Are you planning an unforgettable family trip?  Have you spent hours combing over things to do that will stimulate your kid as well as create lifelong memories?  If you have, one item you should make sure to add to your packing list is a kids travel journal. With a little planning, you can build a kids travel journal that is personalized to your child AND your trip!

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Here are 10 tips to build and publish a travel journal. This journal will keep your child actively engaged on your trip and serve as a keepsake long after you’ve returned.

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1. How to design a kids travel journal

There are many tools and applications out there to create high quality images. The one I personally prefer the most is Canva.  If you’re not familiar, Canva is a very user-friendly, graphic design website that helps you design everything from posters to business cards to birthday invitations. The basic application is free to use. However, for $9.95-$12.95 a month, you can upgrade to Canva Pro. This gives you access to 4 million+ photos and elements and 1,000+ fonts (or you can design your own).

I was hesitant to sign up for a Pro membership, but it has turned out to be a fantastic investment!  In addition to designing our kids’ travel journals, I have used it to make birthday invitations and Christmas cards. My older kids have used it for school presentations and reports. I’ve also used it to make holiday signs and decor. I highly recommend you take a look at Canva and play around with all it has to offer. There are thousands of templates and examples to inspire you, so let your imagination run wild!

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2. Layout of your kids travel journal

Once you’ve settled on a theme and template for your kids travel journal, I like to dedicate the left page of the journal for the daily itinerary and the right page for writing.  This allows your kid to know what to expect for the day as well as see what’s going to happen in the days to come. We have found that when we include our children in the plan for the day, they are much better travelers. I don’t know about you, but if someone told me to get on a plane and didn’t tell me where we were going or what we were going to do, I would be an anxious wreck! 

Layout example of our kids travel journal.
Layout example of our kids travel journal.

By allowing our kids to know what was going to happen and when, they tend to stay more relaxed, making the traveling experience easier on the whole family. This also gives them an opportunity to exercise their critical thinking skills. If they know we’re heading to Kyoto from Osaka, they learn to be on the lookout for the correct train station.

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3. Writing prompts

Daily thoughts to capture specific experiences in our kids travel journal.
Daily thoughts to capture specific experiences in our kids travel journal.

Now that the left side of your kids travel journal includes the day’s itinerary, the right side is ready for that day’s writing exercises.  One way to personalize your kids travel journal to your trip is to include questions specifically related to the events that will be happening that day.  For my older kids I try to create 8 to 10 questions and for my littlest kiddo, it’s usually 5 questions. While this journal encourages your kids to really appreciate the trip, you don’t want to make this journal into a school assignment!

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4. Questions to encourage learning

Before our trip, I will go online to the different places we’re visiting and learn a little history to include in our kids travel journal.  I like to make it something the kids will have to search for to come up with the correct answer. Some questions I like to include are:

  • What three things did you learn from that place?
  • How would you describe that city?
  • What did you see out the window of the train?
  • What is a new word or phrase you learned today?
  • Describe our hotel room.
  • Name something you found interesting today?
  • What is the place famous for?
  • How did the place make you feel?
  • What did you eat today?
  • What was your favorite part of the day?
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Questions to encourage critical thinking and cultural understanding from our kids travel journal.
Questions to encourage critical thinking and cultural understanding from our kids travel journal.

5. New experiences

Unique food scavenger hunt list in our kids travel journal.
Unique food scavenger hunt list in our kids travel journal.

Another page I include in our kids travel journal is a scavenger hunt list for new foods and experiences. I’ve found that our kids become more open to trying new foods if they can check things off a list. Also, we include cultural and local highlights to keep them engaged. An added bonus is they can compete against a sibling!

6. Staying entertained

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Our custom word search in our kids travel journal.
Our custom word search in our kids travel journal.

At the end of our kids travel journal, I also like to include a few pages that will help to keep them entertained if we get delayed or have to wait in a long line. With a little searching online, I was able to find custom word search and crossword puzzle generator.  All I had to do was enter words specific to our trip for puzzles that are completely customized to our trip. This helps them learn or remember about their experiences instead of burying their face into an electronic device.

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7. Wish lists

This item is something I like to include for myself but it’s especially good for your kids.  How many times have you walked into a shop and were so overwhelmed with the selection? You stand there not knowing exactly what you want to buy as a keepsake from your trip!  This happens to me quite a bit so I started making a list of things I wanted to have as a keepsake before we leave. Now, when I walk into a shop, I know exactly what I want, whether it’s some local pottery or a nice ornament. If your kids will have spending money during their trip, give them a space in the journal to write down specific things they’d like to buy themselves. You won’t come home with a backpack full of cheap, mass-produced trinkets that you can buy anywhere.

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8. Where to publish your kids travel journal

Now that you’ve completed your digital kids travel journal, you have a few options for producing it. You can print it out and put it in a binder or you can have it professionally published. The site I love and have been using for over 10 years is Blurb. I have them print all of our family photo albums as well as our kids’ travel journals. Their trade books start at $2.99 and come in different sizes and paper quality. Blurb’s software is free to download and you only pay for the books you order. After 10 years, we continue to return to Blurb because of their stellar quality and fast shipping. I highly recommend Blurb for your kids travel book and any other publishing you ever need!

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9. For the parents

Reservation page in the parents travel journal.
Reservation page in the parents travel journal.

In addition to my kids travel journal, for longer trips, I will make a journal for the grown-ups.  In it, I include a detailed itinerary for each day including trains and flight information, reservation confirmations, and a spot to enter important things like the parking stall number from the airport. I leave the confirmation numbers blank and write them in later so that the printer doesn’t have access to my entire trip. Additionally, I include a packing list to help before the trip. An added bonus is I am able to ensure everything comes home. There’s also a place to write down what we bought and the cost. This comes in handy on the flight home when you’re trying to remember what all you bought, how much you spent, and where the car is parked!

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10. After your trip

After the trip is over, your kids travel journal can be included with their keepsakes for them to look back on when they’re older.  Growing up, my family went on some great trips. It would be wonderful to be able to look back and read my 12 year old perspective of these trips, especially now that I’m the parent.

We hope this guide can help you plan a kids travel journal that will keep your kid engaged on a trip and provide long lasting and fond memories. – OTA

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