Travel in Ink: Travel Journal Ideas That Last a Lifetime

Meet Gregory, a writer and the brains behind Face Dragons. He's the go-to guy for getting things done. Gregory's been living the digital nomad life in Asia for as long as anyone can remember, helping clients smash their goals. He writes on topics like software, personal knowledge management (PKM), and personal development. When he's not writing, you'll catch him at the local MMA gym, nose buried in a book, or just chilling with the family.

I’ve spent the last 16 years traveling around Asia and writing about it. So I can understand the desire to capture all those once-in-a-lifetime memories in a travel journal. But rather than just writing page after page of what you did each day, you want some variety. So you need the travel journal ideas in this post.

This list is for you if you want to return home with something more interesting than a full notebook. Something more artistic and creative that you’ll look back on with nostalgic pleasure in the years to come.

Which Journal Should You Choose?

My travel journals from Nepal, Bali, and China.

Keeping a journal is one of the most meaningful things you can do in life, but before you can become a journaling traveler, you need to decide what the best journal notebook to jot down your travel diaries is for your trip.

Here are some travel journals to consider:

  • Moleskine – A Moleskine notebook is a high-quality paper notebook, perfect for journal writing.
  • Leather Journal – A leather-bound journal makes a beautiful vintage-style keepsake that will last.
  • Sketchbook or Scrapbook – Great for an art journal, drawing a world map, sketching, and calligraphy.
  • Pocket Notebook – Easy to carry and fits in your back pocket.
  • Buy One There – Find something handcrafted at your travel destination, so it doubles as a souvenir.
  • Digital Travel Diaries – Use software like Obsidian to create a personal journal you can back up.

Of course, you’ll also want the right stationery to go with your new notepad or writing journal.

You can’t beat a pencil for ease of use and if you lose it, it’s not the end of the world. Then again, if you are writing in a retro writing journal with a leather cover, you might find a fountain pen more your style (don’t forget to take a refill).

Turn Experiences into Journal Entries

Your experiences will make up the bulk of your travel journal. Journaling ideas and writing prompts can help if you ever get writer’s block or just aren’t sure what you should write about today. Here are three that will help you get started:

  • The thing I enjoyed most today was…
  • I’m really looking forward to…
  • The best meal I’ve had so far was…

Don’t Forget the People You Meet

One of the best things about travel is meeting new people, especially if you learn some of the language before you depart. So, don’t forget to add those people to your journal.

You can say where you met them and what you talked about, but why not create a section for documenting the people you encounter? Take a photo of them (if they don’t mind) and leave space to stick it in later. Ask them for their details, such as an email address or social media handles so you can keep in touch.

Another great travel journal idea is to give them a blank page and ask them to write or draw something. This is much more unique than collecting postcards. It’s a travel memory you’ll cherish.

Map Out Your Journey

Adding maps to your travel journal is a great way to make it visual and help you relive your trip. You don’t need to tour Europe with many destinations to utilize maps in your travel journal. Even if you’re staying in a single beach resort, you can still create maps of the hotel and swimming pools.

There are two main options for adding maps to your travel journal.

Draw Maps

If you have a pen-and-paper style diary, dedicate a two-page spread to a map that includes your entire trip. For example, if you’re visiting a few countries, this will be a zoomed-out view of your route.

Add the places you intend to visit on your map and use stars and a dotted line to show your route. Leave space so later you can draw attractions you saw or experienced along the way.

This overview map would be an excellent start to your travel diary, but it doesn’t need to be the only map you incorporate.

If you spend a day walking around the town square, map it out in your notebook too, and add that place with the fantastic croissants or the only place you found in town with good coffee. Only a map can remind you in a genuine sense of the location details of what it was like to be there.

Online Maps

The other option, of course, is to use Google maps or another online map. This will be especially useful if you are writing a digital travel journal or don’t want to spend time drawing out maps.

