Travel journals, photo books, story maps and more travel memory makers

When you travel the world, how do you remember the experiences you have? I was chatting with some fellow bloggers about this recently and these conversations reminded me just how many variations on a travel journal there are. Gone are the days when a simple handwritten travel diary was the only option.

Travel journals, photo books, story maps and more travel memory makers

Photo books for travel memories

Sally from Our 3 Kids v the World does something I often try to do, but have only succeeded in doing a couple of times – she creates gorgeous photo books (there are so many good companies who do this for very reasonable prices these days) of each of her trips. I particularly love that the kids even use them to show their friends!

We have been travelling with our kids for a while now and I always have the best intentions of getting them to keep a diary while we are away, even if it was only a few hand drawn pictures. When it comes to the crunch we find that we are very busy when we are away and by the time they get to bed at night they are too tired and exhausted and sleeping is a much better option.

For this reason I thought I would find another way to ingrain the awesome holidays we’ve had into their memories. I came across personally made photo books. Online programs enable me to make my own books and set them out just how I want, in the order that we did things with pictures of where we went and who we met. You can have as many pages as you like, my last one for Japan was 150 pages.

Photo books for travel memories

Sally makes great photo books to keep her travel memories alive and I love them!

When the photo books arrive, the kids all sit down and go through each page and it’s amazing to flick through the pages and see what they recall from the photos I added to the book. The kids often get one down and have a flick through or show one of their friends. It’s great to have this souvenir handy rather than having to get the computer and show the photos that way.

Still a place for handwritten travel diaries

I must confess that the most common method for me even today is to use a handwritten travel diary, because it’s something I can do anywhere, anytime. Carolyn of Holidays to Europe is the same so I completely relate to this!

I’m definitely in the old school mode when it comes to recording my European travels and I’ve kept every travel diary since my first trip way back in 1988.

I buy a new travel diary at home and use it to record an outline of our itinerary, any email addresses or contact numbers I’ll need for the trip (property owners’ details for rental apartments, etc.) and this is the first thing I pack in my carry-on bag.

During my trip I update the diary each night with our location, daily activities, weather details and any highlights.  I also like to stick in any special tickets or mementos from the day.

Hand-written travel diary for trip memories

Carolyn’s hand-written travel diary – I have to admit it’s much neater than mine!

My travel diary is also the place I record the cost of various purchases.  We often hire a car in Europe so I jot down the cost of fuel each time we fill up to keep a running tally.

The diaries are a great way to re-live my holidays.  When I’m back at home, I love being able to curl up in a chair and flick through the pages, reminiscing about past trips and re-living the happy memories in my mind.

Story map travel journals (I love them!)

My lovely friend Linda of Journey Jottings has taught me so much over the years, and I’m so glad she was happy to contribute to this post by talking about her story map travel journals. Even though I’m not particularly artistic, even I have managed to create some passable story maps of my travels and it has been both tremendous fun and a great way to remember a trip – I really urge you to have a go at this!

When it comes to travel memories – story map travel journals are my poison of choice. They’re quick to produce (so don’t consume precious holiday time) and are even quicker to flick through and relive those special moments.

On the road I’ll spend the last 15 minutes of each day doodle drawing some cartoonish pictograms – I’m not after lifelike renditions, I’m more after the experience – such as flying through the air in Canada down a series of zip lines, the first being a 30 storey drop!

Story map travel journals - Zip Lining in Canada

Story map travel journals – Zip lining in Canada

I’m adamant I’ll get the scrawly scribbles done before lights out as with so much happening it’s all too easy for details to evaporate when the clock strikes midnight. But the colouring invariably gets left till later, and filled in at odd moments. I use watercolour pencils with a water reservoir paintbrush that gives a painterly impression but with zero painterly skills.

I’ve become partial to accordion journals – they perfectly accommodate my theory that not all days are created equal – so the days that burst out full of activities can spill over several pages and remain connected; whereas quieter days can curl up in a corner yet still be part of the unravelling tale.

More beautiful hand-written travel journals

Elaine of The Whole World is a Playground is after my own heart with a serious love of hand-written travel journals.

Perched among all our travel books and magazines I have an entire shelf dedicated to travel journals filled to the brim with notes from our trip, Polaroids, tickets to the sights we’ve visited and boarding passes from our flights.

Paper journal travel diaries

Just some of that big handwritten travel journal collection

Pen and paper are a must for me, I’m old school when it comes to my travel journal! On long road trips or over a gin and tonic at sunset I love nothing more than pulling out my journal and capturing the day in words and pictures. It’s my memory bank, the place I record how a destination makes me feel.  Having made our way through almost 60 countries in the last 5 years I love being able to pull out my journal from a trip and know where we were on an exact day in 2014 or how the sunset was in Bagan all those moons ago. There’s only one tiny problem with my travel journal habit: despite only travelling with cabin baggage I always manage to sneak a huge journal into my luggage often at the expense of a much loved outfit!

