Last week I wrote about the benefits of keeping a vacation journal. I promised to tell you more about using websites and apps to help you accomplish that goal.
For 20 years, a website called TravelPod provided a free platform for recording and sharing travel journals. The site included availability for placing a point on a map for each location visited. Journals could include words and pictures, and a mailing list could be stored for ease in sharing the journal. The website was great for travelers wanting to share their adventures with others.
My family started using TravelPod in 2009, so we were able to join long after any initial kinks were worked out. We were disappointed when the site decided to close in June of last year.
I had just returned from a trip when I heard the news. Thankfully, TravelPod saved everyone’s files and provided a way for the files to be downloaded to a home computer or transferred to a different service. I immediately saved my files to my computer, but I wasn’t sure what to do next.
Almost immediately, another website was created by a former TravelPod user, and it was also offered free to its users (at this time it is still free). Although there were, and still are, a number of travel journal websites available, TravelArk 2.0 was built to most closely resemble the website with which former users were familiar. (The first TravelArk version (1.0) is still available, but is different from TravelPod).
I was hesitant, and spent several hours researching other possibilities. Nothing seemed as simple, or complete, as TravelPod. Finally, I decided to try TravelArk 2.0. I was able to transfer all my files to the new website. Installed on the site, my journals look nearly the same as they did on TravelPod.
Although there is no dedicated app for iPhone or iPad, I can work directly on the website on either device. I look forward to trying out the website on my trip to France later this year – in fact, I have already created the trip.
How TravelArk 2.0 Works
If you’d like to use TravelArk 2.0, the first thing you will need to do, is set up an account. It’s simple – create a username and password and agree to the terms and conditions.
Once you have an account, you can start creating your first journal. Your trip needs a title, dates, and an optional description. You can add a cover photo if you’d like.
When your trip has been created, you can start creating entries. Each day on your trip, a journal entry can be added. If you add the name of the town or city you are visiting, TravelArk 2.0 will place a pin on the map on your trip’s home page. You can also import pictures to enhance the journal.
The entry will be stored in “draft” mode until you choose to publish it. Even after it is published, though, it can still be edited. I hate finding typos, but am glad they can be easily fixed.
When you publish an entry, you can also choose to send a notification to everyone on your mailing list. Each person will receive a short email saying that you have published a new entry from “this city” – wherever you are that day.
TravelArk 2.0 is a free, simple way to share your travels with your friends and family.
Although I decided to use TravelArk 2.0, my sister chose to save her files to WordPress. WordPress.com offers a free blogging platform to people interested in blogging. It works fine for people who want to journal their travels, their thoughts, their children’s actions and sayings, or any other topic.
Since its coverage can be so varied, though, the website does not provide the trip specific features included on TravelArk 2.0 or other travel journal sites. The fill-in-the-blank method of setting up each trip is missing. Pictures can be added, but the automatic mapping function is not available.
WordPress has advantages though, especially for people who like to write about things in addition to travel. Beyond her travel entries, my sister writes posts about family. (She wrote the wonderful story about my dad retiring from the Christmas tree business).
WordPress may be a little more difficult for new users to understand, but if you are serious about blogging it’s a great place to start. WordPress.com offers a free platform, but your entries can easily be converted to entries on a paid website that uses a WordPress theme (available from WordPress.org). This site, Ms. Mae Travels, uses a WordPress theme.
On my recent cruise, I chose to use a very simple journal method. Very simple, but with less features. I used the Notes app on my phone, typing journal entries each day. If you are just looking for a way to capture your thoughts or keep a record of sites visited and activities in which you participated, Notes may be what you are looking for.
In Notes, you can type or hand-write your entries; you can add pictures; and you can even email or text the entry to people on your phone’s contact list.
While Notes offers some formatting options, the finished journal produced in the app will lack the polish offered by other options. In addition, both Travelark 2.0 an WordPress.com offer simpler ways to produce a nice-looking entry.
The most important benefit for me is the option to just pick up my phone and begin to write. I don’t have to log in. I don’t have to set up a trip or entry. I don’t have to format if I don’t want to. On my recent trip, I didn’t plan to share the journal with anyone – except maybe my daughters – so I wasn’t worried about what it looked like. I intended it to be a way for me to remember highlights and some details of the trip. If I want, I can copy the entries into one of the other programs, edit it, add pictures, and share it from there.
Keeping a Journal
Keeping a journal can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. But regardless of which option you choose, the journal can become a treasure. Our family treasures the paper journals my husband wrote, but we also love the online journals we’ve kept for five of our most recent trips abroad.
If you haven’t kept a vacation journal yet, try it on your next trip. It will be more meaningful than you might expect.