Google maps will let you drop pins and stars on your map that will stay there forever if you’re logged in, so you can always have a memory of those locations. You can also use Street View to remind yourself what it was like there.

Don’t just add a bunch of stars to your Google Maps and think that will be enough, though. Having a saved location is great, but it won’t replace writing down your thoughts about what you did and how you felt while you were there.

Food Diary

Let’s be honest for a moment. One of the main reasons we travel is to try all the tasty street food and other treats we can’t get back home. Can you imagine going to Thailand without Pad Thai?

So creating a food diary is nothing to feel guilty about. Who wouldn’t want a reminder of all the best meals you had on your once-in-a-lifetime trip?

A picture is worth a thousand words here, so take photos with your smartphone. Create an album just for your food journal, or post them all to a social media app like Instagram.

You could write an entry for each meal, but honestly, the photo will do most of the talking here.

The way I like to incorporate my photos is to be mindful about mentioning my meals in my journal. Then I can add pictures to highlight them.

I don’t need to write a whole journal entry about the Satay I had in Luang Prabang, but when I recount sitting on the side of the street with a banana leaf as a plate on that first cold night, the picture of us eating the satay skewers takes me back there.

Stickers, Stamps, and Postcards

When you’re out and about, there are so many things to buy that make incredible additions to your travel journal.

When we were in Yun Nan, China, many of the restaurants, stores, and attractions had ink stamps with different colored inks to remember the places you had visited. You could buy small blank books or “passports” with pages for each of them, but I preferred stamping them straight into my journal. It was a fantastic journaling prompt to help me write later in the day.

Ticket stubs and receipts are another way to add some variation to your journal. As are other memorabilia such as postage stamps, postcards, and stickers you find in tourist areas.

Expenses Can Be a Talking Point

I’m sure you made a budget before you left, but did you stick to it?

Creating an expense journal is not really about ensuring you stick to your budget to save money, though it can be. It can also be fun to remember everything you did or bought while on your vacation.

Much like the food journal, this doesn’t need to be the only way you immortalize your trip. Instead, it’s a great addition to a more traditional travel journal. When you write about your day at the beach, the money you spend creates a fantastic outline for the things you did all day.

The dollar you spent on icecreams, then the 20 bucks you had to pay because you forgot to bring towels. They all form part of the memories you’ll take back home with you. But without noting down your expenses, it’s really easy to forget those little things.

A simple expense app is one way to remember everything you bought, but you can also write it in your journal every day.

A fun way to recount the day is sitting around the table at dinner and asking everyone everything you all spent that day and jotting them down.

Hold on to Your Itinerary

A travel itinerary is no of the must-have travel journaling ideas.

Create a trip itinerary in the front of your travel journal when planning your route or the places you want to visit. You can use this as a checklist or recreate the itinerary in the back of your diary at the end of your journey and see if they match up.

Itineraries are also a fantastic idea when you have a busy day scheduled. You can include times and locations you want to visit and also travel details such as when are where to catch the bus to your next spot. Don’t forget to include those restaurants you want to try too!

Create an Inspiring Photo Journal

You’re no doubt taking photos everywhere you go anyway, but if you’re anything like me, those photos end up lost somewhere in my phone.

Instead, I’ve built the habit of choosing a select few photos to represent each trip or experience.

Imagine if you had to pick just 20 images to remember your two weeks in France. First, it makes you want to take better photos. And second, once you have chosen your photos, it encourages you to do something with them.

Printing pictures is something few of us do now, partly because we have so many photos. So how would we ever be able to decide which to print? But when you have just 20 photos you’ve chosen to represent your entire vacation, why wouldn’t you print them?

Additionally, twenty images are much easier to put into a journal than 2000, whether it’s sticking them in a physical diary or just copying them into a digital notebook.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t take as many photos as you want, but you should try selecting a few.

Writing with these Travel Journal Ideas

All that’s left is to book those tickets and get going, and don’t forget to pack your journal! Bon Voyage!