14 Travel Journal Ideas so You Can Access Vacation Brain After the Trip’s Over

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The joy that comes from exploring new places might be the best thing ever. Often, special moments while traveling are the ones you wish you could bottle up and save forever. Unfortunately, that’s not possible, but keeping a stellar record comes close. And good news: Great travel journal ideas abound.

For the uninitiated, keeping a travel journal allows you to record your thoughts, feelings, and things you’ve learned from your travels, and since you can revisit what you write, it's kind of the best DIY souvenir, as far as your memory is concerned. And, bonus: It may even give your mental health a boost every time you thumb through it after the trip is over, says clinical psychologist John Mayer, PhD. “Open it up frequently and relive the experiences as an escape from the doldrums of everyday stress,” Mayer says.

While you're free to create this tool in any way or form that speaks to you, some travel journal ideas may provide ample inspiration to get you started. With that in mind, check out 14 travel journal ideas below to help max out your experience.

1. Create a checklist before you leave

Sure, you can just wing it, but since you probably have at least a few things in mind that you want to experience while you’re away and remembering things in real time is tough, do yourself a favor. Research your must-dos ahead of time and then create a checklist you can reference on the road. As you check off each item, detail your experiences in the journal.

2. Record details as you go

It’s easy to forget little details—like the name of the wine you sipped at an outdoor table at a tiny café—when you try to remember them days later. While no one's suggesting you write constantly, one of the best travel journal ideas is to take a bit of time each day to jot things down. Maybe it’s at night before you go to bed or when you have a quiet moment during a meal. No matter when you choose, making a habit of writing things down regularly will help you record more details that you’ll surely savor later on.

3. Add tickets, maps, and receipts to the mix

Instead of pitching these relics in the garbage when you’re done with them, slip them into pages in your diary as you go, or keep them all in one place and add them when you return home as a way to illustrate your thoughts.

4. Carry an instant camera

While it's likely that your phone is capable of taking photos—or you may even have a professional-grade digital camera—odds are slim that you'll actually print those photos. Plenty of instant cameras print on sticky-back film, which allows you to stick them directly in your diary. Simply whip out the camera from your bag (they're generally pretty small!) when you want to capture something amazing, snap the photo, print it out, and put it in your journal for your forever memories.

5. Don’t forget the dialogue

Specific conversations can be hard to remember down the road, so take a moment to jot them down after they happen. You’ll be glad you did when you look back and reminisce.

6. Draw a little

Even if you don’t have the strongest artistic eye in the world, it can be fun to capture a moment in a way that you simply can’t with a photo or words. Sketch a unique experience you enjoyed, or draw instructions for something you learned. Even doodling while you’re waiting for a cup of coffee or lounging on a beach can make for a nice travel journal idea so long as you note on the page where you were when you composed the drawing.

7. Keep it honest

No trip is perfect, and being honest about what goes wrong helps to keep your journal more true to your actual experience. Plus, you might learn something that’s helpful to remember for the next you go away.

8. Ask for a guest entry

Sure, your journal is largely going to be from your perspective, but you’re definitely going to meet people along the way. Ask someone to record their favorite locale, top recommendations for nearby restaurants, or just a few thoughts from the day. It can be fun to see the experience through someone else’s eyes, especially when you look back.

9. Take some time for reflection

Writing down what actually happened is great, but capturing on paper or via photos how you were feeling in the moment is really what will help take you back mentally in the future. Document how you feel the experience has changed you and what you've learned about yourself along the way. This is a helpful means for using your journal as a stress reliever in the future.

10. Save your money

If your travels take you somewhere with different currency, save a few coins and/or small bills to tape into your journal for a memory, texture, and color. (Of course, you’ll want to convert larger sums back.)

11. Document your food

You won't remember each coffee, meal, or snack you ate along the way, but try to make a point to journal about the foods you ate each day, and what you thought of them. Pictures can also be great here, in case you want to duplicate the dish down the road.

12. Save "trash"

It’s easy to see beauty in so many little things, like foreign beer-bottle labels, when you don’t encounter them on a regular basis. So, save them. Ditto for small food wrappers or anything else that catches your eye.

13. Don't write a single word

Writing isn’t for everyone, and if you’re more of a visual person, keeping a vlog may be more your speed. Use your phone’s camera to shoot video, or take along a portable video camera. Just make sure you back it up or upload it to your computer when you get done, so you don’t lose your work.

14. Add a recap after it’s all over

If you were writing things down on a daily basis, you should have some really great details in there. But recapping what you loved most about your experience can add a little more reflection to your journal. Try to cover what you learned during your travels, what you liked and didn’t like, and what you hope to do when your wanderlust strikes again.

Other reasons to pick up a journaling habit? It may improve your love life and your mental health.

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