Photo books with captions for detailed memories

Christine of Adventure, Baby! is another advocate of photo books. (Which is really reminding me again that I really need to get onto creating some more – my son loves to look through them and he remembers a lot more about our trips from the regular reminder of looking through the books.)

When I travel I rarely keep written notes anymore, but I do make a visual one through my photos. At the end of the trip I put together a high quality photo book that includes detail captions on where we went and what we experienced. I often keep tickets and stick them on the back pages of the book, too. As a blogger, I write about our trip on my website rather than in a notebook, which is what I used to do before I had the blog as an outlet.


Photo book of Thailand trip

Photo book of Christine’s Thailand trip


The perfect notebook for travel notes

I just love that Chris of One Weird Globe decided to create his very own custom-designed notebook to take with him on his travels. This means he can take all the different kinds of notes he wants to quickly and easily – and get on with the fun part of travelling.

For obvious reasons I’ve taken copious paper notes since I began taking travel blogging seriously (I’m faster on paper than a phone anyway). In November 2016, I looked at a stack of notebooks and wished they were more consistent … so I decided to roll my own solution.

The final product is an A5-sized notepad, which fits perfectly in my camera bag. Most decent-sized print shops should be able to add a spiral bind (which I prefer at the top). Some basics are at the top of every page (Name, Date, City), and you can guess how the stars and ‘1/2’ works. The next version I print will also have ‘Cost’ and a couple of icons to circle about whether photos are allowed — it goes without saying that the key here is adding the details that are most important to you.

Custom travel notebook solution

Chris’s own custom travel notebook solution impresses me no end!

I will not apologize for my sloppy handwriting, though I will admit to it =) When information is coming fast and furious and you’re on a schedule to reach several places in a day…? Yeah. In any case, abbreviations are common, quotes are rare unless I think they’ll be useful, and I’ll use a short horizontal line to indicate a break for some reason (moving to the next room, the next floor).

Remember to get a stiff backing and durable front / back sheets if you roll your own notebook. If you have an option for a hardcover in your print shop, it’s worth the extra few bucks to get that. Avoid the basic clear plastic, since it’s not nearly as durable as you think it is – try cut-to-order plastic instead.

Phone notes for travel memories

Barbara of seems to have perfected something I have tried in the past but failed at. I’m afraid I tend to revert to hand-written notes for various reasons … but I probably should give technology another chance sometime!

I don’t often carry around pen and a notebook. The one thing I always have on me is my phone, so I open up the notes application in my phone and take notes there about a destination and I will use these notes to write my blog post later. Below you can see my notes about a walking tour I took in Tel-Aviv. It started with a restaurant recommendation in Jaffa and continued with the historical facts the guide mentioned during the tour.

Phone notes for travel memories

Taking notes on your smartphone for travel memories

Later I wrote a story based on the short notes I jotted down during the tour. The benefits of writing notes on the phone is that I can always read it, because it is typed and not hand written. When I hand write while I’m walking, it can get pretty messy and sometimes I can’t read it in the end. On the other hand, I always have to make sure I save what I write down and that the notes make sense. If I write down a bunch of short phrases and words, some might not be comprehensive.

How do you record your travel memories?

Do you use one of these methods or something else entirely? Do any of these ideas inspire you to try something else? Let me know in the comments below!



  1. Thanks for including me, Amanda. I’ve never really thought about how many different kinds of travel diaires/journals there are.

    I can see a definitely need to get a bit more creative when it comes to recording my travel memories.

    • Thanks for your contribution Carolyn! I need to get more creative too, sometimes it’s too easy to default to straight diary mode even though I love doing it in different ways.

  2. The hand written travel journal is a great idea. I just scribble it out, unconcerned about grammar or spelling. The best time to do it, for me, is late afternoon/ early evening. Later, fatigue can dominate.

    Alas, the above only applies when I am not too lazy.

  3. I love the variety of ways out there for recording all those precious memories –
    Some nipped in the bud on the front line – others wallowed in after the event to create beautiful composed photo books to flick through for when that moment for nostalgia strikes 😀
    The underlying message seems that recording travel memories in some way or form is a little like taking the time to clean your teeth each day – if you don’t there are consequences, which when it comes to travel is that half the fun of the journey is walking down that lane again, providing you have the triggers in place to get you back there!

    • Oh Linda I love this analogy! Yes, you might not love the act of recording your memories every step of the way, but it’s well worth it (and way better than having false teeth!).

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