Keeping a Vacation Journal

The “Battle Lake Journals”

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of my husband’s death. One of the treasures he left to us was his love for keeping a vacation journal and, with that, his “Battle Lake Journals.”

I vacationed in Battle Lake, Minnesota all my life – first with my parents, then with my husband and daughters. Early in our marriage, my husband started keeping a fishing journal. He recorded where he fished, the temperature and wind conditions, and what kind of fish he caught.

Eventually, he began to add other notes to his journals. He recorded which extended family members were at the resort with us. He wrote about turtle races, shopping for antiques, and the treasures my girls and I found at the annual “crazy daze” sales. Each year his journals grew until they were many pages long.

Keeping a Journal
My First Trip Abroad

When I traveled to the Netherlands with my mother on my first trip abroad, my husband insisted I keep a journal of the trip. I readily agreed, since by that time I had come to see the importance of journaling. For each trip since, I have continued to journal.

Have you ever thought about keeping a journal about your trip? It’s not as difficult as it seems and the rewards can be great.

What to Put in the Journal

When you are first starting out, it may seem overwhelming to keep a record of everything. Just start small. Pick a part of the trip that is important to you and focus on that part.

  • Finances – Many people keep track of finances at home, but are less concerned when they travel. If you keep a budget at home, you might want to do the same when you travel. If you add a note or two as you write down your expenditures, you can look back and remember parts of your trip.

    A Favorite Parisian Café
  • Meals – Foodies aren’t the only people interested in restaurant meals. It can be a lot of fun to write down the names of all the restaurants where you eat. Add notes about the menu and what you chose to eat. Was the food great? Or was this a restaurant you should avoid in the future? I have a couple favorite restaurants in Paris that I return to every time I visit the city.
  • Sites – It may be easier just to write about the highlights of your day. Write about the sites you visited, the stores where you shopped, or the shows you watched. A few notes about each event will help spur your memory once you return home.

As you become more interested in journaling, you can expand on these ideas, adding more notes or adding more events to your journal. If you travel often, a journal will help you remember what made each trip special.

As a family, we vacationed at the same resort every summer. The journals that my husband kept showed how unique each vacation was – every summer was different.

Ways to Journal

Journaling may involve more than just written paragraphs. Some people write notes, rather than full sentences. It’s easy to turn the notes into sentences later if you want. Keeping notes takes less time. If you are on a busy vacation with little time to relax, notes might be easier.

Tropical Flowers

If you are a photography buff, you might consider your photos to be your journal. Be sure to photograph descriptive signs or add a few notes so you don’t forget when or where you took the pictures. Photos of beautiful scenery, flowers, or animals may not have enough clues on their own, so notes become necessary.

If you have artistic talent, you might want to bring along a sketch pad and colored pencils. Along with a sketch, words of explanation along the side will bring memories of the day back to you.

Recording your Journal

My husband’s journals were kept in 3″ x 5″  spiral notebooks. He wrote quickly, and sometimes, a bit messily. Several years ago, our family began transcribing his journals, typing them into a word processing program on the computer. We now have a more permanent record and one that can be easily shared.

My Choice for a Paper Journal

When I started journaling, I also used a paper notebook, although I chose a larger one with a cute cover or colored pages. When I came home from the trip, I typed my journal into the computer.

Eventually, thanks to my sister, I found a free travel journal website where I could type directly into a computer. With this site, I could write an entry, place a point on a map, add pictures, and then, send the completed entry to people on a mailing list. I usually traveled with a laptop, so this was convenient. It became even more convenient when the website added a mobile app and I could use my phone or iPad instead of the laptop.

About a year ago, the 20-year-old website decided to discontinue its services. I was shocked, but thankfully there was plenty of warning and a system for users to save the content that had previously entered into the site. In addition, a second site sprang up that offers nearly the same features as the original one. Next week, I’ll detail the new site along with other digital options.

Sharing your Journal

The website offers a good way to share a travel journal with others, but it isn’t the only way. If you prefer to hand-write your journal, how can you share it? The easiest way is to allow others to read it.


If you’d like to add ephemera – tickets, postcards, and labels – or pictures, you will have to do more to make your journal presentable to others.

With a little advanced planning, you can turn a handwritten journal into a lovely memory book. When writing your journal, place the writing on just one side of the page. Separate entries with a space, so they can be cut apart. The pages can then be removed and placed into a scrapbook.

Another way to produce a memory book is, again, to leave blank pages throughout the journal so pictures and other items can be inserted later. Using glue or photo corners, items can be added to the journal.

Journaling your Trip

Have you kept a journal for any of your trips? Do you find it rewarding? I can say that I do. I now write about each trip I’m on. I journaled my recent cruise by using the “notes” feature on my phone. I ran out of steam the last couple days and just took notes rather than writing full sentences, but I did write something every day.

If you haven’t kept a journal, I challenge you to try it. Think about which method you’d like to use and start. Write about your experiences in the comments below.


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