We just had them most amazing vacation in Arizona! For our family, it was a big decision to go, and a lot was involved in the planning and preparations to ensure that we would remain safe, and also not miss anything important for the business.
I am so glad we went, and took numerous pictures to capture all the special moments. I also kept a travel journal to record all the activities we did each day, and want to share with you some tips, in case some of you are ready to go travelling again soon.
In the past when I travelled, I always kept a travel journal. It was more for sentimental reasons because the truth was, I rarely looked at them again. After I started a family, I realized how useful travel journals were because I started to create photobooks for the family to share and relive the fun, and needed to regularly refer back to my notes.
Whatever your reasons are for keeping a travel journal during your vacation, here are some tips that you might find helpful. Keep in mind that this is what works for me, so feel free to skip or adjust any of the tips below to make them work for you and your thinking/organization style.
1. Choosing a Journal
First and foremost, buy a journal or notebook that is right for you! I like a notebook that is small for portability, and one with square or dot grid paper. I always keep it in a Ziploc bag with my passport, a pen and my itinerary.
Keep it simple, so that it's a relaxing process to write in your travel notebook.
- Title Pages – If you use the same journal for multiple trips, it’s helpful to separate the trip with a title page followed by a couple of blank pages. You could even dog-ear the title pages so that it’s easy to flip from trip to trip.
- Important travel info – On my first page (back of title page), I like to write down some important info before I go. This includes flight info, name and address of booked accommodations, any appointments, local contacts, etc.
- Expenses – At the back of the notebook, it might be helpful for you to keep track of your expenses. This will come in handy for customs at the airport, and it’s also good to know how much you’ve spent on the trip if budgeting matters.
3. Writing Conventions
Consistency is key… come up with conventions that you can stick to throughout the journal. Some things to consider include:
- Headings – To help your eyes find info quickly and your brain to filter through the content, try to use the same style of headings in all your entries. Here’s an explanation of what I do:
- I start each day on a new page, and I always say which day it is, plus the date, written in upper case letters and underline the title with a squiggly line.
- Then, each big activity has its own heading that is underlined with a straight line (you can put a box around it or use another style)
- If a location or big activity has sub activities, I create a heading for each, also underlined with a straight line, but I indent them so that my brain knows those sub activities took place at the same location (see under 4th Avenue Historic Area, I have Shopping and Dinner as sub activities).
- Point form – I never write a long entry without sections and I rarely write big paragraphs. By using bullet form, I know that each point is its own idea, and the information is easy to digest and easy to find.
- Space – It’s helpful to leave some space around your entries. I tend to leave at least 2 squares on the left margin so that I have space to add notes in case I forgot something.
The more, the better. Include info about:
- Accommodations – such as hotel name, location, and make note of whether it was the ideal place to stay (for example, our Airbnb house was truly the perfect location because it was close to the freeway and every attraction we visited).
- Weather – For future reference, make note of what the weather was like during the time of year that you went. You’ll be surprised how useful this info can be if your friends ever ask or if you plan to return to that destination in the future.
- Restaurants – Write down the name of the establishments. You may want to recommend it to friends or give the restaurant a Google review (service providers appreciate that!).
If you’re a visual person, illustrations can be very helpful for comprehension and recalling information. Visiting several cities within the same country? Draw your own little map and plot the points of destinations. Found the perfect spot to catch a sunset in the mountains? Specify that location in a drawing with labels.
My travel journal is not perfect. I’ve scratched out mistakes and jammed in missing details on certain pages. But this journal will be invaluable when I’m ready to create my next photobook of one of the best family trips we have ever taken.
Got some tips to share for travel journaling? Let us know in a comment!