Trip Planning

Travelin’ Tales

Journaling in a Beijing hotel

Whenever we travel there are a list of things my family always does. We always pack light. We always bring peanut butter. And we always keep a travel journal. We got the idea years ago on a trip to Japan. My youngest daughter was a little over 2, but she loved to draw and she was fascinated with all the leaves falling from the maple trees. My 4-year-old got the idea to glue them in a notebook and a tradition was cemented.

We still have those crumbling leaves. They’re next to the journal stuffed with wrappers from Swiss chocolate bars and paper dolls from Scotland. As my girls have gotten older, the journals have gotten more sophisticated. But even the early versions are a treasure. I can’t count the number of times I’ve found my daughters paging through, laughing, either at what we did, or how they spelled what we did. And, if you’re missing any school to go on your adventure, a good travel journal will soften the blow with your child’s teacher.

Chances are you can get everything you need wherever your destination may be, but a little organization before you take off can go a long way.

The Journal

Picking the journal is important. Whether it’s stuffed in a backpack, or just carried from plane, to train, to automobile, chances are your child’s journal will take a fair amount of beating on the trip. Look for a journal that will stand up to challenge.The cover needs to be sturdy, and made of something that takes work to bend. A water resistant cover material is also a plus. Inevitably something always gets spilled.

A good journal needs to be big enough to hold all the great stuff your kids are going to want to put in. The pages need to be made of paper heavy enough to glue things like pictures, maps and postcards. If it has a pocket, typically on the front or back cover, that’s a plus.

How the journal is bound is also something to think about. My experience has been spiral binding is better than library binding. Your kids are going to be gluing in all sorts to things and the journal is going to need room to expand. It also makes ripping out the occasional page a much simpler task.

Don’t go overboard. If you’re only going away for two weeks, you don’t need a 200 page journal for your aspiring writer. All those extra pages are just extra weight that you at some point will wind up carrying.

Getting that perfect shot in China

Other Supplies

Along with the obvious pencil, it’s handy to carry a few extras. My 11-year-old has a pencil case that holds a pair of scissors, a glue stick, and a small set of color pencils. My 9-year-old carries some gel pens and sticky notes. Markers stay at home—they often bleed through journal pages.The girls tend to cross check supplies before we go, so they can avoid duplication and share. They’re also very fond of buying art supplies as souvenirs. Tartan pens from Scotland, paint brushes from China and pencil sharpeners shaped like the Eiffel Tower are just a few of the things they’ve got in their collection.

Filling the Journal

Now the fun really begins. Got a long flight? Ask your kids to start writing or drawing. What do they think will be the best part of the trip?Is there anything they absolutely have to do?Have them make a vacation top 10 list.

As your adventure unfolds, you’ll find all sorts of mementos along the way just perfect to stick in a journal. Ticket stubs, programs, leaflets and maps from tourist information offices. Anything that can be glued down is fair game. My girls also like to take pictures to include in their journal. Print when you get home or on the go, whatever works best for you.

The more your kids write in their journal, the better it will be.If your kids can write something every day, that’s great!(Remind them to always put the date). A good time to crack open journals is before everyone goes to sleep. My girls have gotten into the habit of stretching out on their beds and making a mess. The result is always worth the clean-up.

If they’ll let you, read about your kid’s day, but try not to influence what they write. There’s no telling what they will say or draw. What you thought was the highlight of the day, might not even get a mention. It’s funny how sometimes kids can write pages about feeding the birds in the park, but forget to mention they climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower. It will happen. Trust me. When it does, maybe just persuade them to glue in a picture.

Start a Discussion

  • I love these tips. Last summer, we discovered that the 10-year-old in our group thought our French countryside market excursion was “super boring” only AFTER reading about it in his journal (we thought it was the best day ever – ha!)—regardless, this is great way for kids to create lasting trip memories …

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