Most travel journals have one or two tedious full-day entries, a few more scattered attempts at daily documentation, and then … blank pages. Why? Because writing down everything you do every day is deadly dull. If you’re idea is that “travel journaling is educational so I will sit my kids down every day of this trip and make them write down what we did,” what you might actually be teaching your kids is that writing is extremely boring. Instead, help your kids add zip to their journals and maybe they’ll enjoy writing.
Our first book, Family on the Loose: The Art of Traveling with Kids, has a whole chapter on creative travel journals. It even has awesome reproducible pages.
We’ve accumulated even more fun journal ideas here! (and here!) These ideas will make the journal more fun to write and more fun to read later. As a bonus, if you try a bunch of these ideas, your child will explore an enormous diversity of writing and communication styles (even math!).
Offer one idea each day. You might tell your child at breakfast what that day’s journal assignment is going to be. Advance warning will set the expectation of journal-writing and also give a focus to the activities of the day. While waiting for a train, she might think “Is this something I particularly want to remember?” or “That’s a new word, I should remember it for my journal.” Some days or for some kids, it might work best to surprise him with the journal task as he begins to write. Modify, extend, and adapt the ideas for kids of different ages or dispositions.
Superlative Anecdotes: Record and explain each of the following: the funniest thing that happened today; the most surprising thing that happened today; the most boring part of the day; and, the most delicious food you ate.
Fun-O-Meter: Draw a set of axes that fills the whole page in landscape view. Label the y-axis (up and down) “FUN” and mark out the numbers 1-10. Label the x-axis (along the bottom which should be the long side of the page) “TIME OF DAY” and label it with the hours 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 1, 2, .. and so on until bedtime. Start earlier if your family wakes up earlier. Think through everything that happened today and try to remember about what time the major events occurred. Then, carefully, graph the amount of fun you had during each part of the day. Go back with call-outs and annotations to explain the dips and dives during the day.
What matters? This is an obvious idea but simply write down five things you want to remember about today. These memorable items could be facts, foods, or fun times. They could even be a joke, a new word, or an image.
Interview Me. Parents, give your kid a writing break and interview him. Come up with a set of four or five location-specific interview questions “Were the Mayan ruins different than you expected? How were they different?”, “What would you like your friends at home to have seen today?”, or “Explain how life is different for locals here than for locals at home.” Ask the question and suggest a two or three minute quiet reflection period. When he’s ready to answer, write down every word.
Creative Memories. Fiction can capture the essence of a spot in way non-fiction rarely does. Write a short story set on location. If that task seems too big or too open-ended, write a short fictional anecdote that occurred at one site you visited today.
Crossword Puzzle: Make a crossword puzzle using words and clues from your day’s adventures.
Place Poem: Write the name of your location in all capitol letters down the center of the journal page. Then write one word, using the first letter on the first line, one word using the second letter on the second line and so on. The word can start with the capitol letter, end with the capitol letter, or use it in the middle. All adjectives or a combination of nouns and adjectives both make nice acrostic poems. (Kaupkhun Kah translates to “Thank you” in Thai)
Estimate it! Estimate the following quantities and explain how you calculated them: the number of footsteps you took; the amount of money your family spent; the age of the oldest building you visited; the number of bites of food you ate; and the amount of time you spent reading. How good are your estimates and what information would make them better?
Looking for a thoughtful, personal gift for kids who travel? A holiday gift or a graduation gift perhaps? Buy them a nice travel journal, preferably a blank book with a sturdy cover. Add a table of contents to the front, print out these suggestions, cut out each idea, and put the idea slips in an envelope taped inside the back cover. Include instructions to pull out one idea at random for each day. You might also write questions or fill-in questionnaires on some pages.