It’s no secret that I’m a fan of a good traveler’s notebook. I’ve been using them for a while now. So I thought I’d share how I use my traveler’s notebook now, after having one for the past 7 or so years.
I have a pretty lengthy post about my first traveler’s notebook that really details how I found them and why I got into them in the first place.
But if reading that isn’t your thing, know that I’m a fan of fine leather goods and fancy leather notebooks are my love language. I love how customizable they are, and I love all the sizes they come in.
Before we go much further, I just want to give the necessary “all hope abandon, ye who enter here” sort of warning.
If you like stationery and good pens and notebooks with crisp paper so thick it’s just begging for you to write the next great American novel, you’re going to find a new fixation, and you’re going to spend some cash on this. I have purchased four traveler’s notebooks since discovering them in like 2015, and I still own three of them. I regularly purchase new accessories for them, and I love carrying them.
For the most part, no one in my real life understands it, though there is a very nice community of folks who enjoy them on the internet. So, if you need a new hobby that will further alienate you from the people in your life and take a portion of your dollars, read on.
Traveler’s Notebook for Beginners
If you’re new to this world, let me give you the traveler’s notebook for beginners talk. A traveler’s notebook is a leather notebook with at least one elastic band in the center. (All my notebooks have four bands.) When you open it up, you can put stitch or staple bound notebooks on the elastics, and the leather holds them all together. You can get them in many sizes, and there are tons of brands with different looks, leathers, and features. If you aren’t sure about what kind to get, I recommend figuring out what you need in a traveler’s notebook, and letting that dictate your purchase.
If you want to get some information on how people are using their traveler’s notebooks, just search “traveler’s notebook review” on Pinterest and YouTube. People will tell you what they like and don’t like about the traveler’s notebook they have, and they’ll even show you how it’s holding up for the abuse they put it through. You’re going to find tons of set up videos, and I apologize in advance. That’s really how I got started and obsessed. So, know that moving forward, there’s a non-zero chance that consuming a traveler’s notebook review will mean that you have a new notebook collecting problem.
I recommend taking a look at Leila Martin’s YouTube channel, as well as Carie Harling’s YouTube channel. I would say the are on the opposite ends of the planning spectrum in what they look for in a traveler’s notebook, and both have very different styles. Also, Leila sticks to pretty much one planner, and Carie switches around from traveler’s notebooks to ring-bound planners.
That probably doesn’t mean anything to a lot of people. But to me, it’s fascinating!
Maybe you’re already interested in a traveler’s notebook. But you may have taken a look at the cost of some of the notebooks out there, and audibly gasped. You’re not alone. Know that there are cheap traveler’s notebooks out there. But if you want something higher quality, know that a used traveler’s notebook is just as good, if not better than a brand new one simply because it’s broken in and the leather is probably soft and perfect. If you want to snag a used notebook, search Facebook. There are a few traveler’s notebook resale groups, and you can always find them in the marketplace.
Now, the cool thing about traveler’s notebooks is that you can set them up however you want. And if you’re in need of some traveler’s notebook layout ideas, I’ve got you. You can check out this post on how I set up my used personal size traveler’s notebook back in the day. And there’s this post on how I used an A5 traveler’s notebook with a Passion Planner. And back in 2019, I used a bullet journal in a traveler’s notebook. So, you’ve got some options.
Traveler’s Notebook Accessories
I am in no way the traveler’s notebook official guide, so please know that any sort of accessories are fair game to me. I will say that sites like JetPens and Goulet Pens have some of the best accessories you can find, whether you’re looking for traveler’s notebook inserts, clips, or pens. But I also respect that sometimes you’re on a tight budget and your local Dollar Tree occasionally has some pretty decent pens.
I have this post on cheap planning accessories if you’re in need of traveler’s notebook accessories that won’t break the bank. And know that you can easily make an insert out of your favorite kind of paper, or make a folder out of some cardstock. Just search YouTube for some traveler’s notebook insert tutorials and you’re good to go.
So, before you go spending money on expensive accessories, think about how you’ll use your traveler’s notebook. If you want to use it as a planner, you’ll need the stuff that enables planning. I’m talking highlighters and page tabs and dividers and the like.
But if you’re looking to use it as a way to organize your writer’s notebook, you may want to just get different inserts and move on.
How I Use My Traveler’s Notebook
Okay. Now let’s get to the good stuff.
I’m currently using a Chic Sparrow Mr. Darcy that I got back in 2015. It’s a chonky boy of a planner, but it’s working for now. I like that it has pockets on the notebook itself, as well as a pen loop for my Pentel sign pen. (I need a black felt tip pen at all times.)
Inside the notebook, I have a plain kraft paper insert that I purchased from Michael’s a few years ago, back when they had traveler’s notebook accessories. I haven’t been inside a Michael’s lately, but the last time I entered one, I was shocked at the lack of planners and planning supplies. They may no longer carry these bad boys, but if you search Etsy, Goulet Pens, JetPens, or even Amazon, you should find tons of options.
I’m using that plain notebook as a commonplace book where I keep a running list of books I want to buy, ideas that hit me while I’m out and about, and just anything that really needs to be written down.
After that, I have a Galen Leather wallet insert for traveler’s notebooks. So, this traveler’s notebook is my planner and my wallet, which is perfect because I can just grab the notebook and take it with me, and it has everything I need. I have my Hobonichi Weeks inside the leather wallet insert, and so far, this is the planning system that is working for me this year. If you’re interested in using a Hobonichi Weeks, this Galen Leather wallet is great for protecting the planner, and making it a little more substantial so it doesn’t get smashed in the bottom of your bag. And, for what it’s worth, Galen Leather has some beautiful traveler’s notebooks, as well as tons of other leather notebook and accessory options. I desperately need their slim A5 notebook cover, as well as their iPad Mini & large Moleskine cover.
After the leather wallet insert is a plain kraft folder that I think I also purchased from Michael’s. It’s there to collect receipts I need to save as well as little bits and pieces of paper I need to hold onto. Admittedly, since I don’t leave my house so much anymore, I don’t get so many bits and pieces. But when I was going to conferences back in the day, this was super useful.
And in the secretarial pocket on the back of the notebook, I have a Midori pencil board that I thought I needed, but mostly don’t use, as well as some stickers that occasionally make an appearance in my planner.
For the most part, this system is currently working and that’s how I use my traveler’s notebook most of the time. But I like to downsize on occasion, and sometimes, I just decide to put my daily plans on a Post-It or index card that I keep in my back pocket. Usually when that happens, I’m undergoing a self-reinvention and I need the freedom one can only have without a planner.
(If that sounds crazy, know that I’m a Libra on the cusp of Scorpio with a Scorpio rising and an Aquarius moon. I’m playing the hand I was dealt. Also, my chart also has Venus in Libra, so I love aesthetic, but have no loyalty to a particular one, hence my need for multiple traveler’s notebooks and a change of planning style on occasion.)
How Do You Use Your Traveler’s Notebook?
Are you a traveler’s notebook person? How do you organize your planning and writing? Do you need a commonplace book to keep track of all your nonsense? What’s your favorite planning accessory?