blogs, Instagram, Facebook) is easy, a physical book adds the details that you often forget when you just reply on Facebook or even a blog.
I know I take my travel journals to the extreme, and you definitely don’t need to overwhelm yourself with all of these suggestions.
Your creative travel journal ideas have to be a reflection of you – and there’s no right or wrong on how you do it.
Make your travel journal unique!
So give it a try! My guess is that you’ll be glad to have all this stuff written down. We hope my travel journal tips make yours a great journal to read when you are reflecting on a life well-lived later on.
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Halef moved from Indonesia to the US nearly two decades ago to go to college here. He hasn’t looked back. He’s been to over forty countries and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. He’s a Landscape Architect in Atlanta, GA.
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These are wonderful ideas! I plan to use every one of theses for my next trip…Las Vegas in September!
Good idea! If you win $1,000 at the tables, glue that poker chip into your journal! 😉
Thank you Halef, these are great ideas, very inspirational!
A kindred spirit! I, too, make travel journals as I go. They are the best souvenirs I have.
One thing I’ve done is to create borders around my pages to delineate different locations. Sometimes I do it ahead of time (often while researching the upcoming destinations), sometimes while on a plane/bus/train on the go with an art kit I fit into a small packing cube. I leave plenty of space for each locale. Don’t end up needing that much space? No problem! I just print some pictures from the trip and glue them in when I get home.
Thanks for writing this article. It’s good to know there is someone else that sees creating on the go as joy instead of work.
So many great ideas. I wish I had seen this 45 years ago, when I was doing the most traveling. I plan the heck out of every trip, but never follow up with a journal. I’m a few years from retirement and looking forward to making a lot of new memories. Great Article!
Glad you enjoyed it. Never too late to start!
Wonderful ideas!! I am an art journalist and just love the tips you shared, especially the postage and cancelled stamp idea! Looking forward to seeing some flip throughs in the future! Thank you!!
Some great ideas here, thanks for sharing. But please do not recommend to others to sneak in flora or soil from countries, to other countries. Countries such as NZ and Australia and states such as Hawaii have strict rules to protect the agriculture of their country and tourists sneaking in things, could give them a hefty fine if they are caught due to the risk of there being something dangerous to their flora and fauna.